It’s been said countless times that a picture is worth a thousand words, but the overused phrase simply doesn’t apply when it comes to Paradigm’s MilleniaOne speaker system. Sure the diminutive speakers look pretty attractive in photographs, but in the eyes of an experienced, perhaps even jaded audio enthusiast, the Paradigm MilleniaOne speakers could easily be mistaken as just another “lifestyle audio” system. In truth, they are anything but.
The very term “lifestyle audio” conjures up impressions of uber-modern looking cubes, spheres and even trapezoid-shaped designs that may look down-right sexy (for a speaker, of course) but often sound…well… meh. This is likely because manufacturers have identified a segment of consumers who prioritize style and fashion above what audio enthusiasts would consider quality sound.
While we relish slick-looking gear capable of earning the highly sought wife approval factor (WAF) as much as anyone, we also believe that the premium price these systems demand should also healthily pay back with excellent sound reproduction. Otherwise, well-earned funds wind up getting dumped into a fancy blueprint, forsaking quality parts and engineering for higher profit margins. Thankfully, Paradigm appears to be doing its part to buck this trend by pouring into the MilleniaOne speakers all the elements necessary to create a speaker that sounds as fantastic it looks and, as you may have already noticed, they look pretty amazing.
Here we share our experience with a five-channel set of Paradigm’s MilleniaOne speakers paired with the company’s MilleniaSub subwoofer which, by the way, is innovative enough that it almost merits a review of its own.
Out of the box
All five MilleniaOne speakers arrived in a single box. Inside that box we found an exceptionally well-packed system comprised of five gloss-black speakers, five small, silver speaker pedestals, and five aluminum wall plates meant for wall-mounting the speakers.
Inside the MilleniaSub’s box we found the oval-shaped subwoofer, a hefty AC power cord, a plastic subwoofer stand and a bag of hardware for alternative placement options.
Paradigm also shipped us its Perfect Bass Kit (PBK), comprised of a microphone stand, USB microphone, two USB cables and a calibration software CD and a wireless transmitter for the MilleniaSub.
Features and design
Feeling the significant heft of the MilleniaOne speakers offered a foreshadowing of the audio experience that was to come. Paradigm doesn’t disclose the weight of these speakers on its website at the moment, and we don’t have a sensitive enough scale to get an accurate measurement, but we’d guess the weight of each speaker to be six to seven pounds. Some of this weight comes from the threaded bolt protruding from the back of the speaker, but we’d attribute the lion’s share of the mass to come from the cabinetry and driver compliment.
Speaking of cabinets and drivers, the MilleniaOne features die-cast aluminum cabinets with an outstanding gloss-black or gloss-white finish that handily passes our “knuckle test.” Mounted into the cabinets at very close proximity are a 4-inch treated-aluminum midbass speaker and a 1-inch treated aluminum dome tweeter. These speakers’ grills magnetically secure along the front baffle’s perimeter. The grilles look great, but we think the speakers look even better without them.
Hidden away inside the speaker cabinets is a third-order crossover. For those not hip to crossover design, a third-order crossover can provide several sonic advantages, they just require more parts and usually cost more. As such, they aren’t often found in compact speaker systems where price is usually a motivating design factor.
Good luck finding any right angles on these speaker cabinets. The MilleniaOne are oval in shape at the front and taper gently toward the back. Since there is no flat surface on the bottom of the cabinets, these speakers will need to be placed on their included pedestals or mounted on the wall. As previously mentioned, most of the hardware needed for either placement solution is provided. The aluminum mounting plates needs just a couple of screws to be affixed to the wall. From there, an included mounting piece, when bolted to the speaker, slides down on the mounting plate to affix the speaker to the wall. Alternatively, each speaker can be secured to its pedestal with a separately included concave plastic piece.
