• Home
  • blog
  • Paradigm Millenia HT Speaker System

Paradigm Millenia HT Speaker System

Comprising MilleniaOne main speakers and MilleniaSub, this stylish, mini-sized, all-aluminum, high-tech speaker system from Paradigm packs a big, convincing punch, whether playing music in a classic 2.1 stereo or movie soundtracks in a full-blown 5.1 home theater.

Dec 8, 2011 by Mike Chin

Product MilleniaOne 2.0 or 5.0
speaker system
MilleniaSub
Subwoofer
Manufacturer Paradigm Electronics
MSP $249/speaker $1,399

The Paradigm MilleniaOne is a sophisticated compact speaker system sold as a stereo pair or in a set of five for home theater use. The companion MilleniaSub is a compact subwoofer with built in amplifer and crossover designed to enhance the bass response of the MilleniaOne speakers. It’s possible to configure these speakers in a simple stereo pair (2.0), a stereo pair + sub (2.1), stereo pair + center speaker + sub (3.1) or full surround sound with sub (5.1). In any configuration, the Millenia speaker system has formidable style and sophistication, with an obvious heritage in classic audio gear, rather than computer speakers.

No surprise, given that Paradigm has been a major going concern in the hifi speaker business since the 1980s. Like several other big speaker brands, Paradigm is a Canadian company, headquartered in Mississauga, Ontario, and offers a staggering number of speaker systems in a dozen different lines for umpteen applications.


The MilleniaOne might be mistaken for a cheap computer speaker in a quick glance at this PR photo, but it actually looks way better, with a beautiful laquer white finish, integrated brushed aluminum stand, and a hefty weight of 3kg.

At $249 each, the dimunitive ~8″ tall MilleniaOne would not be considered a budget speaker by most people, but it is not high end by today’s AV standards, either. A $498 pair at the PC desk would be acceptable for some, but since Paradigm honestly admits the bass of the tiny MilleniaOne peters out at fairly high 120 Hz, a subwoofer is probably necessary if you’re going to get musical satisfaction. The MilleniaSub is priced at a hefty $1399, which means even a simple 2.1 Millenia system is $1897, and a full blown 5.1 system runs $2,644. Given that self-powered 2.1 channel speaker systems for use around a computer start under $100, Paradigm is obviously aiming considerably higher. Just remember that a $20,000 Honda CR-Z and a $230,000 Lamborghini Gallardo are both described as sporty coupes.


The MilleniaSub is unusual in appearance and design. Both sub and satellites are available in white or black finish.

Even a cursory visit to the Millenia product web pages is enough to bowl you over with the sheer technological sophistication of these speakers, the extensive engineering and manufacturing prowess they embody, and their style. The question in the end, though, is how well all the technology serves the purpose of realistic music and sound reproduction, given the products’ flexible and compact package.

UNPACKING

The Paradigm MilleniaOne and MilleniaSub arrive packed in very sturdy cartons sealed not only with packing tape but hefty staples. The internal shock damping was excellent.


All the Paradigm products are very well packaged and protected from shipping damage.


The five MilleniaOnes secured in place with closed-cell foam inserts.

A couple of other product samples accompanied the speakers:

Paradigm PT-2 Wireless Transmitter ($149) – A 2.4 GHz wireless device that can send the bass signal at 48 kHz / 16 bits to as many as four Paradigm subwoofers simultaneously up to 50′ away. It eliminates the need for a cable to the sub.

Paradigm Perfect Bass Kit (PBK $299) – A sophisticated room equalization system, complete with calibrated microphone and software, to optimize the bass response of the Millenia speakers for the room, the position of the speakers and the listeners’ position. Its effective range is below ~400Hz, where room effects are most prominent.

More on these accessories later.

DESIGN, FEATURES, SPECS

The Paradigm MilleniaOne bears a passing resemblance to the metal-enclosure Braun products from the 1970s which were the original mini hifi speakers, born to reside on the back deck of a BMW sedan, but quickly adapted for lifestyle hifi. Speaker technology has come a long ways since then, and the MilleniaOne employs a great many innovative high tech tricks. Here, Paradigm PR writers breathlessly describe some of those features & benefits:

“Molded 1” Aluminum Domes… anodized silver color finish. Powerful rare-earth neodymium magnets deliver incredible energy in the gap!

“Single-Piece 4” Aluminum Bass/Midrange Cones… anodized silver color finish. Single-piece construction allowed us to iprove the cone modal vibartion pattern and bingo — better frequency response immediately.

“Optimized Magnet/Motor Structure… more attention to detail in the optimizing of the structure than anything found in a big box store… and anything else claiming to be high-end quality for that matter!

“Sculpted Die-Cast Aluminum Enclosures, integrated baffle and chassis… a thicker wooden cabinet with the same external dimensions wouldn’t have allowed us to fit the large powerful drivers. And since aluminum is a superb conductior of heat, the enclosure also functions as a heatsink.”


This cutaway view of the MilleniaOne shows off its many high tech features.

The metal grill attaches neatly by way of magnets around its rim.

The sturdy integral stand allows a range of vertical and horizontal tilt,
whether the MilleniaOne is mounted horizontally or vertically.


Note port on back (with speaker rotated for horizonal center channel operation). The terminals are spring loaded and accept only bare wire, perhaps up to 14 gauge. They are awkward to access and use, especially when the stand is set up for vertical operation. The thumbscrew for stand adjustment is also a bit awkward.

