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|Friday, May 24th, 2013 |
|Paradigm Mini Monitors (Educational)||Jan 1st, 2005|
|(a letter to a customer)|
Thanks for your inquiry regarding the Paradigm speakers. I was probably talking about the Mini Monitor V3 or V4 model. This little speaker (only about a foot tall but almost a foot deep) has the capability to adapt an extremely accurate and almost near phase correct crossover design in to it. This is the electronics inside the speaker’s box which separates the low frequencies in the woofer and higher frequencies into the tweeter. Paradigm engineers voiced their crossover design to be very full sounding in the voice range because most buyers want such in a 5.1 surround sound system.
However this inexpensive speaker has a superior built cast frame woofers with butyl rubber surrounds which will last 20 years and super lightweight titanium dome tweeters which have a special phase-correcting lens over the tweeter, as well the use of a ferro fluid dampening coolant in the tweeters magnetic gap to improve efficiency and dynamic range capability. The cabinet is heavy MDF board with bracing around the internal walls. What is crucial is that the dynamic efficiencies of the woofer and tweeters be similar, therefore the sense of bass to treble levels remains in timbral balance at very low or high acoustic output listening levels, which this modified speaker does incredibly well.
In this custom made crossover (some original parts are kept), about eight new Mylar capacitors and custom wound coils are used to carefully adjust the crossover point very sharply and phase correct the woofer to tweeter which will then effect better transient response as well as better imaging. It can never be totally perfect as we are dealing with cones and domes spaced apart on a cabinet face but nonetheless, the rare ability to get the crossover really neutral sounding will create the illusion of a speaker which disappears in a room environment. The sense of detail of imagining and ambiance will be more apparent over a wider range of program material.
The other clever thing Paradigm has done is to make a special acoustic diffraction dust cap for the woofer and wide dispersion lens on the tweeter. The speaker will now have equal acoustic power dispersed from woofer midrange and tweeters at all frequencies. This too often enhances the sense of spaciousness. Unlike most speakers, even many fancy name things, this monitor speaker has an extremely wide listening window. Too often I hear audiophiles incorrectly claim that their fancy speakers have this very small “sweet spot” when listening and cannot move from that listening position otherwise the imaging and detail disappear. Well truth is that’s a terrible limitation and good speakers whether they are 30 years old are presently designed have avoided this gimmicky effect.
Anecdotally, with a modified Paradigm many housewives comment they can hear the complete fidelity of the music even in another room. Again this is due to a speaker’s capability to put out equal acoustic power dispersed over a wide frequency range. Paradigms tweeters have frequency response to 20 kHz. Every modified speaker I’ve measured will have very neutral frequency response curve on my FFT. Another modification done to these paradigms is to damp the cabinet more effectively (although the manufacturer has it 75% right). We install another internal damping mat of acoustic foam and wool around the woofer. This helps the cabinet reduce more resonances and forces the port tuning slightly lower and with more real deep bass output. The 6-inch driver can reproduce cleanly to just below 40 Hz.!!!
The big trick we do is a quick and effective correction of these incredibly inexpensive speakers to come up to very high class audiophile level. This is now perfect for listeners who want a full range but from as small as possible speaker. So as general rule of thumb my opinion is that speakers which sound good from anywhere in a room are kinda more fun too, what can I say, I’m usually not sitting when the music is on.
Admittedly part of the reason the modifications are done inexpensively is because I have bought up expensive high quality coils and capacitors for cheap on the surplus market, otherwise use of such parts would add $100’s at retail or more to create this design and development at the company.
I’ve been modifying and building speakers for over 25 years. I’ve assisted engineers at HH Scott and KLH and discussed design criteria with many well-known engineers, mostly from the 70’s and the 80’s. Today’s engineers do some clever designs but retail costs of the products compared to Paradigm is at least double or triple. Although Paradigm makes and 8-inch two-way system very similar in concept to the 6-inch version, the 8-inch version is for larger rooms and 5 to 10 feet average serious listening distance. Where as the 6-inch version obviously has a better-defined mid-range, its serious listening distance can be from 2 to 8’. With a pair of basic subwoofers (which again Paradigm does very well although I prefer the bass to be a damped a little more). This small speaker could be used anywhere and compete with any of the fanciest stuff. We’ve had B&W’s, Celestions, Totems, Mirage and so many other excellent speakers come through the shop here, maybe some have a particular- performance character slightly better, but none with the overall performance capability especially for the money spent.
