Paradigm Millenia CT 2.1 Speaker System Review

Compact lifestyle audio with no compromises

by hodg100
Home AV Review

1

Highly Recommended
Paradigm Millenia CT 2.1 Speaker System Review
SRP: £699.00

Introduction

The Paradigm Millenia CT System is something a bit different. For a start it marks the Canadian manufacturer’s first foray into the ‘lifestyle’ 2.1 market and, for another, it’s one of a very rare breed of high-end active 2.1 speaker systems available. Audiophiles might shy away at the thought of a wholly packaged system but that would be to ignore Paradigm’s undoubted prowess. Previously better known for their floorstanders and weapons-grade subs, Paradigm proved they could tone it down (at least a little) to great effect with an outstanding value 5.1 package in the Cinema 100 CT 5.1 but have since, quite rightly, come to the conclusion that the money these days is in 2.1 audio - be it soundbar or satellite and sub formation, as we have here. At just shy of £700, it’s certainly in another price class from similar systems we’ve seen from Panasonic and Samsung but then it has specifications that considerably outweigh them. Let’s see if the Paradigm Millenia CT is indeed the model for other compact systems to follow.

What’s in the Box

Had the headline above been appended with a question mark, we could have simply answered, ‘everything you need’ but, allow us to put some meat on the bones. Contained in the not inconsiderable packaging of the Millenia CT are the speakers (of course); stands for each; the control box; remote control; and all the necessary cables to get you started – Power, Optical, Speaker cable; an ‘all-purpose’ 3.5mm analogue lead and the communication cable that connects the control box to the sub where the amplification takes place.

Paradigm Millenia CT 2.1 Speaker System

Set-up and Operation

There’s almost no point in a convenience solution if it doesn’t fulfil its basic remit of being a cinch to install and the Millenia CT most certainly ticks that box. It’s worth noting here that if you plan on wall-mounting the satellites, you’ll need to make a small outlay on optional brackets but, for the purposes of the review, we used the included table stands that offer a degree of angle adjustment by means of an alum key. The stands, as you would expect, are nicely crafted and suitably heavy to keep the speakers well grounded. With the stands attached, the speakers measure up at 19.7 cm x 11.5 cm x 14.6 cm (H/W/D) so are very compact but - even more than the stands - feel exquisitely engineered. Additional to the choice of ‘tiltage’, users can also elect to have the speaker drivers covered by magnetic grilles or go commando. We’d recommend the au naturel route, where possible – i.e. if you don’t have small children, as there’s a tangible difference in the performance – especially that of the tweeter - with the drivers laid bare and unabashed.

Paradigm Millenia CT 2.1 Speaker System

There’s choices, too, in the subwoofer placement; it can either be sat in its own special stand that’s fashioned from heavy rubber to prevent rattling or sat atop 4 bumper pads that come in the box. Having tested on both wooden and carpeted floors, we’d advise best performance is extracted with the sub placed in its stand which also features a cut-out that allows the main driver to go about its business unimpaired by obstruction. At just 40cm high, 40cm deep and with a maximum width of under 16cm with the stand attached, the Millenia CT is hardly taking up a lot of floor space.

Paradigm Millenia CT 2.1 Speaker System

To get yourself up and running with the Millenia, it’s simply a case of attaching the proprietary speaker plugs in to the rear of the speakers, making sure you’ve slotted the cable through the aperture in the stands first, and then attaching the plugs on the other end to the appropriate L/R inputs on the rear of the subwoofer. You’ll then want to connect the CAT cable, which communicates between the control box and the amplification/speakers, to the appropriate port on the box and sub which then means all that remains is to hook up a source. Connectivity options could hardly be called generous but the control box really is very diminutive. One might even go so far as to suggest it’s been designed to sit on top of (or provide seat to) an Apple TV; a device with which the Millenia CT would provide excellent synergistic companion to.

