If you're buying "fronts," or stereo speakers, for your home setup, and you have a big-enough room, then a set of large, floor-standing speakers makes a lot of sense. They take up the same amount of physical space as a pair of stand-mount, or bookshelf speakers, and are usually capable of both better bass and an improved sense of scale.
The Paradigm Monitor 7 v7 speakers are on the slender side of floor-standing designs, but can still belt out satisfying amounts of home theater bombast. While they sound good with all kinds of music, they're on the exciting side of neutral and the bass can be a little heavy-handed. Their most remarkable characteristic, however, is a wide soundstage that seems to extends well beyond the position of the speakers themselves.
We do like a couple of its competitors more in this price range, including the Klipsch RP-160M monitors and SVS Prime Towers , but the Monitor 7 V7's sleek design and sonic merits make it worth an audition too.
Design and features
Compared against some of its more imposing competition, the Paradigm 7 v7 are positively slim. The only "look at me" aspect of the design is the bare aluminum driver which offers a surprisingly attractive contrast against the matte-black fascia and second black driver.
The speaker comes in two finishes -- black ash and heritage cherry -- and we received the black version. The cabinet measures 6.9 inches wide by 9 inches deep and a fairly standard 36 inches tall with the rigid plastic plinth attached. Completing the package is a pair of magnetized speaker grills.
The system is a 2.5-way speaker, meaning a tweeter, mid/bass and dedicated bass driver configuration. The tweeter is a 1-inch anodized aluminum driver protected by a wire mesh grille, the mid/bass is an 5 1/2 -inch aluminum driver and the bass woofer is a carbon-infused polypropylene cone. The design is ported at the rear and is capable of a claimed 48 Hz - 22 kHz at -/+2dB while sensitivity is relatively good at 91dB.
Despite their name these don't have the ruler-flat sound implied by the term "monitor." They're home theater-focused towers that can also be pushed quite well into servicing music of all genres.
Once setup with the plinths attached, the grilles removed, and a good 6 feet from the walls, the Paradigm Monitor 7s are quite upfront without straying too far into edginess. Despite their small size they sound surprisingly weighty, although there is some exaggeration in the upper bass.
One of the speaker's best qualities is its ability to disappear sonically with a really wide soundstage that extends beyond the edges of the cabinets. One of the descriptors that came to mind when listening to the Paradigms was "fluid": they're able to communicate midrange detail in a way that seems effortless.
This quality was particularly evident with un-amplified music like jazz. A mono recording of "Syeeda's Song Flute" by John Coltrane sounded extremely lifelike, with the soundstage extending behind the speakers to capture the smokey funk of a small jazz club.
Classical sounded good too, and using a recording of Holst's "Mars," the Paradigms were able to pinpoint the parts of the orchestra, including the rattle of the snares during dynamic parts. The abrupt bursts of brass sounded appropriately brash without harshness.
That extra presence in the upper mids can be a little taxing with some material, such as the Beck track "The Golden Age." The acoustic guitar that drives the tune sounded more strident than we're used to. Songs with close-mic or breathy vocals can become a little ragged too, and the "breath" itself can seemingly detach from the voice and come away.
The Paradigms' bass hump can be either friend or foe, depending on if you have particularly bass-heavy music. I enjoyed the literally couch-shaking effects of Daft Punk's "Get Lucky," but on tracks such as The Beta Band's "Life," the results were a little uneven. The first three bass notes of the descending bass line that closes the song more prominent than the rest -- I've heard better bass response from competitors such as the Klipsch RP-160M monitors and SVS Prime Towers .
But it's home theater, not music, where the Paradigm's accentuated response makes the most sense, even without a subwoofer. During the bridge scene (Chapter 11) from "Mission: Impossible 3," a drone is used to attack a convoy carrying a wanted man. When the drone flew past the screen I could feel the force of the jet engine in my belly. As the cars crash into each other following multiple explosions, the sound of glass shattering was almost earsplitting and the collisions had real oomph.
Modern living spaces demand a sound system that can operate as both a music source and as a way to watch your favorite movies and TV shows. While tipping the scales toward movies, the Paradigm Monitor 7 v7 also holds its own with music.
The only real downside to this speaker is that it is up against a lot of competition -- speakers from SVS and Klipsch that are not only better looking but also better sounding. But if you dig the cosmetics and want a speaker that can present your entertainment with an extra-wide soundstage, then these towers could be the ones for you.