Comparison of Axiom M3Ti and Swans Diva 2.1
(I'm also starting a new thread on this because as I discovered, it's hard to search for reviews in a thread this long)
Sean, a.k.a (Arrchr) was kind enough to let me into his home last night to demo his Diva's as well as compare them to my current speakers: the Axiom M3Ti. It was an enjoyable night of music and discussion and hereâ€™s my take on the evening.
Sean has really gone over to the dark side with his setup. 8-). Swans 6.1â€™s, C3, 2.1 and SVS subs (fed by 350Wpc AMP) comprise part of his system. I did get a chance to listen to the full system but this comparison will focus on the 2.1â€™s qualities and how it compares to the M3Ti.
First, a slight disclaimer.
1) His Diva 2.1â€™s had not been broken in fully yet whereas mine had already gone through about 25 hours of break in time and I canâ€™t say how the results would have turned out if his speakers had had more break in time. He uses the 2.1â€™s as satellites so they donâ€™t get enough action.
I decided NOT to review things in the usual A/B fashion for two reasons
1) We didnâ€™t have a speaker selector
2) I wanted to see how the speaker made different kinds of music sound â€“ it should make classical music sound classical, jazz like jazz, rock like rock, etc. IMO, what I look for in a speaker foremost is neutrality in its reproduction of the sound and testing in this way will reveal that.
We started with the Diva 2.1 since they were already out. We listened to Dave Matthews Band in Concert, Natalie Merchantâ€™s Motherland, Mozart Sessions with Bobby McFerrin and Chick Corea, Soundtrack to Mad About You (Sarah MacLachlan, Anita Franklin), and Sara Kâ€™s Closer Than They Appear.
Dave Matthews Band â€“ One thing I noticed immediately was the crispness of the music. By this, I mean that the speakers reproduced the music cleanly and accuratelyâ€“ the 2.1â€™s reproduced the timbre of Dave Matthewâ€™s voice very well (thatâ€™s midrange I suppose). Soundstage was also very good and with enough breathing room, these speakers can almost pull off a disappearing act. Almost. Itâ€™s not the best Iâ€™ve heard (by a long shot) : I didnâ€™t jump out of my seat looking for hidden speakers (which Iâ€™ve done in the past with another speaker), but very good nonetheless. Bass response was fantastic, until Sean told me the SVS subs were on. Cheating! So he turned them off and I felt the foundation collapse. The bass was still there and cleanly produced, but there was a definite lack of support.
Sara K â€“ This is a very good recording of live instruments and the speakers did a fine job with them â€“ with the same caveat as above. There was again a problem with the lack of presence in the lower end, particularly with the bass. Iâ€™ve listened to this recording on my Sennheiser 580â€™s with proper amplification so I know what itâ€™s should sound like and the 2.1â€™s were just missing the lower end support.
Natalie Merchant â€“The song Motherland is a good recording with Natalieâ€™s unmistakable tone and no less than six acoustic instruments : accordion, pump organ, acoustic bass, acoustic guitar, banjo, and mandolin. The Diva really shone on this recording with excellent separation of the various instruments. The accordion and banjo and acoustic guitar were particularly outstanding to my ears. The mids and highs were very well done. Sean and I were busy discussing where we thought the instruments had been during the recording. Iâ€™m starting to sound like a broken record hear, but the acoustic bass was again the problem.
Mozart with Bobby McFerrin and Chick Coreaâ€“ A strange combination of musicians to pair with Mozart but itâ€™s one of my favorites. The Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 23 begins with Bobbyâ€™s voice, adds the piano, then adds some violins and violas, and finally the cellos and double basses, each layer building on the one before it. The piano sound was authentic but had a touch of muddiness at the end of each note. It may have been the room but it was only noticeable when I was listening intently for it. As each layer of instruments were added, I felt that there was not enough drama and the texture of the music did not change enough. Iâ€™ve heard this recording on a Polk Audio RT35 and Dynaudio Reference 42 felt that the fomer were more lively while the latter had more authority. What the Divaâ€™s did well was a neutral, accurate presentation of the piano, violins, violas and flutes. There is, as with all the other music I listened to, an overall sense of crispness to the music with the Divaâ€™s that I canâ€™t quite describe. They are simply enjoyable and non-fatiguing to listen to.
Comparison to Axiom M3Ti:
I wonâ€™t go into the details here with each recording because there are only really a few conclusions to be drawn.
In terms of how the two speakers made each type of music sound, I would have to hand it to the Diva 2.1â€™s. The Axiomâ€™s have a more pronounced bass that, while good for rock, techno and other music of the like, results in a bit of coloration at the lower end. The Divaâ€™s just stayed very neutral and out of the way with everything we threw at it.
Soundstage : The Divaâ€™s didnâ€™t necessarily have a wider soundstage but they presented the instruments and vocalists more clearly within the sound stage.
Mids : Pretty close here. Both are excellent
Highs : Iâ€™d have to go with the Divaâ€™s. They are just a touch more refined in the way they handle vocals.
Bass : The Divas have more potential in that while they were lacking in the low end, they didnâ€™t color it in any way and would mate very well with a subwoofer. The Axioms on the other hand have enough bass on their own to be respectable without a subwoofer (particularly for those with small rooms like myself) but do so by adding boosting the lower end somewhat.
Off-axis response : I forgot to test for this I was so buy enjoying the music.
Both of these speakers are very, very good. Price not being a consideration, I would go with the Divas but I would strongly recommend a subwoofer to get the most out of the speakers, in which case youâ€™re spending enough to get the 4.1â€™s (which Iâ€™ve never heard but I assume would have much better bass response).
Taking price into consideration (the M3â€™s are available for $220 shipped from the factory outlet section on Axiomâ€™s site), I would go with the M3â€™s. I have a total budget for my system and set aside about $300 for the speakers and while I liked the Divaâ€™s, I would be itching to get a subwoofer. If the Divaâ€™s were a little closer in price, it would have been a tough call but weâ€™re talking about almost double the price of the M3â€™s here.
Both are still not as good as my amplified Senheisser 580â€™s, but thatâ€™s not really a fair match since the 580 drivers are one inch away from my ears. If you donâ€™t mind headphones, your best bang for the buck would still be to get the Senheisser 600â€™s matched with one of Headroomâ€™s amplifiers.
Sean thanks again for allowing me the pleasure of listening to your speakers. The dark side calls, but it will have to wait until the forces move me into a bigger place.