Paradigm Atom review: Paradigm Atom

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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Tiny satellites with audiophile credibility; 0.75-inch dome tweeter and 5-inch woofer; wall-mountable.

The Bad The faux-wood veneer breaks the high-end spell.

The Bottom Line These spunky satellites set the performance benchmark for budget speakers.

7.8 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Performance 8.0

Paradigm's awesome Atom speakers, which retail for a mere $189 per pair, have earned quite a reputation among aspiring audiophiles on a budget. While the Atoms don't cost all that much, a lot of effort went into their creation: Paradigm's engineers logged countless hours measuring prototypes in a special acoustic chamber, and the company invests a lot of time in scientifically controlled, double-blind listening tests. You're certainly getting a lot of bang for your buck.

The Atom's look is nothing fancy; the speaker is just a simple, 10-inch-tall, seven-pound box with a molded rear panel. You can get yours in light cherry, rosenut, black ash, or white laminate. The accountants saved a little money by making the Atom's grilles nonremovable. Oh well, at least it was a benign decision that didn't affect the speaker's performance or appearance.

Paradigm recommends placing your Atoms so that their tweeters are at ear height and angled in toward the sweet spot (the listening position). The rear-mounted port nixes any possibility of jamming the sats into a bookcase, but you can wall-mount them with a pair of Paradigm's MB 60 swivel brackets, which will cost you $25.

The Atom is at the low end of Paradigm's Performance series. The Micro satellite is even more compact, while the Titan and the Focus are larger bookshelf models.

The Atom's 0.75-inch dome tweeter is made of a ceramic-and-metal composite; its 5.5-inch polypropylene woofer has a die-cast frame. The key to the outstanding value of Paradigm speakers is the company's ability to make all the parts in Canada: by eliminating subcontractors' margins, Paradigm keeps the quality up and the prices down. In contrast, the vast majority of North American speaker manufacturers build their affordable models offshore.

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