HOME THEATER & SOUND -- www.hometheatersound.com


Reviewed by
Vince Hanada

Monitor 11 v.6 / Monitor CC-390 v.6 / Monitor ADP-390 v.6 / UltraCube 12
Home-Theater Speaker System

Features SnapShot!


Model: 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 speaker
Price: $699 USD
Dimensions: 39"W x 8.4"H x 14.6"D
Weight: 61 pounds

Model: Monitor ADP-390 v.6 surround speaker
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 drivers
  • 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 (UltraCube 12)
  • 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 I’ve 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.

200908_pdigm_monitor11b.jpg (39146 bytes)The standout feature of the subject of this review, a home-theater speaker system comprising a subwoofer and three models from Paradigm’s 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 Paradigm’s 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 speaker.

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 don’t 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 speaker’s 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, it’s 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 speaker’s 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 weren’t 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 Paradigm’s Seismic 12 subwoofer, but scaled down a bit in technology. The UltraCube’s 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 doesn’t specify how many dB down its output is at that frequency.

The UltraCube 12’s enclosure is a plain box of MDF finished in black-ash laminate. It weighs only 36 pounds compared to the Seismic 12’s 67 pounds. Part of what this means is that the UltraCube’s 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, it’s 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 -- it’s 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.


Paradigm’s 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 channel.

The CC-390’s 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 I’ve 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 Carradine’s, had a forcefulness and clarity better than I’d 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-390’s 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 & Him’s 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 album’s 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 pricier speakers.

The ADP-390 v.6 surround speaker’s 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 weren’t 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 that’s nitpicking.

Given the light weight of the UltraCube 12 subwoofer, I thought I’d be disappointed in its performance, especially after hearing its bigger, badder brother, Paradigm’s Seismic 12. And yes, ultimately, the UltraCube couldn’t quite match the Seismic 12’s 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 cube’s small size. The bass quality wasn’t 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 I’ve 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, you’d 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. That’s not to say that the Paradigm looks cheap; rather, more utilitarian.

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 I’ve heard, Paradigm has outdone itself, and the Monitor 11 v.6 is no exception: it’s 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, I’m finding every excuse not to send it back.

Review System
Receiver -- Integra DTR-8.8
Sources -- Sony BDP-S350 Blu-ray player, Toshiba HD-A30 HD DVD player, Oppo DV-980H DVD player
Cables -- Sonic Horizons, TARA Labs
Display device -- Sanyo PLV-Z5 projector with Grandview LFM-92 tab-tensioned motorized screen

Manufacturer contact information:

Paradigm Electronics, Inc.
205 Annagem Blvd.
Mississauga, Ontario L5T 2V1, Canada
Phone: (905) 564-1994
Fax: (905) 564-8726

Website: www.paradigm.com

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