So once again Axis
(for short) joins the loudspeaker fray, this time with a seemingly simple mini monitor of very high quality. The new VoiceBox S features a Fountek 50mm/2" true ribbon tweeter supported by a 133mm/5.25" Nomex/paper mid/woofer in a classy and diminutive enclosure measuring 182x195x313mm (WxDxH). A perforated metal grille attached via small magnets serves purely cosmetic purposes and should be removed for critical listening. Axis quotes a frequency response of 60Hz to 20kHz +/-2dB (microphone on tweeter axis) and 45Hz to 20kHz +/-3dB (1/3rd-octave pink noise) which is decent low-end extension for a speaker of this size. The other side of the coin is a lowish 83dB sensitivity but mated to a flattish 5Ω impedance. The speaker’s power rating is 100 watts. Reilly and Serhan are pedantic to the nth-degree when it comes to crossover design. I’ve known them to agonize for many many hours over minute component value changes. Here they’ve come up with a highly refined 18-element electro-acoustic Linkwitz-Riley 4th-order type crossed at 3kHz.

The beautiful round-edged enclosure ports out the rear via a shaped nicely profiled vent (no cheap plastic inserts here) whilst the exemplary multi-coat black piano gloss finish is mirror-like in its polished sheen. The enclosure is strongly built and seemingly well-braced. Knocking on the cabinet sides only serves to illustrate its solidity. A narrow and long metal plate adorns the rear panel inscribed with the Axis logo, the speaker model name and Chinese characters depicting the words Love of Sound. Binding posts are good-quality generic gold-plated types. The cabinets are protected by an easily removed clear plastic skin when delivered in the well-cushioned single box for the pair. The Chinese characters are also a bold statement about the pride of building high quality kit in China. John oversees his own Chinese factory in Shenzhen and in fact lives there for part of the year whilst also traveling numerous times between Australia and China for shorter stays in between. Being pedantic about quality, John maintains strict control over all aspects of the manufacturing process and the results serve as solid examples of a Chinese factory’s capability to produce world-class products. I asked both John Reilly and Brad Serhan for their independent views on what they were looking to achieve, musically speaking, with their new collaborative design:

John Reilly: "The purpose for the speakers is firstly for my own satisfaction. I listen to them every day. I have owned many speakers over 40 years or so. Those ranged from B&W 801, Linn Isobarik, KEF 105, Klipschorns, Altec 211, JBL Paragon, Martin Logan CLS to many many others. The one that stood out amongst all these was a little pair of Proac Tablettes. They did not produce all that was required but what came out of these boxes was correct for me. I believe that it was a matter of timing in the music (or better put, all the music that was present was or seemed to be in correct phase). Voice is what I wanted to reproduce and I believed that if we got the voice and timing (phase) right, than all else would follow. I also wanted the speakers to be able to play loud as this is something I like as ex hippy and Led Zeppelin and World music lover."

On the same subject, Brad Serhan offered his view: "My old loudspeaker sparring partner John Reilly approached me back in 2008 to collaborate on a 'high-end' bookshelf loudspeaker design. John and I had competing monitors in the 1990s with his Axis LS 28 and my Orpheus Minotaur. Although competitors, we were always great mates so collaborating on a design seemed like a natural progression. John wanted to create an Australian classic somewhat akin to the great English bookshelf monitors of the Rogers LS3/5a and the Proac Tablette. The quest began when John asked if I knew of a mid/woofer that could match a particular ribbon tweeter he wanted to incorporate. Coincidentally, I had been working with a 5-inch paper cone that had all the necessary traits to match John's desired ribbon tweeter. Our initial testing indicated that these drivers were more than a match. John already had the VoiceBox model name in mind. This speaker had to be able to reproduce human voices naturally without artefact. In other words, a natural, unforced, seamless, transparent midrange. If we nailed that, then everything else should fall into place. Well, that was the theory. This was the basis of the design."