The speaker pedestals Paradigm has included with this system are rigidly constructed, and suit their well-built speaker counterparts. However, this is where two of our few complaints come in and both have to do with the handling of speaker wire: First, the channel that Paradigm includes in the speaker pedestals for routing speaker wire to the speaker’s binding posts is prohibitively narrow. We barely managed to thread 14 AWG wire through the tiny hole and found 16AWG wasn’t that much easier, either. Second, the binding posts on the speaker will only accept bare wire. For those who own high-quality speaker wire that is hard-terminated with banana plugs, be prepared to either source new wire or pull out the wire cutters and snip off the banana plugs.
The MilleniaSub is not your daddy’s subwoofer. Its oval shape throws dust in the face of those that believe a subwoofer must be a bland, bloated box bound to clash with a room’s décor. The shape isn’t just fun to look at. It’s also functional in that it allows the sub to be tucked into places other subs just won’t go. The sub can be erected vertically on its provided stand, laid on its side and slid under a table, couch and even mounted on the wall.
Mounted at the front and back of the sub are its unique, 14-inch long, 3-inch tall oval bass drivers. These transducers are totally flat, save a narrow groove the runs the length of the driver from top to bottom. The surround on these drivers has an interesting “braided” or “spiral” look that further adds to the subs intrigue while likely doing a super job of controlling the driver’s excursion.
The sub is driven by what Paradigm calls an “Utra-Class-D” amplifier rated to deliver 300 watts RMS and a whopping 900 watts peak. Like the MilleniaOne speaker’s, the MilleniaSub has a thick aluminum cabinet, but is instead coated with a satin black or satin white finish.
Underneath the sub (well, depending on its orientation) is a recessed cavity with a single RCA input, AC power socket and a USB input for use with the PBK. Volume, crossover and phase controls are all located on the sub’s side by way of flat, discreet dials.
We set up the MilleniaOne speakers on the provided pedestals and put the subwoofer on its stand in one of our three favorite sweet spots to start. We then gave the system about 48 hours worth of break-in time, which we noticed made a remarkable difference, particularly in the lower midrange region of the MilleniaOne speakers.
We evaluated the MilleniaOne and MilleniaSub in our testing room with a Marantz SR6005 A/V receiver, Denon AVR 3312CI receiver, Sonic Impact T-Amp, LG BD 370 Blu-Ray disc player, Pioneer PL-61 Turntable with Ortofon OM-5E catridge, Bellari Phono Pre-Amp, and Monster Cable speaker wire.
Normally, we present our list of evaluation material at this point but, frankly, we don’t have enough space for that. We ended up using well over 40 different audio recordings and a good 10 movies over the course of this evaluation — not because we had to, but because we found ourselves wanting to.
We started out by listening to the front left and right speakers driven with a full-range signal and the subwoofer switched off. We didn’t expect much from the speakers in the bass department and we didn’t get much, either. Paradigm notes that the 4-inch drivers have -2db down point at 120Hz, which seemed a little high for a 4-inch driver in a reasonably sized, ported cabinet.
That rating is likely accurate, but we heard the speakers audibly producing mid-bass below 100Hz, likely due to some room reinforcement. In fact, when listening to Diana Krall’s Live in Paris DVD, not only did we hear every note of John Clayton’s upright bass with total tonal clarity, it also carried a little bit of weight, which we didn’t expect from the small speakers. Krall’s vocals also had an unexpected body to them which seemed to defy the speaker’s small size. Her microphone technique has a way of pushing at the mic’s diaphragm which creates an effect that we’ve found is best pulled off by larger speakers, but the Paradigms managed to reproduce the high-pressure punctuations pretty well without ever sounding muddy — a fact that speaks volumes about the speaker’s dynamic capabilities.
We found that male vocals, without the use of the subwoofer, lacked a little body. Listening to Kurt Elling’s Live at the Green Mill recording, we noticed a lack of the vocalists almost gravelly texture that exists in the lower region of Elling’s voice. Still, that we made it this far into our evaluation in just two-channel mode really says something about how captivating the MilleniaOne can be.
