Axiom Epic 80 Review

Highs

  • Audiophile quality sound
  • very affordable
  • custom finishes

Rating

Our Score 10
User Score 9

Lows

  • Requires a large room for good sound reproduction
There is not a thing we would change about the Epic 80 home theater speaker system.

Summary

We were excited to get our hands on Axiom’s Epic 80 home theater system and they certainly did not disappoint. We had multiple listeners come in to see what the Epic 80 had to offer and heard people compare the Epic 80’s sound to the likes of B&W, Definitive Technology, Mirage and Paradigm. But what separates the Epic 80 system from those just mentioned is the price. Think B&W Nautilus sound at a fraction of the cost and you will get the picture. And while the Epic 80 system does not have a sound that’s as neutral as the B&W’s, we would not change a thing; they are that great. Because Axiom offers the Epic 80 home theater system at such a value, anyone can have audiophile quality speakers that rival more expensive brands.

Introduction

Last year we reviewed the Axiom Epic 50 home-theater speaker system and were immediately blown away by the quality of sound that was produced. So of course we had very high expectations of Axiom’s top-of-the-line system, the Epic 80. Composed of 6 speakers for a 5.1 system setup and offering a plethora of high gloss or matte vinyl case designs, the Epic 80 system will appeal to both your eyes and your ears. With a starting price of just over $2400 dollars the Epic 80 speaker system could quite possibly be one of the best values in speakers today.

Features and Design

The Axiom Epic 80 Home Theater System consists of two M80ti tower speakers, two QS8 surround sound speakers, the VP150 center channel speaker, and the EP350 subwoofer. Axiom states that this system is ideal for large rooms of between 4000-8000 cubic feet, and we can understand why. The M80ti tower speakers alone weigh 57lbs per speaker and are a little over 3 feet tall. Of course with so many speakers visible, you will want to make sure they look as good as they sound.

In our Epic 50 system review, the only negative we mentioned was that the quality of the cabinets themselves were not as upper-end looking as the speakers sounded. Fortunately since that review, Axiom has offered even more speaker finish options to match your individual tastes. Now you can choose from a multitude of wood veneers or vinyl finishes with the custom high gloss vinyls costing more than the standard vinyl’s. The upside to so many finish options is that the Epic 80 system will ultimately appeal to a larger audience and those with a tight budget can still get the great sound the Epic 80 system produces without having to splurge on exotic woods. Oddly enough we felt that the speaker grills that come with this system do not contribute to the overall aesthetic appeal. We preferred that the grills remain off to show just how great this system looks – European style.

Axiom audio provides a manual for each speaker in this system as well as floor spikes to keep the speakers in place and wall mounting brackets for mounting the rear surround speakers. The whole Epic 80 system is packed in 5 separate boxes each carefully packaged to prevent damage in shipping. Axiom has a 30-day satisfaction guarantee on their speakers in addition to a standard 5-year warranty – one year on subwoofers. Our test system came with no dents or damage to the speakers.

M80ti Tower Speakers

The M80ti front speakers that come in the Epic 80 system is Axiom’s top-of-the-line loud speaker measuring in at just over 3 feet tall. What is unique about the shape of the M80ti’s is that they do not follow the more traditional square boxes usually associated with most tower speakers. Instead, the font of the speaker is actually wider than the rear, tapering from 9″ across in the front to 7″ in the rear. The cabinets are designed this way for a reason. Axiom calls this design style ASW, short for Anti-Standing-Wave which is designed to suppress the internal resonances which can mask or change the sound.

As with the M50ti tower speaker in our Epic 50 review there is a front port located at the bottom of the M80ti speaker but two rear ports located at the top and bottom of the rear respectively. On the rear of the speaker is where you will find 5-way gold plated binding posts for use with or without a banana plug. There are however no crossover adjustments located on the back.

The binding posts on the back of the M80ti loudspeaker
The gold plated binding posts on the back of the M80ti loudspeaker

The front, of course, is where the action is and Axiom makes sure the M80ti will not disappoint. Surprisingly the M80ti’s have two titanium tweeters mounted above of each other at the top of the speaker. There are also two 5.25″ aluminum-cone woofers that handle the midrange and dual 6.5″ woofers that handle the lows. The M80ti loudspeaker can handle a maximum amp power of 400 watts into 4-ohm impedance. In other words, these buggers are loud, and provided you have the power, you can play them as loud as you want without any noticeable distortion.

