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Q: People are obviously going to be interested in your new flagship omni but let’s begin with your M22v3. This is your largest bookshelf speaker yet on specs it seems surprisingly limited in bass response. Why is that and was it conceptualized as a standalone monitor or more in the context of home-theatre applications?

Crossover additions.

A (I.C.): We wanted to prioritize bass linearity and max SPL ahead of pushing the tuning towards more extension. We recommend the M22 with a subwoofer as it remains very linear to 70Hz which blends nicely with any of our subs. Our Model M3 is better suited as a standalone monitor because it incorporates a bass lift and the gentler roll-off required for that application. That said, I know that many use the M22 as a standalone monitor. If you keep it near the room boundaries it'll certainly work fine.

Amps in progress.

Q: Am I correct assuming that the LFR1100 and M22v3 loaners are black vinyl? If so, the workmanship is very clean and convincing.

Production line and vinyl-wrap sample

A (I.C.): Yours are black vinyl. The quality of some vinyls these days is outstanding. We get ours from a US company who really focus on quality. As you noted it shows. The machining is done in-house as you saw during your tour. I will pass your comments to our staff who make the cabinets. It makes them feel great when someone notices their efforts. In “Customize Yours” we have hundreds of different finishes available which include more vinyl selections, a wide variety of real woods and high gloss.

Q: Are Axiom’s components outsourced or produced here?

Mike Rodgers with injection molding machine

A (I.C.): All our drivers including the tweeters are designed and manufactured in-house as well as the crossovers. We wind our own coils and have our capacitors manufactured to our specifications. The capacitors are all metalized polyester film and chosen for consistency. Speaker binding posts are brass with gold plating (real gold too, not the fake stuff). These are also made custom to our specifications. A company in Toronto makes our face plates and other metal parts. They do really top notch work.

Anechoic chamber turntable and outdoor subwoofer microphone tower

Q: You mentioned during the tour that Axiom have a facility in China. What does it produce and why the decision to invest in your own plant rather than simply outsource?

Anechoic chamber

A (I.C.): We have a long history in China. It began with a Shanghai office in 2000. At that time our Canadian QC manager moved there and hired a couple of engineers. They would go to each factory of our subcontractors to ensure quality. In 2004 I made the next step. This was opening our own Shanghai factory 100% owned by our Canadian company. This allowed us to take quality up dramatically. It was no longer a game of arguing whether it was good enough. We could set our own standards and train our own staff accordingly. As with Canada we have a very long-term staff which we invested into heavily with training. We also invested heavily in state-of-the-art test gear for China just as we have here in Canada. Our Chinese factory produces drivers, crossovers, wire harnesses, input buckets, port tubes, packaging, brackets, stands, circuit boards and small injection-molded parts. The Canadian factory produces drivers, crossovers, large injection-molded parts, cabinets, amplifiers, grilles and all finished goods except for stands and brackets.

Secondary anechoic chamber for production tests; Andrew Welker with M100 and EP800vs3

Q: Now Mr. Welker, can you tell us a bit about your responsibilities as R&D manager and your industry background?

Andrew Welker

A (A.W.) Basically I am responsible for all the electronics and drive unit design whilst most of the actual speaker design (concept, cabinet acoustics, crossover design/voicing) is a joint effort between Ian and I. Before joining Axiom in 2010 I worked for API (Energy, Mirage, Athena) for 12 years as an acoustic design engineer, chief designer for the Mirage brand and later as principal engineer overseeing the development and design efforts for all API brands.

Bryston Model T and Axiom Model M100

Q: You've described the LFR1100 as an omni-directional loudspeaker yet it's certainly a departure from the classic point-source concept. How does it qualify for that title as opposed to an advanced bipolar design?

A (A.W.): From a technical standpoint the LFR1100 is bipolar from the midrange on up in that front and rear drivers all operate in phase with each other. Bipolar designs can be thought of as cylindrical radiators. The only significant reduction in output will be at high frequencies to the sides of the cabinet. In this way they are technically omni-directional except for some significant front-to-back driver cancellations. Our implementation does not suffer from these cancellations, hence is closer to a true omni.

