Surround Sound Speaker Systems

Paradigm Millenia 20 Hybrid In-Wall speakers

ARTICLE INDEX

Setup

This review started a little differently for me in that I went to pick up the speakers instead of waiting for the UPS guy. The benefit of this arrangement was that I (along with fellow Secrets writer Andrew Yang) had the opportunity for a tour of the Paradigm/Anthem factory. I won't go into detail on the tour itself as the facility has been well covered previously by Colin Miller and Brian Florian.

Tour in 2005

Tour in 2001

Also, observations from Andrew on the tour can be found on the Secrets CAVE site: http://cave.hometheaterhifi.com/group/speakers/forum/topics/paradigm-factory-tour

Suffice it to say it was quite impressive with R&D, design, full manufacturing and testing all under one roof. My ears still twinge at the memory of the anechoic chamber, I apparently do not cope well with an environment with near zero reflected sound.

Having completed the tour and picked up the LCR test units along with the Paradigm recommended matching components of two Millenia ADP di-pole surrounds ($599 / speaker MSRP) , a SUB12 ($1999) and an Anthem MCA50 amp ($1999) to power everything I headed home to start the install.

To make a long story short the room I thought I would use or more specifically the wall I wanted to use was otherwise occupied by an unexpected air return duct. Why they routed it there I have no idea but there are two lessons here. First you never really know what's behind your walls until you open them up and second, if you are thinking of in wall speakers make darn sure you have a good place to install them first. That being said there was a suitable substitute room available at my brother's house and he was more than happy to take the speakers off my hands for installation at his place.

Paradigm Millenia 20 Hybrid In Wall speakers

The Millenia Hybrids come with a helpful cutout template right in the box. I used these templates quite liberally to assess potential speaker positions and for determining visual appeal. This is a highly recommended step as what you think might look good in terms of placement often doesn't quite measure up and moving a template around takes a lot less effort than cutting and patching drywall repeatedly. Another item to stay aware of is the location of your wall studs before you start positioning and cutting.

Paradigm Millenia 20 Hybrid In Wall speakers

One final major decision is the vertical location of the center speaker relative to the screen. For practical reasons and due to the placement of the screen itself relative to the seating position we elected to place the center speaker over the screen. Placing the speaker below the screen would just have been too low and I hoped the directionality drawbacks of placing the centre speaker above the screen would not be too severe.

Paradigm Millenia 20 Hybrid In Wall speakers

After a final blessing from the aesthetic coordinator (aka my sister in law) the fun part began cutting into walls. Being a little more certain what was in the wall this time we were still dreading the surprise factor you get any time you open up a wall. Luckily there were next to no surprises and the template cutouts went very smoothly. The one issue we did encounter leads to another recommendation: make sure you look on both sides of the wall you are mounting the speakers onto. We realized after cutting the opening for the right channel that there was a light switch behind it. These speakers take up every bit of room front to back in a standard 2*4 wall so we had to relocate the switch.

Paradigm Millenia 20 Hybrid In Wall speakers

Another item that could be an issue in some installations is that the Millenia 20 Hybrids are 23.5 inches long. This means that installing the center channel requires cutting a stud no matter how you position it. The Millenia 10's are shorter but unless you get lucky this may still be required. The manual recommends professional installation in this case and you should really frame a box around the speaker to transfer the load around your cutout and speaker.

Paradigm Millenia 20 Hybrid In Wall speakers

However this is difficult in pre-existing construction without opening up a LOT more wall. So we cut this step as we knew the wall was not load bearing. Here another benefit of positioning the centre speaker above the flat panel became evident. The weight of the screen and its mount were not going to be hanging on the stud we had to cut. Having the 3 cutouts open at the same time made threading the speaker cables in wall a snap. You could reach across to each stud and pull through the wires.

With the speakers wired up now came the moment of truth, would they fit and how well would the GRIP system work? Very well as it turns out. The first two speakers slid into place with no problems. Just loosen the clamps and slide one end into the wall then the other, center the speaker and tighten the screws

Paradigm Millenia 20 Hybrid In Wall speakers

The third speaker just would not fit. I thought we must have cut wrong but how do you cut incorrectly from a template? It turns out the speaker's grips are different from one end to the other. One side is longer than the other and this is the side that needs to be put in first. We had lucked out on the first two without noticing this. Once the long grip is in place the unit slides in fine with clearance for the shorter clamp.

Paradigm Millenia 20 Hybrid In Wall speakers

The grips clamp the drywall surface itself so there are no mounting brackets or tie ins to the studs to worry about and this really does make it a simple installation. Once in place they speakers hide any rough edges you may have left during your wall opening process so there is no further cleanup and repainting required either. Extended play testing and playing at reference level has shown no signs of slippage in this system so it looks like Paradigm has a design success.

Paradigm Millenia 20 Hybrid In Wall speakers
Paradigm Millenia 20 Hybrid In Wall speakers

The speakers were all connected to the Anthem MCA50 amp via 12ga Belden 5T00UP cables with a Yamaha receiver acting as preamp. All source material was driven by an Oppo BDP-83 over HDMI or lossless files via a digital connection from a Home Theater PC. Unless noted all listening was done in a direct mode with further equalization or sound processing (other than bass management) turned off.