Paradigm SE 1 Loudspeakers Review 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Bookshelf/Monitor Loudspeakers
Written by Andre Marc   
Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Canadian speaker manufacturer Paradigm has been at it  for over 25 years. And by “at it” I mean designing.award winning loud speakers across all price points and for every conceivable application. Full disclosure, I have admired Paradigm for a long time. A few years ago, I bought a pair of Paradigm Atoms, probably one of the best speakers made under $500 and I helped  friend buy a pair of Studio 60’s floor standers, and came away with even more impressed with the company and its offerings. I felt the Studio 60 compared very favorably with speakers costing at least 2 or 3 times as much. Last year, I reviewed the Monitor 9  V.6 floorstander , and ended up buying the review pair for my home theater set up.

The company offers speakers for every level of audiophile and home theater enthusiast.  I would put their flagship Signature Series up against the very best.  All their products are priced at too good to be true prices,  All products are designed and engineered by Paradigm and a great many are built in their state of the art facility in Ontario, Canada.  According to the website, it spans 230,000 square feet! This type of scale allows them tremendous advantages over competitors, as well as huge benefits for their customers.

Paradigm’s designers are constantly on a mission to refine the company’s offerings, and they continually introduce new designs, cutting edge technologies, and new products. Last year, they introduced the SE series, which includes the SE 1, the SE Center, SE Sub, and the SE 3 floor stander. Paradigm says that cutting edge technology from the top of the line was used in the SE series.

I received a pair of SE 1 monitors for review, in a beautiful gloss back finish.  They are priced at $698 a pair. The SE 1’s are demure in size, measuring 11 1/2 in x 6 1/2 in x 8 1/2 inches in height, width, and depth. They weigh just under 13 lbs each. The basic specifications are a frequency response of 70 Hz - 20 kHz, a room sensitivity of 88 db, and impedance compatible with 8 ohms. The SE 1 is a two way, utlilizing a 2nd order crossover. There are two high quality binding posts at the rear.

paradigm se1The drivers in the SE series have trickled down from Paradigm’s Reference Studio series. Both the tweeter and midrange-bass units come directly from Studio series models, but without the die-cast heatsink chassis and proprietary Isolation Mounting System (IMS), which decouples the drivers from the cabinets. The SE 1 uses Paradigm’s 1" tweeter of Gold-Anodized Pure Aluminum (G-PAL), a model also found in the Reference Studio series but originally was developed for the high end Studio Series.The G-PAL  proprietary blend of metals is used to ensure rigidity while maintaining low mass. The SE 1 equipped with a  5.5" mid/woofer  with a cone made of Satin-Anodized Pure Aluminum (S-PAL).  Paradigm has thrown in a lot of interesting technology in two these little speakers to maximize power handling and  bass extension.The SE 1 is also rear ported.

Set Up and Listening:

I wired up the SE 1’s first with Audience  AU24 e speaker cable, which I reviewed here, and later with QED once the Audience cable went back to the factory. I used Blu-Tak and secured them to my Sound Anchors stands. The SE 1’s come with attractive magnetically attached black grilles, and Paradigm recommends leaving them in place during use, which I did. I streamed internet radio through my Logitech Squeezebox for a few days to give them a bit of break in, and then I sat down for some serious listening.  

It was obvious from the first few listening sessions that these were great speakers, and exactly what I have come to expect from Paradigm. I heard a smooth, even handed tonal balance, but also all the detail and musical information you could hope for.  I was surprised at how much soundstage depth the SE 1 offered for a speaker this size.  Along with depth, I heard excellent tonal purity and accuracy of timbre, a characteristic that for me is essential is choosing a speaker. The SE 1 passed this test with flying colors, with voices and acoustic instruments sounding natural and three dimensional.

The SE 1 also was stunning in its bass performance. Taught, articulate, and surprisingly deep. The cabinets showed no evidence of any rattling, buzzing, or other problems when little speakers try to bite off more than they can chew bass wise.  As a matter of fact, I found the cabinets to be superbly made and rather inert. I may need to put in a reminder here that we are talking about a $700 speaker folks. And interestingly enough, once I set up the speaker and startled listening, for some reason I kept getting the figure of $2000 stuck in my head, and that may be because the SE 1 actually physically resemble more expensive Paradigm models, and I was mentally judging them by that price! Despite that, I was impressed by just about every parameter on the old check list.

