Axiom Audiobyte Audiophile Computer Speakers

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Product: Axiom Audiobyte Computer Speakers + EPZero Subwoofer
Provided By: Axiom Audio
Price: $517CAD as Configured


Introduction:

There are several types of people who enjoy audio.  There are those that enjoy the general music and don't care too much about sound quality and are happy with almost any type of speaker and there are those that love to have their brain shaken by bass and love to feel and In The Box experience the music on a physical level.  There are also those who love to have music accurately and precisely reproduced as it was recorded and meant to be heard.  This last group of people is audiophiles and they insist on accurate, clear and vibrant audio without one aspect drowning out the other.  We are looking at a set of computer speakers from Axiom today that are geared toward the Audiophile with a computer.

There are some audiophiles that hook their desktop and laptop computers to a large amp and their home theater, but this is not always practical in an office or den.  The Audiobyte speakers are small, quite powerful and promise clarity and quality for your listening experience.  We'll see.

 

About Axiom Audio:

Many of you have probably heard about Axiom in the past.  They are a great speaker builder and have a lot of expertise and experience behind them.  They are not new to the industry at all.  You can read all of their corporate information here, or check out a brief overview below.

For more than two decades, Axiom Audio has made its reputation by achieving unprecedented performance quality.

At inception, Axiom Audio's founder Ian Colquhoun sparked a new period of progress in the annals of loudspeaker design with his work at the National Research Council lab in Ottawa, Canada, under the direction of Dr. Floyd Toole. There he spent innumerable hours perfecting innovation after innovation.

The revolutionary theories and methodology resulting from this work were recognized and published in industry journals around the world. Canadian audio engineering gained particularly high status, which Ian Colquhoun and his company have helped maintain ever since.

Axiom's reputation grew dramatically among audio aficionados throughout North America. With the emergence of Internet mass communications, Axiom became an extremely popular "secret" among A/V enthusiasts.

By emphasizing the practical application of our ongoing research, Axiom continues to extend people's expectations of performance and value.

Today's Axiom line offers a wide range of choices that move the benchmarks farther than ever. Axiom now produces eight-sided seamless cabinets with the ground-breaking Anti Standing Wave (ASW) wedge-shaped design, esoteric driver design, internal crossover network innovations too numerous to mention, and distortion-free vortex porting.

With offices and manufacturing facilities situated in the unspoiled Muskoka district of Ontario, Axiom is today counted as one of the cornerstones of the Canadian loudspeaker business. Using the world's most advanced computerized equipment, the company has become one of the world's premier manufacturers of quality loudspeakers.

 


We had the pleasure to meet Ian and his associates at CES 2008 in Las Vegas earlier this year and we talked about Axiom's passion for quality sound and how other companies neglect quality and accuracy and substitute unbalance volume.  It was a very interesting meeting.

 

First Look - Satellites:

The Axiom Audiobyte basic kit is a pair of speakers that are powered by a small amplifier.  These are designed for computer use and are quite compact.

 Satellite With Grill
Satellite With Grill
Satellite Without Grill
Satellite Without Grill

 

The speakers measure 6.5" tall, 5.5" wide and 4" deep.  They come with a 3" aluminum cone woofer and a 1" titanium dome tweeter.  The speaker grill is easily removed as it is held in place by four hidden magnets.  This design works very well at keeping the grill in place yet doesn't leave any unsightly holes where the grill would normally attach through use of traditional speaker grill mounts.

 Satellite Grill
Satellite Grill

 

The Audiobyte speakers come in many different colors and finishes including natural wood finishes that looks like pieces of furniture and works of art.  We elected to take a look at something more neutral to any computer system and that is why we have the standard black finish units on our bench.

AudioBytes Satellites
AudioBytes Satellites
Back Of Satellites
Back Of Satellites

 

As you can see above, the Audiobytes look very sharp without the grills.  The aluminum and titanium cones offer a very nice contrast to the black finish of the rest of the speaker cabinet.  As we take a look at the back we discover that the speakers are connected to the amplifier by a simple 1/8" stereo plug - a headphone jack - if you will.  While this causes some limitations on how far apart you can place the speakers in a larger room, the reality is that these are made for a computer and there is ample cable included to place them almost 20' apart.

On the next page we'll take a look at the amplifier and the subwoofer before we jump into testing.


Audiobyte Amplifier:

The Axiom Audiobytes include the amplifier pictured below and connect to this with 1/8" stereo jacks as well.  The cables that connect the amp to the speakers and to the subwoofer are all male-male 1/8" stereo mini-jack cables.  While Axiom may get some flak for this move, I think it's brilliant and works well for the speakers that were designed for the amplifier.  The front of the amplifier is adorned by a plastic volume knob and is the only control on the front of the unit.