 

Paradigm MilleniaOne
Specifications
Design 2-driver, 2-way vented die-cast aluminum enclosures with integrated baffle and chassis. Low-diffraction grilles maximize imaging and ensure smooth dispersion.
Crossover 3rd-order electro-acoustic at 2.2 kHz
High-Frequency Driver 25-mm (1 in) S-PAL™ satin-anodized pure-aluminum dome
Bass / Mid Driver 102-mm (4 in) S-PAL™ satin-anodized
pure-aluminum dome
Low-Frequency Extension 76 Hz ((DIN 45 500. Indicates -3 dB in a typical listening room.)
Frequency Response On-Axis ±2 dB from 120 Hz – 20 kHz
30° Off-Axis ±2 dB from 120 Hz – 18 kHz
Sensitivity Room – 89 dB
Anechoic – 86 dB
Suitable Amplifier Power 15 – 100 watts
Maximum Power 50 watts
Impedance Compatible with 8 ohms
Height, Width, Depth
(not including stand)
7.75″H x 4.5″W x 5.75″D
19.5 cm x 11.5 cm x 14.5 cm
Weight 3kg w/ integral stand (we measured it)
Finishes Gloss Black, Gloss White

DESIGN, FEATURES, SPECS (continued)

The MilleniaSub is considerably more complex than the MilleniaOne, housing two bass drivers, a sophsticated electronic crossover and a very powerful amplifier in its slim, compact form.

“Back to Back Bipolar Dual Woofer Design… inherently vibration cancelling. Woofers fire in opposite directions resulting in physical cancellation of cabinet vibration and a massive reduction in the potential for sound-destroying resonances.

“Killer Polymer Monocoque Cone Design… the outer skin of the cone bears the brunt of the motion stress brought on by extended cone movement. Cone is FEA-optimized (Finite Element Analysis) for maximum strength-to-weight ratio.

“Over-Molded Corrugated Santoprene Surround… well known performance advantages like high excursion and symmetrical compliance as well as increased longevity remiscent of our RVC-12SQ in-wall sub = higher outout, lower distortion; every bass note sounds disinct.

“Radical Dustcap Design… braced through the center and adhered to the cone’s edge to move primary cone breakup mode to outside the woofer’s operating band. Reduced distortion and improved frequency response.

“FEA-Optimized Motor Structure… 1″ voice coil, high energy rare-earth neodymium ring magnets.

“5-mm Thick Die-Cast Aluminum Cabinet… ultra-rigid but also super slim to fit in al the state-of-the-art technology.

“Built-in wireless receiver for wireless signal input option.

“USB port for Perfect Bass Kit equalization.

“Advanced Ultra-Class-D Amplifier… Paradigm’s Digital Signal Processing Design. Sophisticated mathematical algorithms shape frequency response ensuring accurate, consistent musicla bass without distortion even at highest output levels.”


This cutaway view of the MilleniaSub shows off its many high tech features.


The MilleniaSub is about as big as a standard briefcase — pretty darn small for a subwoofer. The three knobs on the front are controls for level, crossover frequency, and phase. The “P” logo lights up blue when the sub is powered up; it powers off automatically when no input signal is sensed.


Like the MilleniaOne, the sub can be positioned vertically as in the previous photo or horizontally on four felt-padded, hefty, locking metal feet. Here, too, is a closeup of the unusually flat 13 x 4″ bass driver with its corrugated surround.

Input panel has AC jack, USB port and phono input plug. Note big thumbscrews that attach sturdy plastic base for vertical operation.

Note: The MilleniaSub design did not just materialize out of the blue. It is, in fact, an adaptation of a low profile subwoofer developed for in-wall mounting that Paradigm has offered for some time. For details, see this page on the RVC-12SQ reference in-wall subwoofer.

Paradigm MilleniaSub
Specifications
Design Dual driver, sealed box, vibration cancelling, built-in Ultra-Class-D™ power amplifier, built-in wireless receiver for wireless option, USB port for PBK equalization
Amplifier: High-Current,
Discrete Output
900 watts Dynamic Peak /
300 watts RMS
Amplifier Features Auto-on, soft clipping, thermal monitoring
Subwoofer Cut-Off (low pass) Frequency Variable 35 Hz – 150 Hz; Bypass Option
Bass Drivers Two 355 x 76-mm (14 x 3″) reinforced polymer cones, corrugated Santoprene® surrounds, 25-mm (1 in) voice-coils
Bass / Mid Driver 102-mm (4 in) S-PAL™ satin-anodized
pure-aluminum dome
Low-Frequency Extension* 21 Hz (DIN 45 500. Indicates -3 dB in a typical listening room.)
Sub / Sat Phase Alignment Variable 0° – 180°
Line-Level Input RCA Sub-Out / LFE-Out of receiver,
processor or other line-level source
Height, Width, Depth
(horizontal, incld feet)
13.75 x 46.5 x 35.5 cm
5-1/2 x 18-3/8 x 14″
Height, Width, Depth
(vertical, including stand)
38.25 x 12.5 cm (stand width 17.9cm ) x 46.5 cm
(15 in x 4-7/8 in (stand width 7″) x 18-3/8″)
Height, Width, Depth
(on-wall, incld hardware)
35.6 cm x 46.5 cm x 15.0 cm
(14 x 18-3/8 x 5-7/8″)
Weight 10.9 kg / 24 lb each
Finishes Gloss Black, Gloss White
Accessories (sold sep.) Paradigm PT-2 Wireless Transmitter
Paradigm Perfect Bass room correction system
MilleniaSub Wall-Mount Bracket system
Finishes Gloss Black, Gloss White

LISTENING IMPRESSIONS


The wee oval thing atop is the subject of this review.

