Surround Sound Speaker Systems
- Written by Cory Potts
- Published on 07 April 2011
The first thing that strikes me about this system is this: nothing . . . at least not at first. In true Paradigm fashion these speakers, generally speaking, are fairly neutrally voiced with a smooth sound, though-laid back, that is very reminiscent of my own larger Studio 20s. I'd first like to comment on using these without a sub…please don't. Though they are rated down to the range where you might think you can get away running them full-range with no sub, you'll miss the very bottom end and the speaker itself will sound a little strained and edgy and you will basically miss everything the Paradigm engineers strived to create when they invented this little speaker. Second, it might be counter to what one may think but these babies crave power.
I initially ran the system in DPL IIx which employs all 5 speakers in the system but when critically listening to acoustic and solo vocal efforts I switched my Denon receiver to 2 channel stereo + sub mode which gives a significant increase to the front two speakers by cutting the power to the other 3. This extra amount of power really made the stereo pair sound dynamic, with much better clarity, detail and, ironically a phantom center that was much more expressive than when the center had actually been playing.
I think this system would benefit from a separate 5 channel amp pushing at least 125 watts continuous with all channels driven (and 150 would be even better). This speaker system really grew on me. I'm not sure how much of this is due to break in and how much is due to it being a really easy-listening natural-sounding speaker that does very little wrong and will really wake up when you want it to. On the other hand, after we put our twins to bed it also did an excellent job with low-level listening and allowing us to hear dialogue without blaring loud intermediates.
On the Telarc CD, Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, the cannon shots were conveyed very nicely, and I was surprised by the Millenia's ability to recreate the concussion associated with the artillery rounds (again due almost completely to the great little sub) . By comparison, my own speakers definitely reached a little deeper when running full range, but I can assure you that neither my Studio 20's nor the Millenia have any business running full range on the 1812 Overture or on any action movie soundtrack. The speakers were more alike than different when crossing both over to a sub.
Norah Jones' Come Away with Me proved that these speakers really shine on piano and breathy female vocals. On "One Flight Down" the Paradigm displayed great layering of her vocals and piano keys being pressed with great pacing. On the "Painter Song," they again showed off their ability to effortlessly reproduce vocals and acoustic guitar (and piano) with aplomb. The speakers and sub integrated remarkably well with almost any material I threw at it. I did notice in switching off the sub that it is very necessary in order to reproduce all frequencies.
On The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in the "The Bridge Of Khazad Dum" scene where the party is fleeing the Balrog, the orcs screaming and drum beats are lifelife and visceral. When the cavern begins to collapse and the bridge falls into the chasm the low frequency effects from the MilleniaSub were not for the faint of heart (I felt like the sub was trying to suck the air out of my lungs). Later, when the party forces itself onward toward Lothlórien, a real sense of loss was conveyed through the Paradigms at the loss of the party's leader.
The Millenia's sound is very natural, laid-back yet realistic in the true spirit of Paradigm speakers. My family puts the 2 yr old twins to bed before watching TV and my wife can attest that there were numerous times where a baby crying in the background of a TV sitcom had us both sitting forward on the couch proving my theory that "the better a speaker is, the dumber it will make you look." (think door bells, honking horns, thunder, etc.)
The main difference in the Studio 20's and the Millenia system is that the Studio speakers throw a little bit deeper soundstage, which is their calling card and probably due to the larger enclosures. I also noticed a little bit more laid back feel to the Millenia's top end (and the Studio 20s are already fairly laid back). The Millenia, on the other hand, integrates into setups that the Studio 20s could only dream about at roughly four times the size. I urge anyone considering this system not to forego the surrounds or excellent sub as this will greatly diminish the effectiveness of this system to cover the frequency range with an adequate amount of volume and takes away from the magic that comes from this mighty little system.
The value proposition is usually where high end speakers begin to come apart, but not Paradigm. Understand that in the realm of high end speakers it is a common occurrence to have to ante up twice (thrice?) as much money for a negligible difference. Compare these to any similar sized satellite speakers at the local big box store and I will be blown away if you can find anything that comes remotely close to this speaker for the money.