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  1. #1

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    Default Polk Lsi, Axiom, and other bookshelves comparo...

    Here is my comparo that originated from the HometheaterSpot.com... enjoy the read! :D

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    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.

    ...
    POST OVERFLOW.... CONTINUED DOWN BELOW
    ...
    Joey's College Gear:
    Current Gear:
    SB3 -> PS Audio DAC III -> Cary Audio SLP-98Phono Tube PreAmp w/ Sylvania NOS 6sn7 tubes -> Plinius SA102 Class A amp -> Martin Logan SUMMIT/Strata Mini -> :D
    Old Gear:
    Martin Logan Vantage (4.75/5)-ML Mosaic (4.25/5)-Onix Ref1 (3.7/5)-Sonus Faber Concerto (3.5/5)-SF Concertino (3/5)-Axiom M22ti (2.75/5)-Polk LSi9 (3.75/5)-LSi7 (3.25/5)-HK AVR330-Rotel RC1070/RB1070/RB1090-SVS 25-31PC+ sub
    RUSH Med School 2008!!:D

  2. #2

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    ...
    CONTINUED FROM ABOVE
    ...

    - Finally, let us compare the Axiom M22 and the Polk LSI7 . I will separate this a little better for your reading:

    Let me start by saying that my most critical listening comparison came from these two speakers. Both speakers were separated equally and the tweeters were aligned at the same height. Extensive AB testing was done, to the point of exhaustion on my part.

    1. Highs: The Axiom M22 uses a titanium tweeter while the Polk LSI7 uses the VIFA 25xt ring radiator tweeter. The highs on the Axioms are great but I just found my personal preference lay in the Polk's Vifa. The Vifa remains detailed (perhaps not as much as the Axiom's) but restricts sibilance. If I were to judge, I would say that the Polk LSI are a little more forgiving than the tweeters on the Axiom M22s - you decide which is better.

    2. Lows: Easy winner here. The Polk LSI7 dominate the Axioms M22s. This does not mean that the Axiom M22 does not produce good low end, it does! Whatever bass is produced on the M22, it is tight and accurate. The M22 does not produce sloppy bass, not by a longshot. However, the LSI7 extends deeper (I tested to about 48hz on my bass mechanic tracks) while retaining quickness and tightness. Even if you love Axioms, you cannot deny that the LSI7 wins this round.

    3. Midrange: The midrange on the M22s are very very good. Details are abound! The LSI7's midrange seemed, to my ears, just as good as on the Axioms, however, the M22s lack of bass output makes it seem like the M22s have better midrange reproduction, I would say that they are about equal. After careful listening to a purely instrumental track and maybe 20 ABs between the two speakers - there was no clear winner in midrange detail production.

    4. Soundstage width: The Axioms once again, lacklustered in this area. The Polk LSI7 just extended further along the horizontal soundstage, clearly extending beyond the speakers on both sides.

    5. Soundstage depth: Depth, I found, was subtly superior on the Polk LSI7. After listening to the intrumental track for almost 30 minutes (16 ABs between the two), I found that a bell was apparently further to the left (behind the speaker)... this was clearly apparent with the Polk LSI7, the Axiom M22, on the other hand, had difficulty positioning the bell behing the left speaker and positioned it right next to the right edge of the left speaker. I know this is being EXTREMELY picky, but I am trying to give you guys a picture of the subtle difference. Depth goes to LSI7 in my humble opinion.

    6. Imaging: The Polk LSI7 easily disappears into the background (and into the music) from where I was listening (about 12 feet away), the Axiom speakers somewhat remained in audible sight. The Axioms imaged well, but I felt that the LSI7 imaged much better down the center, thus, the speakers seemed to physically disappear into the background. This was not very apparent, the Axiom M22 seemed to disappear when listened to by itself, but when AB against the LSI7, the Axioms just did not "disappear" well enough.
    At home, on my computer setup, I fell that the Axioms M22 fail to convey images as well as the LSI7 do. Details are abound, dont get me wrong, but the details just do not seem to have a steadfast position in audio space. The LSI7, on the other hand, seem to have the details set in very distinct points in the audio space - I need not close my eyes to visualize and point them out. Not detracting from Axiom's ability to image, the Polk LSI7, to me, seem to do a better job at imaging. This conclusion came after about 10 AB switches between the two, to make sure that I wasnt crazy or hearing things that I wasnt hearing. I even did a blind test on myself (my brother manned the speakers) and the Polks came out on top 80% of the time.

