GOODSOUND!GoodSound! "Equipment" Archives

Published March 15, 2004

 

GOODSOUND! GREAT BUY

Axiom Audio Millennia M60ti Loudspeakers

Axiom Audio is a speaker manufacturer based in Ontario, Canada. They primarily sell their speakers through the Internet, to what Axiom says is a worldwide market. Axiom has always represented great value -- their speakers sound far better than their prices would suggest.

The Millennia M60ti, the second-most-expensive tower model in Axiom’s lineup, costs a reasonable $800/pair USD. When I spoke with Axiom president Ian Colquhoun, he said that his goal for the M60ti was a speaker that sounded the same as his top-of-the-line Millennia M80ti ($1100), but for a lower price. The compromises have been few: a lack of extreme power handling, and of the M80ti’s deeper bass extension.

Description

The M60ti is an average-sized tower only 37.5" tall but 15" deep -- deeper than what I’m used to seeing. Like all Axiom speakers, the M60ti has an Anti-Standing-Wave cabinet; this one is 9.25" wide in front, tapering to a width of 7" in the rear. The irregular shape reportedly breaks up soundwaves from the rear of the driver that can color the sound.

The M60ti’s four drivers are all on the speaker’s front. Topmost is a 1" tweeter, followed by a 5.25" midrange and two 6.5" woofers all in a vertical line. Two of the most-sought traits in cone drivers are stiffness and low mass. A stiff driver will better reproduce sound because it will flex or break up less than a more flexible driver. A lightweight material is desired because it can move faster and thus better reproduce transient sounds. To reach these goals, Axiom uses titanium in its tweeters and aluminum in its midrange and woofer cones.

The M60ti is rare in having three ports: one on the front baffle and two in the rear (one behind the tweeter, the other about midway up the back panel). Nor are the ports small -- about 2.25" in diameter. The ports’ unusual bumpy texture increases their surface area; according to Axiom, this ensures that there will be no port noise.

The M60ti’s two sets of binding posts permit biamping (using two channels of amplification for each speaker) or biwiring (using two sets of wires to each speaker). The speaker has a rated nominal impedance of 8 ohms and a sensitivity of 93dB/W/m -- it should be an easy load for any amplifier or receiver, and require very little power to produce high sound-pressure levels. In my time with them, that’s what I found.

The M60tis Axiom sent me had a smooth finish of "black ash" vinyl; maple, Mansfield beech, and Boston cherry finishes are also available at no extra cost. Axiom makes available a whole range of custom vinyl veneers at extra cost; I’m told they look very much like real wood.

Listening

Setting up the Axiom M60tis was easy. I placed them 8’ from my listening seat, 6’ apart, facing straight ahead (no toe-in), and left them there for the duration of my auditioning -- I couldn’t better those positions. Some speakers require a long break-in period -- sometimes weeks of continuous use -- before they sound good. The Axioms sounded great right out of the box.

I was awestruck by the M60tis’ performance. They sounded as good as any $800/pair of speakers I’ve auditioned, and produced a very solid center image without much fiddling around with positioning. Some speakers tend to push the image to the back of the soundstage, but not the M60tis. They gave me a close, intimate listening perspective, as if I was sitting on stage with the performers. This was very evident when I listened to Elvis Costello’s North [Universal Classics Group B0000999-02]. On "Still," Costello’s voice filled the area between the speakers with a very wide center image. The strings were farther back, filling in nicely behind the up-front vocals.

An example of the Axiom M60tis’ great soundstaging was when I played Holly Cole’s Baby, It’s Cold Outside [Alert 6152810382]. On the title track, Ed Robertson’s voice was easily discernible slightly to the left of center, with Cole’s voice on the right, the strings and woodwinds filling in behind. On "’Zat You Santa Claus" Cole’s voice was dead center, the orchestra again filling in the back of the soundstage. The distinctive "blat" of the trombone was firmly in the right speaker and beautifully rendered.

