Axiom Audio Epic Grand Home Theater Speaker System 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems
Written by Thomas Garcia   
Saturday, 01 February 2003

Introduction
Many home theater enthusiasts, myself included, often find themselves daydreaming about flagship processors, gargantuan amplifiers (the types that are capable of arc welding), cost-no-object speaker systems, and subwoofers that can register on the Richter scale. Unfortunately, many of these products can have prices in the stratosphere, at times approaching five digits or more for each component. The same enthusiast may not see the appeal in the necessity of taking out a second home mortgage in order to acquire the components for assembling such a “state of the art” system. Fortunately, there are many manufacturers on the market today whose business philosophy is to provide a high degree of performance without the soaring prices that these mega-systems often command. In terms of speakers, several Canadian companies have made great use of the National Research Council (NRC) laboratories to design great-performing speakers at very reasonable cost. For those who are unaware of the NRC, it is the Canadian government’s premier organization for research and development, devoted to assisting and promoting scientific and industrial research in a variety of different technical arenas.

Axiom, a newcomer here in the USA, has been one such Canadian speaker manufacturer that has taken advantage of this resource and is providing products with impressive performance at even more striking price points. Based in Dwight, Ontario, Axiom offers a full line of loudspeakers that include various multi-driver floor-standing towers, bookshelf monitors, surround sound speakers, and subwoofers. Their distribution in the USA is done via direct sales to their customers, with free shipping and a 30-day money back guarantee. With direct sales, Axiom reduces the level of distribution mark-ups and therefore can deliver their products to the end customer at significantly reduced cost. They also offer several packaged systems including a mid-price combination referred to as the Epic Grand Master Home Theater Speaker System ($1,510), the system provided for this review. This particular package represents an $80 savings over purchasing the individual components separately. The Epic Grand Master Home Theater Speaker System, which comes configured for 5.1 channel playback, is comprised of a pair of Millennia M22ti bookshelf two-way loudspeakers ($400 per pair), a VP100 center-channel speaker ($220 each), a pair of QS8 Quadpolar surrounds ($470 per pair), and an EP175 self-powered subwoofer ($500 each). As an addition to the standard Epic Grand Master system, Axiom also provided the VP150 Center Channel ($350 each) for review during the evaluation of this system.

Description
The main speakers used in the Axiom Audio Epic Grand Master Home Theater Speaker System are the Millennia M22ti monitors. Each speaker incorporates a single one-inch titanium tweeter and two 5.25-inch aluminum midrange/woofers in a 19.7-inch-high by 7.7-inch-wide by 8.5-inch-deep semi-triangulated enclosure. This non-symmetrical enclosure is a feature that Axiom has utilized to minimize standing waves throughout their line of speakers. The M22ti’s enclosures are also vented, using what Axiom describes as a “vortex” designed port (somewhat resembling a corrugated tube) that is reported to increase the surface area of the port sidewalls and reduce the strength of eddy currents. This, combined with the curved entrance and exit from the port, helps eliminate port noise produced by the speaker. The Millennia M22ti and the center channel speakers were magnetically shielded, allowing the placement to be directly on top of or next to a standard CRT television. Axiom lists the weight for each M22ti at 16 pounds. In addition, all of the Axiom speakers are equipped with quality five-way binding posts that are easily accessible for making cable connections. In keeping with their philosophy of value engineering, Axiom utilizes a wood grain vinyl finish for all of their enclosures. Available in black oak, maple and cherry, the fit and finish of the vinyl covering was very good and did not detract from the overall attractive aesthetics of the Axiom system.

Occupying the center position of the Epic Grand Master Home Theater system is the VP 100, which also utilizes a one-inch titanium dome tweeter positioned between two 5.25-inch aluminum midrange/woofers. The VP 100 enclosure is also somewhat triangulated, offering a flat side for mounting the speaker directly above a monitor to create a straightforward radiating pattern, and a slanted face when positioning the speaker below the monitor, providing a slight angle up towards the listening position. Dimensions for the VP 100 are 7.5 inches tall in front, sloping down to six inches at the back of the speaker, by 17 inches wide by 7.5 inches deep and weighing in at 11 pounds.

In addition, for this review, the upgraded VP150 was employed as the center channel. The VP150 has a very unique driver configuration, with three 5.25-inch aluminum drivers flanked by two 1-inch titanium tweeters. This configuration provided a superior listening experience when sitting off-axis. With a height of 7.5 inches, width of 27 inches and a depth of 7.5 inches, and similar enclosure angles to the VP 100, the VP150’s profile looked sleek and slender placed above my viewing monitor. Weight for this speaker scales in at 17 pounds. This speaker was utilized throughout the following review and observations.

