Surround Sound Speaker Systems
- Written by Brian Florian
- Published on 09 February 2012
The Paradigm Monitor 7 Series Speakers In Use
When I first received the Mini Monitors ahead of the other pieces, I dropped them into my system as a stereo pair and was floored. This is Paradigm's entry level 6-incher?!? Then the rest of the set arrived and things really started cooking.
On the whole Paradigm has over the years earned a reputation for a sound which can be a little aggressive at the top end of the treble, though in my experience this comes more from the preponderance of acoustically overly bright rooms in most homes. Here though I found little trace of superfluous spice, just super clear, articulate, and accurate treble. Even some notoriously bright tracks were highly listenable at elevated levels.
The critical midrange was well served by the Mini Monitors as a stereo pair, testament to their mid-bass driver's upper end and the speaker's crossover implementation. The Center 1 bested them though, as well it should with its dedicated midrange, delivering dialogue of even some challenging dated movie mixes with surprising intelligibility. In a way this comes at a price in that poor tracks are truly exposed for what they are but while lesser speakers simply blur everything, the Center 1 is your best chance at making the most of whatever you throw at it. With modern, responsibly mixed track, or even the most complex, crowded ones, the Center 1 not only keeps up, but veritably and almost single handedly, sells you on whole thing! Although you could run the Center 1 full-range and probably do it no harm, its response is ideally suited to being high passed somewhere around 80Hz. Doing so, coupled with its decent efficiency, will ensure plenty of headroom.
Interestingly, after trying the Mini Monitors on their own, I elected for the bulk of the review period to do without my subwoofer. The Mini's have what can only be described as remarkable bass for their enclosure and price. I've heard other speakers this size with comparable bass, but they were at least twice the price. It will of course come down to acoustics, but in my dedicated home theater useable bass was dipping into the high 30s, and seemed unfettered by elevated output levels. While they cannot possibly deliver the same concussive deep bass only hundreds of cubic inches of displaced air can, they admirably reproduced the double bass of modern jazz recordings and cleanly, if perhaps reservedly, handle the rumblings of contemporary action movie mixes.
Surrounds are speakers which over the years have gotten an ill deserved outlook as being less critical. "Any speaker will do" is the bad advice I often overhear being given out. Since my earliest toyings with surround sound I have been a vocal advocate of dipole speakers for the surround (or rear) channels, and Paradigm has always been on-side with me on this one. Surround sound is a very delicate trick we play on our mind/ear. The artists who weave these tracks do so in dubbing stages and studios whoís surround hardware exhibit a very wide, diffuse sound, most commonly through an array of speakers. It does the track a disservice to pipe it through a single conventional speaker such that it calls undue attention to itself and pinpoints something which was meant to be broad. Forgive me for the preceding sidetrack but it was necessary to put into perspective my enthusiasm for the Surround1. I set them as if they were the main left/right (with the nulls pointed at me) and listened to some stereo music. What I heard was crisp, articulate sound, still with a semblance of positioning but extremely broad. This is exactly what we want! Placed where they belong, Paradigm's dipole surrounds emulate the sort of sound emitted by an array of surround speakers and do so with excellent fidelity. You still get a sense of localization, but instead of it being right there, its more somewhere over there, as it should be. From delicate ambiance to full soundstage press, Iím hard pressed to fault the Surround 1s in any way. It might sound cool the first few times to hear overly localized effects, but thatís a novelty, not high fidelity. The more subtle soundfield of the Surround 1s is simply, dare I say it, "correct". As it typical with dipole speakers the Surround 1s are not exactly efficient and have little bass, both of which are somewhat inconsequential but its worth mentioning they really should never be high passed at less than 80Hz.