Listening to male or female vocals, it was evident to me that the Axiom M60ti excelled in another important area of loudspeaker performance: the midrange. Some would argue that the midrange is the only frequency range that really matters. Well, the M60ti got the midrange right. When listening to Aimee Mann on the Magnolia soundtrack [Reprise CDW 47583], I was taken aback at how sweet her voice sounded on "Wise Up" and "Save Me." When I listened to Dido’s No Angel [Arista 07822-19025-2], the M60ti made it easy to get lost in her performance of "Thank You."

But some of you, like me, won’t be satisfied by midrange performance alone; after all, many bookshelf speakers, such as Axiom’s own M3ti, perform excellently in that regard. I expect good bass from a tower speaker; except for extreme bass freaks, most listeners should be more than satisfied with the Axiom M60ti. One of my favorite CDs for testing bass performance is Holly Cole’s Temptation [Alert Z2-81026]. With this CD, if the speakers produce too much bass or are not positioned correctly, the bass overwhelms my room. The M60ti did not do this. On "Train Song," the M60ti extended deep into the bass region but, remarkably, without any boominess.

The tweeter used in the M60ti can be found throughout the Axiom speaker lineup, and it’s a good one. I can often hear the differences between good and bad tweeters when listening to stringed instruments, such as violin or cello. Playing track 6 of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, performed by the Italian chamber orchestra Il Giardino Armonico [Teldec 97671], the M60tis sounded especially clean. This track is played with urgency and excitement, and the Axioms conveyed that wonderfully. It’s a fine balancing act for a speaker designer to get the high frequencies right, and Ian Colquhoun has done it. This tweeter was neither dull nor bright, but just right.

How does it compare?

I was anxious to listen to the M60ti because of my previous listening experience with the top of Axiom’s line, the M80ti. The M80ti is only 2" taller than the M60ti but has more drivers -- two tweeters and two midrange cones, all mounted on the front of the speaker. The extra drivers are primarily there for higher power handling, which gives the M80ti the ability to play really loud without suffering from dynamic compression. However, when listening to some very dynamic music through the M60ti, such as Fat Boy Slim’s You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby [ASW 01704 66247 2 5], I never felt the M60ti lacked dynamics. It slammed as good as the M80ti had in my medium-sized room (20’ x 14’). If your room is large, however, the M80ti will play louder than the M60ti.

In terms of its reproduction of low frequencies, the M60ti had good bass extension, but the M80ti goes deeper. This was quite evident when I listened to Holly Cole’s Temptation. The M80ti was fussier to set up than the M60ti, and needed a lot of adjustment of positions to sound its best with bass-heavy music. With the M60tis, it was basically "plunk ’em down and listen." In the midrange, the M80ti and the M60ti were essentially identical, sounding particularly great with both male and female vocals. As well, both the M80ti and the M60ti had near identical imaging and soundstaging: up-front and detailed.

One puzzling discrepancy between the M60ti and the M80ti was in their treble performance. While the M60ti was a real smoothie, I recall that the M80ti’s high frequencies were a bit bright, especially on brass instruments. In "Wrong Note Rag," from Leonard Bernstein’s New York [Nonesuch 79400], I didn’t hear the treble "bite" through the M60tis that I had through the M80tis. One explanation for this could be that the M80ti’s dual tweeters might have interacted more with my room to produce the high-frequency emphasis.

Conclusion

Axiom Audio has done it again: another killer model in a whole line of excellent speakers. There are speakers out there that will produce deeper bass and more high-frequency "air," and the M60ti is more forward-sounding than some other designs I’ve auditioned, but that’s about it. For $800/pair, and from the low bass to the high frequencies, I couldn’t fault any aspect of its performance.

If you’re looking for a full-range speaker that works great in a medium-sized room, I urge you to take advantage of Axiom’s 30-day guarantee and give the M60ti a listen -- it’s one speaker you probably won’t be sending back.

...Vince Hanada

Price of equipment reviewed


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