Pros: New design, great drivers/build, fairly nice veneer work, heavy and solid, they're Paradigms!
Cons: New pricing structure
A Little History
I originally purchased these speakers to start off revamping my primary theaters speakers when I realized I hadnt really thought things through yet. Because of the size, shape, and wiring issues I was facing in that room, these have ended up in my bedroom soon to be joined by a pair of AMS-150R ceiling mount units for the rear and a CC-370 center which are sitting their respective boxes in a closet. At some point I will add a space saver sub also from Paradigm. In the meantime however, I have been running these in stereo off a delightful vintage stereo receiver I picked up off ebay to watch TV, listen to music or use as recording monitors. I love these speakers, more on that below.
Paradigm is a Canadian company that has been in business for more than two decades doing what they do very well and thus have built a very large and very loyal customer base. They have been raking in awards almost since the word go and their manufacturing facility is truly state of the art. Unlike companies like Wharfedale and Denon, they have kept the jobs and money local, and have said no to moving mfr to China. It may not seem like much, but outsourcing to China is a fantastic way to lose longtime customers. Infinity is on the verge of that with me now. One might say, but the cost to the consumer is improved newsflash, not the point, but here isnt the place to discuss it, maybe Ill take it to the forums .
I purchased these speakers locally in Austin for the measly sum of $507 and change. I say measly, those have been looking at Paradigms for a while know I am doing a little tongue in cheek there. There was a fairly significant bump in cost which averaged 10% across the board, but some models got hit harder than others. This increase occurred in February of this year (I believe) and was, per Paradigm, because of increased cost of materials. Anyone that deals with copper, for example, on any regular basis knows the cost of copper has quintupled in just the past year if not more, so the increase is not something I can blame them for, although it does hit my wallet a little harder.
Paradigm is only available through licensed brick and mortar retailers. Paradigm does not engage in any e-sales and there are no retailers authorized to sell Paradigm over the net. Paradigm takes this sort of thing very seriously and still throws legal action at anyone claiming to be an authorized retailer who isnt, much like Denon was doing in the late 90s and early 00s, though maybe not as aggressively. Almost regardless of where you live, there should be a retailer close to you.
I would mention the store I bought these from by name as I have in other reviews, but unfortunately their customer service has dropped through the floor and many of the people there know very little about what they sell and cant even answer the basic questions anymore. In other words, I would have a very hard time endorsing them for any reason, but if you want Paradigm, they are the only game in town. Ill put it this way, the guy I bought the last few sets of Paradigms from got confused real easy, Ill just leave it at that. So bring a good disc (for the love of God dont demo these speakers with MP3s), know what you are there for, and dont let them upsell you unless you genuinely hear a meaningful difference in the products, because believe me when I say they will try their hardest.
Use and Performance
Having already owned several Paradigm products, my expectations were high, and rightfully so. I have to say, I do like the new box design for the Monitor 3s which are slightly different that what is in the picture here on Epinions. The box has almost the same width and depth, but is now substantially shorter with the port now rear firing rather than the front firing port which it has maintained since mark inception. The color scheme is the same with the silvery front face, same high quality woofer and tweeter, and same quality veneer. Having heard the older model quite often I cannot compare the excruciating minutia in differences of tonality, flatness, and breadth because I dont have 2 pair side by side. I can tell you that the older model sounds great and the newer model does as well.
In the store I used TOOL (the new one), Juno Reactor, Matisyahu, and Four Tet to demo them and was quite impressed not only by the delicacy of these speakers, but the ability to be forceful and still maintain composure. These are not bass monsters, you cant pull the kind of SPLs at the lower frequencies one might be able to from a lesser, but larger cone, but if you are using them in a home theater environment, you wont need to, thats what your sub is for. This is not to say they cant do TOOL justice, they played quite loud and quite clear off a receiver (Sony 5100ES) that is renown for being mercilessly dirty, that in and of itself is noteworthy. This is not to say they will make up for a stupid receiver choice, but one can imagine how much better they will sound off an Anthem, Rotel, or Parasound.