Probably what stood out for me after an extended period of time with the SE 1, was the accuracy, and overall quality of the midrange. Let’s face it, if a small monitor can’t do midrange right, all bets are off. The SE 1 not only did it right, but exceptionally right. And because of the quality of the midrange, I was really able to appreciate the SE 1’s tweeter, which was rendered highs with wonderful purity, and not a hint of aggression. All of these elements worked together to produce the most balanced, coherent, and musical sound I have heard from a speaker under $1000.

Prior to the SE 1 arriving, I had hooked up my Spendor S35R’s, which were around $1500 a pair. While not identical in size and specification, they are very similar. The Spendors have no port, but they are both two way designs. The Paradigms were more dynamic, created a larger musical picture, and were more articulate in the lower frequencies, and produced more bass weight. They both produced clean, pure treble, but I felt the Paradigms were a bit more extended. Spendors, like other well known British monitors are known for their magical midrange qualities, and indeed both speakers were superb in this area, but the SE 1’s were more transparent.

paradigm se1 blackI listened to a variety of musical genres and source material through the SE 1 and it shined across the board. Everything from nicely recorded acoustic ensembles like the classic Buena Vista Social Club, or great early 70’s psychedelic soul like Curtis Mayfields’s Roots, to live recordings of the great saxophone player Wayne Shorter, the SE 1 was up the task. As a matter of fact I found my self enjoying a bunch of jazz CDs, since the SE 1 was so good at untangling complex harmonic interplay.

Conclusion:

I made no bones about my admiration for Paradigm. In the company’s long history they have continually improved their products, and have been a beacon of light for audiophiles and music lovers who want great speakers but can’t justify the prices of some manufacturers. They design and make most of their products at their large facility in Canada. I have owned and auditioned several Paradigm products and have always appreciated their performance, especially in light of their sane pricing. Even their top of the line Signature models easily seem under priced when compared to competing models.

The SE 1 monitors are in my opinion a great achievement. With an unlimited budget, and the intention to charge a king’s ransom, just about every existing speaker company could produce a dynamite sounding product. I don’t believe most of them could produce a speaker that sounds as good as the SE 1 and sell it for $700 a pair. Not even close. The SE 1 not only sounds good, it could fool a lot of folks into thinking it costs five times as much. No kidding.

It is probably not an accident the SE 1 sounds as good as it does. Paradigm has great designers, and the company is well established enough with its state of the art manufacturing facility that technologies from its premium products find their way down the line.  And thank goodness for that. The SE 1 is the easiest recommendation I have ever made. It looks great, produces nicely balanced and musical sound, yet it still offers up plenty of low level detail. It is easy to drive, and will fill up anything but a very large room with plenty of volume. I must admit, it would have been interesting to audition the SE 1 with the matching Special Edition subwoofer, but none the less, I had no complaints in the bass department.  As a matter of fact, I have no complaints about the SE 1.

Specs

  • Name: Paradigm Special Edition SE 1 Loudspeakers
  • Price: $698 USD per pair
  • Type: Two-way, monitor 
  • Tweeter (size in inches, type):    1, G-PAL dome 
  • Woofer (size in inches, type): 5.5, S-PAL cone 
  • Nominal Impedance (ohms): 8 
  • Frequence Response: ±2 dB from 70 Hz - 20 kHz
  • Sensivity- Room/Anechoic: 88 dB / 85 dB
  • Recommended Amp Power (watts):    15–120 
  • Available Finishes:    Rosenut, Black Gloss 
  • Dimensions (W x H x D, inches):    6.5 x 11 x 8.5 
  • Weight (pounds): 12.9

Manufacturer Info


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

Reviewer's Equipment

  • CD Player: Marantz 5003
  • Music Server: Squeezebox 3
  • DAC: CIA VDA-2 with VAC-1 Power Supply
  • Tape Deck: Revox A77
  • Preamp: Belles Soloist 3
  • Amplifier: Belles Soloist 5, Revox A722
  • Speaker: Spendor S3/5R
  • Cables: Kimber/QED/Transparant/Shunyata(AC)/PS Audio(AC), Pangea Audio, RS Cables, Element Cables, Audience AU24 e.






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