B&W to Axiom -- small to large

To Doug Schneider,

I have read your review of the Axiom M80 V2. I am awaiting delivery of a pair of V3s, which will replace my B&W 685 stand-mount speakers in my strictly two-channel listening room.

I note from your review that you are a fan of small monitors; therefore, you may have heard the 685s. If so, I was wondering if you might tell me what differences I might hear when the M80s arrive, assuming, of course, that they are not likely to be significantly different from the V2 you reviewed several years ago.

Having read your other reviews, I have considerable confidence in your opinions. For example, your recent review of the Bryston BDP-1, which I own, was, IMO, bang on!

Your answer to my question would be especially helpful and much appreciated.


Wow, that's really going back with the M80 V2 review (2005!), but I can still give you some advice.

You're likely to hear a much different sound for a couple of reasons. The most obvious reason is that the B&W 685 is a small, two-way stand-mounted speaker with just two drivers. Axiom's M80 is a three-way, six-driver floorstander. The M80 will sound much larger (and fill a room with sound much more), play much louder (providing you have enough amplifier power), and go much deeper in the bass. It's really an apples-to-oranges comparison.

But even if you were comparing the M80 to a similarly configured B&W floorstander, I still think they'd sound worlds apart. Axiom aims for strict neutrality (i.e., linearity) from the bass through to the highs, and that type of presentation can sound quite a bit more forward than speakers that are voiced for a more relaxing sound, which is what I've found with newer B&Ws I've listened to. I also find that B&W speakers have a distinctive midrange presentation that other speakers don't possess, and I think that has a lot to do with their consistent use of Kevlar-based midrange cones. It's what I consider to be B&W's "house sound." So even if the speakers' sizes were similar, it would be an apples-to-oranges comparison again.

My best advice is to be prepared to hear a much different sound from the M80s than what you're used to with the 685s, but don't rush to judgment too fast. Allow the speakers to play for a couple of weeks to break them in and for you to adjust to a speaker that's designed quite differently than what you had before, and voiced differently, too. After that time period is over, please write back and tell us what you think of the M80s and if my comments were "bang on" again. . . . Doug Schneider