Q I'm buying a new home-theater system and need wall-mounted bookshelf speakers due to room configuration. You've written highly of the Polk Audio LSi9 and Axiom Audio M22 speakers. Are there significant differences?

A Both are great choices, but there are significant differences between them.

The Polk LSi9 speakers (www.polkaudio.com) are big, heavy and finely crafted with real wood side panels. They are rated at 4 ohms and as such require a powerful receiver. With proper amplification the sound is sublime, with a rich tonal palette rendered with lots of detail and perfect balance.

The LSi9 was recently discontinued and replaced by a new, higher-end model that I have yet to review, the LSiM speakers, which sell for $1,500 a pair. You can now find the LSi9 on clearance for $699 a pair (originally $999 a pair).

That's a good deal, but if you're building a whole surround system, the matching LSiFX surrounds and LSiC center channel are $999 and $559, respectively. That puts you at about $2,300 before you have purchased a subwoofer and a beefy $1,000-plus receiver to drive the five 4-ohm speakers.

If you're willing to spend the money, I'm sure you will be thrilled. But to get the sound they're capable of will require an expensive receiver and substantial wall mounts to support the LSi9's weight of 33 pounds each. (Given their weight, I usually recommend stands instead of wall mounts.)

The Axiom Audio M22 speakers (www.axiomaudio.com), which are $498 a pair, are now in their third version, M22v3. I recently tested its smaller stablemate, the M3v3.

Axiom speakers have always been extremely transparent, dynamic and detailed, bringing out sounds you never knew existed in your recordings. The tremendous clarity has led some to comment that Axioms can sound bright. The new v3 models preserve Axiom's best qualities while adding even more detail to smoother sound, along with a touch of warmth, which should end complaints about brightness.

At 8 ohms, they are easy to drive with even a modest receiver, and the Axiom QS4 surround speakers are among the best designed speakers of their kind.

You can get an entire Axiom M22v3 home theater system with a powered subwoofer for as little as $1,839, delivered. They can be customized in many different simulated and real wood finishes and a variety of grilles, which make them easy to match to any decor.

Polk or Axiom -- you won't go wrong either way.

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