Bookshelf Speakers

Paradigm MilleniaOne CT Modular Speakers with Subwoofer


The Design of the Paradigm MilleniaOne CT

Putting the C in "Compact"

"Compact Theater" is where the CT comes from in the model name, and more apt an adjective they could not have chosen. The system comes in just one box, complete with suitcase style handle, almost magically small considering the contents: A pair of very small yet high end satellite speakers and a subwoofer with not just power for itself, but the satellites as well. An "I/O" box, a credit card sized remote, and all required cabling rounds out the ensemble. Some assembly required, but not much: from opening the box to hearing sound it took me less than 20 minutes (sans tidying up).

While this is a new product, much of the technology is quite mature. The satellites are in fact the MilleniaOne from the Paradigm Reference lineup. Extensively reviewed and munch lauded, they are a statement in preserving accurate audio reproduction in as small an enclosure as possible (without deep bass of course). The steel grills I particularly appreciate, perhaps because we have a cat with a penchant for cloth grills. They are removable, held in place by magnets, and thus present a very clean look if omitted.

The heart of the design is the cast aluminum enclosure, something which would be entirely impractical for any conventional sized speaker, but in this format it permits the walls of the enclosure to be quite thin compared to traditional wood derived materials, thus maximizing internal volume relative to external dimensions. The basic design is that of a bass reflex with a tuned tubed bent 90deg to squeeze it in.

I find it an unusual choice for a speaker which by definition requires splicing with a subwoofer, something which always works better with sealed alignments, but we'll see how Paradigm's crossover works in this respect later. The rest of the satellites' internals are of course the usual litany of quality materials and manufacturing we have come to expect from Paradigm. Love 'em or hate 'em, metal domes and cones are here to stay in speaker design and while I was not enamoured with even Paradigm's early efforts over a decade ago, things have of course improved.

Even these diminutive speakers feature Paradigm Reference's aluminum tweeter and midrange, the former sporting a "heat sink" beryllium magnet, the later a traditional but rather generous doughnut. The simple and traditional crossover yields a nominal 8 ohm load.

The unique cabinets is where some of that "assembly" required comes in to play in that they cannot stand on their own and must be fastened either to the included heavy metal table-top stands or wall mount brackets. The attachment point is articulated which permits one to set a tilt on the speaker and until the nut is tightened down the assembly is a clumsy handful.

The speaker connections are something of a contention: Paradigm boasts gold plating but they are in fact basic spring clips, which wouldn't be of concern if you could easily thread the speaker wire into them. Because they are recessed for the sake of wall mounting it's something of an exercise in dexterity to get a bit of bare stranded wire in there without it splaying on you, and of course terminated speaker wires are out of the question (though I concede the likelihood of someone replacing the supplied lamp cord is slim).

While the speakers are part of Paradigm's off-continent manufactured portfolio, the "subwoofer/amp" is still made in Canada. The unit can certainly be described as unique in appearance, casting aside all preconceived notions about subwoofers being a box (big or small). The oblong dimensions permit placement in some unconventional places, such as the somewhat cliché "under the couch". For such horizontal placement rubber half spheres are provided. For a vertical position a plastic cradle is supplied.

The un-grilled driver is all Paradigm with its corrugated surround following the silhouette of the cabinet. To give some perspective to the unusual shape, its surface area is just about equal to a single 7.25" conventional cone, so in truth this is a very small "subwoofer", more of a "bass module" really. As a sealed alignment one might think it is starved on internal volume, as thin as the aluminum walls of the enclosure are, but we'll see in due course how Paradigm has addressed that in the realm of DSP.

At the back are terminals for the left/right speaker connections (same as on the speakers themselves), power cord receptacle, bass (gain) knob, and connection for the I/O box (more on this last in a moment).

In terms of amplification Paradigm employs four single ended 100W (4ohm) Class D amps, one each for the Left and Right channels, and a pair bridged for the sub. The literature responsibly quotes only half that, "2x50" for the left/right speakers and "100" for the sub, because the speakers are 8ohms nominal, the sub 12ohm. Mathematically one might attribute a little more for the sub but it is purposely limited to 100W we are told in order to reserve some headroom for the limiters. Anecdotally this is a decent bit of juice given that it is continuous and can swing current into to the impedance dips of its loads.

The "I/O" box, for which Paradigm minces no words about its resemblance to the Apple TV, acts as the interface with the rest of the system, including the human in that it houses the remote receiver. On the back, in addition to the requisite umbilical connection to the sub/amp, are an optical digital input plus a 3.5mm stereo analogue input (basic patch cords for both are provided…they've really covered everything).

On the front there is nothing beyond the Paradigm name save for a single blue light to indicate power and, when flashing, IR signal reception. Inside, the box houses a microcontroller for IR reception/LED function, and a single-ended to differential drive conversion for both inputs which facilitates a long umbilical without picking up or radiating excess noise. The optical/digital input supports 2 channel PCM up to 20bit/48kHz, and Dolby Digital/AC3 up to 5.1 (downmixed to 2.1 of course).

The last piece of hardware is the minimalist remote with power, input select, mute, and volume control.

All in all it's a nice bit of kit. Simple. Small. But how does it perform?