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Paradigm Monitor SE Atom Speaker Review

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Paradigm Monitor SE Atom bookshelf speaker. It was kindly sent to me by a member for testing. It costs US $239 from Amazon including shipping for a pair.

I have to say, the Atom looks better than its price indicates:

Paradigm SE Monitor Atom Review.jpg


Look at the nice grill over the tweeter and curvy smooth waveguide. Even the woofer seems like a step up from bargain basement with inverted dust cap and such.

The back naturally looks plain:

Paradigm SE Monitor Atom Review Back panel port binding posts.jpg


In case you are not familiar with Paradigm, they are a Canadian speaker company and a spin off of the research at NRC where Dr. Toole and Sean Olive worked. So similar pedigree. How well they follow that science is what we are going to examine here.

Measurements that you are about to see were performed using the Klippel Near-field Scanner (NFS). This is a robotic measurement system that analyzes the speaker all around and is able (using advanced mathematics and dual scan) to subtract room reflections (so where I measure it doesn't matter). It also measures the speaker at close distance ("near-field") which sharply reduces the impact of room noise. Both of these factors enable testing in ordinary rooms yet results that can be more accurate than an anechoic chamber. In a nutshell, the measurements show the actual sound coming out of the speaker independent of the room.

The system performed over 1000 measurement which resulted in error rate of more or less 1%.

Temperature was 60 degrees F.

Measurements are compliant with latest speaker research into what can predict the speaker preference and is standardized in CEA/CTA-2034 ANSI specifications. Likewise listening tests are performed per research that shows mono listening is much more revealing of differences between speakers than stereo or multichannel.

Reference axis was the center of the tweeter. In another measurement online I noticed they used the boundary between tweeter and woofer. Based on measurements to follow, I think center of the tweeter is the more correct one.

Paradigm Monitor SE Atom Measurements
Acoustic measurements can be grouped in a way that can be perceptually analyzed to determine how good a speaker is and how it can be used in a room. This so called spinorama shows us just about everything we need to know about the speaker with respect to tonality and some flaws:

Paradigm SE Monitor Atom Measurements Spinorama CTA-2034 frequency Response.png


Looks like Paradigm is half married to NRC research. On-axis response is fairly uneven with a dip between 2 and 4 kHz followed by significant peaking and finally a bit resonance around 15 kHz or so. On the other hand, they do have good directivity in the way the three graphs follow each other in parallel. This will make equalization easier and room dependency lower.

Because the directivity is good, off-axis fortunately and unfortunately looks like on-axis:

Paradigm SE Monitor Atom Measurements Spinorama CTA-2034 early window reflections frequency Re...png


So summing the two to get our predicted in-room frequency response has the same issues that we saw at the start:

Paradigm SE Monitor Atom Measurements Spinorama CTA-2034 Predicted In-room frequency Response.png


Shame.

Here are the driver responses:

Paradigm SE Monitor Atom Measurements speaker driver frequency response.png


The port integration with woofer seems good. But the crossover is not as good as it could be, polluted likely by some port resonances. And of course we have that rising response from the tweeter.

Distortion data says what one expect in this category:

Paradigm SE Monitor Atom Measurements relative THD distortion.png


Paradigm SE Monitor Atom Measurements THD distortion.png


As indicated, directivity is good so our horizontal dispersion is good as well:

Paradigm SE Monitor Atom Measurements horizontal beam width.png


Paradigm SE Monitor Atom Measurements horizontal directivity.png


Here is our vertical directivity:

Paradigm SE Monitor Atom Measurements Vertical directivity.png


Seems to me if I had put the center lower, it would have fallen more in that 3 to 4 kHz ditch. So stay at or slightly above the tweeter axis.

Finally, here is our impedance graph showing multitudes of resonances:

Paradigm SE Monitor Atom Measurements impedance and phase.png


Paradigm Monitor SE Atom Listening Tests
At first blush you get the impression of a highly detailed sound, nailing the "showroom experience." Continue listening though and gradually the brightness starts to be much. Everything sounds "exciting" for the lack of a better word. You can almost hear the "hiss" in the recordings. Or sensation thereof. So out comes the EQ tools:

Paradigm SE Monitor Atom Measurements equalization.png


Ignoring the 102 Hz one which is for a room mode in my listening space, the rest are basically eyeballing the on-axis errors. I initially did not put in the filter at 3000 Hz but was necessary as the brilliance was gone with all the high frequency filters.

