- Written by Brian Florian
- Published on 06 December 2011
The Paradigm Shift A2 Powered Bookshelf Speakers In Use
I had occasion to try the A2s in several different acoustic spaces with all sorts of sources from various portable audio players, to PC, to my reference system's CD, DVD, and blu-ray players. In practice the A2s have the sound which Paradigm is known world over for: for the most part well balanced, neutral, able to articulate complex music through the difficult midrange and exhibit pinpoint accuracy in terms of spatial imaging. The treble, while detailed and crisp, struck me as forward in direct comparison to the brand new passive Mini Monitor I happen to have on hand for review at the time (essentially the same tweeter). Bass performance of any speaker is something which is so very much room dependent, but taking an aggregate of the various spaces I tried them in I have to say Paradigm has done an admirable job milking as much as they can from a 5.25" driver with only 50 watts behind it. The best results in this regard were achieved in my home theater where at modest listening levels the useable output reached down to the mid 30s. As the listening level increases though, they morph into something very different, no doubt at the hand of the embedded signal processing. The A2s do their best to maintain a clean output at high levels but rather than let you test the physical limits of the motors, the A2s instead (by design mind you) shed fullness and dynamic range. Push things even further and the harshness of clipping will set in (which is your cue that the amp has run out of steam altogether) yet even as the cones appear to thrash right out of the enclosures, they never broke up or bottomed out. The A2s seem quite resistant to abuse as such and I think that Paradigm has succeeded in their goal: at modest, near field output they sound like a true hifi speaker, but if someone wants to crank them for a patio party to decibel levels which would destroy most ordinary compact powered speakers, they can do that, albeit with compromised fidelity (but at a patio party, who's critically listening anyway?).
In extreme near field applications, such as at a typical computer setup, the inherent hiss of a digital amplifier was noted, but it turns out our review samples came from an initial run which did not meet Paradigm's performance spec and they have since been reworked such that hiss is practically inaudible even at unusually close distances. In a couple source configurations I ran into ground loops with the A2, though in cases where the usual remedies wouldn't work (such as making sure everything is plugged into the same outlet, etc) the hum could be minimized or even mitigated by artificially lowering the speakers' gain as long as the source had enough headroom to compensate. However if you do get the slightest, even practically inaudible, ground loop, the auto-off will never work forcing you to reach behind both speakers to turn them off and on, (or put them both on a switched power bar). That might not be such a bad habit to get into: looking at power consumption the pair together draw just 22 watts at idle but no less than 10 watts when in auto-off (definitely not "green" by any current metric). I should note that Paradigm's latest PDR series subwoofers are boasting a 0.5 watt consumption in standby which is a HUGE improvement over existing or older models I've measured so Paradigm is getting the hang of green, just not in time for the A2.