Paradigm MilleniaOne & MilleniaSub Surround Speaker Package

Good things really do come in small packages

by AVForums
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22

Highly Recommended
Paradigm MilleniaOne & MilleniaSub Surround Speaker Package
SRP: £2,500.00

Introduction

Having enjoyed the excesses (and back strain) of some very full sized speakers in recent weeks, it was a breath of fresh air to bring a system into our listening environment, that didn't require the assistance of wheels. That's not to say that the Paradigm Millenia Series are in anyway less well built or finished, it's simply that they are smaller. A lot smaller, as in the box for five speakers tucks under your arm. None the less there is some serious technology trickling down from the phenomenal Reference Series products, plus some engineering feats unique to this 'lifestyle' orientated system. It's a compact system that makes no excuses and so it was one I was looking forward to.

System

Strictly speaking, the MilleniaOne is a 5.0 (or indeed 2.0) speaker package that retails at £1250. The MilleniaSub (£1250) is simply a matching subwoofer from the Millenia Series, which encompasses similarly 'lifestyle' orientated on-wall speakers and a pair of slender, floor standing stereo speakers. There is no reason at all, why you couldn't choose any other sub to partner the MilleniaOnes, or the MilleniaSub to partner other speakers, be they from within the pantheon of Paradigm products, or without. That said, these products were developed with each other in mind and clearly make a complimentary visual case for each other, so I suspect this is the combination that will be most likely be sold. I also mentioned that the MilleniaOnes were available in a 2.0 pair (£500) which covers the stereo base, as well as those seeking to expand from five to seven channels.

MilleniaOne Satellites

The MilleniaOne satellites are, in fact, nothing particularly radical in technology terms. However, there is a lot of quality, simply reproduced in miniature, that is satisfyingly dense to handle and as we've come to expect from Paradigm, is a lesson in industrial design. The diecast front baffle, also forms the baskets for the drivers, which in themselves are just miniature versions of those found in the Reference Series speakers. The S-PAL (Satin-Anodized Pure Aluminum) 25mm dome tweeter is equipped with a neodymium magnet and sits at the throat of a short wave guide. This serves to match the dispersion pattern of the tweeter with that of the mid bass driver, through the crossover region, for a more even power response and being recessed, it also serves to time align the two drivers. The fragile dome is protected by a non removable, fine mesh guard. At 2.2kHz, the tweeter crosses over to the sizable 102mm mid/bass driver that is mounted so close to the tweeter, it takes a bite out of the tweeter's waveguide. The cone and dust cap of the mid/bass driver is a seamless, inverted S-PAL dome, that is driven by a ferrite magnet motor. There is venting both through the pole piece and under the suspension spider.

Paradigm MilleniaOne & MilleniaSub

This baffle/driver assembly is trimmed with a soft rubber fascia, that serves to further smooth the physical transitions between the drivers and the cabinet, reducing acoustic diffraction and happily gives a very clean modern look. That's a look that will be attractive to tiny fingers, so a magnetic grill that hides all of this loveliness is provided. The damped mesh of the grill is set in a plastic frame, that although absolutely minimal, is rounded on the inside to reduce diffraction.

The cabinet to which all of this is screwed, is again diecast aluminium. It's complex shape is very inert, but also due to the inherent rigidity of aluminium, quite thin, maximizing the internal volume of the enclosure. At the rear, there is a flared exit to the reflex port, which dog legs vertically downward within the confines of the cabinet and yet still manages to have an internal flare. At the base of the cabinet are two recessed, sprung metal binding posts, that will accept decent gauge wire, as long as the insulators aren't too thick. My sausage fingers found them a bit fiddly, but they were secure once the cable was engaged.

Paradigm MilleniaOne & MilleniaSub

Sitting between the port and cable terminals, is the clever arrangement that allows for a multitude of mounting options, all of which are supplied as standard. A serrated cylinder sits in a similarly serrated recess, in the back of the cabinet through which a bolt protrudes. You can then either mount the weighty diecast aluminium 'foot' or wall mount on the back, a single diecast finger-nut providing the tension to hold it all together. The wall mount is a clever little half cylinder that slides and locks into an extruded aluminium plate, that you screw to the wall. Two screws are all that are required to mount the plate with slotted holes ensuring the mount will be vertical/horizontal, even if your drilling isn't! By loosening the nut, you have a range of horizontal and vertical adjustment, in increments, that will allow you to get the MilleniaOne firing at the listening position, at whatever height you mount it. In all, very simple and very effective, but due to the weight of the speakers, make sure you do the nuts up good and tight.

