Single Speaker with Stereo L/R inputs and Three Drivers:
Two 1" Tweeters, One 6.5" Mid/Bass
Sensitivity Outdoors: 89 dB
Impedance: 8 ohms in stereo
MSRP: $249 USA
Ah, summertime! Around my house
it means gardening, BBQ, a pool if we had one, and high fidelity – well at
least it does for me. And I'm assuming if you're reading this review, high
fidelity plays a pretty important part of your life too . . . indoor and outdoor.
Speaking of music, why should we compromise sound quality just because we're
outdoors? Outdoor speakers aren't new and neither are the rock-simulated
units more and more manufacturers are designing and building. Paradigm, yep,
even Paradigm is no exception.
Returning from a week's vacation this summer, I was surprised by a pair of
boxes (alright I knew they were coming) on my porch from the good people up
north. As it was early in the afternoon on a sunny Sunday, I had those
boulders unpacked and placed where I thought I could take best advantage of
them for my whole yard; more on that later.
Needless to say, I did forgo unpacking my suitcase to play with the Monitor
60-SMs from Paradigm. Obviously setting up speakers on your back deck or
patio requires running hidden wires from some source component in the house,
snaking their way through crawlspaces or in eaves, and ultimately outdoors
underground, through shrubs, under lawns, well you get the picture.
Not me. I
was anxious so I simply brought out my receiver and CD player and hoped
the extension cord was long enough.
Minutes later I was listening to glorious music outdoors! No research, no
homework on Paradigm's rocks, just right to the meat – music! But before I
give you the juicy details, let's get some of the business about these speakers
out of the way.
Alright I admit it – speakers that look like big rocks wouldn't necessarily
turn me on. I do realize as more and more people really jazz up their yards
with landscaping, I could understand a need to hide or blend in appliances,
speakers are no exception.
The Monitor SM comes in a few color options; mine
are called "Northeastern Granite". Other colors available are "Western
Sandstone" and "Fieldstone".
The Rock is a completely sealed unit; Paradigm refers to it as PolyGlass™ Enclosure.
Other than the stainless steel grille slightly exposing the drivers beneath,
the SM comes with a security spike to discourage theft and prevents others
from moving it to different locations.
The unit stands a bit over 12" high and about an 11" square footprint. It
also weighs about 12 pounds. All told, it gives you 8 liter or 0.3 ft3 of
internal volume in round numbers. It's also designed to self-drain.
Paradigm recommends a maximum of 70 watts of power if you're running the SM in mono
and 35 wpc in stereo - which means a 50 wpc receiver is sufficient to drive
the unit, also considering the specified sensitivity of 89 dB outdoors.
Expect a frequency response from 66 Hz – 20 kHz if you're on axis and a bit
less off the top end if you're off-axis.
Uniquely, each rock speaker can output in stereo or mono. Cleverly, Paradigm
realizes that yards can get quite asymmetrical large, and although multiple
locations are possible and encouraged, getting good imaging isn't always
possible. Stereo from each unit then is an excellent alternative. Ideally,
however, the SM can be wired around a patio for example, with a stereo pair,
which I did.
As a sealed unit it's quite difficult to have a good look at the unique
driver array in the SM. Since the review took longer than anticipated, I was
able to see the driver "out of the box" as it were, while attending CEDIA in
Essentially, there are three drivers – a single 6 ½" mid/bass
polypropylene cone driver on a die-cast chassis, and then, attached to the chassis is
a pair of 1" PTD™ Pure-Titanium Dome tweeters. Paradigm's concern for
outdoor placement and therefore dispersion, the tweeters are offset at a 300 angle.
The mid/bass driver has dual voice coils, one for each channel.
We concentrate outdoor living around our patio, which measures about 12 ft by
20 ft. I placed a unit on either side of the patio about 16 ft apart and
wired the units for stereo. What's nice about this placement is that I can
spin the unit if I wanted to direct the sound towards the rear yard (we have
a yard about 80 feet deep). I suppose a second pair back there might work
better, perhaps even in a second zone. I also didn't want to place the units
anywhere near the house, fearing an echo-effect or perhaps a bass boost.
Whether my theory holds true or note I cannot verify, I simply didn't try.
An interesting side note: I realized that placing the speaker on the patio
created a different sound than placing the unit on soil: Bass was tighter,
highs were generally cleaner.
The speaker has a front side where the driver has a direct radiation, and
obviously, hearing the speaker from the driver side is much better. But the
speaker has a wonderful ambient quality.
What impressed me was the musicality of the speakers, something I'd expect
from a good pair of monitors on stands inside. I sat myself about 20 ft back
between the speakers towards the open yard. The soundstage (odd to say that
outside) was again surprisingly wide and controlled.
Using a dedicated 55 wpc receiver, the Paradigm ROCKs handled low volume
levels, revealing detail and fullness. At higher levels, to the dismay of
many neighbors to the left and right of me, the SM units bellowed without
complaint, and my neighbors enjoyed "live" music with clarity – one even
suggested a different track on the CD I was playing, and he was two doors
Audiophile quality outdoors – who knew?
I write this conclusion shortly after using the Paradigm Rock 60-SM speakers
for our annual outdoor Halloween party, and I answered more inquiry about the
speakers than the booze, and that says a lot. They were a big hit, for the
I knew what to expect from Paradigm - a solid performing unit, yet I was
skeptical at the beginning to some extent. I can honestly say it didn't take long for me to
accept the 60-SM as having rich quality sound. I very much liked the dual wiring
option, and since the unit is so solidly built, I'd have no problem leaving the unit
outdoors all year round.
I look forward to next summer when I can place them properly amongst the
shrubs with buried wires on their own zone.
Piero Gabucci -
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