Ask any audio/video reviewer for a list of best bang-for-the-buck, under-$500 speakers and I am betting each and every one of them will have Paradigm's Atom speakers on it. Since its inception, the Atom Monitor has been a value-for-dollar juggernaut, packing insane levels of performance into a small, attractive cabinet that even a kid with a paper route could afford. Just how affordable are the Paradigm Atom Monitors? Try $250 for the pair.
The Atom Monitor is an attractive, compact speaker with a fit and finish that on its own defies its asking price. The Atom Monitor comes in a variety of finishes, including Wenge, Cherry, Rosenut, Black Ash and even White. The cabinet is solidly constructed and has a few design cues that class the Atom up nicely, making it a much more expensive-looking speaker.
The Atom is a two-way speaker, featuring a one-inch H-PTD tweeter mated to a single five-and-a-half-inch bass/midrange driver. The bass/midrange driver is a bit unique-looking by traditional loudspeaker standards in that it bears a striking resemblance to a condom. Paradigm says the speakers are "ribbed for your aural pleasure," and I have to agree, for the driver produces magic throughout the midrange and upper bass frequencies. The Atom Monitor has a reported frequency response of 90Hz-20kHz, meaning a sub is all but required for full-range listening. The Atom isn't a pig for power, needing as little as 15 watts to come alive, due to its rather efficient 90dB sensitivity into an eight-ohm load.
Read about the high points and the low points of the Atom Monitor V.5 on Page 2.
• The Atom Monitor is so much fun and musically enjoyable that I know many reviewers, myself included, with top-dollar systems who keep a pair around just to remind ourselves how it all started and how simple our love of music used to be.
• In terms of sheer performance, there is a lot to love about the Atom Monitors. For starters, the upper frequencies are composed, smooth and non-fatiguing and the midrange and upper bass frequencies are warm, nimble and natural. While not the last word in air and detail, the Atoms win you over with their overall "rightness," letting you enjoy the music, rather than trying to impress you with minutiae.
• The Atom Monitors are so easy to drive it's not impossible to build a quality system around them for less than $1,000 out the door. It's also not impossible to suggest that, for many listeners, it may be all the system they'll need.
• The Atom Monitors are a great way to get into the audiophile or home theater game. You can buy them for fronts for two-channel listening, then move them to the rear channels when budget allows for larger mains. This said, five Atom Monitors and a decent sub will make for one hell of a home theater in small to medium rooms without breaking the bank.
• The Atom Monitors are not the last word in bass authority, so you'll need a subwoofer to enjoy full-range sound, which will drive the total purchase price up a bit. However, there are a number of subs out there that are great value for the money and will mate nicely with the Atoms without driving the cost north of, say, $500 total.
• The Atom Monitors sound their best when stand-mounted. Paradigm makes a number of quality stands that will compliment and allow for you to get the most out of these diminutive speakers. It is true that you can buy cheaper stands, say around $50 total, and achieve similar if not equal results. If you have a console or bookshelf that will allow for the Atom's tweeter to be roughly at ear level, you may be able to forego stands, though if you let them breathe a bit, they will reward you.
Competition and Comparison
If you are interested in comparing Paradigm's Atom Monitor V.5, be sure to read our reviews for the Boston Acoustics CS 26 loudspeaker and Definitive Technology's StudioMonitor 350 loudspeakers. You can also find information in our Bookshelf Speaker section and on our Paradigm brand page.
For $250 a pair, the Paradigm Atom Monitor is a no-brainer when it comes to a potential first loudspeaker purchase, for it is possibly one of the best, if not the single smartest, buys going in loudspeakers today. The Atoms sound bigger than they are, more refined than they should and provide a level of enjoyment that frankly big-ticket speakers can't match, for you're always aware of their price tags. Not the Atom. It is the type of speaker you buy and feel good about weeks and months later, because it's just so damn enjoyable. If you haven't heard the Atom Monitors, or don't already own a pair yourself, you should.