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Paradigm’s new $299 SE 1 Speaker Beats $1,000+ Model in Blind Listening Tests

At CEDIA Expo, Paradigm will showcase an affordable line of speakers that rivals some of the hottest brands in the business.

Paradigm SE 1 ($299 each) will debut at CEDIA Expo 2009
Julie Jacobson · September 7, 2009
Certainly the test could be rigged, but even if you discount the results by 50 percent, the numbers are looking pretty good for the SE 1 versus at least one other top brand that costs more than four times the price of the little Paradigm powerhouse.

That’s why Paradigm is widely known as a high-value brand. Ask any dealer who sells the stuff – as I did during my recent visit there. It got a little old when virtually every dealer told me they liked Paradigm speakers because they’re the best bang for the buck.

How to Conduct a Blind Listening

Acoustic manager Paul McLain explains, “You bring a bias to speakers, based on price points, aesthetics and brand recognition.”

Hence the blind test.

Three dealers and I sat in theater chairs for the sound demo. We couldn’t see what was behind the screen.

The room is built with the dimensions of a perfectly sized home theater, but there are accommodations to mimic other settings. For example, curtains that line the walls can be spread out or retracted to simulate soft and hard spaces.

Paradigm has a second listening room built like a storefront with metal studs, thin walls, high ceilings and no insulation.

We listened in the “good” room, thankfully because we were exhausted and the chairs were comfy.

In the real world, consumers go to one store, listen to some speakers there, and then go to another store for demos. They can’t possibly compare speakers after that much time has passed.

“Acoustic memory is very short,” says McLain. “It’s only a few seconds.”

Acoustic manager Paul McLain conducts blind listening test.

At Paradigm, three speakers are set behind a screen. The test conductor switches between the three speakers every seven seconds or so, playing several music clips that highlight different audio ranges.

A game-show-like board lights up the speaker that is currently playing.

There’s an elaborate work sheet that I didn’t understand, but the audiophiles in the room were able to assess the spaciousness, fullness, brightness, boominess and boxiness of the speakers.

There was a collective gasp in the room when the speakers finally were revealed: a very large, expensive speaker next to the compact new SE 1 and a notable low-cost brand.

“That’s what happens when you take away the preconceptions,” Aling says.

The new SE 1 will be available in cherry, gloss black, gloss white and rosenut finishes.

For those familiar with Paradigm speaker models, the SE 1 represents “the quality of the Studio Series with the cost savings of the Monitor Series,” Aling says. Paradigm is sold through a network of specialty dealers.

Update: More Details on SE Series

From Paradigm:

Like the award-winning and ever popular Monitor Series, the SE line will boast Paradigm’s SuperDrive technology, which combines very high efficiency with very high output and ultra-low distortion. This results in top-level performance from the Special Edition line regardless of amplification.  The drivers represent a best of breed hybrid mix that includes high frequency drivers from the Paradigm Monitor Series and mineral-filled polypropylene bass/midrange drivers handed down right from the Paradigm Reference Studio Series.  Both the SE 1 bookshelf and SE 3 floorstanding boast the benefits of an aluminum midrange including remarkable clarity, superb extended bass response and elimination of unwanted resonance and distortion.

Aesthetically speaking, the Paradigm SE series presents a system with clean lines, soft edges and general design characteristics seamlessly integrated into the home décor.  With a reasonable footprint, this collection provides real wood veneer finishes for customers seeking sophisticated appearance at a competitive price.



SE 1 Bookshelf

  • Two-driver 2-way bookshelf/stand-mounted
  • 5-1/2˝ M-ICP mid/bass, 1˝ H-PTD dome
  • Estimated $299 MSRP

SE 3 Floorstanding

  • Four-driver 2-1/2-way floorstanding:
  • Two 5-1/2˝ carbon-infused polypropylene bass
  • 5-1/2˝ M-ICP™ mid/bass,1˝ H-PTD dome
  • Estimated $699 MSRP

SE Center

  • Four-driver 3-way center channel
  • Two 5-1/2˝ carbon-infused polypropylene bass
  • 3-1/2˝ M-ICP™ midrange, 1˝ H-PTD dome
  • Estimated $499 MSRP

SE Subwoofer

  • Bass Reflex Single Driver Design
  • 10 Driver with CAP Carbon / Aramid Fiber Polypropylene Cone
  • 900 watts Dynamic Peak / 300 watts RMS Sustained
  • Paradigm’s Proprietary Digital Signal Processing (DSP)  Design
  • Comprehensive Range of Input and Control Facilities
  • USB Port for use with the critically acclaimed Paradigm Perfect Bass Kit (PBK) Room Correction System
  • Estimated $699 MSRP


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  About the Author

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at julie.jacobson@emeraldexpo.com

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  Article Topics

Speakers · News · All Topics
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