Surround Sound Speaker Systems
- Written by Cory Potts
- Published on 07 April 2011
Design and Setup
The satellites and sub were packed very well in cotton bags around each satellite. After removing the sacks it takes exactly once second to get finger prints on the sexy high-gloss piano finished speakers. The speakers, though compact, are very sturdy, heavy speakers with magnetic grill covers in addition to their child thwarting tweeter covers (thank YOU Paradigm). These speakers are not the traditional MDF material, but a trickle down technology from Paradigm's Signature S1 employing tapered aluminum enclosures for absolute rigidity and reduction of internal standing waves (though they are smaller and it appears that the crossovers and drivers do not hail from that recent line). Trying a rap test on these speakers will only get you hurt.
I think it's pretty interesting that both the 1" high frequency driver, as well as the 4" midrange, both utilize the satin-anodized pure-aluminum dome. This seems to be a design choice intended to give better tibral match and more consistent sound when panning from speaker to speaker. The recessed binding posts are nice for wall mounting but they do not accept spade or banana terminals, bare wire only and not much bigger than 16ga. The Millenias come with both wall-mounting as well as table stands so they can be set up for either configuration. The brackets are fully adjustable for horizontal and vertical movement to accommodate any normal listening space. The brackets are a necessity as the speaker cabinets are rounded on all sites and cannot stand by themselves. The sub is a very easy to set up device that requires connecting the supplied power cord to the wall and the LFE cable to your receiver. For the first several weeks of the review period I used the sub in a front corner configuration behind my corner mount TV. When Paradigm sent me the wireless transmitter the sub was moved to an under the couch listening position which required less volume, less delay and provided much more tactile bass.
I listened to the system for about a week just casually and at low levels as the manual states the speakers can benefit from a little break in time. At the 7 day mark I ran the Audyssey MultiEQ setup in my Denon receiver which greatly improved the coherence and focus of the music and, to a lesser extent, the movies. The sound changed from sounding like 3 speakers ~3 ft. between each to one speaker that was 10 ft wide, it was not a subtle difference and I left the Audyssey engaged for the rest of the review. I did experiment with the removable grilles off and found that, although one can perceive a little more detail to voices and string instruments, the high frequencies are a little less stable and tended to resonate a bit. Paradigms engineers have run through thousands of hours of design and speaker measurements with their speakers and if they say to leave the grilles on, I'll leave them on These speakers are offered as a 2.0 package or a 5.0 package with the sub optional.
Sub Placement- I initially noticed that the system was a little thin sounding in the ~60-100 Hz region (a 3 Hz increment frequency sweep confirmed this). The Audyssey setup did not completely correct this but increasing the crossover range from 80 to 100 Hz and again to 110 Hz did. The only drawback to this can be increased localization of the sub, being able to "see the subwoofer" and telling that low frequencies are coming from it, but as long as you mount the sub inside the front L and R speakers (or under your couch) most people will not be able to tell the difference.
I would avoid placing this sub to the side or behind the listening area as it would be a little distracting to hear all of the bass coming from the left wall when the TV/speakers are in front of you. Also, adjusting with the phase switch on the sub helped the coherency of this region of sound. It may seem terribly obvious to some of you but one of the best ways to conceal where the bass is coming from is to conceal the speaker that it is coming from. Paradigm is onto this idea with the invention of a sub that is basically just a smidge larger than a PS3. The possibilities of hiding this are endless when paired with the wireless transmitter (just keep a line of site with the receiver). It could go behind a plant, under a couch, loveseat , recliner, coffee table, end table, inside decorative baskets, inside open entertainment centers, inside air handler return grills (I'm saving all the really creative ones for Paradigm's "Hidden Sub" contest…if they ever have one.)
After a few weeks I moved the sub from the corner of the room to under my couch and used the wireless kit Paradigm supplied with the kit. Super easy setup; plug the wireless transmitter into your sub pre-out from your receiver and plug it into the wall, press the "sync" button and plug your sub in and it automatically finds it! (the sub has a built in receiver which adds to the cost of manufacture). Though the wireless feature is RF the sub has 3 different lag settings (15ms, 25ms, 35ms) that ensure you don't have dropouts due to obstructions or other devices operating on the same frequency. I experienced no dropouts in everyday use in 15ms mode unless I was specifically trying to interfere with the signal (placing myself directly in front of the transmitter and talking on multiple wireless phones).
In placing the sub beneath the couch two things were immediately evident. First was that the volume needed to be turned way down with the sub crossed over at 100hz as it played almost constantly and was distractingly unbalanced at higher volume. Second, oddly enough the sub was much easier to localize under the couch. Even though the bass and tactile response was immediate, instead of having to travel across the room, it was obvious that the low frequencies were NOT emanating from the speakers themselves (or the TV).
I also found out how musical this sub really was as it handled a great deal of soundtrack information below the 100 Hz mark, but I repeated the a 3 Hz increment frequency sweep and found very little difference in the ability of the system to completely cover the spectrum with different sub placement and I preferred the sound of the sub back in the corner. So, back to the front of the room it went. Eventually I settled on 90 hz as the crossover point for this system but your mileage may vary depending on your room size, floor/ceiling/wall treatments, furniture and speaker placement in relation to walls, corners, etc. This sub is the little sub that could. Some remarkable observations I had were that, in my room, I got playback from ~23 hz and a very usable playback level at ~27 Hz…this extremely low for a sealed sub no larger than a PS3 (and it will rattle test your room for you). I watched numerous movies that I heard completely new LFE information for (like entire bass lines in the 20s Hz region that I had totally missed with my older sub).