MilleniaSub Subwoofer

Paradigm MilleniaOne & MilleniaSub

It doesn't take much of a glance to note that the MilleniaSub is a bit different to the compact breed in general. At 150mm wide, there's clearly a bit of clever driver design involved. The drivers, for there is one at each end operating is a force cancelling opposed push-push arrangement, are a nominal 76mm wide, by 355mm tall. The equivalent, combined radiating area, is broadly equal to a single 225mm driver. The flat diaphragm visible, is supported at it's edges and from behind, by shallow cone and at it's centre by an extension of the 25mm voice coil former. The edges are terminated in a corrugated Santorene surround, that seeks to counter resonance and provide a softer approach to the driver's 25mm peak to peak excursion limit. As there is clearly a limit to the size of magnet the motor can employ, Paradigm have turned again to Neodymium, but not the normal pole piece slug of magnet you usually see. In this case, it is a ring magnet and that's not cheap. China, which produces virtually all the world Neodymium, restricted its exports causing a massive and rapid price increases. At one point, the life of a quote for the commodity was restricted to hours, but the market has settled a touch with Neodymium 'only' trading at about ten times the price it traded at a couple of years ago.

Paradigm MilleniaOne & MilleniaSub

Powering the drivers is an Ultra-Class 'D' amplifier with an a quoted output of 300W continuous and 900W peak. As well as soft clipping to prevent untoward noises generated by over enthusiastic use, thermal monitoring protects long term reliability. The heat-sinking for the amp is provided by the 5mm thick extruded aluminium cabinet, which provides considerable radiating area. I hammered the sub and never got it to feel more than skin warm to the touch.

Connections to the outside world are on the nominal base of the sub and comprise a mono RCA phono input, a three pin IEC power socket and a mini USB jack for the Paradigm PBK (Perfect Bass Kit). More on that later. The controls are set flush in an inlaid panel on the nominal front of the sub. Gain, crossover (35-150Hz, plus defeat) and continuously sweepable phase (0-180deg) are all present. This is refreshing for a lifestyle subwoofer, as the norm is to do away with, or restrict the operation of, some of these controls, thereby limiting use outside of the system intended. Finally, the power on and boot up status of the MilleniaSub is indicated by a Paradigm 'P', softly illuminated in subdued blue. I liked this stylish touch, even though it's blue. I never thought I'd write that, but it is very subdued and thus is allowed.

I keep saying nominal front, back, base. This is because whilst a bolt on foot is provided to stand the MilleniaSub upright in the traditional fashion, there are four screw mountings on the rear. These can be occupied by four rubber feet to allow it to lay flat, or even be hung on the wall. If you really must hide your subwoofer, there are few as potentially covert subs as this I can think of at the price or, and this is the crucial bit, still qualify as a real subwoofer.

Setup

Paradigm MilleniaOne & MilleniaSub

My options, for simply standing the speakers on a shelf, are all on the low side. It was possible to get a reasonable sound, but there is no substitute for getting a speaker up to ear level and when it comes to surround sound, getting the plane of the speakers up to the same level as the screen. There is also the benefit of moving the speaker away from an immediately adjacent surface, which is never a good thing, be it an equipment shelf, or side wall. I thus elected to wall mount, but I'm not about to drill holes in my walls for every different speaker that turns up, so the Williams stock of oak was raided to fashion some stands that I'm sure will see future use.

Measurements in room, showed that pointing the speakers slightly up so the mid/bass driver fired directly at the listening position height, plus leaving the grills on, provided the most even frequency response. The wide lateral dispersion of the small drivers, meant listeners off axis were well served, but after a bit of listening to confirm the setup, I applied about ten degrees or so of toe in, as this delivered the most solid stereo images. I have to say, this didn't stop me listening with the grills off from time to time, just because the MilleniaOnes look so damn nice. The rear MilleniaOnes were mounted either side and just behind the listening position, on shelves above ear level and firing forward, just past the listening position rather than at it. This helped to plug the front/rear hole in the side of the soundstage.

