Monitor 11 v.6 / Monitor CC-390 v.6 / Monitor ADP-390 v.6 / UltraCube 12
Home-Theater Speaker System
Monitor 11 v.6 tower speaker
Price: $749 USD each
Dimensions: 43.3"H x 8.4"W x 15.8"D
Weight: 54 pounds each
Model: Monitor CC-390 v.6 center-channel
Price: $699 USD
Dimensions: 39"W x 8.4"H x 14.6"D
Weight: 61 pounds
Model: Monitor ADP-390 v.6 surround
Price: $449 USD each
Dimensions: 14"W x 9.7"H x 6.8"D
Weight: 13 pounds each
Model: UltraCube 12 subwoofer
Price: $1199 USD
Dimensions: 15"H x 14"W x 14"D
Weight: 36 pounds
System price: $4274 USD
Warranty: Five years on speakers, three
years on subwoofer amplifier.
- 4.5" (CC-390 v.6, ADP-390 v.6) and 7.5" (Monitor
11 v.6) M-ICP midrange and bass/midrange cones
- 6.5" and 7.5" carbon-infused polypropylene bass
- 1" H-PTD tweeters
- High-power, phase-coherent crossovers for high power
handling and high efficiency
- Wengé, cherry, black ash, or rosenut finishes
- 12" high-excursion, mineral-filled polypropylene cone
- Two 10" passive radiators (UltraCube 12)
- 650W (manufacturer rated) class-D amplifier (UltraCube 12)
Paradigm Electronics, based in Mississauga,
Ontario, has one of the most thoroughly engineered speaker lines Ive ever seen. From
their top line, the Signature Series, to the tiny speakers of their Cinema line, each
Paradigm model includes a host of innovations that give the competition sleepless nights
trying to match them.
The standout feature of the subject of this review, a home-theater
speaker system comprising a subwoofer and three models from Paradigms Monitor
Series, is high efficiency, high output capability, and low distortion, the combination of
which Paradigm calls its SuperDrive technology. Paradigm claims that this makes it
possible for the Monitors to shake room walls even when fed only modest amplifier power.
The combination of Monitor 11 v.6 towers, CC-390 v.6 center, ADP-390 v.6 surrounds, and
UltraCube 12 subwoofer retails for a total of $4274.
Monitor 11 v.6 tower speaker
The Monitor 11 v.6 tower speaker, the top model of the
Monitor line, is a substantial speaker measuring 43.3"H x 8.4"W x 15.8"D
and weighing a hefty 54 pounds. It has a striking brown-black finish that Paradigm calls
Wengé, which complements contemporary furniture colors. (It and the other Monitor
speakers are also available in cherry, rosenut, or black-ash vinyl.) If you have any
bi-cast brown leather sofas in your listening area, your spouse will surely give these
speakers the thumbs up. While Paradigms other speaker lines have rounded cabinets,
the Monitor series is unabashedly rectilinear from almost any angle. Only the curved top
and bottom of the removable magnetic grille add a bit of design flare to this boxy
The Monitor 11 v.6 has a 1" High-Efficiency
Pure-Titanium Dome (H-PTD) tweeter, and a 7.5" midrange driver of Minimum-Mass
Injection-Molded Co-Polymer (M-ICP), colored a stark off-white. If you judge a speaker by
its looks, you may be put off by this driver, but pictures dont do it justice -- in
person, it looks impressively high-tech. Frequencies below 600Hz are handled by two
7.5" drivers of carbon-infused polypropylene, with two rear ports extending the
speakers bass response down to a claimed 32Hz. Also on the rear are two sets of
five-way binding posts suitable for biwiring or biamping.
Monitor CC-390 v.6 center-channel speaker
As impressive as the Monitor 11 is, the most outrageous
speaker in the Monitor line is the CC-390 v.6 -- the largest center-channel speaker
Paradigm makes for any of its model lines. At 39"W x 8.4"H x 14.6"D,
its nearly as wide as the Monitor 11 is high -- indeed, it looks like a Monitor 11
on its side -- and at 61 pounds, it outweighs the Monitor 11 by 7 pounds.
Why such a large center speaker? Paradigm says that the
CC-390 provides uncompromising performance to match that of the Monitor 11. Its driver
complement, however, is slightly different: to accompany the same 1" tweeter as is
used in the 11, the CC-390 has two 4.5" M-ICP midrange drivers, and four 6.5"
carbon-infused polypropylene bass drivers. Curiously, the CC-390 is a three-way design,
whereas the Monitor 11 is a 2.5-way. Around back, the CC-390 has two ports and one set of
five-way binding posts.
