Following Legend Silicon I had an NDA meeting then I met the good folks from Axiom Audio at a penthouse suite in the Mirage. Axiom Audio is based in Dwight, Ontario and makes some wonderful speakers that are fantastic values, and they back it up with top-notch service and advice through their toll-free lines. Their M2i speaker has long been my favorite speaker selling for under $300 and their scientific, no-nonsense, engineering-based approach is refreshing in an industry swimming in snake oil. I’ve recommended their products for years and my readers have loved Axiom and their service, making it a particular pleasure to finally meet some of the people behind the brand.
Axiom Audio usually does not display at CES as they are a direct sales company and most of their promotion has been online. They have been extremely successful without promoting themselves or their wares at CES, but this year was different. This year they decided to invite a few select members of the press to see their new $349 Audiobyte computer speakers, billed as the finest computer speakers you can buy, true audiophile quality. I was anxious to hear how good these sounded, and if they were better than my beloved Monsoon flat panel computer speakers- “miniature Magnepans,” I call them.
Monsoon MH-500 Flat Panel Computer Speakers
I met (left to right) Jean-Claude Benoit, Alan Lofft, and Ian Colquhoun, shown here with the Audiobytes System. Jean-Claude (he answers the phone by J.C.) handles customer service for French-speaking Canada, though he helps English speakers as well. Alan is the resident A/V expert and once wrote a syndicated newspaper column about audio that appeared around Canada. The name of the column? Sound Advice! When I changed the column name from Multimedia Answers to Sound Advice years ago (thanks go out to Randy Salas for the new, more appropriate name) it was coincidental, but Alan said he wouldn’t mind me carrying on the name. I was flattered by that as Alan is a stand-up guy and knows his stuff inside and out.
Ian Colquhoun is the founder, owner, President and chief engineer at Axiom. He’s won many awards for his designs and as I mentioned before, his solid, engineering-based approach is refreshing and shows in the quality of his products. You can read about his many accomplishments at the Axiom website.
These are the Audiobytes. They are available in a wide variety of finishes and the glossy wood finishes look real, but require much less attention than wood to keep them looking new.
The Audiobytes look like miniature Axiom M2 bookshelf speakers, but the cabinets are sealed rather than ported.
Audiobyte satellite with grill on…
..and with grill off. The grill for the satellites is held on magnetically, which I found to be extremely cool and much better than the posts typically used to attach speaker grills.
This is the Audiobyte subwoofer/amplifier. It drives the satellites with an integrated 55 watt per channel amplifier. Dial on the top above the vent is a volume control.
Rear view of the Audibyte subwoofer/amplifier, left view with satellites and power cord attached.
So how did they sound? Much better than I expected… they ARE audiophile quality. It’s not that I don’t expect great things from Axiom, it’s just that small speakers have limitations due to the laws of physics and have a hard time reproducing a full, believable midrange. The Audiobytes were demonstrated with classical music, the hardest test of any speaker and the sound was smooth, sweet, full, and clear… definitely the best I’ve heard from any computer speaker, including my Monsoons… which I thought would NEVER be beaten in their class.
The only drawback is they can’t play especially loud, or at least they couldn’t in the admittedly large room where they were demonstrated. That’s because of those laws of physics I mentioned before… seemingly a paradox, small speakers usually require much more power to achieve high volume levels than large speakers do. Ian said the sensitivity of the satellites was around 80 decibels per watt, which would require 4x to 8x the power of a typical consumer speaker to achieve a given volume. They certainly play loud enough for their intended purpose, though and they never sound strained. That’s more of that good design and engineering for you.
Axiom has a sure winner here that is worth the price of admisssion if you are looking for a compact, simple solution that provides the best possible sound from a computer or portable music player. I hope they find some new ways to use the Audiobyte satellites, such as in a top-performing compact home theater speaker system.