Anthem AV supplied the £300 optional extra PBK to set the MilleniaSub up and it's a system, that whilst not cheap, continues to impress. Used in conjunction with a Windows laptop, you plug one of the five metre USB cables into the sub and the other into the measurement microphone. The software is calibrated to each individual microphone, so there is no point in trying to use a different mic, even if it did work, which it probably wouldn't. Thereafter, you follow the on screen prompts to measure a maximum of ten positions, with a minimum of five suggested. That does not mean five/ten seating positions. It means five/ten positions around the seats you will most likely sit, with only the first position required to be in the listening hot seat. As per usual, it worked flawlessly first time, I uploaded the results to the MilleniaSub and I put it away. This does mean there may be better value in 'hiring' it from your dealer for a one off fee, unless you propose working your way up the Paradigm subwoofer range as time goes on.

Paradigm MilleniaOne & MilleniaSub

With the sub EQ'd, levels balanced and distances set in the processor, there was little more to do than tweak subwoofer level to taste and experiment with the processor's crossover point twixt speakers and sub. The MilleniaOnes have a quoted -2dB point of 120Hz and although in-room boundary reinforcement helps lower this point, I found my best results were accomplished with a 120Hz crossover set. After the first couple of days, I honestly didn't touch the settings again. Seldom is it that simple.

Listening

These are classy little satellites. Combined with the MilleniaSub, it's perfectly possible to talk about the presentation in terms of full sized loudspeakers, such is the cohesiveness. In fact, they do some things better, but it is also true they do some things worse - there's no such thing as a free lunch!

Lets start with the good. The Reference Series tech shines through with an enormously refined and detailed presentation, free of any undue emphasis of any part of the frequency range. Treble is very sweet indeed and remains so at high volumes, be that with music or movies. From natural sibilants on speech and vocals, to the sheen of a brushed cymbal or bullet casing, the S-PAL tweeter never breaks into sounding edgy or hard. This is natural detail and it makes for an easy listen over long periods. It is well matched to the midrange, which is uncommonly open and expressive. Again, it's clear that the mid/bass driver is a quality item, giving away nothing but size. In a small, extremely rigid and inert enclosure, this delivers very low colouration that conveys clear, intelligible and expressive speech and vocals, without muddle. Eva Cassidy's 'Over the Rainbow' is a simple track, but is packed with vocal power that can provoke some well thought of loudspeakers into midrange hysterics. Not here. The MilleniaOnes simply delivered the force and clarity of the highs without strain, leaving the emotion of the track intact.

All of this is underpinned by the MilleniaSub, delivering the lows in a taught, tuneful fashion, down into the mid 20Hz region. This is in no small part due to the Perfect Bass Kit, tuning the room boom excesses out of the equation. The target response curve PBK tries to hit, also gently rises with descending frequency, which gives a very muscular balance to the sound, that remains potent at low levels. This, coupled with just the right amount of top end sparkle, gives the complete package a full sized warmth that is unusual in a sub/sat package. Angelique Kidjo fuses modern dance rhythm, with African drums and deep synth. The Millienia System maintained all of the depth and power and kept the music pushing along at an impressive lick, all the while layering the main instruments over the top with well spaced separation.

Indeed, as you'd hope, the tiny cabinets are razor sharp at image placement. In stereo listening, the central vocals are etched in the centre of the soundstage, with no sense of the other performers, or instruments, being bound to the speakers. There isn't quite the depth of image of the best, mainly because small satellites of any sort tend to want to be near a wall to achieve their most even response. The illusion of depth, does tend to suffer as a result, but the scale of the images is very much full sized thanks to capabilities of the sub.

Paradigm MilleniaOne & MilleniaSub

Turning to multichannel and movies in particular, the synergy of five identical speakers is hard to beat and when it's one that images as well as the MilleniaOnes, you're laughing. The precision and coherence with which sounds transition across and around the sound-sphere is superb, although as noted, you do need to take care with the orientation of the rear speakers. Pointing them forward, past the listening position, helps increase the sound reflected off the front wall, thus plugging the front rear gap in the sides.

