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Paradigm SE 1 Loudspeakers Review Print E-mail
Wednesday, 23 March 2011
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Paradigm SE 1 Loudspeakers Review
ImageCanadian 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.


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