In my earlier review of the Aperion Audio Intimus 5B bookshelf speakers, I laid the groundwork for what was a rather interesting home theater challenge, one that would see a variety of low-cost bookshelf speakers put to the ultimate test. This test was designed to ascertain whether a "lowly" affordable two-way bookshelf speaker could convincingly recreate a true cinema experience in one's home if properly configured. The benchmark has been set by an actual set of commercial cinema loudspeakers in the form of JBL Pro's Cinema 3000 series. The players thus far include Aperion, RBH and Paradigm. Paradigm, along with its newly revamped Atom Monitor from the company's Monitor Series 7 line, is the subject of this review.
• Read more bookshelf speaker reviews from Home Theater Review's writers.
• See more reviews in our Subwoofer Review section.
• Explore more products in our AV Receiver and AV Preamp review sections.
Retailing for $199 each or $398 per pair, the Paradigm Atom Monitor (Atom) is among Paradigm's most affordable loudspeaker offerings aimed at a more traditional user. The Atom itself has been with Paradigm seemingly since the beginning, though it is now in its seventh iteration. The Atom is a smaller bookshelf speaker, measuring a mere 11 inches tall by nearly seven inches wide and nine inches deep. It tips the scales at ten-and-a-half pounds and is available in either Black Ash or Heritage Cherry finish. Behind the Atom's magnetic grille (nice touch) rests a single one-inch S-PAL dome tweeter mated (second order crossover at 2kHz) to a five-and-a-half-inch S-PAL bass/midrange driver. Both drivers sit flush mounted inside a baffle made of a soft-touch rubber-like material that is very high-end in its look and feel. Around back, there is a bass reflex port, along with a single pair of five-way binding posts.
The Atom's driver complement is good for a reported frequency response of 86Hz to 22kHz, though low-frequency extension is said to be 50Hz. The Atom boasts a sensitivity of 90dB with an impedance of eight ohms, meaning it is suitable for amplifiers and/or receivers ranging in power from around 15 watts on up. Its maximum sustained input power is said to be 50 watts.
As with all the speakers taking part in this challenge, I requested that the Atom be finished in black and that I receive five identical speakers - no matching centers or surrounds. In a five-speaker configuration, the Atoms will run you $995 retail. Not bad. I set the Atoms up in my new reference room, which was built from the ground up by yours truly, featuring a 120-inch acoustically transparent screen from Elite Screens, as well as a SIM2 Nero single-chip DLP. The front three Atoms were placed (decoupled) atop my three JBL Cinema 3677 commercial loudspeakers and connected to Emotiva's UPA-700 multi-channel amplifier via 12-gauge bulk cable from Binary, a Snap AV company. The rear two Atoms were mounted to my ceiling using an articulated mount from Monoprice. These were connected to the same Emotiva amp, utilizing the same type of speaker cable. This setup was identical to that of my earlier Aperion test, as it will be for my RBH test, which is pending.
The Emotiva UPA-700 amp was then connected to my reference Integra DHC 80.2 AV preamp via analog interconnects from Monoprice. Source components included Oppo's new universal disc player, the BDP-103, as well as Dune's HD-Max media streamer. For bass, I utilized the wonderful SVS SB13-Ultra subwoofer, which I EQ'ed using Room EQ Wizard, with filters applied to the signal via my trusty Behringer Feedback Destroyer Pro. Connections for the SVS sub to and from the Behringer and then later to my Integra were handled via balanced interconnects from Monoprice.
For comparison's sake, the system remained largely the same for my commercial setup, with only the amplifiers having to change. For amplification to my JBL 3677s, I utilized two Parasound Halo amps, the A31 (three-channel) and the A21 (two-channel). The amps were connected to my Integra via balanced interconnects from Monoprice, with everything else remaining the same.
No automatic equalization in the form of Audyssey or the like was applied at any time, nor was it needed, as my room is treated using GIK Acoustic products. I don't put a lot of stock in break-in, though I did let the Atoms play for a spell in order to make sure they were all level-matched and crossed over properly before beginning any critical evaluations.
Read about the performance of the Paradigm Atom Monitor speaker on Page 2.