M0 EP125 & EP400 Build Quality
Axiom Audio is well known on the Internet in general and to Audioholics readers in particular. They have consistently provided products that are value conscious while maintaining a very high standard of sonic quality. If Audioholics is about anything, it is about sonic quality. In-wall and on-wall speaker systems have always been in demand, even more so now with the proliferation of flatpanel displays. Axiom has already started to address that demand with their in-wall/on-wall hybrid Architectural series. The new Accent speakers address the needs of those who absolutely don't want to install a speaker in the wall. But on-wall speakers are a dime a dozen right? Well, if you can count on Axiom to do one thing, it's to innovate. Whether it is high-powered DSP-enabled subwoofers or digital amps with a design like no other, they'll surprise you. I guarantee they've got something up their sleeve this time that you won't be expecting. Something you've never seen before. Enter the Axiom M0 on-wall speaker system.
As every speaker I've ever received from Axiom (including my first speaker purchase before I ever worked for Audioholics), the M0s and the two accompanying subwoofers the EP125 and EP400 arrived well boxed and in good condition. The M0s in particular seem to have nearly as much insulation in the form of molded foam end caps as the speakers themselves. You'll get the boxes and think that the speakers will be a nice, small size until you open them and see that the speakers are half the size of the box. These are truly small speakers that should have little problem blending into a room.
On the other hand, I was shocked by the size of the EP400. I'm a proud owner of an EP500 which has long served me well in my reference home theater. I expected the EP400 to be maybe two-thirds the size of the EP500. The box that it arrived in made me think I was right--until I opened it. Again, Axiom Audio surprised me with their level of packaging. The EP400 was only a fraction larger (mostly deeper) than the EP125 - Axiom's least expensive subwoofer!
The system as a whole shares many of the qualities that Axiom fans will recognize. Each speaker arrived wrapped in a black wood grain vinyl wrap. Currently, the speaker system can be ordered in any of the Axiom vinyl wraps including cherry, beech, maple and a number of flat colors including charcoal, eggshell, and ebony. Many of the finishes are paired with more than one grill color. While it is not listed on the website yet, in fact you can order the Accent system in one of Axiom's custom real wood veneers.
There are no rounded edges to be found anywhere on the Axiom speakers, again keeping with tradition. While the M0's have a rounded looking edge, they are actually octagons with two elongated sides. This does soften the edges a bit. As one who has lost more than his fair share of shin skin to an Axiom sub corner, I was not at all surprised when I had to comfort a crying child whose balloon had popped on the corner of one of the subs. While I am sure that the non-rounded edges are a way to keep costs down to give you the best bang for your buck, I wish there was a rounded corner option at a premium cost. It certainly would eventually pay for itself in Band-Aids and balloons over the years.
The big innovation in the M0 on-wall speakers is the bracket system. You'll notice on the back of the speaker a complete lack of terminals - 5 way or otherwise. There are two rubber bumpers on the bottom and a pair of gold-plated brackets near the top. The T-shaped bracket has three holes for wall mounting and two gold ends on the sides. This allows the wires to be mounted directly to the bracket instead of to the speaker. With a speaker as small as the M0, that last thing you want is space taken up by traditional binding posts. This makes for a very clean installation. You have a hole in the wall very near the bracket and the T-bracket on the wall with the wires tied into it. The speaker can be popped on and off the bracket at will.
In addition, for the first time ever, Axiom is offering magnetic grills with a speaker. This very well may be because they didn't want to take extra room for the connection points for the grill. Regardless, Axiom Audio has done well here. The grills snap into place securely and without any vibration or movement. I've had experience with other magnetic grills that have moved around so that you were never sure if they were perfectly centered or not. Not so with the M0s. They were very secure and held firmly. They only came off when I wanted them to and a casual brush didn't seem to faze them at all.