    7. Looks: This is highly subjective, perhaps I was in a position for a little change in speaker aesthetics. I liked the M22's dual driver array, but I also like the simplicity of the Polk LSI7. The LSI7 are considerably better constructed. The Polks have wood veneers (cherry or ebony, which borders gray - excellent for my decor) on the right and left sides of the speakers while having a black piano gloss finish for the rest of the speaker. The driver on the LSI7 appeared more robust, the driver surrounds are considerably larger than on the Axioms. This is not say that the Axioms lack sturdy drivers, the Axiom's drivers are very robust by external looks alone (of course I am not going to open them both up and check magnet and voice coil constructions ). The vinyl on the M22 are quite good, I have had mine for almost 4 months and I they have remained as good as ever... no peeling of any kind (although several spots have minor glue build-up underneath).

    Now, to conclude, I like the Axiom M22. These have been my speakers for the past 4 months and they have served me very well! The midrange and the details are what pop into my head when I think of Axiom Speakers. The highs are sweet, after break in, and the speaker as a whole is very airy and light. Transparency is a keystone in the M22 (and the entire Axiom lineup) forte. I was very well satisfied with my Axioms and was on the verge of buying the QS4s for the rears... until I saw the price increase. This sparked an idea, let me search for surrounds elsewhere. This led me to comparing the axioms to other speakers, in an effort to find a similar sounding speaker. I started with the athenas and moved up. Later, it was apparent that I might go for a completely different setup... here I am.

    I have a full fledged LSI7 setup and I do not regret my purchase.

    Are they an upgrade from the Axioms (the M22s to be precise)? To me, yes they are an upgrade - to others, it may be different. Others might think of it as a downgrade and others may think that this lateral move is a complete waste of money. Sound is very subjective and I do not dispute that. I am not here to pass judgement, I am here to merely state that I (ME, MYSELF, BY MY OWN ACCORD) find the Polk LSI7 to be the overall better speaker.

    Now, is it worth the price? $700 is a little much in many people's eyes.. mine included (I am a med school student.. poor poor poor is my forte). To me, YES, they are worth 700$ considering the many other speakers that I reviewed yet lacked in someway or another in comparison to the LSI7.

    EDIT:
    Getting the Polk LSI7 from Fry's for $250/pair made this even SWEETER.

    The LSI7, in my opinion, sounded more balanced than the paradigms ref 20 and sig 2 (although lost in soundstage width) and the bw nautilus (lsi7 is more airy). I felt that the LSI7 brought the music to me more so than the Fabers did (although I dont think the midrange of the Fabers should be even on the same class as the LSI7.. Faber bested it by a margin). Also, I felt that although the Bostons had better soundstage width, the Boston's tweeter was lackluster at high volumes while the LSI7 kept cool and calm even at the highest of volumes... never overstepping its bounds over the midrange. And well, the Axiom M22 versus the LSI7, you read my in depth review.

    There are no perfect speakers, but for the price of the LSI7 (at $700), I found what I was looking for. I found good soundstage depth, great soundstage width, good treble (never overearing, hardly sibilant, yet detailed), good bass production AND extension, and a classy and good construction. I said it before, I preferred the LSI7 over any of the bookshelves in MY comparison under $2300 (now this isnt to say that there arent any bookshelves under $2300 that I would prefer over the LSI7... there are MANY MANY MANY others that I have not heard... one of which is the Onix Reference1 Bookshelf (from the maker of the Onix Rockets) - a speaker I would love to audition).

    I mentioned when I first got my Axioms about great midrange, wide soundstage (extending beyond the limits of the physical speakers themselves), etc.... You must understand, I was not as exposed to as many speakers as I am now. I have learned a lot from this speaker comparo of mine, and you should take what I said before with a grain of salt... I was not trying to mislead anyone before, I merely was not exposed enough. My past comments still hold true though, but it was all relative to what I had heard back then and the extent of which was in DIRECT AB comparison.

    Also, I would like to say that I am sure there are many of you who might think less of my review because of my lack of exposure, my relatively young age at 22, my lack of controlled measurements... this was the best I could do. I am sure some would even laugh at the idea that I am using my computer as the base for my speaker system... I do what I can. My review is only ONE PERSON's account of the speakers in question, if someone else conducted the exact same comparo (exact songs, exact speaker distances/height, volume level, etc...) then they might feel the exact same way I do and then again, even under the exact same condition, maybe they wont.

