Look further if: you’re a connoisseur of treble detail and refinement and are therefore a fan of ultra-responsive and revealing tweeters. While the Special Edition’s aluminum dome tweeter is very good, it can’t quite match the standards set by Paradigm’s higher-end Signature-series Beryllium tweeters. In practice, this means that the higher up the frequency spectrum you climb, the less sophisticated the Special Edition sounds, so that you’ll miss out on some of the very high frequency detail and the sense of “air” surrounding instruments that you would hear in Paradigm’s top-end models.
Ratings (relative to comparably-priced surround speaker systems)
Special Edition SE 3, SE 1, and SE Center speaker system highlights:
Special Edition SE Subwoofer highlights:
To give you a useful “character sketch” of the Special Edition system, let me highly several of its most noteworthy sonic qualities.
Neutral Tonal Balance: Paradigm speaker systems have long been characterized by their natural, neutral tonal balance—the result of accurate and well-balanced frequency response, and the Special Edition system is no exception. When a system gets rid of obvious colorations, as the Special Edition does, it conveys a certain relaxed, ready-for-anything quality that invites you to listen to whatever content your heart desires (this in contrast to more colored systems that dictate terms vis-à-vis types of material they can or cannot handle well).
One point to note, however, is that the SE 3 floorstanders, while offering surprisingly good dynamic punch, are not the last word in bass extension, so that you will definitely want to buy this system with its matching subwoofer to help and weight and depth in the lowest two octaves of the audio spectrum.
Luxury Liner-Grade Midrange: As noted above, part of the “magic” of this system is that its midrange qualities sound like those of a far more expensive speaker system, which, in fact, is precisely the case. What you get, here, is midrange performance that comes surprisingly close to that of Paradigm’s roughly twice as expensive Reference Studio v.5 system (as reviewed in Playback 18). In practice, this means that midrange frequencies (which convey most of the sonic information in music and in movie soundtracks) sound—through the Special Edition system—open, effortless, and transparent, and are chockfull of dynamic and textural nuances. There’s a pleasingly natural and almost “organic” quality about the SEs’ mids, too, so that you never have that annoying sense of listening to movies or music through the sonic equivalent of an electron-scanning microscope.