Product Review: Paradigm Millenia CT Compact Theater with Powered Subwoofer - ResidentialSystems.com

Product Review: Paradigm Millenia CT Compact Theater with Powered Subwoofer

If you work in consumer electronics, you are painfully aware that three product categories are currently driving 99 percent of the business: tablets, headphones, and soundbars.
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If you work in consumer electronics, you are painfully aware that three product categories are currently driving 99 percent of the business: tablets, headphones, and soundbars.

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The Paradigm Millenia CT system is designed primarily for the apartment dweller.Soundbars have done extremely well because they offer the consumer a simpler and cheaper alternative to a true home theater set-up, even if they do not really offer surround sound or enough flexibility for anything other than the most basic system. The first generation of soundbars was rather mediocre, but some of the more recent offerings have been quite good.

While they all fall short of recreating a true multichannel experience, they do present a solid 2.1 presentation with faux surround very well, ranging in price from $500 to $2,000.

Paradigm’s Millenia CT three-piece compact theater system looks to fill a gap in the market between soundbars and full surround sound systems. What makes Paradigm’s Millenia CT system so unique is that it offers Paradigm’s awardwinning design and sound quality at a very reasonable price.

From the outside, the Millenia CT looks almost identical to the company’s MilleniaOne loudspeakers, and they share the same tonal signature. The build quality is higher on the more expensive siblings, and the CT doesn’t have the same level of resolution or extension on top. It’s not an enormous gap, but with the same music/movies, you can hear the differences.

The biggest differences are clearly with the MilleniaOne Subwoofer and the powered Millenia CT subwoofer; different driver, greater extension, the ability to fine tune the phase, frequency roll-off, placement, and it also weighs 12 pounds more.

The Millenia CT system is also designed for a different type of user, which is primarily the apartment dweller (my entire market in New York City). It’s perfect for the couple that doesn’t want a sophisticated home theater in their living room but wants something well above average that will sound equally as good with music as it does with movies. The CT is also for someone who doesn’t want to invest in cables or obtrusive stands. This is plug ‘n’ play at its best. Everything you need comes in the box with the exception of a wall-mounting system, which I think Paradigm should offer at a small premium.

The tabletop stands are the best I have ever seen offered with any product; and that includes loudspeakers in the $5,000- to $10,000-range. The brilliantly executed metal stands are attractive, sturdy, and easy to adjust with the supplied key (don’t lose it).

The CT also comes with a control box, a credit card-sized remote, and all the cables you need to have music and movies playing in your room within an hour or so.

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An exploded view of the Paradigm Millenia CT speaker design.From a set-up perspective, this system does offer some flexibility. You can place it on the wall (you’ll need to order brackets) or on top of a media console, as long as you do a neat job of hiding the wiring. The CT loudspeakers are not ported, so you can place them as close to the wall as necessary. Of course, placing them six to 10 inches from the wall will improve the soundstage, offering a wider and deeper sounding system.

My main qualms with this system are with its control box and remote. The control box has no controls on it. None. Zilch. It’s a conduit for the supplied cables and a target for the remote. But what do you do if you lose the remote? You are totally out of luck because you will be unable to change the volume or the input (you can raise and lower volume from your iPod or iPhone, but that severely limits the levels to which you can play).

The credit card-sized remote is tiny and can easily be lost. Paradigm should also set a minimum and maximum level for the volume control; it became annoying to keep pushing the volume up button and not knowing when I was near the end of the dial.

The Millenia CT subwoofer is capable of tremendous power and extension, but it would far more convenient to have a phase control and frequency crossover dial like the ones found on the more expensive MilleniaOne subwoofer.

This was left off because it is meant to be plug ‘n’ play, and Paradigm designed it to roll-off at very specific frequencies that the designers felt would offer the most balanced sound. For the most part, they succeeded. One can only expect a four-inch subwoofer to do so much, and while the Millenia CT loudspeaker offers a tremendous amount of bass from a tiny enclosure, I started to wonder if Paradigm was asking this driver to accomplish too much without the help of its very capable subwoofer sibling.

It can recreate a deep and expansive soundstage that many loudspeakers two to three times its price can only hint at. Where the Millenia CT seems to falter a little bit is when you send it something like Green Day or Andrew Bird or a modern soundtrack like the Avengers, which all push the system too hard. The subwoofer seems to be doing less and less the louder you play the system (which is not a bad thing), but the smaller loudspeaker comes across as taking on too much of the load. If you listen at low to moderate listening levels, you will never experience this, but when I cranked up “Jesus of Suburbia” or even something more tempered like “Someone Like You,” I was quick to adjust the volume level down a few notches.

In regard to using this system as a 2.1 home theater rig, I would do the following if you have more than just a Blu-ray player (which sums up 99 percent of the market). Run all of your sources into your HDTV via HDMI and run the digital optical cable from the HDTV into the CT’s control box. Remember to turn off the HDTV’s speakers (the echo is annoying) and activate the digital output on the set via the audio settings. It will be the most convenient set-up for most people as long as you do not lose the remote.

For the audiophiles who cannot fathom the idea of running their media servers into the system via the optical digital cable, use a pair of analog cables from your DAC along with an adaptor that will work with the 3.5mm analog input, and you are golden. You could even run an external phono preamplifier into the analog input to listen to vinyl.

For $699.99, this package comes highly recommended.

905.564.1994
www.paradigm.com

Kudos

Superlative sound quality, reference-level build quality, and inexpensive for what it delivers

Concerns

Remote feels cheap compared to the rest of this high-end system; no volume control on the control box if you lose the remote

Product Specs

Loudspeakers

• Third-order electroacoustic crossover at 2.4Hz
• High- Frequency Driver: 25 mm (1 inch) S-Pal satin-anodized pure-aluminum dome
• Bass/Midrange Driver: 102 mm (4 inches) S-Pal satin-anodized pure-aluminum cone
• Frequency Response: (On- Axis) 140 Hz – 18 kHz +/- 2dB
• Frequency Response: (30 degrees off-axis) 140 Hz – 18 kHz +/- 2dB
• Sensitivity: Room/Anechoic Chamber: 88dB/85dB
• Impedance: Compatible with 8 ohms

Subwoofer

• Single driver, bass reflex design, dual low-turbulence resistive ports, built-in 3-channel amplifier
• Amplifier: Total System Power – 80 watts RMS Sustained/480 watts Dynamic Peak
• Low Frequency Extension: 28Hz
• Cut-off Frequency: 150 Hz fixed

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