Serving as the system’s surround speakers were the Axiom’s QS8s. Axiom refers to this speaker as a quadpolar multi-directional-firing speaker, once again in a triangulated enclosure using two one-inch titanium tweeters firing at 45 degrees off-center and dual 5.25-inch midrange woofers, one up and one down-firing. Dimensions for the QS8s are 8.25 inches high by 11 inches wide by six inches deep, with a weight of 11 pounds per speaker. The surround speakers can easily be wall-mounted, using the hanging brackets that are provided, or placed upon specially designed stands to accommodate the unique driver configuration. For this review, the QSS8 stands were utilized, offering a high degree of flexibility while placing the surrounds for optimal integration. Dimensions for this stand are 36 inches tall by 12.5 inches wide by 13 inches deep.

Grounding the Epic Grand Master system was the EP175 subwoofer, which comes equipped with a 10-inch aluminum driver, a built-in 175-watt amplifier, and dual ports. Physical measurements for the EP175 are 17.5 inches high by 13.5 inches wide by 14.25 inches deep, with a weight of 30 pounds. Adjustability for the subwoofer includes a 30-150 hertz variable low pass filter, 0 or 180-degree variable phase switch, and output level control.

Setup
The Epic Grand Master system proved to be very easy to set up. With the M22ti main speakers approximately three feet from the rear wall and spaced eight feet apart, this combination created a very solid sound stage when listening to two-channel sources. The M22ti sounded very accurate but a bit lean without the subwoofer. Though the VP 100 is the standard center channel for this system, and works well with the rest of the speakers, the VP150 outperformed it. Placing the VP150 center channel directly on top of the monitor and positioning the surround speakers on the provided stand approximately 15 degrees behind the listening position made for a very cohesive listening environment. The final speaker locations were relatively close to those of my reference system. I also placed the subwoofer approximately two feet from the front corner to take advantage of the additional room gain, while still pursuing a smooth frequency response through the lower registers. All along, I sensed that the Axiom system could be very forgiving of speaker location, and was less fickle about placement than previous systems that I have incorporated into my particular listening environments.

Movies
My evaluation of the Axiom theater system began with the high-voltage, testosterone-filled sport film “Any Given Sunday” (Warner Home Video). Under Oliver Stone's direction, this film depicts the on and off-field personalities, dynamics, and antics of a professional football organization. With a cast of top name actors and a running time just shy of three hours, this movie provides ample action scenes to evaluate the multiple attributes of this surround system. The QS8s provided excellent ambient information during the on-field action scenes, while the VP150 provided a very palatable sense of the physical impact of bone-jarring tackles and the high-energy presence of the players during heavy contact. The Axiom speaker system did an excellent job of creating that “you are there” sensation. The movie also uses a menagerie of hip-hop, rap, and rock to heighten the emotional impact of certain scenes. The Axiom system exhibited great delineation between the movie’s ambient soundtrack and the musical overlay, easily exhibiting Stone's intent in these sonic passages.

Switching over to a lighter side of things, I broke out the 1998 Farrelly Brothers comedy “There's Something About Mary” (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment). This movie is definitely not your traditional Hollywood blockbuster, but the soundtrack still offers many musical and acoustic nuances that displayed the Axiom’s abilities. There are several musical interludes performed by Jonathan Richman, consisting of very simple vocal and acoustic guitar segments wherein the Axiom system creates a great soundstage that envelops the listener. Dialogue through the VP150 center channel was superb. Voices sounded natural, delineated, and unrestrained. Throughout the more dynamic scenes of this film, the Axiom system kept pace with the soundtrack, never seeming limited at the extremes. This movie does not test the subterranean bass output of a subwoofer, but it still has enough low-frequency information for you to determine the naturalness of a subwoofer’s contribution. The EP175 is very neutral, never boomy or heavy, but will not produce enormous amounts of sub 30-Hertz output. What it does add to the sonic mix is convincing and enjoyable.

