Here is my comparo that originated from the HometheaterSpot.com... enjoy the read! :D
Alright... I have listened to both in my own setup and I tried my best to equalize everything from tweeter height to separation distance and distance from wall.
Here are my final thoughts on the Axiom M22 versus Polk LSI7 (and others) bookshelf speakers:
I have listened to both the Axioms M22 and the Polk LSI7 among several other speakers: BW 805 Nautilus 2000$/pr, Paradigm Reference Studio 2 800$/pr, Paradigm Reference Signatures 20 2300$/pr, Sonus Faber Bookshelves (i forget the model) @ 1500$ and 2000$/pr, Polk LSI9, Boston Bookshelf (850$ on clearance at tweeter - i forget which one again), Polk RTi4 and 6 bookshelves ($300 and 400/pr respectively)...
From my listening at the showroom, i concluded:
- The BW Nautilus 805 proved less open than the Paradigm Sig 2, the Sig 2 had superior soundstage width while depth on the two were about equal. The vocals on the sigs were a bit more forward than on the BW... perhaps a result of the tweeter diffuser on the paradigms that didnt exist on the 805 Nauts.
- The Paradigm Sigs 2 were beautiful beyond compare.. but they sounded pretty much the same as the Paradigm Reference Studio 2... almost no difference in sound - atleast, i WASNT able to discern any plausible differences during direct AB testing. The Ref 20s were definitely the better bang for the buck in this case.
- The Polk RTi4 and 6 didnt have the midrange separation that the Axioms M22 had and certainly did not have the sweet highs of the Axioms. The Polk RTi bookshelves did BEAT the Axiom M22 in one thing: soundstage width. The Polk RTis had a wider soundstage than the Axiom M22s had, which surprised me greatly (and at the same time saddened me, too ... I wanted the Axioms to RIP these mid-end bookshelves apart). The Axioms seemed to recreate a decent soundstage BETWEEN the speakers but hardly ever created anything beyond that (a similar observation by CraigSub confirms my findings). The Polks easily went a bit further outside the speakers. Imaging was about the same on both, perhaps a little better on the Axioms.
- The Axiom M22 met its long time comparo rival: Paradigm Reference Studio 20. They were both powered with separates and anchored by a Rotel amp (i forget which model exactly... geez, I am only human). The Paradigm 20 and the Axiom M22 have been long compared as the relative equal to each other, even Alan Lofft (Axiom Resident Expert) whom I conversed with over the phone, gave me the "m22s sound very similar to the ref 20s" schpiel (sp?). So, it was only necessary to compare the two don't you think?
One conclusion: another disappointing loss for the M22s. Sure they sounded kind of similar, but the Paradigm 20s had 4 things over the M22s.
1. The 20s had better control over the high end at higher volumes. The M22s tended to get sibilant, overbearing, and compressed at high volumes while the 20s retained control over compression (although sibilance was quite detectable, it was not as prevalent as on the M22s).
2. The 20s presented a WIDER (read: MUCH WIDER) soundstage. The M22s just did not have the ability to match the 20s in this sense, it was very apparent that Paradigm does indeed engineer for its speakers (atleast the Reference and up) to have great dispersion (I read it from the Paradigm Reference/Signature brochure Bill, owner of SoundForum store, gave me).
3. Bass was better, too. Certain drums were heard on the Paradigm 20s that werent audible on the M22s. But this is a long known fact, the M22 are indeed anemic in the bass regions (below 60-65 hz).
4. Imaging was better on the Ref 20s. Period.
All in all, I would say the Paradigm 20s beat the M22s handily. Is it worth the extra $400? Well, yes and no. It depends on how much you value accurate soundstage representation, imaging accuracy, high-end control, and bass output.
Some people believe that bass output is not important for a speaker (esp. bookshelves) because a subwoofer can compensate for the lack of. However, I found that a subwoofer cannot image 40 to 60hz bass frequencies very well. When a song has drums playing on the right soundstage, a bookshelf with decent 40-50hz extension can easily present the drums on the right soundstage. A subwoofer cannot image this because the bass would seem to come from all direction. I know this is a paradox seeing as low freq are omnidirectional, but from my listening comparisons, it was very apparent that the sub could not properly compensate in the M22+sub versus Ref 20+sub comparison.
Also, I would like to say that transparency SEEMED a little better on the M22s than on the Reference 20s, but I feel that this is because of the extra bass production on the Reference 20s. In reality, the Reference 20s may be just as transparent as the M22s.
- Everyone has heard that the Axioms are superb at midrange production. Details, details, details are the Axiom's forte. However, I found that the Sonus Fabers (both the 1500$ and the 2000$ bookshelves) had better midrange clarity AND had better imaging to boot! The Axioms were outclassed in soundstage beyond the speaker-width as well. However, I found that the Axioms had a more forward high end while the Fabers had a VERY VERY laid back tweeter. The result: the Fabers FAILED to grab me, the music reproduced on the Fabers seemed to remain where the speakers are and not reach me. The Axioms were better at grabbing my attention. Although the Axioms werent as precise, detailed and reproduced a smaller soundstage and imaged relatively worse, I PREFERRED the M22s - especially for the price! The Axioms had better soundstage depth as well. The Fabers had better bass extension.
- The Boston bookshelf (it was the top end, I forget the model @ 850$ clearance) was also compared to the Axiom M22s. The M22s had better midrange, this was apparent. However, once again, I found the Axiom's soundstage width was bested by the Boston's. The Boston was wider and deeper than the Axiom's. The Boston had better bass response and did not sound boxy at all. The Boston was a little less transparent than the Axioms M22, perhaps a consequence of bass output (not unlike the perceived notion that the Axiom M3 is less transparent than the Axiom M22 for the same reason). The highs on the Bostons, however, were LESS controlled than on the Axioms. At high volumes, the Bostons became more overbearing and sounded more sibilant than the M22s at the same volume did. However, the Axioms sounded a little more compressed than the Bostons did at the same high volume. At this volume, however, both speakers were no longer pleasant. Imaging was a little better on the Boston, but not by much.
Worth the extra price? No, the Paradigm 20s are better than the Bostons for the same price.
- Polk LSI7 versus the LSI9 were also compared against each other ($700 and $900 respectively). Although the two shared similar qualities such as imaging, soundstage width and depth, I found that the LSI7 were a little more forward than the LSI9. The treble on the 9 seemed to be a little more laidback and overall dynamics was less than the 7. I found that this was probably because the 9 and 7 were powered on a receiver that was not up to snuff, the Yamaha RXV2400.
Now, I know that the 2400 is a good receiver - far better than the one I have on my computer system - but the LSI9 really REQUIRE SEPARATES for good sound. Although both the LSI7 and the LSI9 are rated 4 ohms, Stereophile magazine and independent Polk Forum members have found that the LSI7 are more or less 6 ohm speakers since the 7 only dips to 4ohm on only once at 200hz. The 9s, however, have dual drivers and, as a result, are much harder to drive.
A comparison between the two (7 and 9) is not fair and, thus, will not be included in my review here.
I will say this though, the LSI7 sounded far better than the LSI9 while being powered on the Yamaha 2400 receiver. Now, if separates were used, I dare not predict the better speaker.
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