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Paradigm SHIFT A2 Active Speakers Review Print E-mail
Thursday, 05 July 2012
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Paradigm SHIFT A2 Active Speakers Review
Listening Cont.
ImageParadigm has been a mainstay of the high-end two-channel, home theater, and lifestyle speaker market for so many years now, it's easy to take them for granted. I bet some audiophiles do. Not me. My home theater system is all Paradigm, and I use their SHIFT e3m earbuds for portable listening. Paradigm’s Reference Series monitors and floorstanders always sound excellent to me at audio shows, and they offer great value.

The aforementioned SHIFT series also includes the new SHIFT A2 active monitors. They are geared towards the desktop and computer audiophile markets, among others. There are a number of very interesting things about the A2’s. First, they are modeled sonically in Paradigm’s 35,000 square foot research facility in Canada, using various techniques to develop the most balanced performance at this price point. They also are available in several high gloss colors, and are sold individually for $279 each, with a premium for the high gloss finishes.

Design & Feature Set:

The A2’s are two-way monitors similar to Paradigm’s own venerable Atom’s, which function as my Left and Right Surround speakers in my home theater. The A2 is a sealed box however, with 50 watts of internal amplification in each speaker, utilizing a digital crossover and Digital Signal Processing (DSP). Incoming audio is converted to digital at the 48 Khz sample rate. There are independent rotary volume controls on each speaker, a set of 3.5 mm mini jack and RCA line in inputs, and a power switch. There is also an AC outlet to power other devices including wireless streamers. Lastly, there is a switch to set the speaker to mono, left, or right.

Around the front, the drivers are trickled down from Paradigm’s Reference line, with modifications, and are protected via a magnetically attached grille. The A2 is available in five very attractive finishes. My review samples arrived in a brilliant Vermillion Red Gloss. By the way, all necessary cables are supplied in the package so you are ready to roll right out of the box, which is a big time saver and a really nice plus.

Set Up & Listening:

The fit and finish on these little self-powered speakers was very impressive. These are well made and put together products. As far as aesthetics, they are lovely to look at, will easily fit into any decor, regardless of whether they are on stands, a shelf, a desktop, or even a table top. Speaking of tabletops, after removing the speakers from the packaging, I could not wait, so I immediately set up the A2s on my dining table, with my Dell Netbook as a source.

I first plugged each speaker in the wall outlet with the supplied C7 power cord, then connected them together via the supplied mini jack cable. I set one speaker to Left, the other to Right, and made sure the volume knob was set low initially, so as to avoid any unpleasant surprises. I then connected the Dell via another 3.5 mm cable from its headphone out jack. Using Foobar2000 playing back FLAC files, I dialed in what I thought was an appropriate volume setting for the Dell. The Paradigms took me aback with their room filling, viscerally exciting presentation. I literally did a double take. This was real deal, high fidelity sound that in no way resembled classic “computer speakers” in any shape or form.

I am talking about authentic, tuneful, believable bass, liquid, totally satisfying midrange textures, and silky high frequencies. Of course, the limiting factor was the fidelity of the Dell’s headphone output that, while respectable, could be better. I then connected Musical Fidelity’s V-DAC II via USB to the Dell, selected it as the output device, and ran entry level Transparent RCA interconnects into the A2 speakers. Now the sound was even more refined, bold, and tuneful.  Bear in mind, a tabletop is certainly not an optimal set up!


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