ADP-390 v.6 surround speaker
The ADP-390 v.6 is a dipole surround speaker with a twist
-- Paradigm calls it an Adapted Dipole speaker. It essentially offers the diffuseness of a
dipole speaker with the superior bass response of a bipole. On the front is a 7.5"
carbon-infused polypropylene bass driver. On each of this wedge-shaped speakers two
angled sides are a 1" H-PTD tweeter and a 4.5" M-ICP midrange driver. The rear
of the ADP-390 has a single set of five-way binding posts, and brackets for wall mounting.
The grille is removable -- with a lot of elbow grease.
The soundfield the ADP-390 produces is a reverberant one;
it bounces sound off the walls to make surround effects less localizable. Discrete effects
panned hard to the left and right surround speakers werent hurt too much through the
ADP-390, though they imaged a bit less distinctly than direct-radiating speakers.
UltraCube 12 subwoofer
The UltraCube 12 is similar to Paradigms Seismic 12
subwoofer, but scaled down a bit in technology. The UltraCubes downfiring woofer is
a 12" mineral-filled polypropylene driver with a 2" voice coil, and its class-D
amp is rated at 650W RMS and 1500W peak. Extending the bass response are two 10"
passive radiators, one on each side panel. Around back are a single RCA input and knobs
for varying the cutoff frequency, volume level, and phase alignment. The UltraCube 12 is
claimed to get down to 19Hz, although Paradigm doesnt specify how many dB down its
output is at that frequency.
The UltraCube 12s enclosure is a plain box of MDF
finished in black-ash laminate. It weighs only 36 pounds compared to the Seismic 12s
67 pounds. Part of what this means is that the UltraCubes enclosure is less rigid --
it vibrated when the sub was cranked up loud. Although this nearly cubical sub is only
14" on a side and looks a bit plain, its a major step up from the
run-of-the-mill subwoofers selling for a few hundred bucks at Best Buy.
For the Monitor series, Paradigm has made a major departure
from their other speaker lines with their SuperDrive technology. The Monitors are set
apart from most conventional box speakers by their very high efficiency, high output, and
low distortion. In fact, the in-room (as opposed to anechoic) sensitivity of 97dB/W/m
claimed for the Monitor 11 and CC-390 is similar to the sensitivities of horn speakers.
Even the sensitivity of the ADP-390 surround is a still-respectable 90dB/W/m.
High levels of efficiency and output capability are
important because they make possible better performance by your home-theater system at
lower cost. For example, for reasons of cost and size, the power amps in a home-theater
receiver are generally of lower quality than those in dedicated power amplifiers --
its difficult to cram so many capacitors, transformers, and transistors into a
home-theater receiver. And while receivers can be rated at 100Wpc or more, most put out
only a fraction of that power on a sustained basis. Whereas 85dB-sensitive speakers may
actually need 200Wpc for a desired loudness level, 97dB-sensitive speakers may need only
20Wpc. The more sensitive the speakers, the less power you need -- and the less you have
to spend -- to get ear-popping sound.
Paradigms Monitor 11 v.6 system performed
phenomenally in my home theater meeting or exceeding every performance challenge I gave
it. And one speaker in particular completely blew me away: the Monitor CC-390 v.6 center
The CC-390s size had a lot to do with it. I could
tell the Audyssey room-EQ program in my Integra DTR-8.8 receiver that my center speaker
was Large (full-range), and so keep all the center-channel bass front and . . . center.
With no additional crossover interfering with the sound, the dialogue was cleaner than
Ive ever heard it in my system. Dialogue-driven movies, such as Kill Bill: Vol. 2
on Blu-ray, were easier than ever to follow. Male voices, such as the late David
Carradines, had a forcefulness and clarity better than Id ever before
experienced in my home theater. Nor was getting the CC-390 to precisely match the timbre
of the Monitor 11s a problem. The result was a front soundstage with true coherence,
evident while watching the opening scene of the Blu-ray edition of The Dark Knight.
When one of the clown robbers zips down from a building window onto a roof, the zipping
sound moved seamlessly across the front. Another outstanding aspect of the CC-390s
performance was its off-axis sound, which was nearly identical to its sound on axis -- no
doubt because the tweeter is placed higher than its other drivers, to prevent
sound-muddying comb filtering.