The MilleniaOne speakers, despite their appropriately small size, are not meant for use as desktop speakers at a PC desk. Since they are bonafide hi-fi speakers with no apologies for size, they were hooked into my main audio-only system in place of the my usual speakers.

The reference system is composed of:

The signal source is mostly CD or higher quality digital audio files (some
24/96) from my home network streamed via a SqueezeBox
Touch
.

The digital signal from the Squeebox is converted to analog by a Benchmark
DAC1
192-kHz 24-bit D/A audio converter via the coax SPDIF connection.

The output of the Benchmark DAC1 feeds the AV5105 — a discontinued
100 w/ch stereo power amplifier from Linn.

A pair of NHT
2.9
, a fairly large (over 3 cu. ft.), 78-lb, 4-way speaker system one
step down from the brand’s then-top 3.3 model. Sold for $2,500~2,600/pr in its
day, the NHT 2.9 has a claimed 26Hz-26kHz, ±3dB frequency range.

No exotic cables are used, but the interconnects are high silver content wire
with good quality phono plugs. Speaker cables are Linn multistrand dipole (about
12 gauge) terminated with bannaa plugs. For the MilleniaOne, DIY twisted cable
runs of 15′ made from CAT5 were used. The bare speaker ends were twisted together
to fit into the spring loaded terminals.

The Benchmark DAC1 is a well recognized top performing D/A converter. The NHT
2.9 speakers and Linn amplifier are older and probably nowhere near “real
high end”, but the system still sounds excellent, capable of convincing
musical realism at fairly high volume. The room is quite large and lively, 30′
x 13′ with an 8′ ceiling — a living room that extends into the dining area.
The NHT 2.9 speakers are about 7′ apart, 1.5′ in front of a wall that is mostly
sliding glass doors to the front deck, and the listening area is about 10′ in
front of the speakers.

The MilleniaOne speakers were placed atop the NHT 2.9 speakers (which puts them slightly high for a seated listener). Only the SqueezeBox was used for a sound source. As the photo suggests, it is a David-Goliath speaker comparison.

1. MilleniaOne Only

The sound that emerged from the MilleniaOne was immediately arresting — detailed and clear, with excellent transients and imaging. It was lacking in bass, sounding thin with most bass instruments. Positioned so far from any reinforcing room boundaries, this was no surprise.

Paradigm suggests a break-in period of 100 hours for the MilleniaOne. This was accomplished by moving the speakers into the anechoic chamber and running white noise through them continuously for several days at ~85 dB/1m.

Upon returning to listening, the initial impressions were confirmed. The MilleniaOne is a very neutral sound reproducer with excellent linearity and transient quickness. If the <100Hz thinness could be ignored, the sound was top notch, easily the equal of the NHT 2.9.

The system could play quite loudly without strain, upwards of 90 dB from 3 meters away in this large room, but as volume increased so did the thiness of the sound. Despite their obvious high fidelity, this is not a speaker system most people will enjoy without a sub.

2. MilleniaOne + MilleniaSub (2.1)

The MilleniaSub was soon called into play, positioned between the MilleniaOnes. The easiest way to hook it up was via the Paradigm PT-2, which took the signal from the Benchmark D/A converter and sent it wirelessly to the sub. The internal crossover of the sub was adjusted manually. This left the MilleniaOne with a full range signal without bass rolloff, which denies some of the advantages of a 2.1 speaker setup, as it forces the 4″ driver to reproduce low bass notes already being handled by the sub. A proper 2.1 setup would have to wait for an AV receiver with a high pass output for small main speakers.


MilleniaSub placed just to the left of the right speaker.


The $140 PT-2 takes a full range signal from either speaker outputs (with a pass-through for the main speakers) or preamp outputs, converts it to digital (48 kHz / 16 bits) and sends it wirelessly to the radio receiver and D/A coverter built into the sub. There are no controls on the sub relating to this wireless function. The PT-2 has a latency delay switch for 15, 20 and 25ms, and a sync switch in case the sub does not recognize the signal from the PT-2. In my time with the MilleniaSub and PT-2, they worked flawlessly together. The sync button was never needed, and the latency switch was never moved from 15ms. There was no audible (or measurable difference) between hardwiring the feed to sub compared to using the PT-2. A 15ms time delay seems too short to be significant in the context of the multiple time paths in any audio recording/reproduction process. Consider at the recording stage, the different time paths from various instruments to the microphones. There would be far more than 15ms delay, for example, between a trumpeter 5′ to the left versus a conga drummer 9′ away on the right.

The sub crossover was set to 80Hz, then both the phase (0~180°) and level controls were manually set by ear while listening to music. Naturally, I sought to replicate a tonal balance similar to what I am used to hearing with the NHT 2.9. A reasonable balance was reached in a couple of minutes without much effort. The sub was moved around a bit between the two main speakers, but the position did not seem critical. The result was strikingly good, even with so little tweaking: The bass was taut, deep and powerful, the transition from bass to higher frequencies quite smooth. It was not possible to localize the source of the bass; as with the NHT 2.9, on well recorded program material, the entire wall came alive with music. In fact, the sound was good enough that I just became immersed in the music instead of analyzing the speakers… for many weeks.


The control panel on the MilleniaSub: Level, x-over frequency, phase.

Just a small sampling of the music I employed and enjoyed thus:

Jeff Buckley‘s unmatched rendition of Hallelujah which turned this once-obscure Leonard Cohen song into a modern classic and challenge for many a torch singer. The explosive vocals and guitar work come through beautifully on the Millenia.

