Kuddels Gradient Axis 85
Once I had built the Ax-6 HR, I wanted to bring another project to life with the new gradient chassis. The main reason was not just the fun of building it, but also my passion for wide-range speakers. They had always worked really well with my EL34 amp.
Unfortunately, the construction process took a long time because of various other deadlines. I also wanted the boxes to be visually appealing and very low-resonance. Well, all of that just takes a while. I had changed Udo’s assembly plans a little bit: I wanted to skip the hollow stands, so I had to make the cabinet a little bigger (2 cm higher) in order to get at least 25 liters of net volume for the bass. I also wanted to have a reflex channel, which is 15 cm long and about 1.6 cm tall.
First I built the interior...
and than I attached the two sides and the back. Once the cabinets were closed, it was easy to carve out the reflex channel with a trimming cutter.
In order to make the boxes as non-resonant and stable as possible, I added 4-mm multiplex veneer to the lid, floor and sides; I also used wood nails all the way around the front and rear walls. Another benefit is that the MDF boards can no longer (visibly) slide underneath the actual veneer. Finally, I covered the raw cabinet in ash veneer.
As always, that was followed by sanding, waxing, sanding, waxing, polishing… and assembly. After carefully listening to the boxes with my transistor and tube and trying out all the various crossover configurations, my finding was: like the Axis-6, these loudspeakers (in my opinion) prefer the EL34. The TransAmp works really well too, but I think the tube creates a more harmonious soundscape. That could also be because the Axis 85 is very dynamic. The wide-range speaker in particular builds up a good head of steam, so I only used one resistor for the wiring. I also preferred the option with two capacitors before the wide-range speaker. If you think the wide-range speaker is too loud, you can also calm it down by adding a small resistor before it. As always, it’s a matter of preference.
In any case, one thing is clear: these Blabs have a huge amount of wide-range charm. In contrast to the Axis-6, the #85s offer a slightly stronger bass and a little more pressure. Overall, they create a very holographic, clearly defined sound. The small wide-range speaker is completely free from attitude and distortion, even though the measurement diagrams might indicate otherwise. Once again, I relied on the reviews, and it works! The bass is sonorous and has a lot of quality. One more thing about the deep range: in the beginning, I wasn’t happy with it at all. What happened? I had stuffed too much insulation into the boxes, and some of the wool had made its way into the opening of the reflex channel. Problem solved – great bass!
In a hi-fi forum, I described the parts as a “monitor.” If you define the term “monitor” as something with precise and exact sound reproduction, then that certainly applies to this speaker. In addition, it has a nice base tone with a lot of atmosphere.
Because I have now built three Loudspeakerbuilding.com loudspeakers – the SB 18, AX-6 HR and the Axis 85 – I was asked in the abovementioned hi-fi forum if I could compare the three. Here is my evaluation:
The Axis-6 is certainly the more impressive speaker – it’s big and crazy. I like it because it takes off like a rocket and still remains clean and relatively neutral. The downside: these things are large and heavy. At some point, my back called it quits, but that was also because my design was very elaborate (veneers). If you avoid the extra work and expense, this concept is a good, cheap option.
The SB18 is a real gem. It has the personality of a hi-fi speaker, but a great one. We compared it with various industry products, which cost several times as much and in my opinion are not any better… Afterward, Volker from Lübeck built the SB36 and loved it. The SB chassis elements are really great.
The Axis 85 falls somewhere in the middle: holographic wide-range sound with a sonorous 2-way bass. These parts are relatively cheap to build, and (unlike the SB18) they practically play at the “Blues” level, in my opinion.
Well, a ranking list is always one of those things. It depends strongly on your personal preferences and moods. Let me try anyway, though. If I want to listen to “normal” music, in other words while I’m reading or something, then I think the SB18 is the better choice. But even then I’m always looking up and thinking to myself, “Man, this box is good!” In those situations, I would be playing jazz or something calm (otherwise I wouldn’t be able to read, either!).
But if I want to launch the rocket and listen to something louder, then the Axis comes into play. I think the sound of the Axis-85 is a little different from the Axis-6, although the #6 isn’t any “worse” – just more direct. Sometimes there’s no alternative.
... and that’s why rankings are so problematic! The SB18 definitely has better resolution overall, but there are some things that the “Blab” does a little better.
Anyway, thanks again to the loud speaker buildig team for developing this product and for your super support!!
Best wishes, Kuddel