Major Mojo: Paradigm Millenia CT Desktop Speakers
Paradigm Millenia CT ($699)
The Paradigm Millenia CT is a three-piece subwoofer/satellite system. Though it was designed with home theater in mind Paradigm's publicists assured me the sound would click on a desktop. I was a little skeptical, but as soon as I had the system up and running the sound was right on the money, even when I was sitting a mere 30 inches away from the sats. The wee speakers and sub deliver a very grown up sound, and the $699.99 M.S.R.P. seems pretty reasonable for a system like this.
First the Numbers
I chatted with Paradigm's Acoustical Engineering Manager, Oleg Bogdanov, to learn more about the design. The satellite's proprietary 1-inch dome tweeter and 4-inch midrange drivers are derived from the ones used in Paradigm's $1,299 Millenia One CT ensemble. The review system's sealed, molded plastic enclosures feel inert and are beautifully finished in gloss black, and they come pre-mounted on cast metal table stands. Black cloth grilles are provided, but I think the speakers looked prettier with the drivers exposed. Crossover components are up to Paradigm's higher-end Reference line standards and feature heavy-duty resistors, film caps, and heavy gauge wire inductors; all of the crossover components were selected by the engineers' when they conducted blind listening tests. The speakers measure a tidy 7.75 by 4.5 by 5.75 inches, a very desktop friendly size.
The sub houses one 8-inch reinforced polymer-composite driver on its side panel, and three channels of Class D amps (80 watts total). Rather than just use off the shelf electronics, the Millenia CT's amps were designed in-house by Paradigm engineers. The subwoofer can be oriented vertically with the supplied cradle or laid down flat, which certainly opens up the placement options. It's nice and skinny, just 5 inches wide, 15.75 deep and 14 high. I had it on the floor, sitting to the right of my desk.
The system's connectivity options are limited to just two inputs, there's an optical Toslink digital input that runs to an onboard 24-bit/44.1-kHz DAC, and a 3.5mm stereo analog input. All of the cables required to setup the system are included with the Millenia CT.
The subwoofer crosses over to the sats at 140 Hertz, and I found the blend unusually smooth and seamless. The sub had no trouble unleashing solid response down to around 40 Hertz, but impact/attack felt a little soft. The sub has its own volume control, which I usually had set at its midpoint in the 12 o'clock position, but it's easy to turn up the sub when the mood strikes, or turn it down for late night listening sessions. I was never aware of any bass coming from the sub, it seemed to come from the sats. That's the goal after all, but something you can't always count on with speakers as small as the Millenia CT sats.
The little system will happily play really loud, far, far louder than I normally play on my desktop, and they never sounded like they were running out of gas. I hit the system nice and hard with Mark Nauseef's all-percussion album "With Space in Mind," which was recorded and mixed sans dynamic range compression, so I can attest to the Millenia CT's agile power delivery. The big drum thwacks just about knocked me over! Soundstaging is broad and crisply focused. The recently released Bob Marley "In Dub Vol. 1" CD fully exercised the subwoofer's talents, the Millenia subwoofer can massage your soul.
I did note one curious design flaw: The controller box has no buttons or knobs, just an IR receiver for the remote, so don't ever misplace the Millenia CT's remote control or you'll find out there's no way to turn the system on or change between inputs without the remote (you can adjust the volume sans remote with your computer's volume control). The remote also handles volume. Another, more minor misstep, the Millenia CT automatically goes into standby mode when it doesn't receive signal for more than 20 minutes or so. That's cool, but the system takes a few seconds to wake up after it receives signal, so I'd have to go back and restart the music. I wish there was a way to prevent it from going into standby mode.