Paradigm offers multiple tiers of speaker products following a “good – better – best” strategy, with the good (Paradigm would say, “very good”) end of the spectrum represented by the firm’s newly updated Monitor Series 7 speakers. More than any other models that Paradigm makes, the Monitor family is thought to offer terrific performance per dollar, and with good reason.
At Paradigm, you see, the practice of technology trickle-down is not just a design philosophy, but almost as a corporate religion where the “articles of the faith” require that each new-generation series of loudspeakers will be more technically sophisticated and better sounding than the last. To make good on this commitment, Paradigm works tirelessly to adapt exotic technologies from its high-end Signature models for use in its mid-priced Reference Studio speakers, and then in turn applies technologies and design techniques from the Studio range in its Monitor lineup. The result, in the case of the new Monitor Series 7 lineup, is unexpectedly refined sonic performance at surprisingly accessible price points. Trust us on this one: getting near Studio-grade sound at Monitor-level prices is, in the words of Martha Stewart, a good thing.
But another big part of the key to the appeal of the Monitor range hinges on its ability to find a just-right balance point between high performance and all around ease of use, so that the speaker offer many elements of genuinely high-end sound, yet without pushing the edge of the envelope so hard that they become difficult to set up or finicky about associated electronics. There is much to be said for real-world products designed to function beautifully in an admittedly imperfect world.
Our Monitor review system consisted of a pair of three-way, 5-driver Monitor 11 floorstanders ($1598/pair), a three-way, 4-driver Monitor Center 3 ($599), and a pair of two-way, 4-driver Monitor Surround 3s ($798/pair). We made the somewhat unusual decision not to include a subwoofer in the system, partly because Paradigm’s Monitor-series subs were slated for release well after the rest of the Monitor models (though they will have begun shipping by the time this Guide is released), but also because the flagship Monitor 11 floorstanders offer such ample bass output and deep low frequency extension that we didn’t really think a sub would be necessary.
In this review, we’ll try to give readers a sense for both the strengths and limitations of the new Monitor models, and to discuss ways in which they strive to find the aforementioned balance point between performance, price, and ease of use. Could they be right for you? Read on to find out.
What exactly makes the Monitor Series 7 lineup special? The simplest and most accurate answer would be to say that, just a few years back, today’s new Monitor Series 7 models could easily have passed for earlier-generation Studio speakers. Below, I’ve highlighted changes and technical features that set the new Monitor Series 7 speakers apart, which will illustrate this point.
• New slim-line cabinet designs said to reduce model footprints by about 20%. In practice this means the new Monitor 11 Series 7 is now about the size of the earlier-generation Monitor 9 Series 6, but nevertheless steps up to become a three-way, 5-driver design (whereas the old Monitor 9 was a 4-driver design).
• An all new plinth design that accompanies the slim-line cabinets of floorstanding Monitor models, providing plenty of stability while—at least in the case of the Monitor 11—creating the visual illusion that the main speaker cabinet is “floating” about ½” above the plinth.
• A complete baffle redesign where finite element analysis (FEA) was used to “remove resonances and vibrations” while also significantly improving cabinet rigidity/solidity. This design detail seems to have a surprisingly significant impact on the overall Monitors’ over imaging coherency and smoothness. As a result, the new Monitors do a much better job of getting the sound “off the box” than earlier generation Monitors (or Studio models) did.
• A grille frame redesign where grilles use self-aligning magnetic fasteners (meaning no more mounting posts to break off or unsightly mounting holes in the front baffle), plus—and this is the sonically significant part—a new “honeycomb interior corner architectures” said to “prevent sound capture in grille corners” and to ensure “acoustic integrity remains intact whether speakers are played with grilles on or grilles off.”