 Front Of Amp
Front Of Amp

 

The rear of the amplifier is more interesting than the front for sure.  At the left side of the back are the main output jacks including left, right and subwoofer.  The main 1/8" subwoofer jack is for a subwoofer like the Audiobytes EPZero passive subwoofer, but if you're looking for more bass there is also a powered subwoofer output.  Also on the back is a USB port to charge your iPod or other USB device.  The USB port is located just above the 1/8" input which accepts virtually all media players.  Axiom includes a high quality male-male cable for connection your media player or computer through the headphone jack or main line out.  I was happy to see that the amplifier has a power switch and a selector to choose between 110v here in North America as well as 220v for use in other parts of the world.  Power is provided to the amplifier through the use of a standard PSU cable that should be familiar to computer users.

Back Of Amp Close
Back Of Amp Close

 

Audiobyte EPZero Subwoofer:

Axiom sells the Audiobytes without a subwoofer but we found that alone they sound a little weak without some additional bass for well-rounded music listening.  If you mainly listen to instrumental music such as symphony or opera, you'll find the two full-range satellites more than adequate.  However if you like to listen to a wide variety of music including some hip-hop, country, rock or pop, the subwoofer helps bring the bass up to a more noticeable level.  The subwoofer itself is pretty large when compared to the satellite speakers and measures 12.4" tall, 7 7/8" wide and 14.5

 Sub Front Profile - Grill
Sub Front Profile - Grill
Sub Rear Profile
Sub Rear Profile

 

The grill on the EPZero is attached using a post and socket system instead of magnets.  Because of the 1/8" stereo jack cable system the back of the subwoofer is very uneventful.

 Sub Front Profile - No Grill
Sub Front Profile - No Grill

 

The subwoofer uses dual 6.5" drivers and shows room response from 25Hz to 150Hz.  It's got pretty decent specifications and on the next page we'll see how it sounds as we test these speakers.  There are three "modes" for the subwoofer to use - flat, half & full.  This is essentially a volume know that is low, medium and high.

On the next page we'll take a look at the specs, our test setup and give these a listen.


Audiobytes Overview:

Now that we've seen these speakers first-hand and up close we'll take a look at what Axiom has to say about them.  First off the overview clipped for your convenience from the main product page.

Introducing the first luxury hi-fi computer speaker system. . .
Performance, beauty and fidelity in one package.

Music: You’ve been waiting for a computer speaker system that sounds so good it makes you want to crank it up and sing along. Finally, award-winning Axiom sound is available from your computer or iPod system. Either connect the compact Audiobytes to your PC to enjoy your favorite tunes, or connect the speakers and 55-watt-per-channel amplifier to your iPod dock for great music listening while your iPod charges.

Movies: Watching movies on your computer just became a completely immersive experience with truly dynamic sound reproduction in a near-field application. Add the optional isobarically loaded dual-cone subwoofer to add powerful bass impact and depth to your experience. Available in black.

Gaming: Whether you’re a casual gamer or you lined up for days to get the first copy of Halo 3, the Axiom Audiobytes will add unprecedented realism to the demanding sound requirements of today’s games. You won’t believe what you’ve been missing until you switch to the truly high-fidelity playback of the Axiom Audiobyte.

 

Specifications:

         Specs

All of the above specs and the overview of the speakers may be a bit above what general consumers are used to hearing and seeing and while the amp is "only" rated at 55W per channel, you'll find out that Axiom offers true ratings and accurate numbers as opposed to many other companies that fudge the numbers or use some weird formula to generate impressive specs.  Axiom is committed to quality sound and accurate reproduction on everything from high-hat cymbals to their specifications.

 

Test Setup:

We used several test setups and situations to give the Axiom Audiobytes a thorough test.  The main system used was a computer with a Creative X-Fi Platinum.  On this system we used lossless AAC and FLAC files as well as DVD-Audio titles.  We also tested with standard lossy MP3s on both the computer and an iPod.  We used the Audiobytes on a couple of different media players as well as an IBM Thinkpad T61 laptop.  This should cover many different situations that people will encounter on a day-to-day basis.

On the final page we'll turn up the volume and test these out.


Testing:

Unless you have a lot of studio equipment, a sound chamber and a great reference mic, testing a set of speakers is a little subjective.  What sounds good to one person may be fraught with issues to another person.  I'm not a hardcore audiophile, but I do like good sound and have invested in a Creative X-Fi Platinum that I use over any on-board solution.

It is important to set up your computer to work with these speakers.  If you currently have a 5.1 set or are using headphones, you should make sure that your computer is ready and willing to go with a set of 2.1 speakers.  You may have to change some audio settings of if you have a "smart" on-board solution with jack sensing, you should be good to go.  Either way, make sure you have the right audio profile applied.