Once there, I was pleasantly surprised by the fidelity of this little speaker. It produced very clean sound at elevated volume courtesy of no deep bass. This meant the woofer did not bottom out at all even on my "speaker killer" tracks. This does mean you need a sub though as there is no physical sensation for bass. Techno drums are fine but anything lower just doesn't get reproduced much.

Conclusions
My point of view of Paradigm is that they know the research. But they have also survived in the brutal speaker retail market for decades. As such, they have sacrificed some of what research says to compete on the showroom floor with likes of Klipsch. So not a surprise that the highs are accentuated. Luckily they did not throw out the science book and built good directivity into Atom. And provide very good tuning for bass to keep things from getting distorted and out of hand.

As is, without EQ, I cannot recommend the Paradigm Monitor SE Atom. With EQ, it is quite serviceable and likely superior to other speakers.

------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Have to drive 700 miles tomorrow to pick up something cool. That is lots of gas that I will be burning, making me feel pretty poor. So any donations are appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

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MZKM

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#3
@amirm, your folder says the Atom Monitor v7, not the Monitor SE Atom; this is the v7:

______

Frequency response: +/-4dB 61Hz-20kHz
They claim +/-2dB, they have access to the NRC‘s chamber, so no clue why they claim a more stringent spec than standard. They claim 30° is also +/-2dB up to 18kHz, which is a lot more linear, still that ~15kHz peak though.
 
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amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #5
@amirm, your folder says the Atom Monitor v7, not the SE Atom; this is the v7:
I thought I read V7 some place but then was not sure so did not mention it in the review.
 
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#8
Happy to see the review. This was one of the speakers I considered when first buying my desktop setup - at its price it was competitive with budget powered options even when including the added cost of amplifier. The performance isn't horrible, I'm not very treble sensitive so I'd probably be fine even if I went for it, but I certainly didn't miss out by skipping it.
 

restorer-john

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#9
Look at the nice grill over the tweeter
So the centre of the tweeter screen is solid? That's unusual.

Looks just like the Remington fuzz-away I just dropped and damaged yesterday.
remington.jpeg
 

richard12511

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#12
Another speaker with the batman symbol curve. Perhaps they know something we don’t.
 

digicidal

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#13
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#15
Thank you Amir for the review of these speakers.
It's too bad that I paid full price for them, $320, then they went on sale 20% off!!! such is life!

What is interesting is that Paradigm uses this tweeter, or similar in many models. I wonder if the much more expensive ones suffer from the issues this does.

Here is what paradigm says about the tweeter in this speaker.
"X-PAL™ Pure-Aluminum Dome Tweeters with patented† Perforated Phase-Aligning (PPA™) Lens. This exclusive design acts as a refined phase plug, blocking a wide range of out-of-phase frequencies which increases and smooths output without coloring the sound. "

Is there anything smooth or "non-colored" about this tweeters output?
 
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amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #16
Hmm, but the SoundStage/NRC measurements don’t show a dip:
It does:
1606264884917.png


They have such low-res graphs that these things are hard to see in their measurements. But it is there.
 

restorer-john

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#17
"X-PAL™ Pure-Aluminum Dome Tweeters with patented† Perforated Phase-Aligning (PPA™) Lens. This exclusive design acts as a refined phase plug, blocking a wide range of out-of-phase frequencies which increases and smooths output without coloring the sound. "
Or they could have just called it a T-APPS™ (Toddler Anti-Poking Protection System)
 

Steve Dallas

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#18
Interesting. When I heard these after much hype, I thought to myself, "Did B&W start making speakers for Paradigm?" Also like B&W, I really liked the Paradigm of ~20 years ago.
 

tvrgeek

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#19
Looks like they have made big progress in tweeter distortion if not in smooth response. I had a pair of first generation Studio 20's and we just could not live with them. At least the Atom series are dirt cheap. How do they compare in their class to , Oh maybe a Warfdale for the same price?
 

Kachda

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#20
I auditioned a paradigm studio speaker once. The owner proudly showed off his mcintosh amps, oppo blu ray players etc. then he starts hotel California to demonstrate how much ‘detail’ the speaker produced and i had to run out of the room covering my ears.
He was selling them to get the b&w 802d3 :facepalm:
 
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