A surround effects fest, such as that commencing with the attack of the rather large Terminator and ending with the A10 tank-buster battle in Terminator Salvation is a real treat. Sounds swing effortlessly and smoothly around the room, over your shoulder and provide a truly engrossing experience, with every clank and tortured metallic screech, keen and clear, without harshness or strain. It stops this entirely unlikely event from sounding unrealistic, the aforementioned low colouration playing it's part too. In fact, this system is a real sod for making you 'hear' the front door, or making you wonder if the car door closing, is outside or not.

As mentioned, the Millenia system is comfortable at high volume levels without strain, but it's here that the compact nature of the components do reveal the limits imposed by physics. The limits are mostly in terms of transient impact, but I must say that this is in terms of full sized alternatives. However clever your drivers, there's no replacement for displacement and everything here is very small, subwoofer included. The deep bass, never quite wobbles you jiblets and the upper bass impact never quite hits you in the chest and nor will a package of this size ever do so. It's just that because it sounds so large, at slightly more moderate volumes, you're tempted into hoping it will go all the way with the volume set to 11. That it tempts such hope, should still be considered high praise and as implied, it never makes any untoward noises whilst doing so. The subwoofer, because bass is always where the limits hit first, gracefully self limits, preventing audible nasties.

Verdict

7
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Pros

  • Sound much larger than they look
  • Refined and detailed sound
  • Excellent Build Quality
  • Versatile mounting options all supplied
  • Incredibly discrete subwoofer

Pros

  • £300 extra to get the best out of the subwoofer
  • Shows up cheap sources and amplification
  • Better subwoofers can be had, without sacrificing much in the way of size

Paradigm MilleniaOne & MilleniaSub Surround Speaker Package

Despite the polar opposites the Millenia System represents compared to recent residents, the Paradigms give away nothing in terms of clarity. Okay, it can't lift you off the sofa in the same way, but then it did provide a more seamless tonal match around the room and when used as a full range stereo system, the use of an EQ'd subwoofer has manifest benefits in terms of bass tunefulness. Everything has it's own set of compromises and it's how a system balances these, that determines it's success.

In my experience, there are two ways to skin the 'lifestyle' cat. One is to play slightly safe, trading a bit of excitement, for the security of a speaker that will match most rooms and systems inoffensively. The other, is to compromise less, shoot for the stars and accept there will be some casualties along the way. Neither is wrong, nor more inherently right. The Millenia System errs toward the latter, although in this case, I'd say the only casualty is it's uncompromising nature with components further up the chain, amplifiers in particular. It's not that it's hard to drive - it's not - it's just that it is so revealing it doesn't give of it's best unless the signal chain is similarly revealing. If it is you're in for a treat.

The natural, unforced clarity and detail of the MilleniaOnes is their trump card. Here, they are very good, regardless of size and cost and with a good subwoofer in support, capable of feats far beyond their tiny form. The subwoofer is key here though and if I may be so bold, I'd suggest the subwoofer is the relative weak link here. Sure, I can't think of anything that gets so much output and depth from such a slender form and it must be said, that a lot of it's appeal is that shape. If your sub has to be invisible, it really is in a class of one and the application of the Perfect Bass Kit means you'll be getting very good bass.

The thing is, there is a product for very similar money, within Paradigms own portals, that would be a killer partner for the MilleniaOnes. The Seismic 110 subwoofer, possesses near nuclear punch in a package that is still very small, albeit not quite so cute as the MilleniaSub. Shorn of the requirement to be wafer thin, it sports a much larger voice coil, that able to soak up a lot more power. The cone areas are similar between the two subs, but the Seismic 110 it has twice the driver throw and you can feel it. It digs absurdly deep and the daft upper bass punch, would dovetail into the MilleniaOnes brilliantly.

The choice is yours. Either way, you'll be getting an expensively crafted, sweet looking system that is as visually un-intrusive, as it is sonically dominating in a good way. It has the quality to make the best of high quality front end components and feels like it will last a lifetime. In a market place that favours a quality one off purchase, as opposed to chasing this years latest upgrade, that's a serious set of qualities. Highly Recommended.

Highly Recommended

Scores

Sound Quality

.
.
.
7

Build Quality

.
.
8

Verdict

.
.
.
7

Value For Money

.
.
.
7
7
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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