 

Music Testing:

Almost everyone I know listens to music on their PC.  That is why man invented the hard drive; so that we can hoard, store and listen to thousands of songs.  "Turn Your Lights Down Low" by Bob Marley sounded virtually perfect.  The instruments were clearer than I've ever heard them and while the bass guitar was a little weaker than I'm used to, it was adequate and well balanced.  "Classical Gas" by Eric Clapton is hard for many speakers to reproduce accurately but the Axiom Audiobyte speakers did a fantastic job and this song was so clear that it almost brought a tear to my eye.

Music that has a little more punch like "Rawkfist" by Thousand Foot Crutch, "Everything" by Pillar and "I'm So Sick" by Flyleaf sounds good, albeit with less bass than other speakers produce.  Right from very low listen levels of 35-40dB through 85-90dB these speakers sounded almost perfect when listening to a wide variety of music.  They fired perfectly until we hit around 95dB where the entire audio started to clip in and out.  After doing a bit of research and troubleshooting, I unplugged the subwoofer and the issue went away.  The passive powered subwoofer draws too much power at very high volume levels for this little amplifier.  With the subwoofer unplugged these speakers will easily hit 100dB - although they start to distort over 95-97dB.

 

Movie Testing:

I had these speakers for several months and got a chance to watch several movies using these.  I almost made it through the Resident Evil Trilogy on Blu-Ray.  I did get to finish LOTR: Return of the King, Live Free or Die Hard also on Blu-Ray.  These movies sounded very well on the Audiobytes and in a small room they are more than adequate for watching movies on your computer by yourself or with some friends.  Again, the bass won't blow you away, but the sound quality and detail is amazing in a movie like Lord of the Rings.  All the little metallic sounds as well as water effects are very detailed and crisp.

 

Game Testing: 

There was a time that I did all my gaming on my main computer hooked to my nice Logitech Z-5500s, but time has changed things and my main workstation is no longer a gaming rig.  Now I do all my personal gaming on a test rig using a set of headphones or the Edifier e3350 Speakers.  I made sure that everything was set up correctly in Windows and in the games and let fly with some UT3, CoD4 and Crysis.

Overall game experience was quite positive.  The dual 6.5" drivers in the subwoofer has enough punch to make games sound pretty good and when UT3 calls you a "Rocket Scientist" or "Flak Master" in the nice deep voice of the narrator it bodes well with my ego.  Stereo separation is also good and you can clearly hear the direction of the enemy and can anticipate their arrival with a nicely timed shock-combo in the doorway.

Call of Duty 4 is equally enjoyable and the detail of the audio is incredible.  From the rapid burst of the P90 at close range to the constant cacophony of grenades on Wet Work, the sound is crisp, clear, detailed and beautiful.   Overall gaming performance of these speakers is very good.  To really enjoy the speakers you must lay prone and get a nice clean headshot with a sniper rifle.  The reload sound is amazing.

 

Final Thoughts:

The Axiom Audiobyte speakers with EPZero subwoofer are certainly not for everyone.  These speakers sit in a niche market that attracts audiophiles or audio connoisseurs if you will.  The sound quality is impeccable and the clarity is amazing.  While there certainly are many other companies that offer louder speakers for less money, they certainly don't sound near as nice.  Axiom is committed to quality audio - not hype and flashy packaging like other companies.  It's an amazing thing to listen to audio that you've listened to dozens of times before and are able to pick up new sounds and details that you've never heard before.  This is possible with the Audiobyte speakers from Axiom.

While the bass won't blow you away, it is accurate, well balanced and very clear.  Songs like "Classical Gas" don't resonate horribly and are flawless - as they are meant to be heard.

Because I always want more, I'd love to see an actual wood or high quality composite dock connector for an iPod as well as a switchable connection between the iPod and the speakers.  In my opinion this would give these speakers greater curb appeal and more functionality on the desk.

Pros:

  • Excellent audio quality
  • Nice finish on all speakers
  • Good cord length
  • USB port for charging portable music player
  • Detachable speaker grills


Cons:

  • Less bass response than expected
  • Fairly pricey

 

In reference to the bass issue, I talked to Ian and he replied:

Q: I know many other speakers shake the walls when they are cranked up listening to bass-heavy music, but the Audiobytes do not.  Why? 
A: The Audiobyte sub (the EPZero) is designed to be linear in response.  Commonly computer speaker systems have what we call one note subs.  This type of design focuses all the energy around creating a heavy peak over a narrow frequency band.  A linear sub will not pound unrealistically at a few frequencies but will rather play back the source material as it was recorded.

 

 BCCRating

 Top Pick

 

We were able to sit down with Ian and his associates at CES and wanted to chat with them again to discuss our hands on experience with these speakers.  Please check the "Comments" section for a complete Q&A with Ian from Axiom Audio. 

I'd like to thank Axiom for sending us the Audiobyte speakers - we had them as long as possible to continue enjoying the great sound they produce.