Last year, after our trip up Highway 60 to Axiom’s production facility, we told you about the sneak peak we got of their subwoofer prototype. With a mischievous grin and a twinkle in his eye Ian Colquhoun, Axiom’s head honcho, showed us a refrigerator-sized enclosure! Our eyes nearly popped out. His grin got bigger.
Since, the concept has been refined to produce the Axiom Epicenter EP500 and EP600 subwoofers.
We recently spent a few weeks with the Epicenter EP600. At 45.5″ high, 15″ wide and 17″ deep, this is still a huge wedge-shaped enclosure, by any standard. The wedge-shape of all Axiom speakers counteracts standing waves. When it comes to building powerful engines, there’s a saying in the automotive industry, “there’s no replacement for displacement.” This holds true for subwoofers. The more volume inside an enclosure, the more efficient and deep a subwoofer will be. This is the EP600′s first design advantage.
The second is the 12″ aluminum cone woofer with a dual 3″ voice coil, powered by a 600 watt hybrid digital amplifier which features an XLF (Extended Low Frequency) Intelligent Digital Signal Processor. The custom written algorithm contains data on all of the relevant characteristics of the EP600′s excursion limits, power handling, voice coil traits, enclosure tuning, amplifier output and low frequency response. This code rations the power from the amp to the driver to achieve the desired frequency response within its allowable deviations. From 19 Hz to 100 Hz, the EP600 has a flat response with a mere 1.5 dB of deviation in an anechoic environment. That translates into even better performance in a home theatre, as low as 15 Hz. Because the algorithm knows the output limits of the driver and the amp, it cannot be driven to distortion. The dynamic power supply achieves 96% efficiency. It draws less power from the AC outlet making available higher voltages for the rest of the home theater equipment. There is no sacrifice of power to the subwoofer itself, yet it handles dynamic swings with ease.
The Axiom M80ti towers looked slender compared to the upright EP600. Even the EP350 that we were previously using with the towers no longer seemed nearly as big. Our other 8″ and 10″ subs looked laughably diminutive. For flexibility of placement the EP600 is also available in a horizontal configuration. Axiom also offers the EP500 in a more traditional box enclosure. It features a 500 Watt amplifier with the same XLF technology.
The front has a clean, attractive look sporting the woofer, a venting port and the Axiom logo with the grille removed. The rear gold-tinged brushed aluminum control panel exudes sophisticated sexiness in an “I love HiFi” kind of way. The line-in section has an RCA input, quality five-way binding posts for a high level connection and a balanced XLR input. There is also an RCA and XLR line-out section just incase you’re insane and would like to add a second subwoofer to your setup. Both inputs and outputs also have a mini plug for 3 to 30 volt triggers for use with future Axiom products (hint, hint). There is a volume knob, a 0-180 degree phase switch, a crossover with 20 Hz steps from 40 Hz to 100 Hz as well as a bypass setting for use when the receiver’s bass management is engaged. There is also a boost control. When set to flat, the sub operates as it normally should in a large room. Smaller rooms may experience loading, in such cases you may be better off setting the boost to half, to partially increase frequencies above 33Hz. You also have to option to set the boost control to full, to increase the boost even further. A nice practical touch. There is also a remote setting for use with future Axiom remote controlled products (hint, hint). Of course there is also a power switch. When in the ‘on’ position the EP600 will automatically power on when it detects a signal. All of the controls were perfectly weighted and had a solid, high quality feel. The last input on the control panel is a USB connection. This is for future software updates to the DSP. For now you can plug in a USB powered light that Axiom offers to make subwoofer adjustments easy in a dark room.
How deep does the Epicenter EP600 go? Well, if we tossed it into the Atlantic we could probably sell this sub to the Canadian Military!
The depth charges in the movie U-571 sent panic through our stomachs. We scrambled to secure clocks, pictures and anything else that could fall of the walls or vibrate off table tops. We’ve never replayed Sauron exploding in Fellowship of the Ring so many times. In our listening sessions of other high-end components, we often find ourselves asking each other, “did you hear that?” This time it was, “did you feel that?” Generally we’re used to loud and powerful. What we were getting here was tight bass, with smooth transitions. The bass in even the most demanding of passages remained clean and distortion free. With the EP600, if you have guests over for a movie night, you will insist that everyone is settled before starting a movie. The THX intro is like the first plunge on a roller coaster, and it’s all thrills from there.
How loud is the EP600? We don’t know. Not for fear of damaging it, since the DSP ensures it will maintain its integrity, but for fear of doing structural damage to the house or losing bowel control, or both. Axiom claims a max of 122 dB of output, we don’t doubt them.
To be quite honest we expected to be clobbered. We were prepared for a beating and would have been let down otherwise. What this behemoth truly impressed us with, was its sophistication. Loud yet distortion free, powerful but never brutish, it never bottomed out. It never overwhelmed a musical score. In fact it made the middle and upper frequencies more appreciable. It integrated beautifully with the M80ti’s and was also a fantastic match for our Sinclair Audio Brighton towers. It gave Sonny Rollins’ sax more soul, Wagner more fire and the epic score of Lord of the Rings more body.
Where other subs strain, the EP600 was effortless. Sure it filled the room with pounding bass but it never drew attention directly to itself. It didn’t struggle and always seemed capable of more. Bass notes and kick drums had air that had been previously muddled; the bottom end was filled cleanly. As big as the enclosure is, it was its subtleness that wowed us. With the Epicenter EP600, less is more and bigger is better. A contradiction? Not in terms of performance, the EP600 is by far the best subwoofer we have yet tested. And at $2120 it’s not another “one of those I’d love to own” components – it’s actually affordable. Unfortunately we have to give it back and will have to make do with our collection of other subwoofers that have now been reduced to mere rumble generators.
And what about those voltage triggers and remote settings on the back that hint at future Axiom products? Well, we can’t say much right now, but they’ve definitely got something cooking. We can’t wait ’till the dinner bell rings.
Price: $2120.00 (Canadian)
Axiom Epicenter EP600 Subwoofer
RCA & Balanced In and Out
XLF Intelligent Digital Signal Processing
Dynamic Power Supply
Amplifier power: 600 Watts
Crossover adjust: 40 – 100 Hz
Phase switch: 0 & 180
Anechoic response +/-1.5dB: 19-100 Hz
Anechoic response +3dB/-9dB: 17-100 Hz
In-room response: 15 – 100 Hz
Max SPL Anechoic: 111 dB
Max In-Room SPL: 122 dB
Dimensions (HxWxD)(in.): 45.5 x 15 x 17
Weight: 100 lbs