Axiom Epic Grand Master Home Theater Loudspeaker Review

AudioWorld Rating:


  • excellent overall performance and value for money
  • outstanding mid- and high-frequency response: transparent, smooth and detailed
  • rich, enveloping sound stage in both stereo and surround configurations
  • attractive timbral match among main front, center and rear surround speakers


  • light in the bottom end, with or without the subwoofer active
  • center-channel high frequency performance not as airy and extended as main L/R pair

AudioWorld Recommends:
It’s no hype, the Axiom Epic Grand 5.1 surround speaker package really is an exceptional value in mid-price home theater and high fidelity. If you’re looking for a complete 6-speaker set-up in the under-$3,000 (US) price range, you should definitely consider the Axioms. For budgets under $2,000 (US), the low price and 30-day in-home trial makes it a no-brainer: go for it!

The shining stars of the system are the M22 main L/R bookshelf (rather large bookshelf!) speakers, which sound superb in any configuration – 5.1 surround, 2.1 stereo, even 2.0 stereo (without the subwoofer). They have the smooth mids and extended high end, airy transparency (close your eyes, the speakers disappear), and good off-axis response (minimizing the “sweet-spot” issue) that you would expect of much pricier speakers.

The QS8 rear/surround speakers are also stellar performers, a near match for the pleasing sonics of the front pair, and distinguished by an unusual 4-way multipolar radiating design that contributes a convincing sense of well-defined, enveloping space to the whole system.

The VP100 center-channel speaker, and the EP175 powered sub are each good in their own right, though not on the same exalted plane as the main and surround speakers. They are well up to the challenges posed by today’s Dolby Digital movie soundtracks. But for high-resolution music sources (DVD-Audio, multichannel SACD), the sub is a bit light in the very deep bass, also a little slow to articulate in engergetic mixes; and the center has a warm, velvety quality that doesn’t always suit a music production where wide-range material is prominent in the middle.

These minor quibbles aside, the Epic Grand system is a great all-round performer, and a terrific choice if you expect to listen to a wide range of material, both movies and music, in a variety of configurations. You’ll have to spend a lot more money to get better sound and flexibility.

Product Description

  • M22 front L/R bookshelf speakers, dual 5-1/4″ aluminum-cone woofers, 1″ ferrofluid-cooled titanium tweeter, video shielding, 5-way gold-plated binding posts, anti-standing-wave cabinet.
  • QS8 rear L/R surround speakers, quadpolar multi-directional design, dual 5-1/4″ aluminum-cone woofers, dual 1″ titanium tweeters, 5-way gold-plated binding posts.
  • VP100 center-channel loudspeaker, dual 5-1/4″ aluminum-cone woofers, 1″ ferrofluid-cooled titanium tweeter, video shielding, 5-way gold-plated binding posts.
  • EP175 175 Watt powered subwoofer, 10-inch cast aluminum basket driver (woofer), dual vortex porting, variable low-pass filter, phase reverse switch, line-level input, speaker-level input and pass-through.
  • all speakers available in choice of black oak, maple or Boston cherry veneer finishes, matching stands available for M22ti and QS8.

Next: Read the full, detailed review

Axiom Epic Grand Master Home Theater Speaker System Tested: Movies

AudioWorld Rating:

Black Hawk Down
Lilo & Stitch
Star Wars – Episode II, Attack of the Clones
The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring

After hearing the Axiom system shine so brightly through a wide range of musical material, it was no surprise that the Epic Grand Master was every bit as competent with a variety of movie soundtracks.

Most impressive was the tour-de-force sound design of Black Hawk Down, at times subtle and nuanced, at other times thunderously dramatic. I was startled again and again to hear minute details emerging from the mix, precisely localized, and perfectly detailed, while the overall soundscape was compellingly realistic. The credit for this remarkable achievement goes to the brilliant sound production, but the Axiom surround system deserves all kinds of praise for its ability to reproduce the complexities of the soundscape so vividly.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio of Disney’s Lilo & Stitch provided a completely different opportunity for the Axioms to show their stuff. It’s a simpler sound environment, but with similarly high production values. The thinner layering of sound elements allows for a more straight forward assessment of fundamentals such as the clarity of dialogue through the center channel, and full musical selections balanced against sound effects. The Grand Master system was masterful once more. The VP100 revealed its greatest strength, not surprisingly, as a vehicle for spoken word, providing excellent intelligibility even when the dialogue is mixed at a comparatively low level. As for effects, several times I was surprised to hear sound snippets in motion, emerging from points in space outside the expected spatial range of the speakers. It was great fun listening to this production on the Axiom system.

The same goes for The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring and Star Wars – Episode II, Attack of the Clones. These served as typical examples of the meat-and-potatoes fare that a home theater system will often be called on to deliver. That is — bombastic orchestral scores, pounding LFE tracks, densely layered sound effects and ambiance. The Axioms handled it all with panache, serving up a vibrant sonic performance, with all the dynamics, impact, detail, and spatial definition that you could ask for.

