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I then setup the A2s on Atacama 24" stands, driven by a Belles Soloist 3 preamp, a pair of 2 Meter Transparent MusicLink interconnects, and my Squeezebox Touch/Musical Fidelity V-DAC II combo as a source. With a high quality preamp like the Belles and good cables, I found the A2's performance nothing short of astonishing considering the price and size. Bass quality and quantity are the best I have heard from a mini monitor. Period. Now, of course, this is in comparison to passive speakers with no onboard amplifier or digitally voiced response. I hope I am not exaggerating when I say that what I heard bass wise equaled some floorstanders I have evaluated.
As matter of fact, I am not even sure the Belles was helping much in the gain department, but my guess is it was a contributing factor to the bass quality, since the Belles is a super clean sounding preamp and bass articulation is one of its strengths. The A2 excelled in other departments as well. The midrange was clean, clear, and revealing, and the treble range was crystalline and in proper balance with the rest of the presentation. On Ray Lamontagne’s God Willin’ And The Creek Don’t Rise, an album I have been using to evaluate gear for about a year now, the recording's virtues were as apparent as ever. Lamontagne’s amazing voice, the accompanying acoustic guitar, and other textures were, amazingly, just right.
Last up, naturally, was a computer desktop set up, using Paradigm’s optional A2 Stainless Stands. I connected the A2 to my Mac Mini's headphone output, and adjusted the volume correctly, making volume adjustments thereafter with my Mac Mini volume control and Audirvana when playing back FLAC files from my music library. I also used Spotify, YouTube, iTunes, and other Internet sources.
Streaming the new album by Irish singer songwriter Glen Hansard, Rhythm And Repose, from Spotify was pretty eye opening. To tell you the truth, once I got started, I found it hard to shut it off and start up my main system. That is how pleasing, uncompressed, and uncompromised the sound was. Remember, this was with a lossy mp3 stream. Even better was using Audirvana to playback FLAC encoded files, like various titles from the legendary Australian band The Church. Their finely textured, neo psychedelic compositions glimmered with texture and there was even remarkable soundstage depth. Neil Young’s classic mid-70’s foray into country rock, Comes A Time, sounded fresh and alive with acoustic instruments and Young’s voice having real presence.
Paradigm also sent along their optional BD 1 Bluetooth Audio Receiver. It is a small dongle that plugs into the A2 mini jack and connects wirelessly to a Bluetooth enabled laptop, smart phone, or tablet. I synced it with my wife’s iPhone and it worked like a charm. From a good 20 feet away, I was able stream music stored on the phone with no interruption and with pretty impressive fidelity. I think Paradigm was very smart to cover all bases, almost leaving no stone unturned.
Some final notes on performance. I found the A2 very quiet, and it went into Stand By mode when no audio was available. Paradigm supplies attractive magnetically attached grilles, but I did virtually all my listening without them, simply because I like the way they looked sans grilles. It is interesting to note that higher end Paradigm speakers are designed for better dispersion with the grilles on, as is with my Monitor 9 floorstanders.