Those that know me know I have a thing for titanium tweeters and the tweeters on the entire Monitor line do not possess or display the characteristics that so many people complain about when it comes to this type of tweeter. This is certainly a testament to proper matching, superior tolerances in manufacture, and a level of build that is set deeply in properly executed research and testing that is always ongoing. They are in no way fatiguing, I never winced at highs, no matter the volume. The highs tiptoe into your ears with respect, regardless if it is a violin, breaking glass, or a cymbal crash. There is an exception, and this depends on the quality of the file, but compressed music can sound screechy. This extends to i-tunes, mp3s, and much to my chagrin ATRAC/3 codecs as well. Although I believe that ATRAC/3 sounds best, it is still lossy. Your best audio will always come uncompressed.
The lows are very well blended in my opinion, regardless of what I have read from non-pro reviewers, I feel the transition is smooth and even, I dont believe I am hearing the midrange dropout that some claim that is anywhere from negligible to distracting. I simply dont hear it. But the caveat here is that these are reviews of the older model which may very well account for this difference. I have had a hard time finding competent non-pro reviews on the newer model, but I will say this, I have not found anything to suggest the network has changed dramatically, although I hardly think Paradigm is going to disseminate minor changes made to the Xover that are concurrent with the redesign. The lows are warm and embracing, these speakers are not about eardrum perforating punch. Dont get me wrong, they have respectable bump, but these speakers are firmly geared toward fidelity, not ticking off the neighbors with head turning SPLs.
Now that I have them at home and have far more of a library to push through them I have been quite impressed with how good my classical selections sound, especially with cello or bass; it literally brings a smile to my face. I am aware I am about to directly contradict myself here (because I just complained about compression), but my classical (higher rate) mp3s sound really, really good. The three tenors have never sounded better to me. Although it is in stereo, I am also fairly impressed with speech through these speakers from TV and other video sources. Granted, it isnt split up like it ought to be (as with 5.1), but it still sounds very good. For the price, I am very happy with these speakers. I expect to have them for at least the next decade, probably longer. My Titans (now almost ten years old) and my Atoms now reside in the den at the parental units house and shes just as jazzed to receive them as I was to give them.
The Brass Tacks
There something to say for consideration of specifications. I dont believe one should solely base the entire decision on paper, but it serves a purpose. With that in mind, here are the basics .
Enclosure type bass reflex (rear port)
Dimensions about 16x9x13 (hwd)
Driver compliment 1 Ti dome, 8 poly cone
Response 56Hz - 20kHz (on axis)
Max continuous power 100w
Suggested amp range less than 150wpc
Matching speakers is important. In the case of Paradigm, your best sound will come from units in the same range, i.e. all from the Performance series, or all from the Monitor series, as opposed to a Reference center with Performance fronts and Signature rears. Timbre matching, or tonal matching is important so some speakers in a group do not stand out heavily from the others from one track to the next or shrink depending on the movie, SACD, etc. In a stereo application it doesnt really matter what the rears were if all youre playing through is the fronts, when you flip on that next movie is when it becomes more critical. This may be less critical to the beginner or those that feel they cant tell, but if you are about to drop a few grand on speakers, which is fairly easy with this brand, you owe it to yourself to do so.
By this point it should be clear I really do like these speakers. I seem to be all positive and no negative, and I almost am. The one thing about these speakers I only partially touched on is a lot of bass a lot of volume. They dont like it that much, but to be honest I cant think of a set of speakers in this same price range that would except maybe some older JBLs or Cerwins, which are silly comparisons anyway because neither can touch the overall accuracy and mellifluence of the Monitor 3s in addition to the fact that they would be larger and (less important) not nearly as good looking. Let me be clear though, bass reproduction is very good, and very warm, but these are not dorm room thumpers to be turned out the window and cranked to kingdom come, theyre not even in the same ballpark, its a different sport altogether.
I would say the most appreciation will come from more seasoned listeners who are more familiar with speaker downfalls, like accuracy, improperly designed networks, poor box manufacture to name a few. These are such a break from all that, they are well made of good parts, and sold for a reasonable price that I believe is well in the range of new buyers who I am sure will delight in such a well rounded first foray into the realm of good HT or stereo. I am a big fan of Paradigm and am planning all Paradigm for my primary theater (M5s, AMS300s, CC370), but having just purchased a house, it simply cant be a consideration for a while, but I will be posting on the CC370 and AMS150s soon. Hope this helped!