VP150 Center Speaker

Some will argue that the backbone of any good home theater system is the center channel speaker. The center channel speaker is the speaker which will produce the majority of vocals and music found in any 5.1 and higher mastered movies or DVD/SACD music titles. What separates the VP150 center channel speaker from others on the market is the unique speaker arrangement. Center channel speakers will typically follow a MTM (mid-range, tweeter, and mid-range) driver placement, but the VP150 reverses this arrangement by placing two 1″ tweeters on the outside and 3 5.25″ inch woofers in the middle. The VP150 speaker also follows the same ASW design philosophy found in the other Axiom audio speakers with the height of the VP150 tapering 7.5″ inches in the front to 5.5″ inches in the rear and the width of the VP150 measuring an astounding 26.5″ inches wide. The box of the VP150 is a sealed design and does not use any ports like the M80ti tower speaker.

QS8 Rear Surround Speakers

By the time we got to the QS8 rear speakers, we were not surprised at all by their unique size. Shaped more like a hexagon, the QS8 features twin titanium tweeters on the angled sides with dual aluminum woofers located on the top and bottom of the speaker. This rare driver arrangement is better suited for placement high on the rear wall or on speaker stands which are open freely at the bottom so the down firing woofer can work as designed. As with all other speakers in the Epic 80 system there are 5-way gold-plated binding posts located on the back of the QS8 speakers. Axiom ships these speakers with a hidden wall mount bracket, but recommend their own speaker stand specifically designed for the QS8.

EP350 Subwoofer

Of course we can not forget the grunt of the Epic 80 speaker system, the EP350 subwoofer. The EP350 houses a large front firing 12-inch cast basket aluminum woofer with two of Axioms vortex ports located on the front of the box. The EP350 comes with a 200-watt built in amplifier, an adjustable crossover, output level control, variable phase switch and line level/speaker level inputs. You can choose to manually flip the EP350 off, or let the speaker automatically power-on when you turn on your home theater system. It is nice not having to worry about turning the sub woofer off; the EP350 will automatically power down when you turn off your system. The EP350 shares the same quality as the rest of the speakers in this system and comes with floor spikes and gold plated RCA jacks. Axiom Audio recommends that you keep the crossover frequency on the EP350 in the middle at about 80 Hz, but because the M80ti loudspeakers are so large, you may want to turn the crossover frequency down to about 50 Hz or lower to let the tower speakers pick up some of the bass.

The controls located on the back of the EP350 sub-woofer
The controls located on the back of the EP350 sub-woofer

Use and Testing

Associated Review Equipment:

  • CD playback: Yamaha CDC-905

  • Receiver: Yamaha RV-1105

  • DVD playback: Toshiba SD-3109

Usually, when you build a nice home theater setup, you often have to make compromises as to the type of speakers you want. Music lovers typically will go for a system with large front tower speakers and a smaller subwoofer, while movie lovers are typically attracted to a smaller speaker setup with a larger sub-woofer. The Epic 80 will please both movie buffs and music lovers alike.

First of all, if you are installing this speaker system in a room smaller than what is recommended, you will want to place the front towers at least a foot or more from the wall both in the back and on the sides. This will create a more accurate soundstage without too much reverberation.  Both the M80ti and VP150 speakers are shielded so you can place them next to your television without worrying about causing any magnetic interference. We placed the VP150 on top of our Mitsubishi WS-55819 55″ rear projection HDTV and the two M80it tower speakers a couple feet from each side of the Mitsubishi.

We placed the QS8 rear surrounds on the rear wall about 6 feet up from the ground. The included wall brackets work great and actually hide behind the speaker itself giving an overall floating effect. Unfortunately for the unique driver placement on the QS8, it will be hard to find a speaker stand which will allow the mid-range woofer to fire down without obstructing it; so we recommend you purchase Axioms speaker stands should you decide you do not want to mount the speakers on the wall. We placed the EP350 subwoofer to the right of our sofa and about 1 foot from the rear wall; the driver facing forward.

We would recommend that you consult Axiom audio about proper speaker placement if your room is unique in size and/or shape. The manuals that Axiom provide will help you with basic installation but lack any sort of technical information with regards to awkward room shapes and setup. We broke our speakers in for about 100 hours before taking any technical notes.

For our movie tests, we use the movies The Italian Job starring Mark Wahlberg and Edward Norton and Red Planet starring Val Kilmer and Carrie-Ann Moss. The Italian Jobdoes not have a lot of deep sounding bass in the movie, but rather has a lot of dialogue both separated from background noise and mixed in with sounds from car racing, gunfire and helicopters. The VP150 center channel speaker did a great job of separating the voice dialogue from the rest of the action. There is one scene where Edward Norton is in a helicopter following multiple armored cars. We could clearly hear Edward Norton speaking from the helicopter cockpit while at the same time you could hear the chopper blades in the QS8 surrounds; it felt as if we were sitting right next to him in the helicopter. In the voice dialogue moments where there was no background noise, the VP150 center channel provided great clarity and dispersion from anywhere in the room. Voices where very moist and filling, not dry and flat sounding.