When I first heard Melody Gardot crooning Your Heart Is As Black As Night in her distinctive vibrato, shivers ran down my spine. A lush, richly-instrumented arrangement that retains the focus on the singer, from the album, My One and Only Thrill, 2009.

Water Is Wide by the Indigo Girls, Jewel and Sarah McLachlan from a Lilith Fair (Vol 1, CD2) concert at the end of the last century has a soaring, rich bloom of vocal harmonies and acoustic guitars. If we could hear angels sing, they’d sound like this.

Alabama 3‘s Woke Up This morning, which became the opening song for The Sopranos TV series, growls with driving menace.

The vibrant, soulful R&B energy of Joss Stone in Some Kind of Wonderful is a fantastic wakeup call any time of day. The drum kit in her tight band demand great transient response, and the Millenias deliver.

Mozart Sonatas on the Philips label played immaculately by piano grande damme Mitsuko Uchida are probably known to all classical music fans. A lone grand piano played masterfully is no simple thing to reproduce well.

Not long before he died, Johnny Cash teamed with Glenn Campbell to record this seminal song from the 60s. The evocative lyrics of Gentle on My Mind, released posthumously on 5-CD album Unearthed, combined with the fragile mortality of JC’s aged voice is poignant.

Dave’s True Story was a NYC duo of deceptively simple vocalist Kelly Flint singing composer/guitarist David Cantor‘s twisted, witty Cole Porterish songs. The 2002 album Sex Without Bodies features many great tunes, including Misery, I’ll Never Read Trollope Again and the title track. Recorded at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, the 96 kHz, 24-bit version has a great, live sound.

Drab Zeen: Electronic-tinged jazz boogies trombone, sax, piano, French lyrics, with traditional Mideast motifs and instruments in this brilliant unique fusion album of excellent fidelity by Toufic Faroukh. Great percussions, dense textures… What a workout for the audio system! (And the mind!)

I Want to be Seduced by Irish singer Mary Coughlan on her 1985 debut album, Tired & Emotional, a relaxed melange of folk, jazz, country. Just her and an acoustic bass. (I transferred the track from the original LP to 96/24 WAV/FLAC using a Linn Sondek LP12 and an M-Audio sound card.)

Despite the musical immersion, I managed to jot down enough notes and make a couple of switches back to my reference speakers to conclude that the combination of MilleniaOne and MilleniaSub, even in this non-ideal 2.1 setup, is a touch better overall. The bass extends deeper and has a bit less artificial mid-bass warmth, and is every bit as quick and taut. The Millenia combo also edges the NHT 2.9 in sound stage imaging, and clarity with both male and female voices.

LISTENING IMPRESSIONS (continued)

3. MilleniaOne + MilleniaSub (2.1), with Perfect Bass Kit Treatment


PBK mic on supplied stand.

The $300 Perfect Bass Kit optimizes the bass response curve of a Paradigm subwoofer to the room in which it is used. You still have to set the relative levels of sub and main speakers, the xover frequency of the sub, and the phase, but most of the deleterious sub-150Hz effects imposed by the room can be compensated. There usually are room-specific effects, especially in the bass, which are very difficult to correct without active equalization. In our age of ubiqutous computing, the PBK is a marriage of acoustics and digital technology which is furthering the goal of perfect sound reproduction, a recreation of the original musical event.

The kit includes a calibrated mic, mic stand, two sets of USB cables (one for the mic, one for the sub), and a software disc with the compensation curve for the specific mic in the kit (since microphones are also subject to sample variance). Every detail has been thought of! All you need to provide is a Windows or Mac PC, ideally a laptop.

Once the software is loaded, the mic and sub are both connected vis long USB cables to the laptop. A low-to-high-frequency sweep is run through the sub, the sound picked by the mic, and saved by the software. This is repeated four more times, with the mic in a different position each time, hopefully covering the range of listening positions. The data is compiled, optimized solutions are calculated, then finally, the compensation curve is uploaded to the sub.

I ran the PBK several times, with the sub in different locations, but always between the two main speakers. The measured presonse varied surprisingly little, though this may be specific only to my room. I also listened to the system with the compensated sub, using several bass-demanding pieces of music.

I recalled a concert of Juan de Marcos and the Afro-Cuban All Stars, a large mostly-brass jazz ensemble from Cuba at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts on the University of BC campus. The Chan Centre has stellar acoustics, and upon returning home to play a CD of the music I’d heard earlier that evening, I had been struck at how thick and heavy the bass of my stereo system sounded in contrast. The PBK compensation did not transform the sound of the Millenias into the live Chan Centre experience, but there was a distinct and audible improvement reminiscent of that difference. Bass lines became cleaner, somehow lighter yet more realistic. After listening at length, there was no question that given the choice, I would usually opt for the PBK-ed sound. I say usually because there are times, and some pieces of music, that always seem to sound better with the bass — and volume — cranked. I’m sure you all know what I mean. Accuracy isn’t always what we seek.


PBK only measures and corrects the response of the sub. The uncorrected response, the target, and the calculated response after correction are shown. Both peaks and valleys are smoothed, and the correct high frequency roll off is applied. Note that uncorrected, there is a rising boost in the bass below about 60 Hz, reaching as much as +5~6 dB by 30 Hz. Corrected, it becomes smooth and flat to 30Hz, with useful output to probably 25 Hz. The SPL at which this correction was made is modest; the deep bass probably cannot be maintained at very high levels, say >95 dB.

