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Axiom Epic Master review:

Axiom Epic Master

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The Good Excellent subwoofer; wraparound surround sound; beautifully balanced bookshelf front speakers.

The Bad Imperfect timbre-matching among left, right, and center speakers; surround speakers can't be placed on shelves or ordinary stands; center channel colors dialogue slightly.

The Bottom Line This is a highly musical speaker package, but it won't knock out thrill-seeking home-theater fans.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

6.0 Overall

You're probably thinking, "Axiom who?" Axiom is new to the United States, coming to us from the Great White North and exemplifying the Canadian tradition of producing great, high-value speakers. The company's Epic Master six-piece system is fortified with a very grown-up sub and dedicated front, center, and surround speakers. Our listening tests confirmed that the Epic Master's talents will be best appreciated by music lovers rather than hard-core home-theater buffs. You're probably thinking, "Axiom who?" Axiom is new to the United States, coming to us from the Great White North and exemplifying the Canadian tradition of producing great, high-value speakers. The company's Epic Master six-piece system is fortified with a very grown-up sub and dedicated front, center, and surround speakers. Our listening tests confirmed that the Epic Master's talents will be best appreciated by music lovers rather than hard-core home-theater buffs.

Shapely performers
Axiom's subtly wedge-shaped speakers stand apart from the hordes of right-angled-box designs. Not only do they look cool, but these nonparallel cabinets are said to minimize the speaker's resonant signature and produce cleaner sound. The Epic Master sats all feature high-tech aluminum woofers and ferrofluid-cooled titanium tweeters.

The M3Ti front speakers sport generously sized 6.5-inch woofers and 1-inch tweeters, while the VP100 center speaker boasts a pair of 5.25-inch woofers that flank a 1-inch tweeter. Far from petite, the center speaker measures 7.5 by 17.0 by 7.5 inches.

The Quadrant Surround QS-4 speaker's four drivers are positioned on four different baffles--a set of lateral-firing tweeters plus top- and bottom-mounted 4.5-inch woofers. So don't even think about placing these surround speakers on ordinary stands or shelves; you'll block the bottom woofers. Instead, you should wall-mount them or use Axiom's dedicated floor stands (sold separately). Once properly situated, these ultrawide-dispersion speakers deploy a wraparound soundstage with the greatest of ease; they're exceptional performers.

All three sats--the left and right fronts, center, and surrounds--are unusually efficient designs. They'll produce a lot of sound with low-powered (50 watts or less) receivers, yet they'll rock and roll with up to 175 watts. The sturdy, all-metal speaker binding posts accept bare wire or banana plugs.

And the sub? The Epicenter EP175 isn't one of those demure, poseur subs that craps out when called upon to reproduce anything more taxing than a mild rumble. No--this component's oh-so-solid bass is provided by a front-mounted, 10-inch aluminum woofer backed up by a 175-watt amp. Hookup choices include stereo speaker-level or mono line-level connections. This full-sized beast measures 17.50 by 13.50 by 14.25 inches.

The Epic Master system is available in your choice of Black Oak, Boston Cherry, or Maple vinyl-wrapped finishes.

Auditioning the Axioms
We first checked out the Epic Master's musical abilities in stereo. The M3Tis' poise and refinement communicated every delicious nuance of Ella Fitzgerald's swinging vocals and still managed to cut loose on our Ramones CDs. Drums sounded particularly alive, and that was before we turned on the subwoofer.

The system's performance on DVDs was a mixed bag. Yes, the EP-175 churned out deep, deep bass and maintained tightfisted control over the lower octaves. The Epic Master's overall dynamic punch was good, but it couldn't finesse the fierce artillery blasts and explosions on The Thin Red Line DVD at high volume levels; Klipsch's extraordinary took that sort of abuse in stride. The Axioms are at their best when played at more moderate levels in medium-sized rooms, and the quadpolar surrounds are capable of unfurling dramatic soundstaging effects. On The Thin Red Line, for example, the jungle sounds were particularly enveloping. The VP100 center speaker didn't tonally match the M3Tis, so we could hear the transition from speaker to speaker as sounds panned across the front of our listening room. The center channel also made dialogue sound as if the person were speaking with their hands cupped around their mouth like a megaphone. This effect was subtle, but it's still there.

Priced at $1,240, the Axiom Epic Master system will please music lovers more than thrill-seeking home-theater buyers. Based on its musical abilities, we were tempted to rate this package a 7. But in the end, we decided that, for the price, it came up a hair short of that mark. Axiom offers a bevy of speaker packages ranging from the $870 Epic Micro to the $2,400 Epic 80. But also take a look at the Klipsch Synergy System 6, which sells for $999 and can really deliver the home-theater punch.

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