Paradigm has been making highly regarded loudspeakers in their state of the art factory in Ontario, Canada for the past 25 years. Their longevity is likely due to making quality products across multiple markets at reasonable prices. They make excellent speakers for budget audiophiles, home theater fiends, and for uncompromising two channel high end aficionados like myself.
I have heard various Paradigm set-ups in friend’s houses and have always been impressed. Personally, I’ve used the amazing little Paradigm Atom mini monitor in various small spaces in my own house. After buying a 55 inch High Definition Vizio television, I knew it was time to upgrade the sound system as well. In my household, we typically watch about one or two movies a week, either on digital cable or DVD. We also watch tons of musical performances, which are often mixed in multi channel sound, so a 5.1 channel system is almost mandatory for listening.
For me, home theater is a secondary priority after my two channel, music only system. I have not invested an extreme amount of money, but I have a nice, respectable setup. A Cambridge Audio 540R home theater receiver is the center piece along with an Oppo DVD player, a Panasonic DVD recorder and player, and the aforementioned Vizio HD TV. Speakers include a PSB sub, a pair of Paradigm Atom monitors for the rear channel, a Paradigm Monitor series center channel speaker, and now, the very attractive Monitor 9 floor standers, V.6, finished in a Rosewood veneer, to match my floors. As the name indicates, the V.6 is the sixth incarnation of the speaker, with various improvements made along the way. I also have some high quality cables from Kimber, QED, NuForce, Audioquest, and a few generic ones thrown in as well.
The Monitor series is the middle of the extensive line, situated under the Studio series, with the Reference series being the flagship line. I have heard the Studio series floor standers and, in my opinion, they offer a superb value. The Studio 60 in particular, at around $2000, is one of the greatest bargains around. The Monitor 9 is the second largest floor stander in the Monitor series, out flanked only by the Monitor 11, which is slightly larger and offers more bass extension. The Monitor 9 is a four driver, two and a half way, ported design. The workmanship is wonderful and the overall finish is much better than the $999 price tag would make you believe.
Paradigm has made some significant improvements over previous generations of the Monitor Series. These include a modified phase coherent crossover, a new rear port, additional finishes, and a new magnetic grille, redesigned for minimum diffraction and for better fitting to front baffle via magnets. To its credit, Paradigm made some of these changes in response to dealer and customer feedback. The Monitor series has been very successful for Paradigm, hence five previous incarnations. I can honestly say I often wonder how Paradigm keeps the prices in check while devoting significant resources to research and development, and not setting up shop in Asia, as a multitude of others have. My enthusiasm wanes for companies that buy off the shelf drivers, throw them in a cabinet with a few tweaks, and then charge as much as a compact car. Paradigm is the antithesis of this approach.
Paradigm’s drivers are all proprietary, which is a rarity these days. In fact, they boast, “many speaker companies do not have the resources to design and manufacture their own drive units, Paradigm purpose designs robust drivers for specific speakers.” On their website, there is a factory tour which allows you to see all the processes involved in design and manufacturing. Quite impressively, they claim “we design and build drive units, crossover networks, electronics, amplifiers, plastics and enclosures ‘ and even our own tooling, production and testing equipment to ensure greater precision and superior quality control.” Investing in the process has allowed Paradigm to continue to offer speakers at reasonable prices that really don’t compromise on performance. I should also mention they spend quite a bit of time on crossover design, claiming they hand select components.
Setup / Listening:
Setup for the Monitor 9’s was very straight forward. We generally sit around 12 to 15 feet away from the TV screen, so one speaker was placed about a foot in front of the TV, on either side, roughly 10 feet apart. With a few days of tweaking, they ended staying in the same position with a slight amount of toe in. The Magnetic grilles were left in place for two reasons. First, Paradigm recommends this as the grilles are designed for even dispersion. Secondly, the speakers were more attractive this way and blended in to the décor.
Spending a month watching movies, regular TV, DVD’s, and listening to multi channel SACD and DVD-A’s, along with the all music Palladia HD channel convinced me that the Monitor 9’s were absolutely perfect for my set up. Dialogue was crystal clear and all other ambient sounds from movie soundtracks filled up the room effortlessly, with loads of detail, and solid imaging. One reason for this room filling big sound was the very high efficiency rating for the Monitor 9’s. Unless you have a pricey, mega watt home theater receiver, you will be unsatisfied with speakers with average efficiency ratings. You will be straining to hear dialogue, and you will risk speaker damage as you continually slide the volume knob up. The Monitor 9’s are rated at 94 db, which is at the higher end of the scale.
The height of the Monitor 9, roughly 44 inches, was perfect in relation to my seating position, with the tweeter, at just about ear level. The sound was not localized to the speaker, with the overall soundstage floating free, even with heavily compressed soundtracks or live television musical performances. One thing I should mention is that the cabinets are solid and they don’t vibrate or produce any unwanted noise, which is important when watching a movie at full blown, movie theater volume. According to Paradigm, they use “acoustically inert high-density hardboard reinforced by strategically located radial braces that limit unwanted resonance, and increase enclosure stiffness.”
One of the impressive aspects of the Monitor 9’s performance was dynamics. It could go from a whisper to a scream with virtually no effort and in a totally natural way. There was plenty of headroom. To overload these speakers, you would really have to go out of your way to blow up the volume. At very quiet volumes, they sounded just as natural.
If I had the room, I would add two monitor 9’s for the rear channels. For me, that would all that I would need, and would allow my receiver to coast having the easy task of driving so many efficient speakers. Some would say that’s overkill, but the diehards seem to claim that the front and rear channels should ideally used the same speaker and a matching center channel to boot. Maybe with my next house!
Listening to two channel music was also a joy. Even though the Monitor 9 has four drivers, it remains coherent, with excellent, midrange clarity. Overall I would say the balance is slightly on the warmer side of things, which works really well for vocals and acoustic instruments. Bass goes deep, with plenty of weight. If being used in strictly a two channel system, I would personally not feel the need for a subwoofer. That being said, Paradigm has a line of excellent subs, with several new ones being added to the line recently.
Paradigm has for many years been at the leading edge of sanely priced, excellent sounding loudspeakers, and the Monitor series may be the sweet spot for budget home theater and hifi enthusiasts. I really could not find many flaws with these speakers considering the price. They are very nicely put together, sound great across the frequency spectrum, and are very versatile. They work equally as well for fronts in a home theater set up, or for main speakers in a two channel set up.
I have tested a few other speakers in my home theater that offered more detail and resolution, and a bit more clarity, but the cost more than my entire investment in the whole set up, from nuts to bolts! Needless to say, you would have to spend loads more to get closer to the state of the art. I will reiterate that Paradigm, in their Reference line, offers speakers for far less than their competitors that in my opinion are off the charts in value. I have an acquaintance that uses the Studio 60 in his two channel system and I have enjoyed some wonderful listening sessions there.
As a huge bonus, they look great, and they blended in beautifully in the decor of my living room. They are available in a bunch of finishes, and the Rosewood finish I chose was very attractive. Paradigm claims its proprietary SuperDrive™ technology, coupled with very high efficiency produces ultra low distortion and clarity. I agree. One of the benefits of this technology is that a modestly powered amplifier or home theater receiver can make it sing with minimum effort. They also claim to offer authentic high end sound for modest prices. I can’t agree more with that as well. Add to that the fact they are made in North America, unlike most of their competitors, it becomes an easy recommendation.