Paradigm Atom v.3 loudspeaker Page 2

But I didn't find the Atoms to be rock speakers only. Their superb articulation of low-level dynamics, their abilities to soundstage and retrieve ambience, made them excellent producers of intimate chamber works such as George Crumb's Quest (Bridge 0007-2), as well as of such orchestral blockbusters as Dorati's interpretation of Stravinsky's Firebird (LP, Mercury Living Presence 90226). Fans of intelligently miked classical works recorded in sonically superior concert halls will not be disappointed in the Atom.

The Atom was also well-suited to small jazz ensembles. On the Modern Jazz Quartet's Concorde (JVC JVCXR-0203-2), Milt Jackson's vibes shimmered with natural but fast transient attack, and once again, this time with Connie Kay's brushed snare and ride cymbal, I found myself obsessively analyzing every detail of a drummer's technique. John Lewis's piano lost a bit of relative clarity, however, with comped chords in that difficult upper bass/lower midrange region.

Up 'n' Atom: The Competition
I compared the Paradigm Atom with the PSB Alpha B ($249), the Polk RT25i ($319), the JMlab Chorus 706 ($450), and the Alón Petite ($1000) (all prices per pair).

The PSB Alpha B's bass performance was also superb, with excellent extension and perhaps a slightly richer midbass. However, its midrange was a bit forward, and the Paradigm had the more natural vocal reproduction. The Atom's lower high frequencies were also more articulate and natural than the PSB's, and somewhat more involving. Although the PSB's detail and low-level dynamic resolution were excellent, I found the Atom to be still better in these regards.

The Polk RT25i's high-frequency performance was more detailed, extended, open, and airy than the Atom's, and its detail resolution and transparency were even better, with a slightly less warm, more neutral midrange. The Polk's bass performance, however, was much more lightweight. Although the RT25i's midbass reproduction was tighter, cleaner, and more natural than the Atom's, the richer and more bass-extended Paradigm was more impressive with rock and orchestral music, particularly at high levels, where the Polk seemed to compress the sound more at higher volume levels.

The JMlab Chorus had a completely different sound: more laid-back, rich, and delicate than any of the others. Its midbass reproduction was ample and rich but tight, with relaxed but not very airy high frequencies and a "farther-back-in-the-hall" perspective. Compared to the Paradigm, Polk, and PSB, however, the JMlab was the best at detail resolution, transparency, and low-level dynamic articulation. But despite the Chorus's large size, its high-level dynamics were not much better than the Atom's.

The Alón Petite was the best of the group in its resolution of detail and low-level dynamics, retrieval of ambience and hall sound, midrange naturalness, high-frequency realism, and midbass clarity, though its bass extension and high-level dynamic realism, while adequate, were no better than the Atom's.

The Atom smashes the Low-Price Barrier
Congratulations to Paradigm for setting a new price benchmark for true audiophile performance that anyone can afford. Though not without flaws, the Atom reproduces a level of realism I've come to expect only from speakers at twice or thrice its price, and does so over a wide range of musical genres at all volume levels. For the difference in price between the Atom and much of its competition, one could purchase quite a few new recordings. That's food for thought.

205 Annagem Blvd.
Mississauga, Ontario L5T 2VI
(905) 632-0180