The two different subwoofers were as different as the price point suggest. The EP125 comes in at $375 with the EP400 just shy of 3x's that price at $1100. The EP125 was, as I mentioned, only slightly smaller than that EP400 but it is less than half the weight! If for no other reason, you'll recognize the difference in the quality of the subs just by picking them up. The EP125 feels about right for the size while the EP400 feels like it was filled with lead. The driver size is the same though you'd never guess as much by looking at the subwoofers. This is mostly because the surround on the EP400 is so much larger to allow for a greater excursion of the EP400 woofer. The EP125 is double ported with two of Axiom's iconic "puckered" ports. This is designed to cut down on port noise and chuffing. The EP400 on the other hand is completely sealed. The most significant change (at least from the outside) is in the amp. The EP400 has similar amplification as the EP500 with a DSP controlled amplifier with trim control, much more power (500 vs. 125 watts), and more connections. In my opinion, the EP125 looks a bit better with the grill off (both grills are sturdy and well connected) as the plain top part of the EP400 looks a bit odd. The bottoms sport threaded inserts for either rubber bumpers or the trademark Axiom spikes.
The M0s have a look that should be familiar to Axiom lovers. The woofer is constructed out of aluminum and has a 3" diameter with a black dustcap. The tweeter is a 1" titanium driver typical of Axiom speakers though it has a smaller plastic plate for attachment to the baffle than you may be used to seeing. This is due to the decreased size of the speaker. The speakers feel very hefty for their size and very, very solid. The weight of each speaker is under 3 pounds, so hanging them should be little problem. The biggest omission in the packaging is that there are no included drywall anchors. While in the review installation it wasn't an issue, drywall anchors should be standard equipment especially considering that the bracket only has mounting points vertically down the center. This means that you're either in a stud or you aren't. With drywall anchors, you wouldn't need to be. There may be an argument that three connection points without anchors might be fine with such a light speaker but I'm not making it. I would definitely suggest anchors as the size of the speaker doesn't really lend itself to stud placement.
Opening up the speakers, we see that space in the M0s is at a premium. These are sealed speakers with a 5/8" MDF enclosure. There is less than an inch of free space inside. The crossover takes most of the internal volume and obviously can't be removed without completely disassembling the speaker. This is a heavily engineered speaker that obviously isn't meant to be serviced in the field. A bit of polyfil was present though it was probably inserted to stop any noise from wires rubbing more than increasing the perceived box volume the woofer sees. The drivers are magnetically shielded so you'll have no problems with placement near a legacy CRT. The woofer has a stamped basket and has a rather large motor structure for such a small driver. The tweeter uses a conventional ferrite magnet instead of a compromised neodymium design often seen in speakers this size and price... At $135 a pop, that's about what you'd expect. The crossover utilizes costly air core inductors and polypropylene capacitors and ceramic resistors. We were surprised to see so much attention to detail in the crossover design for such a small inexpensive speaker system.
The two subwoofers are as different as night and day on the inside. While both of the enclosures are constructed out of 3/4" MDF, the driver on the EP400 is a completely different league. While the EP125's driver has a cast basket and respectable sized motor structure, the EP400 has a driver that is so beefy that I literally could not get it out of the enclosure. This is because they have actual binding posts on the driver with a spade connection from the amplifier! The side connection of the spade connector blocked the driver from coming out. I was able to get access to the back of the driver by removing the amp. If you are wondering where all the extra weight of the EP400 is coming from, the driver is a culprit as is the amp. The amplifier on the EP400 weighs in at a stunning 16 pounds! That's some serious amplification for such a small sub. Don’t forget the amplifier in this sub is a Class D design so most of that weight is in the oversized analog power supply. Most subwoofer companies skimp here and use a lesser designed SMPS power supply which usually cannot deliver their power rating on a continuous basis, but also have little or no headroom to spare. You can be assured this is not the case with the Axiom as they didn’t skimp on this amplifier design.
With the size of the driver and the amp box, there really isn't all that much room left inside the EP400. Both subs have at least a layer of polyfil in them with very thick wires running from the amps to the drivers. One of the other quality differences that was immediately apparent was that the EP400 had threaded inserts for all connection points (driver/amp) while the EP125 was limited to just the feet. When you are spending as much as you are on the EP400, you'd like to know it isn't just for a bigger amp and driver. This is definitely the case as the quality differences are obvious with the EP400. One thing that is missing from both the subs is any sort of internal bracing or baffling. While the knock test of the EP400 seemed sufficiently dead (probably due to the added weight of the amp and driver), the EP125 could have used a bit extra in my opinion. Reinforcements on both the subs were nonexistent as the walls looked like they were glued and screwed only. Given the smallish size of these enclosures, it is understandable to not sacrifice box space for bracing and I am certain Axiom considered this when designing the products.
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