If I had a dollar for every time a young person said to me, “I need an inexpensive speaker that doesn’t suck,” I’d have enough money to buy all my under-20-year-old nieces and nephews Paradigm Mini Monitors. For $239 each, the newest iteration of Paradigm’s second-least-expensive speaker provides more than a taste of what music is like when played through speakers made by people who care about the sound of live music.
Made completely in North America, the Paradigm Mini Monitor V.6 consists of a 1" H-PTD dome tweeter coupled with a 6 ½" M-ICP coned midrange/woofer. The woofer’s basket uses Paradigm’s proprietary GRIP material, which is a special carbon-plastic composite that couples strength and rigidity with extremely low mass. The cabinet has a fairly large rear-firing quasi-third-order resistive port that allows the modestly sized speaker to deliver bass to 70Hz at –2dB down. Paradigm doesn’t supply any specific impedance curves but its literature does claim that the Mini Monitor’s impedance is “compatible with 8 ohms.”
Special attention was devoted to the Mini’s cabinet rigidity and interior damping. The ¾"-thick MDF box with a 1" thick baffle has especially rigid cross bracing and mitering to reduce cabinet resonances to a bare minimum. The one-piece combination front baffle cover places both drivers far enough away from the front of the cabinet to reduce the most pernicious diffraction effects.
Given its very modest price point, Paradigm’s designers had to choose carefully how and where they were going to spend their money. They opted to put it inside rather than outside the speaker. Prospective purchasers have a choice of four different cabinet finishes—rosenut, black ash, wenge, and cherry. The review samples were covered in what I assume was the rosenut finish. I hesitate to call it wood veneer because anyone with a critical eye will immediately see that this finish bears very little resemblance to real wood. Wood-textured-vinyl-covering is a better description. Once you remove the black front speaker grilles you’ll be greeted by one of the ugliest colored midrange/woofer speakers in the history of audio. The speaker surround has a pale beige tone while the driver itself is a greenish yellowish/ golden color that emphasizes the ghoulish pallor of the surround. The midrange/woofer driver’s surrounds possess a slightly tacky texture that makes an especially welcoming surface for cat hair. Every couple of days I had to use some duct tape to remove the hair accumulation from the surround’s edges. Of course, you can always just leave the grilles in place.
The Paradigm Mini’s most endearing characteristic is easily its musicality. Instead of trying to deliver a wide frequency range at the expense of midrange purity, Paradigm opted to get the midrange right and let the frequency extremes fall where they may. Since most of what we refer to as music is in the midrange, the Minis sound more relaxed and realistic than most speakers with a similar price tag.
A couple of lower-bit-rate MP3 tracks have slipped into my music library thanks to iTunes. One particular track by Faith No More is especially nasty. The Minis manage to retain this track’s essentially groddy nature while still making it aurally tolerable. How do they accomplish this seemingly impossible feat? By presenting the midrange cleanly while gently rolling off the upper-frequency hash and low-frequency junk.
Even on first listen the Minis have a very euphonic personality. Many—no, most—speakers with dynamic drivers require multiple hours of break-in before they sound anywhere near their best. The Triangle EX speakers I reviewed recently were a case in point. The Triangles really did require 100 hours of break-in to settle in. Some, especially less expensive models, can be downright unlistenable until their mechanical parts loosen up a bit and their electronic innards become fully formed. But from the very beginning Paradigm Minis have a sweet disposition that makes even rude sources tolerable. For listeners with little tolerance for audiophile games like marathon white-noise break-in sessions, the Minis are a refreshing change from the norm.