The Paradigm Special Edition SE 1 bookshelf speakers that we got this month looked like they were designed to be mere mediums that don’t interfere with what is being sent through them; their goal is to remove themselves from the music and let the music speak for them. All they needed was to be heard.
Out of the box
The curved edges stick out as the most striking element of this pair’s aesthetics—in a pleasant way, of course. It keeps them from looking too boxy while adding a sense of purpose. They come in either a rose nut veneer or a black gloss finish, both of which seem as charming as the other without ever being over the top about it. I found myself loving the simplicity in the design, which would fit comfortably into the confines of any room’s décor. The grilles are magnetically attached to the front baffle, which itself protrudes from the front panel of the speaker. They can be removed as easily as they can be put back on, giving easy access to the beautiful cream woofer and a wave guided tweeter, which has been given a deep cavity to sit in. The back panel holds the bass reflex port and a single pair of gold-plated binding posts.
The drivers for this pair have come directly from the Reference Studio series, which we’ve reviewed in the past. They use Paradigm’s 1-inch tweeter made of gold-anodised pure aluminium or G-PAL, which is a combination of metals to increase rigidity while minimising mass. The cavity where the tweeter sits in is a die-cast waveguide that covers the top of the tweeter with a phase-alignment bridge to improve driver integration and a smooth frequency response.
The woofer is a 5.5-inch mid/bass woofer made of satin-adonised pure aluminum or S-PAL, which uses the same reasons as the tweeter for combining these metals. The cone is kept attached to the front baffle with the help of an elliptical rubber surround that is made of Santoprene, a material that Paradigm claims will produce deeper, louder bass while keeping the distortion to a minimum. The phase plug is a gold-anodised one that controls driver response. The magnets are made of ceramic and ferrite, giving them the ability to go really low in the frequency range while also increasing power handling. The crossover is of a second order variety, and it puts the switchover point between the tweeter and the woofer at 2kHz.
Simple to set up
Paradigm claims that this pair can go as low as 70Hz and as high as 20kHz, creating a frequency range that would seem a little challenging to reach considering the relatively small-sized cabinets the drivers come housed in. Nevertheless, the things that bookshelf speakers can do these days is nothing short of remarkable, so let’s get down to the business of AV MAX.
There’s plenty the Special Edition SE 1 offers that can make you love them instantly. Once I had them set up, I dropped in the reckless genius of a pianist named Hiromi Uehara and her album ‘Brain’, which from the very first track goes tumbling into the world of what I call experimental oriental jazz. The Special Edition SE 1s took on all those little synthesised notes that were shot at them with ease and delivered them into a soundstage that was far larger than these bookshelf speakers had me believe. These speakers are small yes, but they’ve got a big sound that can take on bookshelf speakers far larger than themselves. They have a quicker lower end than they are deep, so the kick drum and the bass guitar synchronised as rapidly as they were struck while not going as deep as we’ve heard in the past on Paradigm’s towers.
Drivers are straight out of the Reference Studio series
The power handling is immense in this pair. They can take on as much as your ears will allow without ever sounding overbearing. I could literally speak on my phone with them blasting at my face from ten feet away. Yes, if I put them any louder, they would capsize on themselves with driver distortion, but what bookshelf wouldn’t? The Special Edition SE 1s give you plenty of decibels to cover sonic real estate that a mid-sized or even some large-sized rooms have to offer. With a track like “Strand” from Lusine’s ‘Iron City’, the deep kick drum sounded like it pumped the walls with power rather than bass, which was something I’ve only seen happen with subwoofers and tower speakers. There’s also a level of reverb attached to the kick drum, which crossed over to the tweeter’s responsibility seamlessly. There’s just so much space in this music that this pair catered to in the most loving way.
A sweet sounding deal
I could hear the flutist take a breath in several points while listening to the ‘Perfume OST’, and that’s a remarkable feat if you consider the entire 80 piece orchestra behind him/her coming in the way. Speaking of an orchestra, there’s plenty of clarity in this pair to give your ears a clear picture of each of the sections. You can hear their position in the orchestra while also being able to separate the violin sections from the viola sections, for instance.
Verdict and price in India
Paradigm’s Special Edition SE 1s are priced at Rs. 36,900 and have taken the best stuff from the Reference series while keeping themselves as compact as possible. They don’t go as deep as some other bookshelf speakers that I’ve had the chance to hear this month, but what they lack in bass depth, they more than make up for in power handling. They have the remarkable ability of maintaining sonic clarity even at the highest levels, be it alternative rock or electronic music. I found this pair a pleasure to look at and an honour to listen to.
AV MAX is a special interest audiophile magazine that focuses on reviewing high-end AV equipment like amplifiers, stereos, floorstanding speakers and related news
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