Hidden treasures.
The Axis Loudspeakers assembly facility is located within a small semi-industrial complex in an outer district of Shenzhen. There, factory manager Zhao Xiao Ping oversees the assembly of the drivers into the freshly arrived cabinets of the now three-deep line-up — VoiceBox S monitor, FLS semi-active floorstander and EBS active bass extension module. Zhao Xiao Ping is also hands on with the assembly of the crossovers, plate amplifiers and speaker testing right up to the final quality inspection before packing and shipping.


Sonics aside, I have high regard for the standard of finish of the Axis speakers. Reilly explained that the paint process is of the very highest quality and used by many high-end companies at higher price points. It's a multi-step process which packs on the paint in extra-thick layers before polishing and sealing it. What's more, “the boxes come to our facility from the paint factory in plastic wrapping. We assemble the drivers and crossovers, then thoroughly test each speaker with the plastic on. Once the speaker is fully assembled, we carefully remove the plastic, inspect and repolish each cabinet and then rewrap them in our own higher-grade plastic protection so the cabinets don't get scratched in transit."


Around a small sub division of the factory, I noticed several unpopulated cabinets set aside. Reilly explained that "these cabinets have very small imperfections. Most people would not notice these paint defects even if they looked for them but we do. We deem them not good enough. The cabinets are put aside and sent back to the paint factory to be refinished or discarded."


Like its diminutive VoiceBox S stablemate, the FLS features a high-quality Fountek 50mm/2" true ribbon tweeter and the same 133mm/5.25" Nomex/paper driver from the ex Vifa/ScanSpeak engineers at Wavecor. Also from Wavecor is the new aluminium woofer housed in the rounded cabinet section which provides an attractive visual cue to break away from the usual straight rectangular box. In the FLS the perforated metal grille of the solo monitor trades places with a conventional full-length black cloth cover.


Familiar crossover principles apply with the FLS, sporting an 18-element electroacoustic Linkwitz-Riley 4th-order crossover with a 3kHz transition to the tweeter and a natural 100Hz roll-off to the woofer. The transition between midrange and bass driver has been agonizingly thought through to "eliminate the possibility of reinforcing room bass nodes and standing waves and not over-emphasize the bass. We aimed for absolutely clean, tight and detailed bass performance as well as a perfectly seamless transition between midrange and woofer", Reilly told me.


In new floorstanding guise, the speaker now extends to 30Hz and stretches to 20kHz +/- 3dB (1/3rd octave pink noise). The monitor's sensitivity of 83dB still stands but is matched to an easy-to-drive 5Ω impedance while your amplifier is relieved of bass duties so should cruise along more confidently and sprightly. The machined reflex port is maintained at the top rear of the enclosure while the nicely brushed metal panel bearing the 'Love of Sound' Chinese characters once more displays proudly. A single set of WBT-styled terminals make the connection to your amplifier.


The integrated class-D plate amplifier is rated to 140Wrms and dedicated to drive the 175mm woofer. The amplifier has provisions for L/R RCA inputs, constantly variable crossover frequency from 40Hz to 120Hz,  0/180° phase, defeatable signal sensing, 110-120V to 220-240V conversion switch, an IEC power inlet and of course a volume control to easily mate to a variety of room sizes and acoustic signatures.