Paradigm Monitor SE & Defiance V12: 7.1 System Hands-On Review

The Paradigm Monitor SE 7.1 system with a Defiance V12 subwoofer is the REAL DEAL when it come to cost effectiveness vs. sound quality. Whenever I sat down with these speakers for an extended period of time, lets just say WOWZA! They knocked it out of the park with this lineup. For this hands-on, I checked out a system with Monitor SE 6000F towers for L/R ($499/ea), four Monitor SE Atmos speakers as surrounds ($318/pair), the Monitor SE 2000C center ($219) and one Defiance V12 subwoofer ($699). Total system cost is $2552 for speakers and sub.

Now let’s get something out of the way: The Monitor SE towers have already been reviewed on their own so click here to read that review. This is a hands-on review of a full 7.1 system that includes the towers. I was extremely shocked and pleased with how these sounded and performed in my theater. Each time I sat down to listen, I was in for  a treat.


Specs, Features and Build Quality

These speakers are not built like tanks, but they are not built like something you’ll pick up at a big box store either. The finish is a vinyl wrap and it’s better that most. As far as fit and finish goes, the Monitor SE system exceeds expectations for such affordable speakers. The build is exactly where it needs to be at this price point, in such a competitive market. They are not hollow boxes, so the “knock test” turns out better than what you would expect. The edges are a tad sharp looking and it would have been nice to see the corners rounded off a bit, but again for this price the performance more that makes up for it.

Lets just say I was pleasantly surprised to see they put some serious time in to building these speakers, not to mention the tuning. And the same goes for the defiance V12 sub, is a high-performance yet affordable ported 12″ option that punches above its weight class.

In terms of published specifications, here’s how it breaks down for each speaker in the system (links go to Paradigm.com for full specs):

Monitor SE 6000F: 5-driver, 3-way bass reflex, floorstanding, ±3dB from 53 Hz – 21 kHz 43 Hz (DIN), sensitivity 93 dB / 90 dB (anechoic/in-room)

Monitor SE Atom: 2-driver, 2-way bass reflex, bookshelf, ±3dB from 61 Hz – 21 kHz 45 Hz (DIN),  sensitivity 89 dB / 86 dB (anechoic/in-room)

Monitor SE 2000C: 3-driver, 2-way bass reflex, center channel, ±3dB from 65 Hz – 21 kHz 53 Hz (DIN), sensitivity 93 dB / 90 dB (anechoic/in-room)

Defiance V12 subwoofer: 12″ (305 mm) driver, 120W RMS (250W dynamic peak), ±3 dB from 23Hz – 200Hz with in-room low frequency extension to 18 Hz


Sound

I hooked the sub and speakers up to a Denon AVR-X6500H, ran Audyssey XT32, went back into the menu and set all the speakers to “small” with an 80 Hz crossover, and the system was good to go. In my opinion, these bad boys perform better that most speaker 2x the price! The waveguide and PPA (Perforated Phase-Aligning) lens used with the tweeter is where some time and money was spent in the design process, no doubt.

Even though they were already reviewed, I’ll touch on the Monitor SE 6000F towers for a moment. If you want floorstanders and something that sounds good for both music and movies, but don’t want to break the bank in the process, here ya go… look no further! You get everything you want out of stereo speakers, great imaging and clarity to hear the details in the mix. You can feed them anything from hip hop to metal to classical and get a good sound.

The bookshelf Monitor SE Atom are the sweet spot speaker here, especially if you have a good sub. They are basically a small version of the tower since ALL speakers in this line share the same DNA. I had 2 pair of them serving as surrounds and man did it fill my room with sound! Press play on an action film like Hobbs & Shaw and the sounds are all around you. The Monitor SE 2000C center channel sounds just as good and can keep up with the towers (it has the same sensitivity as the 6000SE). What’s key is dialog was very clear and you can turn the system up without running out of headroom.

Crystal clear vocals, no harshness, good dynamics… all the speakers in the line had these qualities. This was true for 2-channel, surround-sound, music, movies, you name it. Rounding out the system here was the Defiance V12 Subwoofer. Man-o-man it’s good. OK, this isn’t the most powerful sub (it’s a 12″ after all) but it definitely packs some serious punch and plays deep! Again, it’s better than some subs I’ve heard at twice the price, well done Paradigm! Even with video games and the volume turned way up, the Defiance V12 kept its composure through explosions and crashes and is a solid match for the rest of the speakers. Plus at these prices you can afford to add two, for more and better bass.

Conclusion

So are there any drawbacks to this system? Well, that depends on your definition of a drawback. Of course you can buy speakers that perform better and have a nicer finish, Paradigm has several lines above this one that offer all that. But at this price point, which is becoming more and more demanding with a plethora of companies putting out competent designs, the value is totally there.

Do I like these better than the entry-level Klipsch Reference? Yep. They are on par with Monitor Audios bronze line but MUCH cheaper. Some of the internet direct companies like Aperion audio match them in sound for the entry level, but cost more plus only can be bought direct—you can get Monitor SE speakers from various authorized dealers.

So you have to ask yourself, “Is it worth it to go audition all different speakers to end back on these?” IMO, nope its not, unless you have a lot of time on your hands and find that sort of exercise to be fun. Now, if the goal is maximum bang-for-the-buck out of a modest system and I could tell you what to do, I’d say get 4 of the Atoms, the SE 2000C center and 2 of the Defiance V12 subs to make ONE HELL OF A 5.2 SYSTEM! And then start saving for the towers and upgrade to 7.2.

In my (dedicated) listening/theater room, I used Realtraps wall treatments to smooth things out and it helped. I have wood floors and area rugs, so you mileage may vary on the effect of room treatments, but the point is these speakers are able to sound very good when set up properly, so you should put some effort into the room itself.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Paradigm Monitor SE series, and it has me interested in the rest of Paradigm’s offerings.

Anyhow, I am a tower speaker guy, but hey… if you want to save cash and get great sound then you know what I already told you—the Atoms are a tremendous deal. A LOT of reviewers these days (YouTube ect.) seem to FORGET that they get stuff from companies that’s crazy high-end and costs mucho $$$, but even if they get a ton of views, who can really buy that stuff? Personally I like affordable, high-performance products like this. It brings back the “what matters most” of the hobby: People enjoying music and movies, not sweating whether their gear sounds good… because it does. At Paradigm they seem to remember that’s the goal, and with the Monitor SE series, they achieve it. It’s a Top Choice for a an “affordable premium” speaker system.

Steve “Pitbull” Potenziano signing off, peace out people!


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