Test Report: Paradigm MilleniaOne Speakers & MilleniaSub Subwoofer Page 3

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Performance

I started with “Brazilian Tapestry” from Gilberto with Turrentine, an album by Brazilian singer Astrud Gilberto with solos from sax master Stanley Turrentine and arrangements by Eumir Deodato — not because it was a great speaker test but merely because I was in the mood to hear something awesome. Well, “Brazilian Tapestry” sounded way, way more awesome than ever, with Gilberto’s voice and Turrentine’s tenor coming to life right in front of me while Deodato’s string arrangements wrapped around my listening room. And this from a 256-kbps MP3 dubbed from a vinyl record, copied onto a USB stick, and routed through my Blu-ray Disc player.

After playing “Brazilian Tapestry” three times, I switched to more demanding tracks that would tell me what was going on with these speakers. I was shocked to hear how accurately the MilleniaOne reproduced male and female vocalists of all genres, with no significant coloration. Only a slight thinness to some male vocals reminded me I was listening to such a tiny speaker. Detail oozed — make that spewed — from the tweeter, which had a notably airier sound than other Paradigm tweeters I’ve heard. “So much space, so much depth,” I wrote when listening to heard-a-zillion-times faves like Steely Dan and James Taylor. CDs from Chesky Records exuded a virility I didn’t think I’d ever hear from an audiophile recording. Credit this musical miracle to the broad dispersion of the 4-inch woofer, the close spacing of the drivers, and the finely tuned crossover.

When I first saw the MilleniaSub’s wacky-looking woofers, I figured it might deliver waves of distortion when pushed with any recording more dynamic than a Norah Jones CD (which is to say, practically any recording). Being the speaker bully that I am, I cued up “Rollin’ and Tumblin’ ” from Jeff Beck’s You Had It Coming CD, which features an intense kick-drum track that has blown a few woofers of my acquaintance. I braced for an awful racket but instead heard clean, powerful bass. The weird subwoofer even played the deepest notes in electronica tracks such as Bebel Gilberto’s “Aganjú” with authority — a feat most conventional small subs struggle to match.

As my later measurements proved, the MilleniaOne delivers essentially the same sound whether it’s mounted vertically or horizontally. This nearly perfect match from speaker to speaker helped conjure some of the most compelling surround sound I’ve heard from a small system. The opening battle scene from the Enemy at the Gates Blu-ray Disc — in which the listener is assaulted from every side by whizzing bullets, artillery shells, and swooping Stuka dive-bombers — was simply overwhelming. The swells of portentous Russian orchestral music backing the bombast sounded incredibly powerful, as if they were emerging from a big THX-certified system in a custom home theater.

Even at full Dolby reference level, with a maximum output of 105 dB per channel, the MilleniaOne satellites never audibly distorted. That could be a bad thing, though; I know those tiny 4-inch woofers can only take so much, and I’d prefer they distort a little when they’re under stress so that I know when to back off. If I wanted something that never complains and then suddenly blows up, I’d go back to my ex-wife (cue rimshot).

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