Paradigm Millenia CT 2.1 Speaker System

Cough, back on track, so your input choices are S/PDIF digital audio or analogue 3.5mm jack. The latter connection is clearly catering for the ever-growing mobile device market – tablet/smarthphones/MP3 players etc – with the optical input providing the best option for hooking up to your video source. As most flat-panel TVs are equipped with an optical audio out, meaning all connected devices can be replayed through the CT, it’s a convenient choice but we’d recommend having a play around with individual sources to see what works best. Your TV might well not be the best choice to downmix 5.1 audio and it would be a shame not to get the most out of the package. OK, it’s a pain having to swap out cables but there’s always a trade-off somewhere with ‘lifestyle’ solutions and we’d prefer it was with a slight compromise in convenience than with the quality of audio. We do wonder whether Paradigm will consider including Bluetooth connectivity in future compact systems as it fits in with the notion of what’s expected from modern audio systems so firmly.

Paradigm Millenia CT 2.1 Speaker System

Besides the lack of connectivity options, our only other grounds for operational complaint comes in the (tiny) shape of the included remote control. We’ve no problems with it being small – although take good care of it as there’s no manual controls on the box – after all, it only needs to regulate power, volume and input selection but it is very directional, i.e. you need to point it straight at the control box to make it respond. We’d make the suggestion that some form of non-infra-red control would be good going forwards, as it would mean the control box could be hidden away. Not that there’s anything wrong with the way it looks, of course.

Technical Info

On the face of it the Millenia CT looks a fairly routine package but there’s some clever stuff going on under the hood. Paradigm’s digital signal processing (DSP) design in the CT’s amplifier monitors the line current and voltage so that long-term average output power should remain continuous and it uses algorithms that shape frequency response in an effort to achieve accurate, musical bass without distortion. We’ll talk a little more about it below but the short version is, it works. The Millenia CT drivers are purpose-designed to match the electronics platform with software algorithms written by their engineers.

Paradigm Millenia CT 2.1 Speaker System

The main speakers feature a full-fat, 4-inch main driver with ‘S-PAL’ satin-anodized aluminum bass/midrange cones and a 1-inch dome featuring high temperature voice coils, all encased in high-quality rubber surrounds. The subwoofer is constructed from a rigid, resonant-resistant thermoplastic (ABS) bass reflex cabinet with dual ‘high-velocity, low-turbulence’ resistive ports. Its 8-inch reinforced polymer-composite cone boasts a 1-1/2-inch high-temperature voice coil. It’s here, in the quality of components, where we begin to see why the Millenia CT costs a little more than other 2.1 lifestyle solutions. And that’s before we tell you just how good it sounds.

Listening – Music

Paradigm is equally keen to stress the abilities of the Millenia CT as a player of music as it is of movies and TV audio; with some considerable justification, as it transpires. We truly do like to mix it up when it comes to our music so the CT was able to be put through its paces in several ‘disciplines’ and it pretty much came up smelling roses, whatever your tastes. The 1-inch aluminium dome, responsible for the highest of frequencies, is an absolute gem and remains crisp and consistent, be it with Ella hitting the high notes or Page and Plant doing their joint best to unseat the drivers with a combination of screeching guitar and searing vocal - Dazed and Confused? The Millenia CT is rarely so. As we said in the lead-in, you’ll really want to go grilles-off to allow the speakers to voice themselves to their maximum potential and that goes double for music.

As we’d hope and expect from Paradigm, crossovers are expertly handled. The 4-inch cones are also treasures that sound as if they’ve always got plenty of room to breathe, managing to provide plenty of mid-range punch whilst taking the strain from the tweeter when required. And when the low-end is just to down and dirty, the subtle but powerful sub-woofer takes the strain with almost total assurance; something like The Stone Roses ‘Waterfall’ with its combination of tambourines, sweeping melodies and thumping bass is a good example of the Millenia CT’s ability to handle music operating over many levels. For checking out raw bass performance, Nightmares on Wax’s ‘Les Nuits’ is always a good choice and the 8-inch driver showed its class by providing a low-end that shook the floor in just the right way without ever getting slappy or sloppy, in a tip-of-the-toe warming way. If we’re being critical – it’s what we’re here for – the slight limitations of what is really a mid-sized subwoofer driver sometimes did show up. Elbow’s ‘Ribcage’ has a complicated bass arrangement that did see the CT muddying things and losing some of its definition; but only by a touch and it was rarely the case for it to be caught out.