Why’s, Wherefore’s and Logistics

So there you have it. These speakers from Axiom really are a bargain that’s hard to ignore — a fine-sounding 5.1 surround package that you’d be hard-pressed to equal for twice the money. The M22 front speakers are so good on their own account that the rest of the system struggles to keep up. Most notably, the key upgrade to consider would be a more articulate subwoofer, maybe with a little more power and weight.

You may be skeptical about the enthusiastic response Axiom speakers are getting of late. If they sound so great, why don’t they cost a lot more? The question was certainly on my mind before I began this review.

At least half the story is that Axiom is selling their speakers online, direct to consumers. The percentage of the price that would normally go to distributors and retailers ends up in your pocket.

The other half, I think, is the history and ancestry of these designs. Axiom was founded in 1980 by Ian Colquhoun, a Canadian engineer who was working at the time at the Acoustics and Signal Processing Department of Ottawa’s National Research Council (NRC). He was one of the early beneficiaries of the NRC lab’s ground-breaking work in loudspeaker design, based on anechoic chamber measurements of speaker performance, and double-blind subjective testing of speaker designs. The work that went on at NRC in the 1980s spawned an entire Canadian loudspeaker design and manufacturing industry, through companies such as Energy, Mirage, PSB and Paradigm, as well as Axiom. The evidence of the current generation of Axiom loudspeakers is that Ian Colquhoun came up with some useful innovations in his time at NRC, and has put that expertise to good use producing superior results from relatively inexpensive technology.

Given the modest pricing of Axiom’s speakers, their build quality is satisfying. The cabinets are solid, tight, and nicely surfaced with veneer (choice of black oak, maple, and Boston cherry). Speaker connectors on all except the subwoofer are high-quality gold-plated five-way binding posts.

The M22 and QS8 cabinets are a bit odd in shape, thanks to the asymmetical design that counters internal standing waves. The M22 in particular seems ungainly and potentially unstable, being tall and narrow, as well as wedge-shaped. However, it’s also solid and fairly heavy (16 lbs), so in practice it proved to be just fine, even placed on tall 24″ stands.

Thanks to the vertical alignment of the QS8’s woofers (one facing straight down, the other straight up), the rear speakers must either be mounted flush to the wall (using a supplied mounting bracket), or on special stands available from Axiom that allow the down-firing speaker to work properly.

In the living room, the Epic Grand Master ensemble looks attractive, though far from opulent — nothing here to upset the family members who may be more interested in furniture than sound quality. But it’s the sound quality that will win them over; after all, who can resist the appeal of a thrilling Dolby Digital surround soundtrack or well-produced multi-channel music production when it’s delivered with such grace?

Next: Back to the summary

Axiom’s M80 Tower Loudspeakers Mansfield Beech Finish

Top-of-the-line Full-Range Sound

Axiom Millennia M80 Loudspeaker Review Summary

AudioWorld Rating:


  • outstanding mid- and high-frequency response: transparent, smooth and detailed
  • tight, well-balanced bass extends down to 35-40 Hz
  • rich, enveloping sound stage, easy to position in most listening rooms
  • excellent overall performance and value for money


  • light in deepest bass, requires bass management and subwoofer for full weight at the bottom
  • 4-ohm load, requires high-power receiver or amplifier to perform up to potential

AudioWorld Recommends:
In common with the whole Axiom family of loudspeakers, the M80’s are characterized by silky smooth response throughout the audible spectrum, except for the very lowest frequencies. In this case, the bottom is solid and tight down to the 35-40 Hz region, thanks to a pair of 6.5″ aluminum woofers. The 3-way complement of drivers (dual 5.25″ aluminum midranges, dual 1″ titanium tweeters to go with the woofers), crossovers and Axiom’s distinctive slightly-wedged cabinet design with vortex porting are superbly engineered to deliver sweet, well-rounded sound without a trace of undesirable coloration.

The M80’s also deliver a flattering, yet precise, sound stage – every instrument and sound element clearly located and defined, without the overly-analytical focus that sometimes comes along with such clarity. These speakers are dead easy to position for a pleasing stereo image or surround field in typical home listenting rooms.

The other family characteristic the M80ti’s share with the rest of the Axiom line is an airy, transparent top end, extending well out beyond audible range – the 1″ titanium tweeters found in every Axiom main, surround and center-channel speaker, working their magic.

All of this makes the M80 another example of the outstanding value offered by the entire Axiom line. You will not find loudspeakers that sound nearly as good as this, anywhere close to the modest price of $1,380 (US) per pair.

So what’s not to like? For me, it’s still the bottom end. As compared to my reference system, which has Axiom’s M22 bookshelf model as the main L/R speakers, the M80’s go down nearly a full octave further into the depths (the M22 bottoms out around 55-60 Hz). Even so, these speakers still need a sub to reproduce the lowest lows with full weight.

