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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The travellin' speakers

Chances are that if you like stereo (which is NOT the same as liking music, in fact one would argue that music makes people who like stereo miserable most of the time), you know and associate with others who do as well. I can't imagine the plight of the lone stereo nut. Lunacy is so much more enjoyable when you can point to others and say: "See? That guy is talking loudly in an agitated fashion about speakers and doesn't know his fly is undone JUST like that time when I did that at your Mother's house!" I for one am very lucky in that some of my closest friends would rather save their money for a dedicated AC line than buy new golf clubs, especially because I don't golf. Come to think of it, I haven't even been back to the local miniature golf course since the unfortunate: "ball washing incident." Lifetime bans being neither here nor there, it's always nice to go to your friend's place and listen to them complain about their gear instead of worrying about whether or not you've wired your stuff out of phase when the Dalai Lama pops in unexpectedly to visit (bonus points to anyone who remembers the Caddyshack movie advice from the Lama to Carl Spackler the greenskeeper- also on a golf course, coincidentally).

Listening critically somewhere else is always a daunting proposition, given the change in equipment and room acoustics. I am however, very fortunate to be in a position where I actually own a pair of speakers that I don't mind packing up and hauling with me when I visit so that I have something of a reference with which to compare. Some would call this a waste of money, but I need only point to a Nordic track, a coffee table book of the collected works of Robert Mapplethorpe a home defibrillator or a copy of the newly-arrived Census and say: "Voila! Choose one as exhibit A" to tie that argument up for the foreseeable future.

The pair I sometimes tote about are the small but generally excellent Atoms by the Canadian manufacturer Paradigm. Mine are version 5, and are finished in a very light natural cherry which matches absolutely nothing in my entire house. This was confirmed by my wife asking: "That's the only color they had?" upon my opening the box. Of course they had other colors, but THIS pair was open box and left over- the company has moved on to version 6. The pair I own could be had for only $178 with tax, and as you will soon learn, dear reader, that is the kind of deal that I can never pass up. In later posts we will explore together the impact that policy has had on the closet in my office, and the burgeoning relationship I have with the nice people at the local UPS Store.

Along with being cheap, the Atoms sound pretty good for their size, which is small, as the picture with Miss Meep for scale should show (goodness forbid she were to be any larger, it's all we can handle at a mere eight pounds). The best thing about the Atoms though, as if you hadn't already noticed of course, is that the woofer looks like a big, rolled up latex condom. That's actually the second thing my wife said upon their coming out of the box. "Do they? I hadn't noticed" I responded innocently, never giving away that the salesman and I were hysterical about just that point in the showroom, only a few hours earlier.

The woofers aren't actually made out of latex, they seem to be pretty standard plastic fare (although I am sure the Paradigm website indicates that they are something far more exotic, like diamond powder-coated triple laminate carp skin) but they sure do look funny. Older Paradigms (if I remember a pair I considered buying back in 1989) had nearly transparent woofers, and you could see right in to the voice coil and spider assemblies, kinda like you can with Vienna Acoustics speakers now. These woofers are white with only a slightly transparent quality.

As I said, they sound pretty good, and are very easy to carry around. The binding posts are not too robust, so switching cables should be done with care (who am I kidding, I just touch unravelled coat hangers stuck in the back end of the amp to the binding posts- after I strip the plastic shrouds off them of course- let the sparks fly, carpet be damned it's all about the sound!). So, they sometimes go with me for listening sessions. Which leads me to potentially big news. If a certain someone is very generous with his time, I may be able to review a Realistic STAV-3000 50 wpc receiver (1989 vintage) on these pages very soon! I was afraid I wouldn't get around to reviewing anything for a while thus leaving the reader (Hi Mom!) rather confused. But this is too good a chance to pass up, so we'll see if we can get around the busy schedules. In that case, look for a post describing the parameters of a bad review (as conducted by the proprietor, "with no warranties, express or implied, and no recourse") to be posted soon.

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