Review: Paradigm Atom v.6 Monitor

Category: Speakers

I know, a $300 pair of speakers is hardly scintillating review material for this site. But once in awhile, a product with all the charms of a cute kitten comes along that reminds me why this wacky hobby of audio still enchants. And that's why I decided to submit this.

A few weeks ago while whiling away some time (not something I'd recommend making a habit of, btw) at my fave Hi-Fi shop (University Audio in Madison), karma struck. I'd long wanted to free my wife from the ancient AR4s she's tolerated listening to NPR and an occasional Moody Blues disc on while puttering away in her 14x10 "Gal Cave". The little Atoms caught my eye, and home with me they went, unheard. Great WAF and "brownie points" can be powerful purchase motivators...

Onto the same 24" stands the ARs had lived on for years they sit. The quality of sound that comes from this humble speaker is Shocker #1. I value components have that have any resembalance to live, unamplified instruments. In short, it's obvious the folks at Paradigm know what a piano, violin, strings, voices, and much of the whole instrumental spectrum sounds like. Even on these decidely humble electronics, there leapt coherence, timbre, soundstaging, and a tonal balance that begged for any style of music to be enjoyed. And she loves 'em!

Rewind to this past week. My Maggie 1.6s are down while I attempt to cobble suitable stands for them in my woodshop. I borrowed her Atoms to have something to listen to in the orphaned system: Consonance Sig 100 tube integrated, Rega P5/TT PSU, Denon DL-160, ARC PH3, Cambridge 740c.

Shocker # 2 : America's "Greatest Hits" sounds wonderfully tuneful. Ditto Jim Hall's classic "Concierto." Ditto "Hearts of Space" (thank you, HP). Atom v.6s exhibit an easy naturalness on both acoustic and electronic music that brings a smile to my ears.

No, they have not the truth of timbre, soundstage, and overall realism of the Maggies. Not even close. That said, as a recommendation for a fledgling audiophile friend, or a 2nd or 3rd system for yourself, these are simply worth a listen, IMHO.

Associated gear
Pioneer SX-780 receiver, Harmon Kardon CDR 20 disc player
I haven't listened to the Atoms, but I have recently heard the next step up - the Mini Monitors v.6. For the money, I think Paradigm is one of the best speaker manufacturers out there. I compared the Mini's to the B&W 685s and found myself preferring the Paradigms (and I've always liked B&W). If I found myself recommending a bookshelf speaker to a friend in the $300 - $500 range, I'd offer the Paradigms as my first choice.