Product Description

  • 3-way speaker system, with two 1-inch titanium tweeters, two 5.25-inch aluminum midrange drivers and two 6.5-inch aluminum woofers
  • anti-standing-wave wedge-shaped cabinet suppresses internal resonances
  • vortex-ported cabinet to reduce port noise
  • 5-way gold-plated binding posts… bi-wirable and bi-ampable
  • available in Maple, Black Oak, Mansfield Beech and Boston Cherry veneer finishes

Next: Read the full, detailed review

Axiom Millennia M80 Tower Loudspeakers: Sound Comparisons

AudioWorld Rating:

How do they sound?

I tested the M80’s in a variety of contexts, focusing mostly on their role as main front speakers in a 5.1 surround system, both for music and for movies. With the M80’s replacing the smaller M22’s in the Epic Grand Master package, the system is similar to Axiom’s top-of-the-line Epic 80 package, but with a smaller center channel speaker (VP100 instead of VP150) and subwoofer (EP175 instead of EP350).

I also made direct A/B comparisons of the M80 vs. the M22. I was interested to find out how much of a difference the upgrade to the M80’s would make in various settings, given the $700 (US) per pair price differential.

Diana Krall: Love Scenes
(Impulse DVD-Audio)

This DVD-Audio disc is a great romantic jazz listen, as well as an ideal way to evaluate the essential characteristics of a speaker system in both stereo and surround. The ensemble of bass-piano-guitar plus vocal is beautifully recorded, with distinct mixes for each format: the stereo version (96kHz/24-bit) is up-close and intimate, the surround version (44.1kHz/24-bit) a little more spacious and reverberant. In both cases, the instruments are captured with realism and detail that reveals all.

Listening to Love Scenes in advanced resolution stereo through the M80ti’s alone is a delight. The acoustic bass, in particular, sounds sumptuous and natural, right down to the bottom. No hint of resonances or imbalances of any kind. As you would expect, the bookshelf M22ti’s are no match for the big speakers at reproducing the lower bass. Putting that obvious difference aside, I found that the M80ti’s present a slightly better defined soundstage, with the phantom center more stable and the whole stereo field a little more enveloping.

In surround, the M80’s again sound spectacular. The characteristic Axiom sound – transparent, open-ended, detailed – is evident, and the tower speakers fit together tonally and spatially with the rest of the speaker ensemble, to perfection. With this recording, there is little to say about the bottom end, since the mix directs the low bass to the LFE subwoofer channel rather aggressively. With or without bass management switched in, the end result is an accurate reproduction of the bass instrument, without any crossover glitches between registers.

Insane Clown Posse: The Wraith – Shangri-La
(DTS Entertainment DVD-Audio)

For something completely different, I turned to this extravagantly-produced hip-hop/rap attack, which offers a riotous surround mix and multitrack aural manipulations by the jugful (note: definitely not recommended for family listening, highly abrasive lyrics).

What I was after here was a fix on how the M80 would handle an extreme challenge in the low frequencies, with the heavily-processed bass lines and layers of chunky beats often found in current pop recordings.

The advantage of full-range speakers for the main front pair is evident in this situation. With the bass management crossover set at 40Hz, the deep – almost sub-sonic – fundamentals throughout this recording issue forth with appropriately furniture-rattling weight, courtesy of the subwoofer, while the M80ti’s bring definition and clarity to the mid-bass drum, percussion and synth elements. With the sub taken out of the picture, the M80’s still put this music over with substantial impact, but entirely lacking the profound bottom end on tracks like Murder Rap and Blaaam!!!

The big Axioms also have a clear advantage over their bookshelf siblings through the midrange of the spectrum, with this recording. The music is densely layered and frenetically busy, and I found that the M80’s are able to articulate and lay out the complex mix with greater clarity. Not to mention that cranking the amp up to deliver dance-club sound levels, the M80’s ramped up without breaking a sweat: really loud, and really clean.

Black Hawk Down
(Columbia Pictures DVD-Video)

The soundtrack of this modern war flick (Academy Award for Best Sound, 2001) is a showcase of complex, nuanced sound design – everything from crushing explosions and chopper fly-by’s, to subtle ambient details in the quieter scenes. The M80’s handle everything this movie throws at them with ease. These speakers, in common with all of the Axiom models I have auditioned, are masterful at creating a surround soundscape that is utterly realistic – enveloping, detailed, and accurate. I can’t really say that there’s much advantage in having the larger Axioms this time around, as the standard Epic Grand system with the smaller M22’s is equally proficient in this context.

Philippe Herreweghe J.S. Bach – Leipzig Christmas Cantatas
(Harmonia Mundi Hybrid Multichannel SACD)

A fine performance and recording of Bach choral-orchestral works, with lovely, naturally-reverberant acoustics. The M80ti’s sound spectacular here, all by themselves in the stereo version, or carrying the main effort in the surround mix. Perhaps it is tellling that listening to the stereo tracks provides an enveloping surround-like experience that is almost indistinguishable from the full surround – the Axioms really are that good at recreating a vibrant soundstage, given an excellent classically-engineered recording.

The low frequency response of the M80 handles the full range of this recording without any difficulty: in fact, they sound better with the subwoofer switched out altogether, producing accurate, tight bass that is a tad compromised when the sub is involved.