Surround Sound Speaker Systems
- Written by Stephen Hornbrook
- Published on 11 November 2010
Since this is my family room setup and not my main home theater, it gets a lot of day-to-day TV use. Just about every decent show is broadcast in Dolby Digital these days, so it is nice to run the surround sound when watching an episode of your favorite show, if only to bypass the lousy speakers built into the TV.
The crowd atmosphere of a Monday Night Football game was recreated with a subtle spread across the room, so the viewer is never overwhelmed with surround cheering. Having the speakers several feet away and in the ceiling helps a lot to defuse the sound and on top of that, the dual tweeters on the Paradigms defuse the sound even more. With a direct radiating speaker to the side or behind your head, you always know there is a speaker behind you and if all the lights are out in the room you could probably point out the speakers location with zero effort. This is not the case with the Paradigm SA-15R-SM. I've never been startled by surround sound effects more than I have with these speakers. I have turned around to see what was going on at least 10 times since installing these speakers! OK, I know that makes me sound skittish, but a few of those times I was legitimately startled into thinking that someone was behind me.
The Blu-ray of Kung Fu Panda has an amazing sound mix that makes for a great test and I knew it would provide a workout for the Paradigms. In the scene where Tai Long (the evil snow leopard) escapes from the maximum security prison, arrows whiz by from left to right, front to back and vice versa. The surround effects were more tangible and engaging than my main home theater (I'm just running a pair of direct radiating bookshelf speakers for the time being) and have gotten me thinking about what I should do in that room.
Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes, also on Blu-ray, has terrific audio that surrounds and pulls you into its gritty world. Overall, the movie sounds great through the Paradigms, but one scene in particular was very impressive. In the scene where Sherlock performs an experiment on flies, glass jars crash and break in the rear of the room. This was an instant where I thought something had fallen in my own kitchen, fortunately this was not the case! Just quality speakers at work. Another great scene is the chase and fight through the shipyard. My family room came alive with the sound of wood splinters and beams creaking and cracking all around me.
I tried some music both in 5 channel stereo mode and running the Paradigms by themselves. I used "It's Not Up to You" from Bjork's Vespertine album. Under 5 channel mode, the family room was full of music coming from the middle of the room. It was kind of an odd effect, but worked very well with Bjork's less-than-conventional sound. Switching to just the Paradigms I could really hear the clarity of these speakers. No excessive bass nodes or rattling coming from the ceiling, just clean, detailed sound. I would be completely spoiled if my house was filled with one of these speakers in every room.
Listening to that album inspired me to blow the dust off an old DVD- "Bjork Vespertine Live at the Royal Opera House." This Dolby Digital 5.1 concert has two keyboardists/mixers who use strange devices to mix digital instruments in surround real-time. It too sounded great with the new additions to my ceiling. What really impressed me about the Paradigms was that they never took away from what was going on with the main soundstage up front. They are the perfect supporting cast.