• Driver technology now appears to be drawn directly from the playbook of Paradigm’s more costly Studio models. Hence, the new Monitors get:
o PAL (pure aluminum) dome tweeters, which are now fitted with waveguides and a protective metal mesh guard, and feature ferro-fluid cooling/damping.
o S-PAL midrange cones (as compared to polymer cones in the old Monitors) fitted with Studio-derived lightweight foam rubber surrounds, high-temperature voice coils, and—in the Monitor 11—super neodymium magnets. In the Monitor 11 the midrange driver even gets its own dedicated, sealed enclosure.
o Carbon-infused co-polymer polypropylene bass cones with the same motor tweaks as found in the midranges drivers.
• Greater sensitivity and deeper bass extension are promised for all Monitor Series 7 floorstanders.
• The Monitor 11 is a bass reflex design, while the Monitor Center 3 is a sealed-box design. Enclosures for both are available in tasteful black ash or heritage cherry wood-grain vinyl wraps.
• The Monitor Surround 3 is a bi-directional, sealed box design that is configured for stand or wall-mounting. The enclosure is available in matte black only.
In keeping with longstanding Paradigm practice, the changes found in the new Monitor Series 7 range are more evolutionary than revolutionary, but when a firm makes a number of small, positive changes in unison, the net effect can be—as you’ll soon see—surprisingly dramatic.
Right from outset, I was struck by both the smoothness and subtlety of the Monitor-series front channel speakers (that is, the Monitor 11 floorstanders and their companion Monitor Center 3 center channel speaker). Two factors in particular contribute to this smoothness and subtlety. First, Paradigm really has its act together when it comes to building drive units with metal diaphragms. In the olden days, metal drivers were often regarded as a mixed blessing, because they typically offered great transient speed, responsiveness, and rigidity, but they also often carried excess sonic baggage in the form of unwanted resonance, brightness, or brashness. At Paradigm, those days are long gone, so that you now enjoy the benefits of metal driver technology with essentially none of the sonic penalties encountered in the past.
Second, Paradigm has seen fit to equip both its Monitor 11 floorstanders and Monitor Center 3 speaker with real, dedicated midrange drivers—not with compromise mid-bass drivers as would more commonly be seen in speakers in this price class. By fitting lighter and more responsive true midrange drivers, whose comparatively small-diameter diaphragms also provide superior dispersion, Paradigm is able to give the Monitor 11s and Center 3 a sound that is unexpectedly agile, nuanced, and refined. In truth, if I heard these speakers in the dark and was told they were Paradigm Studio models, I would probably find the assertion believable (unless, of course, I actually had a set of the latest generation Studios on hand for comparison). At the end to the day Paradigm’s Reference Studio-series speakers do offer an even more revealing and finely resolved sound than the Monitors do, but the key point is that absent a direct, side-by-side comparison, the Monitors would strike most listeners as offering a thoroughly satisfying amount of musical information—especially when their modest price is taken into account.
In practical terms, the Monitor 11s and Center 3 are sufficiently revealing to expose even quite subtle sonic differences between various source components or DACs. Even so, though, the Monitors are fundamentally unfussy and willing to give a good account of themselves when used with modestly priced ancillary gear. Part of what makes the Monitor speakers so unfussy is that they are relatively sensitive and easy to drive. As a result, the speakers deliver an expansive and lively sound with dynamics that can be—where appropriate—downright explosive. You’ll appreciate this quality especially in the midst of expressive action film soundtracks as the Monitors effortlessly “breathe” and flow with the action, rather than “flinching” when big moments come along, meaning they rarely if ever sound strained or compressed.
Finally, I could not help but note that the Monitor 11s offer a really nice combination of bass extension, power and control. The only potential drawback I can foresee is that the 11s, which feature dual rear-firing ducted ports, may actually have more bass oomph than is necessary (or even desirable) for smaller rooms. The good news, however, is that you can build a perfectly satisfying Monitor 11-based surround system without feeling any real need to add a subwoofer.