Q: The LFR employs a conventional passive crossover plus DSP. Where does the conventional crossover come in and where does DSP take over?

A (A.W.): The internal crossovers for the front and back sections are completely independent, requiring separate channels of amplification. On their own they are designed to operate in linear anechoic fashion with wide uniform dispersion, an even listening window and even sound power responses. In other words the internal crossovers are similar to any of our traditional forward-radiating models. DSP comes into play to alter the individual response of the front and back sections relative to each another. The overall response of the two sections is independently modified. This shapes total radiated sound power from each section, then integrates these two radiation patterns into one seamless whole. Key is the removal of negative cancellations mentioned before. Many commercial bipolar models do not address this and are often criticized for lacking image focus and specificity or having unnaturally large images like 12-foot wide guitars. The goal with the LFR1100 was to produce a large 3-dimensional soundstage that was easy to see and hear into along with natural image focus and proportions.

Driver test

Q: What does DSP accomplish better than a conventional passive filter?

Environmental test chamber simulates exposure to different climates (heat and humidity)

A (A.W.): I touched a bit on this already. Essentially without DSP it would be extremely difficult to achieve the response tailoring available to us now. In fact I don't believe enough control would ever be possible in a strictly passive version of a similar design. The biggest luxury of the DSP engine is nearly limitless control of the parameters we want to modify along with nearly nonexistent levels of distortion and noise.

Listening room

Q: Does DSP change the phase behavior to influence dispersion or is that purely a matter of designing the drivers for uniform dispersion properties? Or is it a combination?

Magnetic grill capture

A (A.W.): In many ways it is a combination. The driver designs themselves are key to good dispersion as there is nothing in DSP that will truly allow you to modify only a single area of the system's off-axis performance. Rather changes made in DSP alter the response of each section in a global manner. In our implementation amplitude, phase and system directivity are all modified by DSP.

Q: One unusual feature incorporated into DSP is your boundary compensation switch. How does that function?

A (A.W.): The room boundary switch alters the ratio of front/rear radiation to compensate for both the boundary loading of the rear when placed close to the wall; and for the resultant shorter path lengths of these rear reflections to the listening position.

Ian's vintage pickup truck

Q: The LFR is largely a front/back mirrored array. Was there a reason not to duplicate rear woofers?

Paint/lacquer booth

A (A.W.): Because low frequencies are naturally omni-directional below ~200Hz, there's little need to duplicate the bass drivers. There is however one real reason why we don’t want 'bipolar' woofers. That's room interaction. The first commercial bipolar loudspeaker, the Mirage M1, had front and rear 8” woofers. Those speakers were a bear to integrate in the typical listening room. Not only do you have room modes to contend with which you are now exciting from two slightly different locations, you also have to deal with interactions between those drivers. This can result in unpredictable low-frequency performance in real-world rooms.

Subwoofer amp

Q: The LFR is currently available in both a standard and slightly pricier HP (high power) version. What's the difference?

Test bench

A: (I.C.) The real difference is achievable max SPL without compression in the lower bass. We brought out high-powered versions of all our floorstanders for systems with large power amps but no subwoofer. This is achieved with a much larger diameter/length of the woofer voice coils, hence much greater excursions. All motor parts must scale up too to win back the loss in efficiency of a heavier larger voice coil. Since there are six woofers in each pair here, this does add a fair amount of cost.

Axiom's idyllic surroundings

Q: The LFR1100 bears a striking resemblance to your new M100. If I bypass DSP and run only the front channels of the LFR1100, am I listening to an M100?

A (A.W.): From a driver and basic cabinet size/volume perspective, the two are identical. However there are differences in the front section crossover so listening to the LFR front section alone (minus DSP) is not quite the same as the M100.