Fancy rocking out to Iron Maiden’s ‘Number of the Beast’? No problem, the CT has you covered. Or perhaps you’d like to chill with a spot of Portishead’s trademark, mesmeric bass? Be its guest. Or maybe Sir would prefer something a little more whimsical - yet expertly produced - for the weekend? Our FLAC Vinyl rip of Yellow Submarine has rarely sounded better. Suit you Sir? It certainly does us.

Listening – Movies

We happened to have 3 TVs with optical audio outputs knocking around the place at the time of review and we found, in all cases, it was preferable to have the optical digital source connected directly to the control box rather than let the TV downmix to stereo. The majority of our tests were conducted with a Panasonic DMP-BDT300 Blu-ray player and TiVo box connected via S/PDIF and, as with the music, the Millenia CT coped superbly with a range of diverse content.

One of our current favourite Movie soundtracks, 'Dredd', proved a pulsating trip with the CT at the helm. The techno based score was more thumping and effervescent than should be reasonably expected of a system featuring such compact components, easily filling a mid-sized living room with more volume than most can stand. Clearly we’re not ones to shy from turning up to 11 and the Millenia CT duly obliged with every bullet casing ting and high explosive boom clearly distinguishable and accurately positioned. Dialogue was rarely overwhelmed, either, although it’s arguably here where the additional speaker(s) of surround packages are most missed.

A current guilty pleasure is the HDTV series of 'Spartacus', which features an incredibly bass heavy soundtrack, yet the Millenia CT barely missed a punch, thud of weapon on bone or sheer rumbustious sound of the Roman Empire’s day-to-day ‘life score’. Again, as with the music, if we could sense any compromise, it was with in a slight muffling of the bass that would sometimes rob voices of some of their impact but it’s a very minor quibble. The Millenia CT can also play it soft for late night listening, despite the lack of a dedicated ‘Night’ mode - simply notch down the sub a few clicks, gently down on the volume button until you’ve reached acceptable volume and sit back and enjoy. Even at very low levels, the Millenia CT is several leagues ahead of your TV or average soundbar in terms of clarity and separation.

Verdict

9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Pros

  • Equally superb audio for music or movies
  • Beautifully crafted
  • Set up is very simple
  • Deceptively powerful and easily room filling

Cons

  • Remote could be improved
  • Connectivity is limited

Paradigm Millenia CT 2.1 Speaker System Review

Paradigm’s Millenia CT One bridges the gap between lifestyle and high-end audio product with aplomb. The package is simplicity itself to install, possessing looks and engineering prowess that truly impress. We could perhaps criticise a paucity of connections and the remote could spread its infra-red beam a touch wider but the overall package succeeds in its remit of being simple to setup and control, easy on the eye and an absolute joy to the ear.

Be it with Music, Movies or TV the Millenia CT exudes a touch of almost effortless class lacking in most of the – admittedly more inexpensive – competition. Paradigm has succeeded absolutely in its active system design and when you weigh up the quality of components as a speaker and amplification package, the asking price is actually very reasonable. The 8-inch subwoofer is no slouch either, providing a deep and convincing underscore to the lively, yet warm, higher frequencies. As a 2.1 package, the MIllenia CT truly is going to take some beating and with Paradigm’s senior system, the MilleniaOne, waiting in the wings for review we can only wonder at what that will have in store?

As it is, the Millenia CT will provide high quality, rich and room filling entertainment at a price, all things considered, that is very competitive. Rather than seek out that incremental annual TV upgrade, why not totally transform your home entertainment experience with what is a truly excellent speaker package that comes Highly Recommended? Go on, you know you want to.

Highly Recommended

Scores

Build Quality

.
9

Connectivity

.
.
.
.
.
5

Ease of Use

.
9

Sound Quality

.
9

Features

.
.
8

Value for Money

.
9

Verdict

.
9
9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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