By Don Lindich
Week 37, 2016
Q. I want to play music from my laptop and phones. The room is small to medium sized, and I’m trying to get the most bang for my buck under $500. I have been offered a Yamaha RX-V850 receiver and could buy bookshelf speakers to go with it, or I could get a powered speaker system. What would be better?
-D.D., Alamo, CA
A. This is a very easy one to answer. Get bookshelf speakers and use them with the receiver.
While single-piece Bluetooth speakers or powered speakers may offer good sound with modern convenience, I doubt they will ever compare to high quality speakers placed six feet apart and driven by a good receiver or amplifier. I think it is remarkable that though there are new products and product classes introduced all the time, the old ways tend to be best and over time people migrate back to them, at least in part. When the compact disc was introduced, many pundits said it was the death knell for vinyl records and turntables. Now, over 30 years later, there are more makes and models of new turntables available than in 1983 and vinyl has found renewed popularity. Soundbars provide convenience and good sound, but a surround system with a receiver and separate speakers is still king. Though zoom lenses have become very popular and get better every year, fixed focal length lenses still make the sharpest pictures. Even vacuum tubes amplifiers are still around and have recently entered the mainstream, with models available for under $150.
Bookshelf speakers should really be called stand-mounted speakers, so plan on getting speaker stands as well. I suggest you check out the M2v4 speakers from Canada’s Axiom Audio. When I first tested the Axiom M2 speakers over 10 years ago I reported they were my favorite $300 speakers, and that I kept pulling out my favorite CDs and records to hear how they sounded on them. The M2 has gone through several revisions since then and is now the M2v4, selling for $448 USD per pair including tax and shipping. They are handmade in Ontario in many custom finishes, and Axiom provides a 30 day home trial with a full refund if not satisfied.
Given the price increase (even accounting for 10+ years of inflation) I was a little bit concerned about the value equation. It did not take long to realize my worries were unfounded. Though the M2v4 price may have gone up 50%, the speakers are at least twice as good and the sound is very noticeably improved. The M2v2 was merely the class leader at the price. The M2v4 is competitive with much more expensive speakers of similar size and when you listen, you will never feel like you were purchasing to a price point. In a word, they sound expensive. The sound is crisp yet smooth, with remarkably precise definition, excellent resolution and detail and satisfying fullness for a small speaker. They are not warm sounding, but they are not cold and clinical either and in addition to their fine technical performance they successfully convey the emotion of music. I found myself pulling out my favorite records and CDs to see how they sounded, and had a definite sense of déjà vu when I realized history was repeating itself.
While I am discussing the M2v4 and reminiscing about the past, the M2v4 is part of one of my all-time favorite home theater speaker systems, the Axiom Epic Midi. I love the way it matches with Pioneer surround receivers. Connect the speakers to the receiver, activate the Pioneer’s MCACC automatic setup system and prepare for sonic nirvana with a perfectly tuned home theater. axiomaudio.com