Red Planet is a Sci-Fi movie with a strongly emphasized soundtrack that tests the Epic 80 system in a completely different manner than The Italian Job does. More emphasis is put into the M80ti loud speakers and EP350 subwoofer. There is one part of the movie that plays out like a music video. The sun comes over the planet Mars, Val Kilmer is wearing sun glasses and dancing to the music being played throughout the space station while Carrie-Ann Moss pilots from the cockpit. The music could be heard from all 6 speakers and we felt like we were literally in the movie; the sound was astounding. The EP350 really got to show its stuff in this movie too since there was a lot of deep groaning, and big explosions on the planet and in the space station. Since we had the EP350 sitting next to our sofa, the room shook and it seemed like the EP350 would never bottom out – it sounded great.

For our music tests, we used regular CDs recorded in 16-bit since we did not have a DVD audio or SACD player available. We configured our Yamaha RV-1105 receiver for playback in stereo mode with treble and bass tones set at 0. We used Acoustic Alchemy’s Against the Grain, Paul Oakenfold’s Great Wall, Linkin Park’s Meteora and the CD sampler Pure Moods 3 for our music tests.

Acoustic Alchemy, as the music implies, has a very strong emphasis on acoustic guitar with various other musical instruments that are designed to compliment the guitar rather then cover it. The M80ti’s reproduced the acoustic guitars with amazing accuracy. We could hear the guitar picks scraping the guitar strings in some instances and still make out the individual instruments in the band. One of their songs starts out with a heavy rainfall followed by an aggressive pair of acoustic guitars that seem to chase each other. It felt as if we were standing out in the rain; the M80ti loudspeakers projected the rain very realistically from all angles in the room.

Pure Moods 3 is a great sampler CD filled with music from various artists, ranging from Peter Gabriel to Moby. Each song is uniquely recorded but they all follow the theme of new age musical genre. One song in particular on this album stood out over the others. Porcelain a song by artist Moby uses various sound samples cut from older television movies or musical albums. When played in a car, or most home theater systems, the sound samples are blended with the rest of the song quite well and one may not know they were separate from the rest of the instruments and music. However the M80ti loudspeakers were so loud and clear that we could actually distinguish the sound samples from the rest of the song; the M80ti’s are that clear. Actually we are not sure if that is a good thing with this particular album or not as it kind of ruined it for us – in a good way of course.

Paul Oakenfold’s Great Wall album and Linkin Park’s Meteora album both have a lot going on in the way of sound layers and musical instruments. Paul Oakenfolds music revolves around a trance/techno genre while Linkin Park will fall into the rock genre. Both of these albums are a good test for speakers because they will measure how quickly the speaker drivers will respond to quick simultaneous beats that are hard hitting. Stiff drivers will typically produce a very flat and dry sound, while loose drivers tend to produce a lot of sloppy reverberation. The M80ti loud speakers reproduced both of these albums perfectly. The sound was very clear, crisp and precise. Even when the bass kicks in, you could distinguish the highs and mid-range from the low-end.  For even more bass in rap, techno or rock music, you might want to turn on the EP350 subwoofer and route the bass to it, or spit the bass between both the M80ti speakers and the EP350 subwoofer.

Comparison

The Epic 80 system certainly offers an overall fuller sound than the Epic 50 system we reviewed last year. There is a more dynamic feel to the system as well as a larger sound stage, but this also means that you really need a larger room and a 4-ohm capable receiver or amp to take advantage of this system’s capabilities. If you have a room that you think might be too small for the Epic 80 system, the Epic 60 system by Axiom Audio may be a better fit. We are told they sound similar to the Epic 80 system, just not as loud.

Conclusion

We were excited to get our hands on Axiom’s Epic 80 home theater system and they certainly did not disappoint. We had multiple listeners come in to see what the Epic 80 had to offer and heard people compare the Epic 80’s sound to the likes of B&W, Definitive Technology, Mirage and Paradigm. But what separates the Epic 80 system from those just mentioned is the price. Think B&W Nautilus sound at a fraction of the cost and you will get the picture. And while the Epic 80 system does not have a sound that’s as neutral as the B&W’s, we would not change a thing; they are that great. Because Axiom offers the Epic 80 home theater system at such a value, anyone can have audiophile quality speakers that rival more expensive brands.

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