Most-Read Recommended References (Last 365 Days)
- Written by SoundStage! Hi-Fi Editors SoundStage! Hi-Fi Editors
- Category: Components Components
- Created: 01 September 2014 01 September 2014
In Oliver Amnuayphol’s review of the Axiom Audio M100 v4 loudspeaker, which we published in June, he stated: “The M100’s uncanny blend of low-compression, superb bass quality and quantity, and lively yet uncolored tonal balance, makes it one of the most well-rounded, non-hair-shirt, will-please-just-about-anyone speakers you can buy at any price.”
Obviously, that’s high praise. But the fact that the M100 v4 starts at only $2790/pair in the standard Black Oak finish (the premium vinyl and wood veneers, and the painted finishes, cost extra) gives his words that much more weight -- these days, speakers can cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The M100 v4 measures 47.5"H x 9.25"W x 17"D and weighs about 70 pounds. It’s a three-way design with three woofers and, uniquely, two midranges and two tweeters. The midranges and tweeters are doubled up to produce higher output with lower distortion in the midband and high frequencies. The three woofers and accompanying ports combine to produce prodigious bass.
Oliver spent a little bit of time setting up the M100 v4s and, once he had, it didn’t take him long to recognize the speaker’s strengths: “Satisfied with the M100 v4s’ positions, I spun up Grizzly Bear’s awesome disc of modern rock, Veckatimest (CD, Warp 0182). The album’s mix of deep bass, wide dynamic range, and varied usage of acoustic and electronic instruments sounds best through speakers capable of handling such demanding extremes, and it took only the first track, ‘Southern Point,’ for me to hear that the Axiom M100s were handily up to the task. The sound they poured into the room was loud, deep, and clean, with a generally even-handed tonal balance and an effortlessly dynamic sound.
“In fact, the M100 was among the most dynamically expressive speakers I’ve heard this side of $3000/pair. Regardless of how hard I drove the review pair, they always sounded clean and composed from soft to loud, with no audible distortion or compression. This was most apparent in the bass, such as that on ‘All We Ask,’ also from Veckatimest. The M100s delivered thunderously deep, rich, taut bass that I could feel resonating throughout the room as much as I could hear it.”
That the M100 v4 can play deep in the bass was validated by our measurements of it, which were done in the anechoic chamber at Canada’s National Research Council. Our frequency-response tests showed significant output to below 30Hz, which correlates well with Oliver’s listening and Axiom’s published specs. The M100 v4 also sailed easily through our high-output distortion and power-compression tests, which also correlates well with Oliver’s assertion that this speaker can play loud and clean.
Those weren’t the only areas that impressed Oliver: “But the M100 could do more than just dynamics and bass. Stile Antico’s Music for Compline (SACD/CD, Harmonia Mundi HMU 807419) highlighted the Axiom’s tonally neutral midrange, even if it was mildly recessed overall. Voices sounded natural and well defined, without any etch, smear, or artificial edge. It was easy to follow distinct harmonic threads within the musical whole in Thomas Tallis’s ‘Miserere nostri,’ for example, and individual choral sections were nicely balanced with each other.
“Lower-treble sounds, such as the cymbals in [Harry Connick Jr.’s] Lofty’s Roach Soufflé [CD, Columbia CK-46223], sizzled with crispness and clarity, the Axioms pushing them slightly forward in the mix. Synth hits and percussion in densely layered recordings, such as Justin Timberlake’s wickedly good but sonically subpar The 20/20 Experience (CD, RCA 88765 47850 1), sounded brilliant and detailed. Listen to how well the percussive chimes stand out from the mix of ‘Strawberry Bubblegum,’ or how the horn section in ‘That Girl’ bites with a realistic sharpness. Though its lower treble could occasionally bite with too much enthusiasm, the M100 made high-energy music come alive.
“When I played Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s DSD recording of Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain (SACD/CD, Deutsche Grammophon 000718236), I could hear that the Axioms were also capable of outstanding imaging. They accurately conveyed the rich, warm acoustic and huge sense of space of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, filling my room with a large, densely populated soundstage. Through the M100s, I could close my eyes and visualize the musicians playing in front of me: the speakers produced a front-of-hall perspective, with fine precision of depth and imaging.”
Some might wonder how Axiom Audio can offer such a substantial, high-performing loudspeaker for $2790/pair. One reason is that they sell factory direct -- the middlemen are cut out, which considerably reduces the price to consumers. Another is that they manufacture all of their speakers and speaker parts in-house, including the drivers; usually, they can make precisely what they need for a particular model for a price lower than what a third-party source would charge. Last, Axiom has been designing and making loudspeakers for almost 35 years -- they’ve learned a thing or two about how to make accurate, good-sounding products that don’t cost an arm and a leg.
It’s no surprise that the final paragraph of Oliver’s review included this: “Axiom deserves a gold medal -- or, better still, a Reviewers’ Choice award -- for how much sonic goodness they’ve packed into the wonderful M100.” And now the M100 v4 has won a Recommended Reference Component award as well.
Manufacturer contact information:
Dwight, Ontario P0A 1H0
Phone: (866) 244-8796 (North America), (705) 635-3090 (worldwide)
Fax: (705) 635-1972