Setting up a Home Theater Speaker System that doesn’t Dominate the Room Decor – An Experiment with Axiom Audio Speakers – Highlights

Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity - John E. Johnson, Jr.

Over the past decade, we have seen the number of speakers in a home theater system go from 5.1, to 7.1 and beyond. This presents a problem in having the space to put all these speakers. Although it is nice to have large speakers that will play loud for the current deluge of high impact movies full of mechanical monstors and massive guns, putting nine or more speakers in the den where your home theater is, will certainly set off an argument with your significant other, even if the speakers are beautiful. So, I decided to put together a 5.1 system of small, but high quality, bookshelf speakers and a good subwoofer. You will be shocked at the visual change this produces, and yet, still have good surround sound (just not quite as loud).

I chose Axiom Audio M3v3 bookshelf speakers (currently v4, at $498/pair) and their EP500v3 subwoofer (currently v4 at $1,370).


The resulting sound was excellent – although more limited in maximum loudness than my reference system – and just a fraction of the size, turning the room back into something that visitors would not immediately assume was the home theater.

An Experiment with Axiom Audio Speakers Highlights Summary

  • Visual impact in room very conservative
  • Sounded great even though the speakers are small
  • Having a good subwoofer made a big difference
  • Easy to upgrade to additional speakers if you wish

Setting up a Home Theater Speaker System that doesn’t Dominate the Room Decor – An Experiment with Axiom Audio Speakers – Introduction

In the old days, before home theater, consumers mostly had a console, which contained a TV, radio, and a record player, and the sound was mono. The speaker was in the console on one side or at the bottom. It might have been in the living room or den, and was used mostly for watching football games, listening to the news, or playing some LPs now and then.

Now, we have moved into an entirely new dimension. Starting out with four speakers, surround sound has jumped to 5.1, 7.1, 9.1, and 11.1, with Atmos on the near horizon, adding even more speakers.

My reference home theater is 7.1, using full-range electrostatic speakers (MartinLogan CLS) for the front left and right, three large speakers for the center and left/right sides (MartinLogan Stage X), and electrostatic hybrid speakers for the rear left and right (MartinLogan Summit X). These speakers take up a lot of room.

Fortunately, I have dedicated this room for home theater, so if and when I move to something like Atmos, it will not present a problem. But for the average consumer, having eleven speakers and at least one subwoofer in what used to be the den could cause difficulties. Speakers, speakers everywhere.

So, I set up a 5.1 system based on smaller speakers, the Axiom Audio M3v3, and their EP500v3 subwoofer.


Setup and In Use

Here is a photo of the front of the room, with both my reference system and the Axiom Audio speakers in place. This is before I connected the cables (12 gauge copper stranded). Although I just hung the cables down the wall and over to the power amplifier, for permanent installation, you should run them along the baseboard and fasten them to the wall.

You can see how the MartinLogans dominate the room. And that is just the front of the room. The Axiom front left/right and center speakers are next to the framed photos on the wall and leaning against my reference center channel speaker, respectively. The subwoofer is in the left bottom corner (it would actually go where my far left subwoofer is now, but it is too heavy to move).

What a difference in visual impact in terms of room occupancy.

The rear left speaker is in this photo. Can you find it? From left to right are the MartinLogan Summit X, a plant, a lamp, a wooden box for my remotes, and on the shelf, a photo, and then, voila, the Axiom Audio M3v3.

And in the right rear, the M3v3 is on the bar at the left end.

The M3v3’s were reviewed here in 2011, so I don’t need to go into the specs or other details. However, I want to say that I think it is a great little speaker, especially for the price. And, it is made in North America.


Also, don’t place it flat against the wall on a shelf, because it has a port on the rear that needs some room. However, it could be placed in the corner on a shelf, and the V formed behind the speaker would allow some corner-loading to give you more bass. I crossed them over at 80 Hz, but if your corner-load them, you might try 60 Hz, as sound above 50 Hz can be localized (at least I can localize it).


The EP500v3 delivered very powerful, deep, low distortion sound that I love. Trust me when I say that a good subwoofer can MAKE your home theater. Its performance is in between the EP350 subwoofer and the EP800, both of which we reviewed. It has a 12″ driver and 500 watt amplifier with a slot-loaded enclosure.


In terms of the resulting sound, I was satisfied, because the tonality of the sound was natural, clear, with no chestiness in the bookshelf speakers’ bass response, or clipping in the subwoofer (at reasonably loud volume), and the total price of all the speakers and subwoofer was less than just one of the Summit X speakers.

Mind you, I don’t intend to switch. I like a big, spacious, transparent, wall of sound, and the MartinLogans deliver it all, but the price tag is $50,000 for the five speakers.

The rest of the equipment I used for this test consisted of an OPPO BDP-105 universal player, Classé SSP-800 processor, and Classé CA-5200 five-channel power amplifier. Cables were home made from 12 gauge stranded copper wire, terminated with spade lugs.



So, this story has a happy ending. If you have a big room that you want to dedicate to home theater, and your spouse and budget can take the strain, go for it.

But, if you just have one family room or den, and you do a lot of other things in there, and you don’t want it to look like a speaker showroom, then a setup like I just described would be perfect. The Axiom speakers are very good quality, and have a sound that will provide a family with plenty of evening fun watching movies.