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Paradigm Monitor SE Atom Speaker Review

richard12511

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#21
To *misquote the late Mitch Hedberg, “Paradigms are like Pancakes, all exciting at first, but by the end, your sick of ‘em!”.
 

Vasr

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#23
A used pair of Boston Acoustics measured earlier would be far better than this and much more EQ friendly.

By the time you EQ out all the brightness and high-end tizziness that is likely to be fatiguing for long-time listening, I doubt very much it would sound detailed or satisfying except for listening to FM radio.
 

Ralferator

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#24
Thank you so much for reviewing some cheaper speakers. I heard some youtube videos of this speaker and thought it sounded thin and bright. Now seeing the measurements it makes much sense.
I would love to see a review of the JBL Stage A130 some time.
 
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amirm

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Thread Starter #25

Ralferator

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#26
I have one patiently waiting to be tested. :)
That's awesome! I can't decide if i will get the Stage A130 or the Infinity R162 (even thinking about some JBL LSRs but they are very expensive here and don't look so nice) but can't listen to them before. Much less choice and almost no listening possibilities here in Brazil. So i will wait for your review then. Thank you for all your awesome work! It is a pleasure to read your reviews.
 

Maiky76

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#27
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:

View attachment 95641

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:

View attachment 95642

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:

View attachment 95643

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:

View attachment 95645

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

View attachment 95647

Shame.

Here are the driver responses:

View attachment 95648

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:

View attachment 95649

View attachment 95650

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

View attachment 95651

View attachment 95652

Here is our vertical directivity:

View attachment 95653

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:

View attachment 95655

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:

View attachment 95657

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/
Hi,

Great review as usual!

Here are my thoughts on the EQ, including your take.

The raw data with corrected ER and PIR:
Score no EQ: 3.68
With Sub: 5.93
Spinorama with no EQ:
  • HF too hot but easily EQed out, ascending tonal balance if not EQed
  • The directivity is decent, good candidate for EQ
  • Decent LF for the size without large boost in the 100-200Hz range
  • 1000-3000Hz range quite jaggy, not sure why
Paradigm Atom SE No EQ Spinorama.png

@amirm EQ, if you did that only through listening tests, I am impressed...
Score no EQ: 4.86
With Sub: 7.12
Paradigm Atom SE LW Amirm EQ Design.png

Corresponding Spinorama:
Paradigm Atom SE LW Amirm EQ Spinorama.png

Directivity:
Better stay at tweeter height or just above
Horizontally, better toe-in the speakers by 10/20deg and have the axis crossing in front of the listening position.
This will help dosing the upper midrange.
Paradigm Atom SE LW data better.png

Paradigm Atom SE 2D surface Directivity Contour Only Data.png

EQ design:
I have generated two EQs. The APO config files are attached.
  • The first one, labelled, LW is targeted at making the LW flat
  • The second, labelled Score, starts with the first one and adds the score as an optimization variable.
Score EQ LW: 5.64
with sub: 7.90
Score EQ Score: 5.99
with sub: 8.24
Code:
Paradigm Atom SE APO EQ LW 96000Hz
November252020-110610

Preamp: -1.7 dB

Filter 1: ON HPQ Fc 52.4 Hz Gain 0 dB Q 1.12
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 161 Hz Gain -1.95 dB Q 1.15
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 849 Hz Gain -3.06 dB Q 3
Filter 4: ON PK Fc 3404 Hz Gain 2.07 dB Q 1.63
Filter 5: ON PK Fc 7092 Hz Gain -2.81 dB Q 0.98
Filter 6: ON PK Fc 15120 Hz Gain -6.18 dB Q 3.54

Paradigm Atom SE APO EQ Score 96000Hz
November252020-110522

Preamp: -1.6 dB

Filter 1: ON HPQ Fc 52.4 Hz Gain 0 dB Q 1.12
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 155.5 Hz Gain -2.17 dB Q 1.24
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 851 Hz Gain -3.06 dB Q 2.76
Filter 4: ON PK Fc 3281 Hz Gain 1.91 dB Q 1.45
Filter 5: ON PK Fc 6794 Hz Gain -3.71 dB Q 0.77
Filter 6: ON PK Fc 15175 Hz Gain -7.96 dB Q 3.24
Paradigm Atom SE EQ Design.png

Spinorama EQ LW
Paradigm Atom SE EQ LW Spinorama.png

Spinorama EQ Score
Paradigm Atom SE EQ Score Spinorama.png

Zoom PIR-LW-ON
Paradigm Atom SE Zoom PIR-LW-ON.png

Regression - Tonal, almost flat ON once fully EQed much better PIR trend
Paradigm Atom SE Regression - Tonal.png

Radar no EQ vs EQ score:
large improvements
Paradigm Atom SE Radar.png

The final results are not too dissimilar to that of the Edifier R1280T
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...wered-speaker-review.16112/page-2#post-520312

The rest of the plots is attached.
 

