Bookshelf Speakers

Paradigm MilleniaOne CT Modular Speakers with Subwoofer


The Paradigm MilleniaOne CT In Use

Some Practical Considerations

There is clearly a juggling act here in terms of high fidelity vs. simplicity and usability. As I mentioned at the onset, from opening the box to hearing audio from our HD cable box was 20 minutes. But what about setting the subwoofer (bass module) level? In due course I of course dug out my Yamaha 5-Disc changer (dating myself here), dusted off my Delos Surround Spectacular CD and used it to get things into alignment.

Ok, the lion's share of the target market may not be enthralled with the idea of test noise and SPL meters, but without that time honored procedure we can scarcely claim "high fidelity". Sure one is free to play with the setting, yet just as there exists a sacred relationship between woofer and tweeter in even the most basic speaker design, so too is there a correct balance between satellite and sub. Could Paradigm have helped? Possibly. A button on the back which engages some ear-friendly test noise maybe? An iPhone app perhaps? I gather there is already a half decent facsimile of an SLP meter on the AppStore.

The gear head in me had trouble getting past the fact that there is nothing, NOTHING on the I/O box except for the single blue LED. No buttons. Nothing. On the one hand you don't really need to know which input is active, partly because there are only two, but moreover the box intelligently will switch itself if it senses signal from one and not the other (slick!). On the other hand it might have been nice to have a small display on the front of the i/o box, even if just a two digit LED, to indicate volume level.

The remote itself is remarkable only in its diminutive appearance, something which may or may not hold appeal to a given user. My wife felt it was too small (tended to get lost) and we both found that the buttons were a little mushy and not very positive in their engagement (just turning it on often required a couple presses).

While Paradigm does have an excellent service reputation, and as such a replacement remote should never be difficult to source, it's a little disconcerting that you cannot even turn the thing on let alone adjust the volume should you drop, break, or loose that precious sliver of a control piece. If you have a programmable remote, teach it the Paradigm codes!

In terms of power consumption I'm pleased to report that Paradigm is finally on board: <1 watt when "off" is as good as we can ask for, and as we expect from Class D amps, 19 watts when on/idle is acceptably low.

The Sound

For the bulk of my evaluation I had the MilleniaOne CT in the very environment it was specifically designed for: A typical living room with a flat screen sitting in it.

It's no stretch to say that in terms of audio presentation, the MilleniaOne CT will likely be a religious experience for someone who's idea of good sound up until this point has been an iPod stuck in a bedside dock, but at the same time we are not expecting the same sort of thing a Paradigm Reference, Anthem AVM, and PVA combo are going to deliver. Still, even as a hardened audiophile I have to say I was thrilled to hear high fidelity from an integrated solution such as this.

Past-held prejudices began to melt. My wife's initial reaction, with a smile on her face: "Will you have to give these back?" She never asks that. Before we go on though, we should talk about Paradigm DSP.

Crossover and volume control are of course in the digital domain, but more interestingly so are equalization, dynamic range control, and a special dynamic loudness function.

It's like pulling teeth to get a manufacturer to divulge exactly what they are doing in situations like this, but a learned distilling of marketing suggests that they've applied some sort of fixed filter to smooth the sub's response and/or extend it as much as is reasonably possible. A lot of subs, even some high end ones, do this.

Like the Shift A2 I previously reviewed, Paradigm's main effort here is to leverage DSP to dynamically limit output to within the empirical limits of the actual motors and amplifiers: At nominal output dynamic range is more or less untouched, at elevated output it will be compressed, strategically within the frequency spectrum such that one can be "irresponsible" with the volume control without actually damaging the hardware... the audio however will suffer in terms of dynamics and to a lesser extent balance but better that than the destruction of your investment by an overzealous finger on the volume.

The loudness function is perhaps the most interesting of all Paradigms manipulations. Some of you may recall the days when receivers had a "loudness" feature either as a fixed on/off or as a variable adjusted with a knob. In oversimplified terms, what such a feature does is apply the "smiley face" EQ curve to the signal (boost both the base and the treble) to counter our hearing's diminished reception of those frequencies at overall lower playback levels.

In the MilleniaOne CT Paradigm has implemented a loudness function which automatically slews with volume level: more at lower listening levels, less or none at elevated playback levels. In practice this makes for a somewhat abnormally "full" sound when watching something like the evening news but also a subjectively very pleasing presentation when low level music is piped through. Its categorically not "pure" but that boat sailed as soon as the phrase DSP was uttered so we might as well make the most of it.

On the whole the MilleniaOne CT pleases with a big sound which bellies its slight presence, and that's pretty much the point. Natural, if a tab laid back, and full are thoughts which repeatedly came to mind when contemplating the ensemble. I couldn't in fairness say the bass was particularly robust but it was most certainly present, comparable to what one can expect from a decent pair of 2-way 6 inchers, which is to say loud enough and deep enough to satisfy, but not the sort of novelty one gets from something like my incumbent bar fridge of a sub with its dual 12-inchers.

With the decidedly high 120Hz splice between the sub and speakers, placement of the bass transducer is not quite a free for all as it really needs to be in relative proximity to the soundstage else it starts to groan "I'm over HERE…". In our setup with the bass box in very close proximity to the speakers we experience a seamless splices in the spatial domain, though a slight suck-out was noted, but in fairness that may well have been attributed to the room's acoustics. At modest output the sub is good down to a solid 30Hz and then drops off rapidly. That about as good as my first sub 15 years ago which cost almost as much as this entire ensemble!

So much of the final performance in pieces like this are attributable to the implementation of the Class D amplification. Paradigm's science in this respect continues to mature and improve with crisp, yet not brittle treble and a neutral, believable, and wholly unfettered midrange. Testament to this perhaps is that at some point after installation, our cat became a fan of Nature on PBS: When he hears the birds courtesy MilleniaONE CT, coupled with HD video, we've been much amused to see him intently watch, and on occasion lunge, at the screen!

Mid volume music listening was pleasant, articulate, which is pretty good considering any speaker is going to be challenged when placed adjacent to a big flat screen in the acoustic nightmare which is the typical living room. Compression was only noted at particularly elevated playback, characterized as a shallowed bass and mushy treble, but this is somewhat academic: if you crank it so that music can be heard in the backyard, who in the backyard really cares if it's a little soupy?