Forging ahead, we made some adjustments to our receiver’s speaker set-up settings, listing all of the channels as small and designating, at first, a 120Hz crossover point. We then later moved the setting down to 100Hz. It may have been our testing room, but the speakers didn’t seem to need the subwoofer’s help between 100Hz and 120Hz, and we preferred to keep the bass localization to a minimum.
With the subwoofer incorporated, we ran through the Elling cut again and began to learn just how versatile the MilleniaSub was capable of being. Not only did the drums and bass on the recording come to life, but Elling’s voice was filled out almost perfectly. The synergy at play between the satellites and the sub was astonishing. The sub’s use of tightly controlled drivers and a sealed cabinet allowed it to pull off some amazing lower midrange output.
We enjoyed listening to the MilleniaOne-MilleniaSub system for several days in a row before we had to pry ourselves away and sit down in front of the computer to write this review. Through all those hours of listening, we enjoyed exceptionally airy detail in the high frequency region, and silky, balanced midrange output. The sonic signature of the MilleniaOne, particularly in the treble area, seems a departure from previous Paradigm offerings and we whole-heartedly approve of the change. In the past, we’ve felt the company’s choice of tweeter material has resulted in artificially zesty high frequency output, but the MilleniaOne have a very clean, smooth and yet sparkly ring to them that made re-discovering some of our recordings a real treat.
There’s no getting past the fact that a larger speaker is going to produce a more lifelike mid-range, but the MilleniaOne, when paired with the MilleniaSub, exceeded our midrange expectations at every turn. This is one of those rare moments when we would actually recommend not taking the intended subwoofer out of the equation. The MilleniaSub is capable of playing flat well into the mid-bass region and is an integral part of the harmonious pairing of components here.
Digging deeper into the subwoofer, we noticed that its excellent upper bass prowess does come at the cost of super low bass capability. The sub seems to do really well right down to about 40Hz, but if you want to feel like your sub is punching you somewhere deep in your guts, you’ll need a different model. For those audiophiles that balk at the notion of a subwoofer, we encourage you to check out the MilleniaSub. It is certainly one of the most musical subs we’ve ever heard.
As we mentioned before, we did test the system out with some hard-hitting movie tracks. We were once again surprised at the system’s ability to not only hold together at ear-splitting volumes, but to sound really good while doing it. The subwoofer provided some satisfying slam and rumble and the satellites painted an almost seamless surround sound-stage. For small- to medium-sized rooms, this system should do a more than adequate job for most listeners. In really large or open rooms, the speakers may struggle a bit, but bear in mind we’re keeping the bar set really high in terms of home theater performance expectations.
As for the Perfect Bass Kit: We had the sub placed in a location within our room that is known to allow for even bass production and didn’t really need to use it. We did want to test it out, though, so we placed the sub near a corner in our room where we knew some of the sub’s performance would be compromised. As expected, before we used the PBK, the sub had a mid-bass bloom that was nearly intolerable and its lowest frequencies seem to have been all but cancelled out. After the PBK calibration routine was run, the bloom and boom was well tamed and some of the low bass cancellation seemed remedied by the reduction of other frequencies and increased total volume level. In short, the PBK does its job and does it better than the calibration software built into many A/V receivers. It is, however, about $100, and probably only necessary for those rooms with extremely challenging bass scenarios.
The MilleniaOne and MilleniaSub pairing smash any preconceived notion of what a “lifestyle system” is meant to be. Paradigm hasn’t just taken some cheap parts and coated them in a shiny shell here. Instead, the company has taken the high road and delivered a well-built, highly musical sound system that just so happens to look fantastic as well. The system is pricey: Expect to pay $1250 for a set of 5 speakers and $1399.00 for the sub. That said, you get top-notch audio gear in a décor-friendly package that will almost certainly be the envy of your friends and neighbors. As such, we gladly offer this system our Editor’s Choice award.
- Clean, airy and detailed highs
- Superb imaging and sound-stage
- Highly synergistic pairing of sub and satellites
- Excellent build and finish
- Speaker pedestals restrict wire size
- Speaker binding posts accept bare wire only
- Sub doesn’t get into lowest bass octave with authority