Here in the store, we’re always on the lookout for great new products or brands. Mind you, we’re not a store that desires to stock every make and model. Instead, we strive to offer a concise product range that takes the guesswork out of your next HiFi purchase by demonstrating – what we believe to be – the best products in their class. We listen and evaluate products before we stock them (just like you would do before buying them) and evaluate not just performance, but also value for money, reliability, usability and backup support.
In saying that, sometimes brands change distribution, products become end-of-life, or sometimes the performance goalposts shift. Or sometimes, we’re just like you and looking for that new fix! After all, we’re Hi-Fi enthusiasts so any excuse will do!
Paradigm Monitor SE
With our most popular mid-range speaker series – the Richter Legend Series – awaiting their Series 6 update, we were left with a temporary gap in our mid-fi lineup. Specifically, a knock-out $1,500-$2,000 floorstander to fill the hole left by the popular Richter Wizard. At the same time, we were determined to add a cheap bookshelf speaker that, well, didn’t sound like a cheap bookshelf speaker! Paradigm wasn’t at the top of our wish list, to be honest, but won us over with their Monitor SE series which ticked both boxes.
Designed and engineered in Canada, the Monitor SE 6000F’s are generous size floorstanders for a modest size asking price. Although slightly over our $2,000 target, these 5-driver 3-way speakers and their neutral, full-bodied sound are well worth auditioning. Or, if you must keep it under $2k, check out their smaller siblings, the 3000F.
Meanwhile, the Monitor SE Atom bookshelf speakers are a gem – not just amazing value but genuine performers. Sure, they’re not the final word in detail, but at a mere $599 a pair, a really enjoyable listen. With the exception of our current Richter Series V run-out offers, expect to spend closer to $899 to better them.
Just for kicks, we also politely asked to sample the step-up Premier range – and we’re glad we did! Not just designed and engineered in house, the Premier range is also locally made at their headquarters outside Toronto, Canada. It’s here that you’ll find Paradigm’s state-of-the-art 225,000 square foot factory – one of the largest speaker manufacturing facilities in North America. This puts Paradigm in complete control of their manufacturing process – from planning, tooling and prototyping, to driver and crossover assembly, and final enclosure finishing. Their Toronto factory also includes the largest privately-owned anechoic chamber in North America where speaker tuning is perfected.
Patented Perforated Phase-Aligning (PPA™) Tweeter and Midrange Lens Technology – The distinctive perforated lens in front of the tweeter and midrange drivers increase and smooth output without colouring the sound, while also protecting the drivers from getting damaged.
Patented Active Ridge Technology (ART™) Surrounds – Premier features Paradigm’s patented Active Ridge Technology (ART) surrounds, made in-house and overmolded directly onto each woofer and midrange cone. This design achieves greater excursion, for a 3dB gain in output and 50% reduction in distortion. Crafted from injection-moulded thermoplastic elastomer, ART surrounds are more durable and more reliable, ensuring a lifetime of superior sound.
The Premier series cabinets are built from heavy-duty, non-resonant 3/4-inch MDF with interior bracing and reinforced front baffles. The moulded front baffles are said to improve radiation characteristics but also lend them a distinct appearance. Their look split opinions here in-store at first, but have quickly grown on us! In both performance and build, they’re certainly more refined than the Monitor SE at what is still a very attractive price point.
After spending some quality time with the bookshelf, Premier 200B’s, we’re very impressed. They exhibit solid dynamics, the midrange carries good weight, and high frequencies are smooth yet detailed. On first listen, imaging wasn’t as pinpoint as the, admittedly, 2.5x more expensive PMC’s used for comparison. However, after extended listening, I started to appreciate the bigger sense of scale they produced instead. In fact, I thought they gave away very little despite the huge price discrepancy and had to keep reminding myself that they were only $1,499!
They also make for a very capable home theatre speaker system. As such, a Premier series theatre pack is currently on demonstration in our theatre room and sounding great!
Musical Fidelity M5si/M3si
We’ve actually been itching to get our hands on Musical Fidelity’s source & amplifier range for some time now. However, we were forced to wait patiently whilst production returned to normal following a shift to new ownership. Now owned and operated by Audio Tuning in Austria (of Pro-Ject Audio fame), Musical Fidelity still retains its proud British heritage. Built on 30 years of expertise, Musical Fidelity design and engineer (very) powerful, traditional hi-fi separates. Their exceptional performance, superb build quality and amazing value for money make MF very hard to top at their asking price.
Spanning four models, the M Series offers up to a massive 500W(!!!) per channel. For more modest requirements though, we currently have on demonstration the very capable M5si and M3si delivering 150W & 80W per channel respectively. Internally, both are configured as two independent monobloc amplifiers and separate pre-amplifier. Think of them as pre and power amplifiers that just happen to be in one box… Externally, they share the same fit and finish of more expensive offerings. Both also feature HT bypass for theatre system integration and USB DAC input for streaming from a laptop or streaming device (such as the Pro-Ject Stream Box S2).
Musical Fidelity M6s PRE/M6s PRX/M6s CD
Whilst the independent power supplies of their integrated amplifiers may blur the lines, it’s hard to beat a great pre/power. The M6s PRE is a very flexible pre-amplifier with an array of inputs for traditional and modern music sources. It features an MM/MC phono stage, two balanced inputs, three line-level inputs, tape loop and USB DAC input. Home theatre bypass and balanced outputs are also present. Combined with the M6s PRX and it’s 230W per channel, this combo promises to effortlessly drive any loudspeaker. Due in store early May, we can’t wait to put them through their paces!
In the meantime, we’ve been getting ourselves acquainted with the M6s CD. Not just a CD player, the M6s CD is also a superb DAC. This is very handy for adding a streaming device or integrating TV sound. Its excellent performance is backed by a 32-bit, 192kHz DAC, very low jitter, and solid tray mechanism.