Axiom Audio Millennia
It's certainly not news that Canadian audio companies
produce some very fine speakers, and that over the years a lot of them have been designed
using the facilities of the National Research Council of Canada, where we also produce our
measurements and conduct our listening tests.
Axiom Audio has been taking advantage of this resource for
most of its two decades of existence, and the result is very typical: a long track record
of excellent speakers. Its name may not be the most familiar, however, because although
the company's output is prodigious, the vast majority is made for other brands. Axiom as a
manufacturer is big league; as a brand it's fairly minor. But that certainly doesn't
detract from the quality of its products.
Axiom itself is the brainchild of Ian Colquhoun, who has
managed to run his thriving company in the town of Dwight, in Ontario's Muskoka resort
region, since 1983. It was founded in 1980, and began its relationship with NRC in 1982.
In 2000, Axiom introduced a range of bookshelf speakers
call the Millennia Ti series -- Millennia after the year, Ti after the titanium tweeters
used in the line. There are three bookshelf-sized models, of which the M3Ti is the
largest, selling for a very modest $275 a pair.
It's a two-way speaker, with a 1-inch tweeter and a 5-inch
aluminum woofer with a rolled rubber surround. There's a molded, irregularly shaped vent
in the rear, which Axiom calls the Vortex. There are gold-plated heavy-duty binding posts
on the rear as well. The enclosure has Axiom's distinctive wedge shape and is available in
black woodgrain vinyl or Boston cherry. All surfaces are finished.
The M3Ti measures 13.5 inches high, with a width and depth
of 8.5 inches. It weighs 10 pounds. It's an 8-ohm speaker, magnetically shielded, and
rated to handle 175 watts. Altogether, a very attractive package.
One look at the first curves in Figure 1 of the
measurements suggests that this a very well-behaved speaker. The fact that the curves are
very similar from on-axis to 30 degrees off-axis means that the sound can be expected to
be quite consistent throughout the listening area. The lower curves, which represent the
spectral balance of near-field reflections off walls close to the speaker, are generally
similar to the more direct upper curves, which suggests that positioning will not be
critical with this speaker.
All the response curves do show a fairly sharp notch at
about 1500Hz and a generalized sag in the upper midrange, and these were audible in the
listening sessions, but neither was severe enough to elicit strong criticism. In fact,
depending on the material, they were inaudible in a lot of situations.
Sensitivity was measured at 89dB SPL, a bit below the spec
of 93dB, but quite sensitive nonetheless.
The listening window curve in Figure 2
is similar to the other curves, showing an overall good balance, with only minor midrange
As is often the case with smallish speakers, the testing
facility elected to run a total harmonic distortion curve (Figure 3) at only 90 dB, rather
than risk damage to the speaker. In fact, there were a few occasions during the listening
tests when panelists remarked that the speaker might be straining somewhat. Otherwise, the
curve is fairly typical of a speaker this size, although it might have had a bit more
midrange distortion than other speakers we have tested.
Impedance (Figure 4, top) was unproblematic, never dropping
below about 6 ohms; this speaker should not cause amplifier problems. Similarly, its phase
performance (Figure 4, bottom) has no obvious flaws.
Overall, the Axiom M3Ti turned in an extremely clean
performance in the lab.
Members of the listening panels at NRC have traditionally
played a little game -- now formalized -- in which they draw what they think the frequency
response curves will look like.
Several things were consistent with the M3Ti. One was that
almost every curve showed bass rolloff -- perhaps not surprising in a speaker this small
-- although there was at least one comment that, although the bass was a bit weak, it did
extend to a quite low frequency.
Likewise, the midrange non-linearities were noticed in most
cases, although listeners were not always sure what they were hearing -- just that
something was happening in the mids.
But those turned out to be minor objections. In the overall
quality rating, among six speakers in the listening rounds, some very much more ambitious
and expensive, the M3Ti scored second, and only missed a tie with the leader by a single
point. Our panel really liked this little speaker.
- Open, good clarity
- Recessed in upper mids
- Little bass, but otherwise neutral
- Balanced voice
- Second-best in group (!)
- Nice balance
- Overdriven on trombone, might be distorting
- Some mid stuff
- Limited bass, but tuneful
- Bass weak, but seems to have good extension
- Good bass [go figure]
The Bottom Line
The Axiom M3Ti is a remarkable little speaker for a very
attractive price. You could even use five or six of them in a home-theater system without
breaking the bank. I'd call it a winner!
...Ian G. Masters
- Axiom Audio
Millennia M3Ti Loudspeakers: $275 USD per pair