Surround Sound Speaker Systems

Paradigm Millenia 20 Hybrid In-Wall speakers

ARTICLE INDEX

In Use

Since this system is designed more as a TV or movie listening environment than for 2 channel music I had intended to only spend a brief amount of time listening to music and to use a few revealing tracks to run the speakers through their paces before throwing the movies at them. This was not necessarily going to be the case. After calibrating levels and setting positions for delay in the receiver it was time to start listening.

Music

Paradigm Millenia 20 Hybrid In Wall speakers

Ladysmith Black Mambazo SACD - Raise Your Spirit Higher

Ever since first hearing them with Paul Simon on his Graceland album this group has been a favorite. A capella vocals but with complex sounds and intonations outside of the standard Western languages gives great opportunity to hear any weakness or variations in the midrange.

I was immediately impressed not so much by the speakers but by the MCA50 amp. The noise floor combination of the SACD and the amp was so low that I was nearly startled out of my chair when I Don't waste his time began. Being a smaller speaker I had assumed there had been some design tradeoffs that might limit the range and response on the speakers but there was nothing lacking through the full range of vocals. The benefits of not only matched components but identical speakers across left, center and right channels became immediately apparent. There was perfect balance and almost identical timbre across the front channels something I normally only get with extensive EQ fiddling if at all even with matched components and receiver Auto-EQ. After fiddling with the Yamaha's Auto-EQ for a while I found it to flatten and deaden the sound more than I liked without other noticeable improvements so for most of the listening I left it off.

The 5.1 track was awesome but I was trying to concentrate on the character of the Millenias Hybrids specifically so to take the surround aspect out of the equation I went back to the 2 channel mix. Here the need for the sub became apparent. In a straight 2.0 speaker configuration even when sending full range sound to the Millenias the lowest end of the male vocals was flat. Adding the sub and bass management back in for a 2.1 config resolved this issue and the transition from the SUB12 to the Millenias was surprisingly well balanced after very little adjustment. The specs state a -2db at 110Hz and a DIN typical in room performance of -3db at 75Hz but after some experimentation I had crossed the speakers over a little higher than normal at 100Hz and found this to be a good match.

Paradigm Millenia 20 Hybrid In Wall speakers

Dire Straits Brothers In Arms SACD

The steel guitar stood out beautifully and came in clean and clear on so far away and running through the tracks I stopped listening critically and just started enjoying listening. The speakers were neutral enough in character and response that I could simply enjoy the music. I found the treble on the high-hat to be, if anything - a little soft as it was very smooth but it did not draw untoward attention to itself through a lack of crispness leaving the music as a whole still feeling detailed and open.

Listening to Stings' background vocals on Money for Nothing the imaging and soundstage was so good I literally had to open my eyes and check the receiver to make sure the 5.1 mix wasn't on. It wasn't. Even in 2.1 mode these speakers were delivering. I had to laugh 10 minutes later when my brother came in for a listen and said go back to the 2 channel mix for a sec. My response: I am in the 2 channel mix

Movies

With Movie and TV content I found the high crossover point for the sub resulted in a bit more directionality to the bass than I was used to as my home system is mostly crossed over at 60Hz. Again having identical speakers across LCR proved a benefit as sound and dialogue transition across the front soundstage was seamless. The Millenia ADP surrounds were also a very smooth and great sonic match for the Millenia Hybrids and front to surround effects and transitions were clean. The center speaker being mounted above the TV was occasionally noticeable during quiet dialogue scenes and could have benefited from a little down tilt to bring the dialogue from overhead to directly at you. Neither the mounting system or the speakers themselves have a built-in way to provide a downtilt (center) or toe in (L/R) but adding a spacer to one side of the mount may give you a few degrees of tilt you won't get a lot of tilt though as the body of the speaker in the wall itself will limit any tilt. The lack of any toe in capability on the L/R speakers was not noticeable from the primary listening position and off axis response was reasonable if not as wide as my freestanding tower speakers in my home theater.

Paradigm Millenia 20 Hybrid In Wall speakers

LOTR- The Two Towers

I found the soundstage somewhat narrow during the helm's deep battle scenes in surround for this movie which was a surprise after the Dire Straits 2 channel experience. Dialogue was again clear and clean while still being well detailed. The damn bursting and Ent footsteps were handled well by the SUB12 without drawing too much attention to itself. Here the dynamic range of the Hybrids showed through as well. Transitions from battle scenes to quiet even at reference levels were handled cleanly and the character of the speakers did not seem to vary significantly across the range. Again the speakers did not call attention to themselves. Somewhat surprisingly to me given the simplicity of the attachment system the speakers (and walls) showed no rattles during the heavy bass sequences. It will be interesting to see how the Grip system holds up (and holds on) to the drywall over time.

Paradigm Millenia 20 Hybrid In Wall speakers

The Fifth Element

Still probably my favorite space opera (literally), I was happy to get this one remastered on Bluray and eager to try it out. Without getting into a review of the transfer itself I was actually a little disappointed. The background noise level on this transfer needs some cleaning up something my earlier audio listening clearly showed was not coming form the source components or speaker and amp setup. The Diva was still able to send a chill down my spine and the interspersed action sequences and dialogue were solid.