Equally good was the Monitor 11 v.6. I set the Monitor 11,
like the CC-390, as Large (full range) through my Integra DTR-8.8, and got a good sense of
what the 11s could do by listening to two-channel music. A good recording for female
vocals is She & Hims Volume One (CD, Merge MRG324), featuring actress
Zooey Deschanel singing mostly her own tunes. The Monitor 11 left a realistic impression
of Deschanel singing in my room. Not only that, but on songs such as "Sentimental
Heart," I heard a piano distinctly defined in the left front speaker and strings in
the right front speaker. The holographic imaging of these instruments and vocals gave a
convincing illusion of experiencing a live event. The Monitor 11 resolved enough detail
that it was easy to tell that the albums hidden track, "Swing Low, Sweet
Chariot," was not up to the studio standards of the rest of the album -- it sounds as
if Deschanel were singing in a shower, as she did in Elf. Tonally, the Monitor 11
was balanced throughout the audioband, with slightly less air in the highs compared to
The ADP-390 v.6 surround speakers Adapted Dipole
configuration was ideal for surround effects, both diffuse and discrete. Watching The
Dark Knight, it was easy to get involved in the movie from the first scene, so well
did the ADP-390s fill the sides and rear of my room with surround effects. Whether it was
gunshots, explosions, or the pulsating orchestral score of Hans Zimmer and James Newton
Howard, these surrounds did exactly what they were supposed to do: reproduce these sounds
with crystalline clarity and powerful punch. The surround channels werent
distractions, but contributed wonderfully to the onscreen action. Some effects, such as
dropped shell casings, could have been better served by direct-radiating speakers that
could place sounds more precisely, but thats nitpicking.
Given the light weight of the UltraCube 12 subwoofer, I
thought Id be disappointed in its performance, especially after hearing its bigger,
badder brother, Paradigms Seismic 12. And yes, ultimately, the UltraCube
couldnt quite match the Seismic 12s output -- but at half the price, who would
expect it to? Although the CC-390 and Monitor 11 are large enough speakers to provide a
decent amount of bass all by themselves, the UltraCube 12 provided a noticeable
improvement in bass quantity. The explosions in The Dark Knight were handled with
aplomb, providing room-filling bass that belied the cubes small size. The bass
quality wasnt boomy, but tight and punchy. Gunshots were well served by the taut
bass emanating from the UltraCube 12.
A comparable tower-based surround speaker system that
Ive heard recently is the Mirage OMD-15 system, comprising the OMD-15 towers, OMD-C1
center, and OMD-5 surrounds. Priced at $4700, the Mirage system was also very close in
performance to the Paradigm Monitor 11 v.6 array. But judging by its looks, youd
think the Mirages cost at least twice as much as the Paradigms. The OMDs high-gloss,
piano-black finish looks far more luxurious than the Paradigms businesslike laminate
over MDF. Thats not to say that the Paradigm looks cheap; rather, more
Where the Mirage OMDs bested the Paradigm Monitors was in
the "bubble of sound" effect produced by the direct/reflecting radiation pattern
of its Omnipolar modules. The Monitor 11s conventional direct-radiating pattern
produced better image specificity but less soundstage depth than the OMDs. I watched the
HD DVD edition of Blade Runner; chapter 3 is set in an office, with voices calling
over an intercom. The Paradigm Monitor 11s handled offscreen sounds with ease, but the
Mirage OMD-15s were slightly better at providing a convincing sense of the space.
Where the Paradigm Monitor 11 system truly excelled was in
dialogue intelligibility. The Paradigm CC-390 not only handled far more bass than the
OMD-C1, but dialogue was much easier to understand. With the Paradigms, I never had to
backtrack to hear the dialogue again, which I sometimes do with the Mirage OMD-C1. This
was a relief with a Blu-ray such as Step Brothers, which has so many one-liners
that constantly skipping back for repeats would be annoying and distracting.
With each subsequent speaker iteration that Ive
heard, Paradigm has outdone itself, and the Monitor 11 v.6 is no exception: its an
outstanding speaker in all performance respects, including dialogue intelligibility,
surround envelopment, and dynamics. It can play loud with ease, without requiring costly
high-powered amplifiers. And if you can find room for the CC-390 center channel, buy it
without hesitation -- it is one fabulous performer. This system is such a great value,
Im finding every excuse not to send it back.
|Receiver -- Integra DTR-8.8
-- Sony BDP-S350 Blu-ray player, Toshiba HD-A30 HD DVD player, Oppo DV-980H DVD player
|Cables -- Sonic Horizons,
device -- Sanyo PLV-Z5 projector with Grandview LFM-92 tab-tensioned motorized