Another interesting point to be made of Paradigms speakers’ efficiency. These speakers can play really loud; hear it to believe it on as little as 40 watts. Because the woofers are highly efficient and the crossover design is more efficient, even 5 to 20 watts of tube power is sufficient for average listening levels. In fact a common match up in my system is to mate an older well done analogue receiver, Marantz, Pioneer, McIntosh, Kenwood etc with these speakers. You get a little bit of the analog veiling or thickness but with the clean detail of a modern speaker. Great for hearing your old records again!
Although I admit that my modified speaker which can deliver delicate low level detail will often expose the flaws in recordings; fake sounding reverb, excessively compressed instrument parts, for instance, but the overall presentation of the sound field ultimately still is rich and realistic in quality. Instruments will have more space and definition from the other mix of instruments. A speaker with excellent phase coherency through the crucial midrange of music, where most of the instruments really exist sonically will give a more honest presentation of the recording to a serious audiophile.
By the way, I feel sorry for many audiophile types who are convinced some special expensive speaker wire or cable exists to improve their speakers. Ironically because a speaker load is an extremely complex load to any amplifier, it is still the speaker reacting to very minor differences in speaker wiring resistance. This can cause the complex and reactive crossover and motion of the woofers especially, to sound different, slightly bassy with thin wire or slightly bright with another type of wire. This is because every amplifier has a certain designed-in effect called damping and is rated on paper by the better manufacturers. Simply put, and many engineers will agree with this rudimentary point of fact, is that an amplifier with high damping factor will typically control, damp and correct distortions to and from the speaker. Under this situation most speakers "clean up” or seem to have less thickness but will have improved bass details. If low resistance wire, any good #14 gauge wire is used for a typical runs of 10 – 30’ then this will allow the amplifier to exert its control over the speaker and make it perform more accurately. If higher resistance speaker wire (thin wire) is used, now pay attention here, some manufacturers will sell such wire to create the effect of a lessened damping factor presented to the speakers, the speaker will have a tendency to show off its natural electrical and mechanical resonances. Woofers which are incorrectly tuned to the box might seem “boomy” or “boxy” sounding, and because the crossover network is about 6 to 8 parts of reactive components these will affect many “tuned circuits” which will then again cause irregularities in the frequency response and ruin phase correctness. Typically a speaker on a low damping factor amp (as most tube amplifiers can be) or wired with high resistance speaker cables hooked up will exhibit a character of missing or phased away midrange or a hollowness of the ambient field or even worse - severe peaks and dips in the upper frequency response. Surprising though, most people get used to it as long as the speaker gives the impression of nice tonal balance. However, if you ever hear “planar” speakers, or a reasonably phase correct home hifi speaker where the depth of imaging is more stable and convincing, it will be hard to go back to something less.
In the future, there will probably be more long-panel speakers which will reach almost from floor to ceiling, if people are willing to accept the design in their households. Such a speaker has a capability to put out equal power distribution over a wide frequency response and be exceptionally phase coherent as one moving panel is generating the entire musical spectrum. Few decent planar or electrostatic speakers exist presently, but this is ultimately the best foreseeable technology to create a realist illusion of music. Imagine if the sound stage seems to appear from the top to bottom of the room.
We create this illusion in our shop by stacking two pairs of paradigms on top of each other with the tweeters facing farthest away, so as not to ruin the reasonable phase corrections already designed in to them. This creates a stunningly lifelike presentation of good acoustic music, especially Jazz. The speakers can be spread out more or angled for taste or room acoustics. Doubling up on woofers increases efficiency and power handling 4 times greater. Woofer distortion is lessened by a 4-fold factor too. Even at extremely low levels all the details are present. Most of our customers who own such a setup note that they listen at a very low volume setting but hear all the nuances. This is due to the fact that doubling up on speakers even further enhances wide acoustic dispersion. But the penalty is to loose some of the truth of correct imaging. Too many speakers on a panel can totally blur the sound but the stage presentation will sound big, bold but somewhat artificial, but this trick works well with the minimalist Paradigm set up.