4. MilleniaOne + MilleniaSub in a proper 2.1 setup, with PBK and a good AV Receiver

When Paradigm heard about my lack of an AV receiver or amplifier to drive the Millenia system in a proper crossover setup, the company rep arranged to have an Anthem MRX 300 AV receiver delivered to me. Anthem happens to be the AV electronics division of Paradigm, and made its reputation with products like the Statement D2v surround processor which sells for somewhere around $8,000. The MRX 300 is the most basic of Anthem’s more modest AV receiver line, but at $1,000, it is still not exactly “budget”. The MRX 300 has a huge array of features, which I won’t go into in any detail here. You’re welcome to check out the above link to the product page.

The most important aspect of the MRX 300 is that it has a bass management system with built-in electronic crossover that provides a proper bandwidth-limited output for the main speakers in a 2.1, 3.1 or 5.1 setup. The MilleniaOne will receive a signal that is rolled off below the crossover point, which can be set at 60, 80, 100, 120 or 150 Hz.

The MRX 300 was inserted into my stereo system in place of the Linn AV5105 amplifier. To familiarize myself with whatever changes the receiver wrought in the sound, to establish a baseline reference, the NHT 2.9 speakers were hooked up in standard stereo, and the receiver was used in the system for upwards of a week. Overall, the sound was similar to that obtained with the Linn amp, perhaps a touch livelier in some ways and in other ways a touch coarser, mostly in the treble. These differences were subtle and could easily have been imagined or exaggerated.

After this period of normalization, the MilleniaOne/Sub system was hooked up in proper 2.1 configuration. The crossover was set to 100 Hz, and the PBK re-run. Then listening ensued again.

Human acoustic memory can be fickle and unreliable… but with that caveat out of the way, I can say this setup sounded better than the previous 2.1 setup where the MilleniaOne speakers received the full bandwidth signal. Interestingly, while the improvement in bass clarity and musicality was expected, there was an unexpected bonus. At higher volumes, a touch of haze seemed to be lifted from the midband as well. This could have been the effect of reduced intermodulation distortion due to the reduced excursion of the 4″ mid/bass drivers of the MilleniaOne now that signals below 100 Hz were being rolled off at 12 dB/octave.

5. MilleniaOne + MilleniaSub in a proper 3.1 setup for HD Home Theater

With the Anthem MRX 300 receiver on hand, it became simple to set up the Millenia speakers in a 3.1 system around a 1080p large screen TV — in a much smaller, 10′ x 12′ room dedicated to HT. A horizontally configured MilleniaOne speaker was placed in the center of the stand on which the TV sits. Two other MilleniaOne speakers were placed on 2′ stands on either side of the TV. The stands are very heavy, open frame, steel pedestals with spiked feet, built originally for the Linn Kan speakers a couple decades ago. The sub was placed on the floor just in front of the TV a little left of center. PBK was run to tune the sub to this room before any extended listening was done.

With the very first Bluray screening, the impact of the Millenia system was obvious: This is the best sound I’ve heard from my HT setup. Dialogue was more intelligible at both lower and higher volumes, the drama of musical scores considerably heightened, the ambient sound fields more involving, and sound effects more visceral.

The speaker systems I’d been using with the big TV were not chopped liver by any means. It was quite good, in fact. In use just before the Millenia speakers were a pair of 2-way, high quality speaker systems in hefty 40″ tall transmission-line enclosures I’d designed and built personally using top notch Focal driver components with a 24 dB/oct Linkwitz-Riley crossover designed for them using a computer acoustic simulation / system design program called LEAP. These speakers are capable of good bass response, about -3 dB at 35 Hz at ~95 dB SPL. An AudioEngine A2 was used for the center speaker, all of this powered through a slightly older Denon AV receiver. The Anthem MRX 300 receiver is subtly better sounding than the older Denon, as it was tried with the original speakers first. The Millenia 3.1 setup, however, is more obviously better than the previous speaker system.

6. MilleniaOne + MilleniaSub 3.1 with ARC

One of the more sophisticated features of the Anthem receiver is Anthem Room Correction, which is basically a full-range version of PBK, one that applies corrective equalization for every speaker, over the entire 20~20,000 Hz range. It was a no-brainer to try this room correction feature with the Millenia, as the ARC kit (software, mic, stand and cables) is supplied with every Anthem receiver. The setup process is the same as with PBK, albeit longer because each speaker is tested, not just the sub. The end result, captured from the computer screen, are shown below.


ARC correction on the Millenia 3.1 system.

With ARC, the MilleniaOne speaker equalization curves are applied within the Anthem receiver. It’s not clear whether the curve is uploaded to the sub as with the PBK, but this does not matter.

What matters is the end result, which was an overall improvement, particularly in the mid to high bass, and the midrange. This was with mostly Bluray movies , either straight from the disc or ripped to 720p or 1080p video files. Again, the intelligibility of dialogue was improved, and the uniqueness of individual voices, accents and phrasing became more marked. Movies full of booms, bangs and other big sound effects such as Terminator Salvation, Toy Story 3, Lord of the Rings or Saving Private Ryan benefitted as expected, but so did subtler soundtracks of movies like Eastern Promises, Hereafter, or WALL-E. In a word, the Millenia 3.1 system with ARC makes the soundtrack of movie and other video programming more immersive, convincing and realistic… although it is also accurate enough to expose poorly done sound effects or recordings at times.

A 5.1 setup was tried with reasonably good effect, but only briefly. The room is just too small to be comfortable for the side speakers, and the stands and wires they require. Suffice it to say that the Millenia speakers certainly don’t get in the way of delivering the sound goods in 5.1, either.