Peter Frampton – Live in Detroit (Image Entertainment) tested the Axiom’s ability to do justice to a rock concert. Like most well-done concert videos, the surrounds carry primarily hall ambience and the crowd, not calling attention to themselves as separate sources, and the QS8s were easily up to the task. The Epic Grand Master system portrayed the excitement and electricity of the show and audience, particularly during old favorites. “(I’ll Give You) Money” was outstanding, showcasing the VP150 center channel’s midrange clarity and balanced dispersion characteristics, along with exceptional integration with the M22tis across the front. A small get-together of friends at my house broke into an air guitar and air drum fest. The Axioms can rock pretty darn hard, especially if you have a smaller room. “Lines On My Face” showed off the VP150’s and M22ti’s ability to convey delicate details. The emotion of this song was captivating and beautiful, the soundstage seamless and deep. The sound was big, creating an energy throughout the room that I loved, even as I moved about. This track demonstrated the Axiom’s excellent off-axis performance, which is likely a major reason that the speakers came off very well, even when they were introduced to a different listening environment.

Music
Sting’s Nothing Like the Sun (DTS Entertainment – 5.1) was used to exercise the entire Axiom Epic Grand Master Home Theater speaker system’s music capabilities. Most of this disc has instruments placed entirely in the fairly aggressively mixed surrounds, including “Be Still My Beating Heart.” This cut was very enjoyable as the QS8 surrounds floated the music around Sting’s clear vocals, with an airy, almost ethereal feel to it. The M22ti and VP150 did a terrific job relaying the haunting melody of “They Dance Alone.” The firmly centered vocals pulled everything together, including the crisp percussion and Branford Marsalis’ flowing sax. The vocals were just a tad rough at times compared to the rest of the presentation, but that was likely due to the recording itself, since the VP150 did not sound overly harsh on other cuts. Overall, the Axioms were very natural-sounding and non-fatiguing without being boring. To quote a too often used phrase, the Axioms’ sins were those of omission. They may not be able to fill a huge listening room to reference levels, but they can get surprisingly close before they begin to compress dynamics and harden slightly.

For two-channel-mode auditioning, the M22ti bookshelf speakers were used in conjunction with the EP175 subwoofer. One particular CD that stood out was Mark Knopfler’s The Ragpicker’s Dream (Warner Brothers). Kudos to producers Chuck Ainlay and Knopfler, as well as mastering engineer Tony Cousins, for creating a much more natural, less hard-edged recording than many of Knopfler’s Dire Straits albums. The relatively mellow track “You Don’t Know You’re Born” is full of Knopfler’s trademark understated guitar work. The M22tis delineated each and every note with excellent clarity, but without edginess, effectively featuring all of the delicate detail. The following track, “Coyote,” is a driving, growling cut that starts with a centered, captivating bass line and builds up around the listener from there. It was impossible not to bob and weave to the EP175’s driving beat, while reveling in the M22ti SE’s crisp transients and solid center image. The combination integrated extremely well, filling the room with a convincing, three-dimensional soundstage.

The Downside
Considering the performance to cost ratio, there's little one can fault with the Axiom Audio Epic Grand Master Home Theater system. Total SPL for this system was very impressive, but as with most systems using small monitors, the sound can become somewhat compressed and congested at high volumes. In addition, the EP175 may be better described as a woofer rather than a subwoofer, but its integration with the rest of the speakers is excellent. If you want room-shaking bass for dinosaurs, tanks or rocket launches in your living room, you may want to consider a more substantial subwoofer.

Conclusion
Axiom has unquestionably succeeded in packaging a great home theater ensemble with the Epic Grand Master Home Theater System, at a price much lower than one would expect for its level of performance. Because of its very affordable cost, some may question its overall abilities. The Millennia M22ti monitors, VP150 center channel, and QS8 surround speakers are all standout performers. At first glance one might wonder if the relatively modest EP175 subwoofer might be the weak link in the system, especially those who like full, visceral low end. But for the most part, I just enjoyed the sound without even thinking about the bass by itself. What's more, I found myself continuing to ponder past purchases that equaled the total Axiom system’s price, acknowledging to myself that few of them provided anywhere close to the amount of pleasure that the Epic Grand Master Home Theater System delivered. This system was truly fun to listen to, not only from my reference listening position, but as I moved throughout the room as well. What you get with Axiom Audio Epic Grand Master Home Theater Speaker System is a truly synergistic, full range, enveloping system that will remain satisfying over the long haul. They sounded very good in every room I tried them, and got better with a minimum amount of system tuning. I highly advocate that anyone looking for a complete home theater speaker system, at this price point and above, should consider the Axiom Audio Epic Grand Master Home Theater System.
Manufacturer Axiom Audio
Model Epic Grand Home Theater Speaker System
Reviewer Tom Garcia





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