Well, there is just a little info, I hope people put aside their zealous beliefs of certain claims made by manufacturers. Obviously as pointed out, wire can make a difference in sound reproduction but not usually for the reasoning that some manufacturers give. Most of the engineers I worked with just had belly laughs over such matters, but their opinions don’t seem to get much press. To bad Audio Magazine went out years ago and presently an occasional article in the prestigious AES journal (engineers who actually write papers on audio and electronics which must be reviewed by their peers before possibly publishing their info) will discuss these matters. Perhaps, if people want, I will continue to write about such concepts which are not clearly in the lime light but can improve your enjoyment of music incredibly. To hint about something, imagine a device where your 2 channels of audio pass through a control box but you get to easily move a knob and change how wide or narrow the stage image is or how to improve the depth of ambiance and even to apparently adjust the widening of space between instruments. Well the product exists – it works well and I own three of them. I use them in my recording studio and home hifi. I admit sometimes I want to remix the record, modernize it a little. I can also warm up a CD and lessen the false sense of too wide of instrument stages with such a device also.
Hey virtually no audiophile store would dare to carry it. It costs less than $200. It is built and has specs like a pro piece of equipment. It’s easy to figure out but it might confuse the salesman for an effective way to show it off. They are too concerned about their big fat, weird looking speaker cables! Well that’s my opinion, thanks for listening.
Paradigm speakers and tube amps:
As original, the V3 is a slightly bright speaker with a forward sounding midrange. Be aware that the tube amplifier will affect the sonic character of the speakers. Even excellent speakers often suffer when driven by tube amps, due to poor impedance matching and the amplifier’s inability to dampen low frequency resonances effectively. There is little control of the wide impedance variations inherent in a “dynamic response transducer” (or, speaker). Simply put, tube output transformers can radically change the frequency response into a speaker; sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. Specifically, whenever speaker impedance rises or falls (about eight ohms or below) the actual response will mimic and follow this error. Ironically, this is what audiophiles often think is better (ie, different than solid state). Most speakers, including the original Paradigm, have increasing impedance in the midrange frequency area. Therefore, there is less signal (power) draw and consequentially less audio output, giving the impression of a “scooped out” midrange. A speaker will now sound more distant with a less pronounced voice and a larger bass presentation, again due to the ineffective dampening factor of tube amplifiers. The modification I do corrects the speaker load, but what is really better is to have a decent quality, honest amplifier and an equalizer. Most speakers will behave much better when driven by an honest amplifier, with a more linear frequency response and a properly damped bass response. Use the equalizer to correct the program material, as this varies tremendously over the last fifty years! Trust me, the equalizer is desperately necessary to correct for the opinions of the original artists and engineers. Tastes change over forty years, and you are at the mercy of what are usually bad recordings. My Paradigm modification corrects the impedance matching problem. In fact, I have demonstrated and sold over a hundred pairs of modified Paradigms with only ONE return. This was from a fellow who was absolutely convinced that a correct speaker MUST sound like a Yamaha NS10, bright and boxy with a punchy bass and strident midrange. He was an engineer at Berklee College of Music! Logic would question why a professional would prefer such a “colorful” speaker to the true sound of acoustic instruments and quality microphones, but some people are stuck in historic or self-imposed dogma. The advanced modification of the Paradigm speaker includes a special, custom-fit cabinet dampening blanket behind the woofer to optimally damp mid bass transients. In fact, any ported speaker should have this “Carlson blanket” installed to correctly damp woofer dynamic resonances. (“Carlson blanket” is a euphemistic term used by techs to describe a special type of dampening fabric installed directly behind the woofer. Stromberg Carlson jukeboxes and such things often had this.) This is especially notable in tube amps where the correction cleans up muddy mid bass. The Paradigm parts are excellent, but the speaker is “voiced” for modern taste and assumed to be used with a solid state amplifier. Most people want a forward sound in 5.1 operation. This is a complex modification that involves changes of electronic components in the crossover and alterations to the cabinets, so the service must be done here at AudioPro. If you choose to go solid state, we offer a very simple mod which we can send out as a small kit that includes two capacitors and two resistors. (You must be able to read a schematic and do some basic soldering. The kit costs $24 and offers a serious and notable improvement to the linear response of the midrange.) The complete crossover modification uses another high Q coil, two resistors and a cap for the woofer, two capacitors, and two more resistors for the tweeter circuit to achieve a near linear response and an almost phase correct midrange response equal to or better than the fanciest designs on the market.
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Full Article Details
|Friday, May 24th, 2013 |