TESTS IN THE ANECHOIC CHAMBER

SPCR is a couple of major steps ahead of almost all other PC hardware review sites in acoustics metrology. We have…

  • our own home-built, hemi-anechoic chamber, an environment that is extremely quiet and almostly completely without reverberation above ~150 Hz.
  • a lab-reference, calibrated, ultra-low noise microphone with ruler-straight frequency response that cost over $2,000
  • a sophisticated PC-based sound measurement system

SPCR’s audio measurement system can be employed to provide basic loudspeaker measurements such as on/off axis frequency response, maximum SPL, and total harmonic distortion. The audio measurement / spectrum analyzer system consists of…

For testing loudspeakers, a signal generator is needed to drive the speakers. As the speakers have built-in amplifiers, this was provided with software via the integrated sound card of a second PC, a silent PC with no moving parts, inside the anechoic chamber.

NOTES on MEASUREMENTS and TEST CONDITIONS

1. SPL: The sound pressure level at which measurements are done is extremely important. A common procedure is to provide the sensitivity with 1W input, and also test the frequency response at the same power input. For a typical passive speaker (one that does not have a dedicated amplifier built into it), this might be something like 90 dB/W, which means when driven with 1W input at, say, 1 kHz or with white noise, the speaker output measures 90 dB SPL one meter away. In fact, 90 dB@1m is a fairly common level for frequency response measurements.

Two considerations:

What is the right baseline SPL? I have already tested some other speakers in the chamber using 85 dB SPL at 1m as a reference, so it makes sense to continued using this level. It’s 5 dB lower than the usual 90 dB used for hi-fi speakers. 90 dB is much louder than you might think: Typical SPL scales suggest that 90 dB is about what you hear from a diesel truck 10m away, inside a moving subway train, or from a food processor directly in front of you.

What is a realistic volume for actual use? A check of SPL levels was done at the listening position ~10′ from the speakers in the large audio-only room playing a variety of music at various volumes, and movies and other video material in the small home theatre room, with the seated position 6′ from the speakers. The results are summarized below.

SPL @ 1m, Typical Use w/ Paradigm MilleniaOne/Sub speakers
Music only system Pop music, background 75~80 dB
Pop music, “loud” 85~95 dB
Other music, background 70~80 dB
Other music, “loud” 80~95 dB
HT/TV Drama 70~85 dB
Action 75~95 dB
Documentary 75~85 dB
*Other Music: Jazz, Classical, Folk, etc.

The measured SPL in the large room was naturally higher because the speakers have to play at a higher amplitudes to reach the same subjective volume in the bigger space, seated farther away from the speakers. Still, it was rare for the SPL to exceed 95 dB@1m in any application. Even 90 dB@1m was not that common in the big room, reached mostly during brief peaks. The SPL @1m in the TV room averaged about 5 dB lower, reflecting both the smaller space and the closer distance between speakers and listener. This could be simply a reflection of my listening habits, but spot checks with other family members, friends and visitors confirmed that this is fairly typical: It is not likely that many people actually listen to music in their living room or watch videos on their TV with higher SPL than indicated above. There are always exceptions; remember, I am just trying to establish a reasonable baseline.

2. Frequency Response: This is the single most widely cited specification in audio, especially with mechanical devices like loudspeakers, which traditionally have the greatest deviations from flat frequency response. It is best shown in a frequency vs sound pressure level graph. In the simplest terms, frequency response tells the ability of an audio device to reproduce sounds of different frequencies at the correct relative levels (loudness). (Here is a good primer on the topic.) A perfect device has a frequency response that looks like a ruler straight line; hence the term “flat” (not flat as in B-minor flat.) Alas, there are many complex issues around this much-cited parameter.

It is highly dependent on the acoustics of the room, the position of the speaker(s) in the room, and the position of the microphone. If this test is performed in a live room, then sophisticated calculations must be used to remove the effect of room reflections (echoes). Otherwise, it must be performed in an anechoic chamber.

Frequency response of a loudspeaker generally does not stay constant with loudness level. Typically, there is a range of SPL in which a speaker is most frequency-linear; go outside this range, especially above it, and the speaker will exhibit frequency non-linearities that lower fidelity.

Frequency response also changes with the angle of perception, both vertically and horizontally. How smoothly the frequency response changes as one moves off axis is a key to better sound loudspeakers.

Given the complexities, dozens of frequency response graphs could be plotted and posted… but their usefulness would be questionable for most readers. So… this is the procedure established for frequency response testing:

  • Place the speaker at the front edge of the 28.5″ (72cm) tall table in anechoic chamber.
  • Place the microphone 1m directly in front, at the same height.
  • Set the output level to 85 dB@1m SPL using white noise.
  • Capture the frequency response graph at 1m distance, on axis, and at 30 degrees laterally off axis
  • Treat one satellite + subwoofer as a single speaker, with bass unit directly under the satellite.

NOTE: Only a single speaker (or single speaker + center woofer) is tested, as there are many complications that arise when trying to measure a stereo pair together at the same time.

3. Harmonic Distortion: This is a relatively easy parameter to measure. A pure sine wave tone is fed into the speaker, and the spectrum analyzer sums up all the aspects of the signal that are not this pure tone, expressed in a percentage of the total signal. Harmonic distortion is not particularly important, however, as it occurs naturally in music and is thus difficult to perceive. Even 10% THD at 50 Hz is probably not audible to most people if it occurs in the context of music — and I am not talking here only about a heavy fuzz bass guitar. Amplifiers and other electronics are capable of miniscule levels of harmonic distortion (say 0.01%), but it is much higher in mechanical devices like speakers, especially when large cone excursions are involved (necessary for high volume at low frequencies). Again, the SPL at which HD is measured has a serious impact on the result, as does the frequency. Simply put, the louder and lower the test tone, the harder a speaker has to work to reproduce it. Longer cone excursions almost always result in greater signal anomalies.