Attachments

Last edited:

The Jniac

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#28
That is disappointing, but not surprising given how poorly some other Paradigm speakers measure. Maybe some day there will be decent speakers made here, eh? Perhaps to pair them up with some Bryston (also Canadian) gear.
 
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#29
darn that peak... yeah I owned the atom v7... also quite bright.
 

617

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#31
The directivity smoothness here is excellent for direct radiators. This is mostly on accident, however, this woofer size is about perfect for matching up to a conventional tweeter.

With directivity this good, the problems come down to voicing and trying to save money on crossover components.
 

Angsty

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#32
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./
Thanks for reviewing an affordable speaker I requested!
 

Angsty

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#33
The Paradigm 7se was my first introduction to higher fidelity speakers, so I’m glad to see a Paradigm reviewed here. I greatly preferred the Paradigms at the time to the Klipsch Heresy’s owned by another friend of mine. I remember the review of the Paradigm had a detailed sidebar that discussed the cause of “oil can” resonance in the tweeter. Perhaps that also afflicts this speaker as well.

BTW - That mailing label in the image is not mine!

68D543A5-E3D9-41C7-9B9F-6950C7E021E0.jpeg
 
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#34
The Paradigm 7se was my first introduction to higher fidelity speakers, so I’m glad to see a Paradigm reviewed here. I greatly preferred the Paradigms at the time to the Klipsch Heresy’s owned by another friend of mine. I remember the review of the Paradigm had a detailed sidebar that discussed the cause of “oil can” resonance in the tweeter. Perhaps that also afflicts this speaker as well.

BTW - That mailing label in the image is not mine!

View attachment 95729
That's a cool pic!
 

Kachda

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#35
Thank you so much for reviewing some cheaper speakers. I heard some youtube videos of this speaker and thought it sounded thin and bright. Now seeing the measurements it makes much sense.
I would love to see a review of the JBL Stage A130 some time.
Sorry but I don't understand this - wouldn't the sound you hear on youtube depend on the mic used to record the speaker, and more importantly the speakers you are using to listen to the video?
 
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#36
Sorry but I don't understand this - wouldn't the sound you hear on youtube depend on the mic used to record the speaker, and more importantly the speakers you are using to listen to the video?
I don't understand food reviews on youtube of fast food, but I watch a few and some people get MILLIONS of views for eating weird fast food like Krispy cream chicken samwitch. HAHA
The worst is if you listen to a colored speaker recording with the same speakers you get 2 times the color!
 

Robin L

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#37
I had an iteration of the Atom, probably a yard sale or Amvets, $15 the pair. Managed to blow it out with Sarah McLachlan's "I Love You " from "Surfacing", one of those stealth bass tracks. The Titans [next up in the line] have a more neutral voicing.
 

Dmitri

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#39
I wonder if speaker companies deliberately "mis-engineer" their low-end products to avoid cannibalizing on the market share of their higher-end products.
Unfortunately, I see that as common practice...and not just in speakers.
The new Anthem 540 entry level AVR ...7 channel processing but with only 5 channels of amplification comes to mind. Another Paradigm product, though a practice not limited to Paradigm. Maybe not so much with speakers, because such differences are harder to quantify subjectively in the listening room, but in electronics, either entry level is there to provide an insentive to upsell to a higher level, or at the least, quick turnaround in buyer repurchasing to an upgrade.
I’m no marketing expert, and perhaps too cynical...yet somehow I doubt it.:facepalm:
 

Grandzoltar

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#40
It seems like on low budget speakers its how quickly can production lines build one. I like when Amir quoted Andrew Jones "How do you build such good relatively cheap speakers" "When other companies buy 50cent parts I spend a dollar." In passive speakers the values of the crossover components are crucial. We see on active designs these ruler flat dsp crossovers. How many caps resistors and inductors and measurements would it take to achieve a flat response on a speaker of any price range. I understand the cabinet can only cost so much and risks alot resonances and contributes to the equation. Like was said before if greatness can be achieved in a companies lower tier speakers why would the customer want to spend thousands more on their flag ship models.
 
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