Surround Sound Speaker Systems
- Written by Brian Florian
- Published on 27 May 2010
The SE1 is a classic 2-way, rear ported "bookshelf" speaker. Thanks to its 5 ¼" mid-bass it is a decidedly small speaker which will be right at home virtually anywhere. It will probably get profiled as the surround speaker of an SE ensemble but we will not discount its potential as a modest output stereo pair when we do the listening a little later. The SE3 is somewhat more exciting: a 2 ½ - way rear ported "floor stander" who's three cones total a bass-radiating area close to that of a 10" driver, all in a package which my wife not only didn't object to, but actually welcomed into our living room (a Florian first). The 2 ½ way design has been instrumental for Paradigm in years past, enabling them to hit a performance/price ratio which makes a great deal of sense. The configuration consists of a full-range 2-way driver compliment (tweeter and mid-bass) supplemented by one or more low-passed woofers (in this particular case two). Not one but two ports are apparent on the back which at first lead me to believe the S3 might be a dual-chamber design. It is not. The two ports, which are different in size, simply average in terms of tuning and gives Paradigm the desired loading with a minimum of port noise.
The center channel, like most of Paradigm's of late, is a true three-way using the same driver technology as the SE1 and SE3. Specifically, the same tweeter is crossed over at a slightly higher 2.1kHz to a vertically aligned aluminum midrange which in turn crosses over at 400Hz to a pair of flanking poly woofers. This design has proven over and over to be one of the best, if not the best, for a center channel in that in addition to all the sonic virtues inherent to a well made 3-way speaker, this layout affords us a "visually correct" horizontal box free of off axis combing which often plagued the old 2-way d'appolito arrangement of years past.
The SE SUB is in a class by itself in that it doesn't really seem like a derivative of any of Paradigm's others, though it certainly borrows technology. It is a small, and I mean miniscule unit which at first glance will probably elicit ridicule, but with further scrutiny will earn much favor. In what is becoming a trend for Paradigm, the SE SUB is a sealed alignment, casting aside the ports and passive radiators. Sealed alignments have been somewhat favored by me over the years, their characteristic shallow roll offs imparting what I feel is a more natural depth. But making it work usually takes an enormous enclosure and commensurately large driver with more than average power behind them. The SE SUB does not break the rules: it makes up for its size by using a driver with insane excursion and an amp of substantial output. While not in the class of Paradigm's Reference series units, the SE SUB still uses a very efficient class-D amp, quoted by Paradigm as being able to continually deliver 300watts ("dynamically" up to 900). Conspicuous is the lack of heatsink on the back of the unit, which either means its underpowered or very efficient. Glancing at the electrical label, I'd say it was the latter. What is on the back are some good old fashion control facilities: Gain, low pass, and phase, the last two being of chief use to those whose processor does not have proper subwoofer/bass management facilities. Mono or Stereo input is accepted over unbalanced RCA connections.
The SE SUB joins the growing number of Paradigm models to be supported by their PBK, or Perfect Bass Kit. We've discussed it at length now in several previous reviews, but to surmise, it is a subset of the ARC (or Anthem Room Correction) "just for the sub". The kit includes PC software, USB microphone plus stand, and a USB cord to connect the sub to the PC. The software takes readings of the subwoofer throughout your listening area, and applies Paradigm/Anthem's unique and very well received correction. Careful placement of a sub and a minimum of attention to room acoustics still pay great dividend, but especially with a sub who's calling card is that it can be tucked away, correcting for less than ideal placement may well be worth the extra few hundred for PBK.