My listening time with the 1400-8 started off with an old favorite, Bill Frisell's "Blues Dream" from the With Dave Holland and Elvin Jones CD. With the 1400-8 powering my MartinLogan tower speakers, this track displayed excellent bass definition, and its rich, relaxed ambience held together even as I pushed the volume to higher-than-normal listening levels. But even though the 1400-8's effortless dynamics invited volume-knob twisting, it was also pretty clear that I didn't have to listen loud at all to get a sense of spatial/sensory involvement in the music.
Switching over to full surround mode, I next cued up Nine Inch Nails' Beside You in Time,alive concert Blu-ray Disc with a killer Dolby True HD 5.1 soundtrack. The 1400-8's presentation of songs like "Wish"was notably vivid, with the slamming drums and chainsaw-like guitars displaying both muscularity and precision. On less aggressive songs like "Beside You in Time" (yes, there is a sensitive side to Trent Reznor), the pulsing bass and synths flowing from the front and surround channels sounded smooth and sinewy as the track slowly built toward its dynamic denouement. When I compared the Axiom with my longtime reference Sunfire 5-channel amp, I thought that the 1400-8 made Reznor's vocals sound a bit forward at times. But, then again, with the Sunfire the sound tended to sag slightly during dynamic passages that engaged all channels at once, which is something I can't say I experienced at all with the Axiom.
Given the amp's handling of Nine Inch Nails, I wasn't surprised to hear it breeze through the genre-bending action flick Sukiyaki Western Django. Even when played at ridiculously loud levels, the hoof beats and dynamite explosions in this Western/samurai mashup didn't show any sign of hardness or distortion. Dialogue also had excellent clarity with the 1400-8 plugged in - even if it was just the shouts and screams punctuating the many gunfights that erupt for almost no reason at all during the course of this movie.
At almost $4,000, Axiom's A1400-8 costs neither all that much more nor all that much less than many other multichannel amps offering equivalent per-channel power. What differentiates it from the others is its ability to multitask, balancing the complex needs of movie soundtracks and multichannel music by unleashing ample juice to the channel or channels that require it on an instantaneous basis. We always want what we can't have. But with the A1400-8 plugged into a typical home theater system, I can't imagine anyone ever really wanting more power.
Copyright © 2013 Bonnier Corp. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.