Axiom Audio Millennia M60ti
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 Axioms 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 M80tis
deeper bass extension.
The M60ti is an average-sized tower only 37.5" tall
but 15" deep -- deeper than what Im 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 M60tis four drivers are all on the speakers
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 M60tis 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,
thats 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;
Im told they look very much like real wood.
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 couldnt 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 Ive 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 Costellos North [Universal Classics
Group B0000999-02]. On "Still," Costellos 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 Coles Baby, Its Cold Outside [Alert 6152810382]. On
the title track, Ed Robertsons voice was easily discernible slightly to the left of
center, with Coles voice on the right, the strings and woodwinds filling in behind.
On "Zat You Santa Claus" Coles 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 Didos No Angel
[Arista 07822-19025-2], the M60ti made it easy to get lost in her performance of
But some of you, like me, wont be satisfied by
midrange performance alone; after all, many bookshelf speakers, such as Axioms 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 Coles 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 its 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 Vivaldis 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. Its 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 Axioms 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 Slims Youve 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 Coles 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
M80tis high frequencies were a bit bright, especially on brass instruments. In
"Wrong Note Rag," from Leonard Bernsteins New York [Nonesuch
79400], I didnt hear the treble "bite" through the M60tis that I had
through the M80tis. One explanation for this could be that the M80tis dual tweeters
might have interacted more with my room to produce the high-frequency emphasis.
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 Ive auditioned, but thats about it. For $800/pair, and from
the low bass to the high frequencies, I couldnt fault any aspect of its performance.
If youre looking for a full-range speaker that works
great in a medium-sized room, I urge you to take advantage of Axioms 30-day
guarantee and give the M60ti a listen -- its one speaker you probably wont be
Price of equipment reviewed