Audio Note AX-Two - Welcome Home

StevenZ

Pending Gold Star Member
A little over 2 years ago I was in the market for new speakers. I don't recall the thread here but @Richard Austen suggested that I look into this speaker. I read everything I could about them (which given their long production time, the information and impressions were very scarce). Because I liked what I read I figured I would call up my local AN dealer. No dice. So I called a few out of state. No dice. Not being one to take no for an answer I called every AN dealer in the entire United States and none of them had a pair... however, Audio Federation said that they show TWO pairs available to order from Audio Note. She told me to not hold my breath since sometimes the stock levels shown are off. Bear in mind, at this time I was just checking around, not ready to commit. A few weeks later I get an email from Cornelia (Neli) at Audio Federation and said that a pair showed up in her order. It was the white ash option (the other pair was white ash as well). I passed on them as I wasn't quite ready.

A year later (2019), I send her an email after getting back on the market and she let me know she still had the pair she ordered. I passed again as I thought surely the other speakers on my radar were superior. I think there's even another thread where we discussed these speakers a little more in depth. We talked about the cabinets, the construction, the price, etc. and after this I decided to let them go again.

Well, a couple weeks ago I sent her another email (Sorry Neli) and guess what.... she still had them. She let me know that she had actually forgotten about them for a long time and never advertised them but was actually about to list them for sale publicly. I decided to call her and let me tell ya, if you've never spoken to Neli, you're missing out. She's a wealth of information and very nice. It was clear that these speakers were meant to be with me. So, I paid up and was eager for their arrival.

This time, I was ready. I had my hopes for them after sending back the Elac UniFi 2.0. I wanted something different, I wanted something voiced, and I wanted something that wasn't exactly "HiFi". I was willing to take a chance on the Audio Note AX-Two and I'm glad I did. What I received is a speaker that sound unlike other stand mount speakers I've had. See, if anyone has paid attention to some of my threads they'll know that I've built a few DIY speakers, posted threads here and on other forums and have been for the better part of 10yrs. I'm a fan of single wideband drivers the most but have had a few bookshelf speakers with all sorts of drivers and from different designers. I've had designs that used ScanSpeak BE tweeters, ScanSpeak illuminator woofers, Mundorf resistors and caps, copper foil inductors, blah blah blah. They've all been interesting in one regard for but various reasons I never connected with those speakers. Thousands of dollars in trial and error. And look, I don't regret any of it. In fact, I'm glad I went through all of this because it helped hone exactly what kind of sound I wanted. What kind of presentation. What strengths I really valued. Money well spent, in my opinion.

The AX-Two is something different. It uses older Vifa drivers. 3/4" soft dome tweeter, 6" woofer. Nothing special or crazy, really. Just good drivers. And most importantly designed by Andy Whittle who was able to put relatively ho hum drivers and a bog standard quality crossover into a bog standard quality cabinet and get some of the most interesting results I've heard. Look, this thing looks cheap. From the white ash vinyl veneer, to the slightly gapped 45* angles in every corner that you can pinch back together with your fingers. The terminals on the back are OK, pretty typical (way better than the UniFi 2.0) and overall these LOOK like they're from a white van. However, they're actually solidly built cabinets made of 3/4" MDF. They pass the knock test and I don't see any reason these would be called "resonant cabinets" at all. Sure they could use a brace I'm sure, but perhaps as the literature says it's all by design. Who am I to question the results.

What we have here is a prime example of someone who knows how to design a speaker (Andy Whittle) and using his expertise to put rather ordinary drivers, cabinets and crossovers together and creating something truly exquisite. The resulting sound surpasses what you'd think is possible if you judged this book by it's cover.

Within the first hour of unboxing them I knew that these were special. Their open and natural midrange, their way of presenting the information to you instead of blasting it into your face, their balanced sound, all of it really ticks the boxes most of these other speakers couldn't dream of. The AX-Twos are richly textured, midrange has body to it, bass is tuneful and not flabby one-note, treble is delicate and well integrated into the music instead shouting "Here I am!". This brings me to another thing. The crossover is spot on. Andy did a tremendous job here. The drivers act as one driver in their presentation. In comparing these with my Mark Audios I was blown away by how cohesive the sound is. I'm using them nearfield on my desk which tends to exaggerate most designs where the tweeter and woofer don't quite overlap well enough. Here, you'd never know it was a multi-way design. As time has gone on, these speakers have just gotten better and better. These speakers have allowed me to just sit back and enjoy music again. I'm not picking out sounds, critiquing this or that, wondering what could be better. It's not that these don't show these things, it's that their way of presenting the music just draws you in.

This is a music lover's speaker and it's a real shame it was discontinued in 2018. Word on the street is they're considering rebooting this design with a higher build quality cabinet but that will result in a higher price. Vifa was the manufacturer of the cabints in the past, AN has now purchased a factory to begin their own construction.

In any case, there's my opinion of this speaker. They're staying right where I put them and I for once in quite a few years feel content in saying, this is the speaker I've been looking for. This is the speaker I can settle on. I'm satisfied.


-Steven
 
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StevenZ

Pending Gold Star Member
Thread mentioned above:
Thanks, this was the second thread they were mentioned in. There was another from 2018 which was when they were first brought to my attention. Just can’t remember which thread.
 

Kpatch

Junior Member
I’m glad your search is over and look forward to the pics and your full impressions once the stands arrived. Even though I’m still a dedicated unapologetic Spendor fan, I think P3ES4 and the tablette are very special, with me leaning to the perhaps more polite and slightly more musical Harbeths.

I’m surprised no one mentioned the Living Sounds Audio LSA 10s. I had the LSA1s (which were designed by Albert Von Schweikert) and liked them a lot but gave them to a friend down on his luck - and replaced them with VR1s. The later LSAs were, I believe, designed by Walter Liederman. I haven’t heard them but a pal in Texas has them and for him, they’re endgame bookshelves. And Underwood Wally has included them in his Xmas sale.
 
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StevenZ

Pending Gold Star Member
I’m glad your search is over and look forward to the pics and your full impressions once the stands arrived. Even though I’m still a dedicated unapologetic Spendor fan, I think P3ES4 and the tablette are very special, with me leaning to the perhaps politely and slightly more musical Harbeths.

I’m surprised no one mentioned the Living Sounds Audio LSA 10s. I had the LSA1s, which were designed by Albert Von Scheikert) and liked them a lot but gave them to a friend down on his luck - and replaced them with VSR1s. The later LSAs were, I believe, designed by Walter Liederman. I haven’t heard them but a pal in Texas has them and for him, they’re end game book shelves. And Underwood Wally has included them in his Xmas sale.
The LSA were a consideration and I even reached out to Wally a while back.

Im not entirely done, I actually have a pair of NHT SuperZero 2.1 on order and according to @MWalt compare very favorably to his Tablette 10s. These speakers are for a different setup but it will be very fun giving them a go when they arrive some time later this month.
 

Richard Austen

Junior Member
I am glad you like them. You'll have to pry my AX Twos from my cold dead hands.

One interesting note is that way back in the day Audio Note made a fancier AX Two called the Signature - it was for me a rare misstep for Audio Note because the cheaper version you and I have IMO sounded better. My Canadian dealer had both and we auditioned them back to back and we both felt the Signature was in some ways more refined but also less dynamic and alive sounding. The Sig sounded more dead like most of the competition with their attempts at damping the cabinet. The weird thing about this is that the cabinet was a birch which should have been more alive over the MDF/Chipboard. The Sig wasn't around that longs so we were not alone in our assessment.

When I spoke to Audio Note about the AX Two they actually view it as a far-field speaker, not a near-field speaker. I find it works at both but I get it. The AX Two like other AN Speakers is meant for near-wall and corner loading.

The Chinese bought Rogers Loudspeakers and they have hired Andy Whittle to design their new LS-3/5a and LS-5/9 as well as the new Rogers Valve amplifiers. Andy has Audio Note making much of the internals for the amplifiers so my hope is that there will be a "cheaper" amplifier that is sort of an Audio Note in disguise kind of thing. I remember back in the day when I bought a Hitachi Laserdisc player that it was actually a Pioneer Elite just with Hitachi's name on the front.

I always call the AX Two the Cup of Christ speaker when I saw them at a dealer in Hong Kong who had 40 pairs of speakers all lining the walls. All of them look so great and then there is the AX Two that sticks out for kind of looking like someone built in the garage. My reference was to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where the cup of Christ was plain-looking while all the other cups had jewels. Drinking from the wrong cup meant death. Drinking from the right cup meant immortality.

I had the KEF LS-50 for 4 years but when it came to selling one of them off, the decision to part with the KEF was never remotely in doubt.
 

MWalt

Active Member
Their open and natural midrange, their way of presenting the information to you instead of blasting it into your face, their balanced sound, all of it really ticks the boxes most of these other speakers couldn't dream of. The AX-Twos are richly textured, midrange has body to it, bass is tuneful and not flabby one-note, treble is delicate and well integrated into the music instead shouting "Here I am!".
Congrats on the new speakers! The way you describe these speakers is the way I like for them to sound in my listening room. I don't like overly forward speakers and prefer a neutrality where the soundstage is deep behind the speakers.
 

StevenZ

Pending Gold Star Member
Cool. Would be curious what's going on with the crossover. Minimal? Complex?
This guy has some internal pictures. He is also experimenting with a series crossover and is almost done with his final revision. I may give the series crossover a shot when he’s done.

 

StevenZ

Pending Gold Star Member
For what it’s worth the guy doing the series crossovers says he prefers them over his more expensive K/spe Audio Notes.
 

Richard Austen

Junior Member
For what it’s worth the guy doing the series crossovers says he prefers them over his more expensive K/spe Audio Notes.
The K/SPe is a sealed cabinet and this version uses silver. I am currently reviewing the K/SPe and it's my second time owning them. I think it's a reach to say the AX Two is as good let alone a better speaker. However, I'll do some direct comparisons (I had not planned it) before I send it to my editor. But hey - if he likes the cheaper one better that's a huge win. I just wish more people auditioned the AX Two because there are a lot of more expensive speakers (I am looking at you - every version of the LS-3/5a and Totem Model One) that to me are not as good and all cost more.
 

Kpatch

Junior Member
Dan Wiggins and Dusty Vawter
Thanks. Dan and Dusty designed four models for LSA, after Wally bought the company, two stand-mounts and two floor-standers, each with a "Signature" and "Statement" version. Dusty thinks the LSA-10 "Signature" is the best bargain. They have their own speaker now, the R3, which promises to be killah.

Did Leiderman design the models between the LSA1 (Albert’s) and the later Dan/ Dusty models?
 

StevenZ

Pending Gold Star Member
The K/SPe is a sealed cabinet and this version uses silver. I am currently reviewing the K/SPe and it's my second time owning them. I think it's a reach to say the AX Two is as good let alone a better speaker. However, I'll do some direct comparisons (I had not planned it) before I send it to my editor. But hey - if he likes the cheaper one better that's a huge win. I just wish more people auditioned the AX Two because there are a lot of more expensive speakers (I am looking at you - every version of the LS-3/5a and Totem Model One) that to me are not as good and all cost more.
I imagine he only prefers the AX Two after the mods were done. Still, would be interesting to see a comparison though might not be fair without the crossover upgrades.
 

Richard Austen

Junior Member
I imagine he only prefers the AX Two after the mods were done. Still, would be interesting to see a comparison though might not be fair without the crossover upgrades.
Perhaps he can modify the AN K as well. I mean essentially this is what AN does with all their speakers - each one up the chain is basically a modified/improved speaker.
 

Richard Austen

Junior Member
Great news - AX 1 and AX-2 are being brought back! Last page of recent article

The Brexit ‘catastrophe’ I suggest Brexit isn’t not going to help, and Qvortrup replies with some resignation. “I think Brexit will be catastrophic. We have expanded the factory in Lithuania enormously and it’s up and running, bar some minor QC issues. It now employs 20 people. making the Cobra and all of the CD products. as well as the Level Zero system and the power supplies for the turntables. We’ll be will be loading them up with a few more things in the coming months.“The loudspeakers are made in Austria, and we’re looking at expanding the factory there too as we are going to reintroduce the smaller speakers – the AX1 and AX2. If Brexit goes really, really badly, that will give us another foothold in Europe.” (The majority of Audio Note’s production is sold into export markets).


 

StevenZ

Pending Gold Star Member
Great news - AX 1 and AX-2 are being brought back! Last page of recent article

The Brexit ‘catastrophe’ I suggest Brexit isn’t not going to help, and Qvortrup replies with some resignation. “I think Brexit will be catastrophic. We have expanded the factory in Lithuania enormously and it’s up and running, bar some minor QC issues. It now employs 20 people. making the Cobra and all of the CD products. as well as the Level Zero system and the power supplies for the turntables. We’ll be will be loading them up with a few more things in the coming months.“The loudspeakers are made in Austria, and we’re looking at expanding the factory there too as we are going to reintroduce the smaller speakers – the AX1 and AX2. If Brexit goes really, really badly, that will give us another foothold in Europe.” (The majority of Audio Note’s production is sold into export markets).


I’m curious what drivers they’re going to use this time around.
 
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