After much experimentation, this is the procedure established to test for harmonic distortion:

  • Place the speaker at the front edge of the 28.5″ (72cm) tall table in anechoic chamber.
  • Place the microphone 1m directly in front, at the same height.
  • Set the output level to 85 dB@1m SPL using white noise.
  • Leave the gain unchanged while running test tones at the following frequencies: 10kHz, 5kHz, 2.5kHz, 1kHz, 500Hz, 250Hz, 100Hz — and lower, to the lowest frequencies where distortion does not exceed 20%.
  • Tests were kept as short as possible: It is easy to damage speaker drivers with steady state pure tones, even at low power levels!

OTHER TESTS?

There is no shortage of tests that can be run on speaker systems. These include impulse testing, intermodulation distortion, resonance/decay testing of the enclosures, phase response, etc. With time and effort, all of these tests can probably be brought to bear on SPCR speaker reviews. The real question is, for what benefit? Once the basics of frequency response, dynamic volume capability and distortion are covered, in-use details and good subjective descriptions are more important for a buying decision. Many other technical parameters are simply too complex for even geek-tech readers to correlate with the listening experience. Finally, keep in mind that speaker measurements are not infallible, nor do they tell the whole story. Like careful listening with the right ancillary equipment, acoustic measurements are just tools by which the performance of a speaker system can be more fully understood.

ANECHOIC CHAMBER AUDIO ANALYSIS

1. Frequency Response – We begin with a frequency response graph showing one satellite + subwoofer combined, on axis with the satellite. It is not useful to test the frequency response of both left and right speakers together, due to measurement complexities.


The two curves represent different bass control settings: Level, phase, and crossover frequency. Those controls make it possible to raise or lower the bass level dramatically, relative to the satellites. Note the differences in the 100~200Hz region, where the transition between sub and satellites occurs. This is not truly representaive of actual use for these speakers, because the satellites are being driven full range. In normal use, the signal to the MilleniaOne would have the bass rolled off to match the xover of the sub.

Here is a comparison of on-axis and 45 degrees off axis frequency response.


The blue line shows the on-axis response; the red line is 45 degrees off axis. Output is reduced around 2~5 kHz , and in the octave 10~20 kHz. Subjectively, the MilleniaOne has broad even dispersion, chan ging very little in character as you move across in front of it. A 30 degree axis curve should also have been captured; it was virtually identical to the on-axis response.

What is really notable about the above curves is the extension right down to 20Hz. In the anechoic chamber, at these relative modest levels, the little MilleniaSub really has audible (and visceral) output down to those frequencies. Push the level up to 100 dB SPL, and it is not so extended, falling off more quickly below ~35 Hz, but still, for such a small box, the bass performance is astonishing.

The rise at 200~300 Hz that shows up on these curves did not really correlate to anything I heard in my listening; there is no artificial warmth to speaking voices. (Typical adult female speaking voices have fundamentals at 165~255 Hz). The dip just above that is also difficult to correlate to subjective listening. The slight bump around 1~2 kHz, on the other, seems to correlate somewhat to a bit of forwardness in vocal overtones. As for that top end brightness, there’s generally not enough signal in that range to make it significant, but it might add a touch of air to the highest overtones.

How do these frequency response test results compare with those on other speakers we’ve tested? Well, since the Millenia speakers are only the 3rd speakers to be tested in the SPCR anechoic chamber, comparative data is slim. The other speakers are in a totally different class, designed parimarily to be PC speakers. Still, for a laugh, here are the other curves. The Millenia speakers obviously extend much depper into the bass and higher in the treble, and generally appear smoother throughout, but you cannot tell by these curves the difference in sonic performance between the Millenia and these speakers, which are completely outclassed in listening compatisons.

Click for large view
Frequency response graph of the Rockus 3D | 2.1.

Click for large view
Frequency response graph of the AudioEngine A2.

2. Harmonic Distortion

As with all the other tests, the output level was set to 85 dB@1m with white noise. Sine wave tones were then run, for harmonic and intermodulation distortion to be measured with our SpectraPLUS audio analyzer. Results from previous speaker tests are also presented.

Measured Harmonic Distortion
Test Tone
Paradigm
MilleniaOne
Rockus 3D | 2.1
AudioEngine A2
SPL (dB)
THD
SPL (dB)
THD
SPL (dB)
THD
10 kHz
83
0.03%
78
0.38%
78
0.15%
5 kHz
83
0.14%
84
0.64%
84
0.36%
2.5 kHz
83
0.07%
77
0.21%
77
0.28%
1 kHz
83
0.55%
78
0.68%
78
0.39%
500 Hz
85
0.92%
81
1.20%
81
0.60%
250 Hz
88
0.24%
70
4.80%
78
0.76%
100 Hz
84
5.30%
85
4.90%
79
5.90%
80 Hz
86
16.80%
88
16.40%
72
8.10%
70 Hz
72
14.20%
72
13.20%
69
12.40%

The MilleniaOne by itself exhibited exemplary low harmonic distortion. Where its tweeter is operational, from ~2 kHz on up, it is typically below 0.1%. The mid/bass driver also exhibits very low distortion, typically well below 1% to the high end of the bass range. At 100 Hz and below, however, the MilleniaOne fared no better than the other mini speakers we’ve tested before. There are basic limitation to cone size and excursion.