    Sound is very subjective, which is why no speaker is clearly the winner for everyone. This is all my opinion, take it as you wish. Go out and listen!


    I think that is everything... I covered as much as I can and it took me 2 weeks to do this whole comparo. It took me an hour and 45 minutes to type this whole thing up.. I am tired... Im going out. No more speakers for today!
    :D :D :D
    Joey's College Gear:
    Current Gear:
    SB3 -> PS Audio DAC III -> Cary Audio SLP-98Phono Tube PreAmp w/ Sylvania NOS 6sn7 tubes -> Plinius SA102 Class A amp -> Martin Logan SUMMIT/Strata Mini -> :D
    Old Gear:
    Martin Logan Vantage (4.75/5)-ML Mosaic (4.25/5)-Onix Ref1 (3.7/5)-Sonus Faber Concerto (3.5/5)-SF Concertino (3/5)-Axiom M22ti (2.75/5)-Polk LSi9 (3.75/5)-LSi7 (3.25/5)-HK AVR330-Rotel RC1070/RB1070/RB1090-SVS 25-31PC+ sub
    RUSH Med School 2008!!:D

  3. #3

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    Excellent write up! Remember that what you hear in the store can sound totally different in your home. Anymore speakers on your list to demo? You should add the Klipsch 'Reference' line to your list. I was worried about horns at first but now there's no going back. Make sure they're hooked up to decent gear because of their high sensitivity.

    Maurice
    CD Player: Original CD-A8T
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    "I would rather have a cup of tone than an ocean of power" **Dr. Harvey Rosenberg**

  4. #4

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    well.. i brought the polk lsi7 home with me and pitted them against the m22s in addition to having the m22s brought to the store for audition/shootouts with the other brands (including the LSI9 and 7).

    i have klipsch synergy speakers down stairs and have heard the reference... i found the horns to be good for ht (actually VERY good for ht) but i dont find it soothing for music. i might bring my polks over to century electronics and hit up the klipsch reference in AB comparison one of these days.
    Joey's College Gear:
    Current Gear:
    SB3 -> PS Audio DAC III -> Cary Audio SLP-98Phono Tube PreAmp w/ Sylvania NOS 6sn7 tubes -> Plinius SA102 Class A amp -> Martin Logan SUMMIT/Strata Mini -> :D
    Old Gear:
    Martin Logan Vantage (4.75/5)-ML Mosaic (4.25/5)-Onix Ref1 (3.7/5)-Sonus Faber Concerto (3.5/5)-SF Concertino (3/5)-Axiom M22ti (2.75/5)-Polk LSi9 (3.75/5)-LSi7 (3.25/5)-HK AVR330-Rotel RC1070/RB1070/RB1090-SVS 25-31PC+ sub
    RUSH Med School 2008!!:D

  5. #5

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    Excellent review, thanks for taking the time to share your findings with us.
    'Political Correctness'.........defined

    "A doctrine fostered by a delusional, illogical minority and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end."

  6. #6

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    Very in depth and informative. Nice job, enjoy the tunes.
    I smell ass, burning ass, glowing cherry red spanked ass.

    RT1

  7. #7

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    thanks for all your comments regarding the in-depth comparo i composed.

    of course, i am getting a less than welcoming reception at the AXIOM website. they are questioning the way i conducted my AB tests and attribute the Axiom's rather poor performance (despite ALL the glowing reviews on the internet) to poor amplification and perhaps the use of different source materials (cds).

    i guess they just cant take the idea that the polks bested the m22s... well, in all actuality, i WAS in denial the first time i heard the m22s and the lsi7 in AB comparison.
    Joey's College Gear:
    Current Gear:
    SB3 -> PS Audio DAC III -> Cary Audio SLP-98Phono Tube PreAmp w/ Sylvania NOS 6sn7 tubes -> Plinius SA102 Class A amp -> Martin Logan SUMMIT/Strata Mini -> :D
    Old Gear:
    Martin Logan Vantage (4.75/5)-ML Mosaic (4.25/5)-Onix Ref1 (3.7/5)-Sonus Faber Concerto (3.5/5)-SF Concertino (3/5)-Axiom M22ti (2.75/5)-Polk LSi9 (3.75/5)-LSi7 (3.25/5)-HK AVR330-Rotel RC1070/RB1070/RB1090-SVS 25-31PC+ sub
    RUSH Med School 2008!!:D

  8. #8

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    Excellent write-up. I wonder how the Lsi7 would stack up against the Ascend Acoustics CBM-170.

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