Easily underrated, centre channel speakers are vital to the home cinema experience. Paradigm’s affordable Monitor SE 2000C delivers the goods, at a very keen price
Centre channel loudspeakers are arguably the unsung heroes of any surround sound speaker system, because they’re responsible for a big slice of the soundtrack pie.
Projecting dialogue effectively and convincingly is a key role of the centre speaker, but its ability to blend in with the front left and right channels to create a seamless front stage is equally important.
The latter requirement makes it almost imperative that the centre channel speaker is carefully matched to front left and right speakers: they should share the same midrange and high-frequency drivers, and feature identical voicing to ensure smooth tonal integration.
AT FACE VALUE
The 2000C is the sole centre channel offering in Paradigm’s latest Monitor SE loudspeaker range. We recently reviewed the new entry-level line-up’s 6000F floorstanders (see review here http://www.avsa.co.za/paradigm-monitor-se-6000f-big-bang-for-the-buck/), but local importer Audio Specialists also included a 2000C for assessment.
The 2000C is a compact centre channel speaker, designed to match the other members of the new Monitor SE range in aesthetic and performance terms. Vitally, it promises identical voicing, thanks to the use of the same tweeter and dual midrange array.
UNDER THE COVERS
Like the rest of the Monitor SE range, the 2000C can be ordered in smart matt black or gloss white veneer, with a clip-on black cloth grille. Behind that grille, you’ll find a trio of drivers: a 25 mm PAL-X tweeter, flanked by a 140 mm mid/bass driver on either side.
The aluminium dome tweeter uses Paradigm’s proprietary Perforated Phase-Aligning lens – a clever phase plug that gets rid of out-of-phase frequencies to deliver a smoother response without any roll-off or tonal colouring.
The mid/bass drivers feature light and stiff mineral-filled polypropylene cones, inverted dust caps and downroll surrounds.
The rear panel sees a binding post panel with a single pair of gold-plated binding posts, and two reflex ports. The fit and finish of the 2000C is good for such a well-priced speaker, with no tactile sense of this being a budget offering.
As mentioned, the 2000C was partnered by the same range’s tall, slim 6000F floorstanders reviewed to form what should potentially be a sonically uniform LCR front speaker array.
They were driven by our regular Marantz SR6011 AV receiver, with Atlantic Technology surrounds and surround backs delivering the remaining channels. A single Atlantic Technology active sub provided the low frequencies.
Like the 6000Fs, I allowed for about 50 hours of running-in time before recalibrating the Marantz’s channel levels and settling in for some concerted listening.
Not surprisingly, the 2000C proved to be a perfect partner for the 6000Fs, providing a smoothly matched, evenly rendered front stage with plenty of substance, pace and punch.
I’m a sucker for James Bond movies, and the car chase that opens Quantum Of Solace is a good test of surround sound impact, steering and staging.
The sound was delivered with plenty of substance and bravado, allowing the revving car engines to sound real and forceful, while the gunfire was both directionally believable and percussively realistic. The cars crashing into barriers and buildings sounded forceful enough to make me flinch.
That said the 2000C wasn’t just about delivering effects with powerful realism. It shone when projecting dialogue, lending timbre and presence to voices and easily projecting its sonic wares above the special effects.
Both the inherent speed and full tonality of the speaker stood it in good stead, allowing for voices to sound natural and persuasive, while still doing full justice to the ambience of the overall soundtrack.
This was particularly well illustrated by the juxtaposition of the traditional Sienna town square horse race, and the subterranean action happening directly below it, until Bond and his quarry emerge into the town itself.
Out on the square, the sound of the crowds and the thundering hooves of the race horses was portrayed on an expansive, panoramic soundstage, while the almost claustrophobic, tense ambience of the dungeon below was portrayed with chilling intensity.
Later, in Haiti, that ability to cope with both close-miked dialogue and fast-paced action sequences was again ably demonstrated by the boatyard scene. Here, Bond commandeers a fishing boat and then rescues his unwilling heroine while fending off the close attentions of a flotilla of rubber ducks.
Again, it was the ability of the 2000C to maintain an unwavering sonic focus, and to provide the sonic anchor to the overall soundtrack action that impressed most.
The 2000C can do more than fast and furious, though. It wasn’t in the least intimidated by the large-scale staging and sheer complexity of Hans Zimmer’s Live In Prague performance.
Here, it combined with the rest of the speaker array to weave a dense, colourful and utterly engaging sound picture that managed to convey the scale, electricity and splendour of the performance to compelling effect.
The 2000C showed its sonic class by capturing the timbre and presence of the instruments, while projecting both the broad swathes of sound and the fine slivers of detail. Equally vital to the overall sense of realism was the seamless bond between centre and front channels, ensuring a wide and atmospheric front stage that was able to do justice to the full weight and impact of the performance.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Paradigm Monitor SE 2000C is a fine centre channel speaker that finds a good balance between physical size and sonic presence.
But it really needs to be considered in the broader context of a surround system, where partnering it with the 6000Fs or even their slightly smaller brethren will guarantee a consistency of voice and tonal character that is at the core of its appeal.
Adding Paradigm Surround 3s or even Monitor SE bookshelves for the surround and back channels should make for a cohesive, immersive and enjoyable multichannel performance – without breaking the bank.
Enclosure type: Centre channel, bass reflex
– 1x 25 mm perforated, phase-aligning tweeter
– 2x 140 mm mineral-filled polypropylene cone mid/bass drivers
Impedance: 8 ohms nominal
Sensitivity: 93 dB (in-room)
Frequency response: 64 Hz – 21 kHz (± 3 dB)
Power handling: 50 watts max
Dimensions (HxWxD): 183 x 1975 x 280 mm
Weight: 8,6 kg
Marantz SR-6011 AV receiver
Oppo BDP-95EU universal player
Paradigm Monitor SE 6000F floorstanding speakers
Atlantic Technology 7.1 surround sound speakers
Optoma HD80 projector
Quantum of Solace (Blu-ray)
Hans Zimmer – Live In Prague (Blu-ray)
The Dark Knight (Blu-ray)