If used with an AV receiver with good bass management features, when a subwoofer is connected, there will be options to roll off the bass to the main speakers, with the -3 dB crossover frequency at 80~150Hz. Having only the MilleniaSub handle the bass will dramatically reduce the bass distortion of the Millenia system.

Here are the harmonic distortion measurements for the Paradigm MilleniaSub.

Harmonic Distortion – MilleniaSub
Test Tone
SPL (dB)
THD
150 Hz
87
0.28%
120 Hz
86
0.42%
100 Hz
86
0.31%
90 Hz
86
0.50%
80 Hz
87
1.29%
70 Hz
86
0.92%
60 Hz
85
2.90%
50 Hz
86
*27.00%

From its upper limit of 150Hz down to ~60Hz, the MilleniaSub measures almost as clean as the MilleniaOne in the midband. My distortion results at 60 Hz below do not seem right; 27% at 50 Hz should be obviously audible, but it did not sound this way to me. And 133% distortion at 40Hz, the next measurement point, also seemed totally off. It is not clear just what is affecting these low frequency distortion tests. It could be that the signal generator itslef is flawed, or perhaps there is too much gear in the chamber vibrating in sympathy to the low frequencies from the sub, thus causing the distortion to be artificially exaggerated.

POWER MEASUREMENTS

This is SPCR; it is a long established tradition to measure and report power consumption whenever possible. They are difficult to do while the speaker/amps are actually working to produce sound, but much easier in static mode. The MilleniaOne speakers draw no power, but the MilleniaSub does.

MilleniaSub
AC Power & SPL Measurements
State
MilleniaSub
Rockus 3D | 2.1
Audioengine A2
AC Power
SPL (dB)
AC Power
SPL (dB)
AC Power
SPL (dB)
Off, plugged into AC.
7W
0
4W
0
1W
0
On, volume control at MUTE
11W
0
7W
0
4W
0
TV sound, moderately loud
11W
60~85 dB@2m
12~24W
60~85 dB@2m
4~20W
60~85 dB@2m
Playing music in large room, just below overload
11~50W
60~95 dB@3m
20~44W
60~85 dB@3m
15~30W
60~85 dB@3m

The MilleniaSub is exceedingly energy efficient in use, rarely budging from its residual 11W AC power draw except during short peaks, even when playing quite loudly. This, despite the 300W RMS / 900W peak power rating of the amp within, which admittedly is supposed to be very energy efficient. Obviously, my listenting never demanded that kind of power, although it’s quite possible the AC power meter used here simply does not have the ability to track the very short power peaks typical in music. The power supply within does not have power factor correction, however; PF measured 0.57 at most loads. While pulling 11W, its Volt-Amp draw is 19~21VA. When it auto-shuts off, the power draw drops to 7W, or 12~13VA.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Paradigm MilleniaOne and MilleniaSub speakers comprise a sophisticated, high fidelity speaker system which has been a pleasure to review. Used as a 3.1 or 5.1 speaker system with a good AV receiver and a large HDTV, the Millenia system delivers highly intelligible dialog, great sound effects, and all the drama of a movie soundtrack with excellent rendition of the sonic ambient. As a “pure” stereo 2.1 system, the Paradigm Millenia is formidable, challenging my excellent full-range NHT 2.9 speakers in many areas, with an involving sound stage, extended treble, highly detail mids, good dynamics through the full frequency range, and punchy deep bass. The user-friendly PBK room matching software ensures that you get the best from the speakers even if your room is not ideal, and the PT-2 wireless transmitter makes it a cinch to get the audio easily to the sub, without any extra wires, across a long distance (50′).

That the Millenia system manages to deliver all this with such dimunitive stylish boxes is icing on the cake. The MilleniaOne + Sub is a setup I would seriously consider as a replacement for my big NHT 2.9 speakers. Downsizing the speakers so dramatically would free up space in the room to the delight of other family members, yet the change would not entail any reduction in musical fidelity; rather, it would bring some real gains in sonic performance. Admittedly, it’s possible that the maximum comfortable loudness level could be a bit lower than the NHT 2.9s, but it is rare for me to push such high volume levels.

Keep in mind that a good stable pair of 2′ tall stands is needed for the MilleniaOnes. The size and shape of these stands will dictate just how small (or large) a footprint the speakers will have in your room.


Paradigm’s illustration of the many creative ways that the little MilleniaSub can be positioned in your space. I would forgo sub-sofa placement, though. I tried it briefly with it beside the sofa and found the bass could be localized. It’s too weird to feel the bass coming from next to you when the rest of the sound is front of you.

All in all, the MilleniaOne and MilleniaSub are impossible not to recommend strongly. My only regrets about these Paradigms are: The price of the sub, which is a bit steep at $1400, and that I will soon have to part with them now that the review is — finally!, sighs the patient Paradigm rep — done.

Our thanks to Paradigm for the extended loan of the Millenia speakers, PBK room equalization, PT-1 wireless transmitter, and Anthem receiver.

Paradigm MilleniaOne + MilleniaSub receive the SPCR Editor’s Choice Award

* * *

Articles of Related Interest
AudioEngine A2: Little Big Speakers
Samsung PN58C6400 Plasma HDTV

Squeezebox 3 Digital Music Box
WD TV Live Streaming Media Player

* * *

Discuss
this article in the SPCR forums.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *