Paradigm isn't a particularly well-known name on the hi-fi scene here in the UK, but it has been around for 30 years. With products like the Paradigm Shift A2 speakers and the recently-reviewed Paradigm Shift E1 earphones, Paradigm is slowly creeping towards the mainstream UK audio fan. The Paradigm Shift A2 active speakers don't cost too much, they look good and sound good too.
The Paradigm Shift A2 are active speakers, which means they incorporate both the speaker drivers themselves and amplifiers to power the show. In this respect, they're quite different to the traditional hi-fi speakers they look a great deal like.
With the optional (not included) stand
Boxy wooden cabinets just under 30cm high and 22cm deep, they're not tiny but should fit happily onto shelves, desks and tables alike. They come in five different shades, including block glossy colours and the cheaper black ash grain.
We took a look at the glossy white pair, and they look just the part in a home studio setup. With simple sharp edges and seamlessly finished sides, they look and feel like high-quality monitor speakers - the feel in particular helped by the 5kg weight of each box that results from cramming in all the amp internals into the shell.
Aesthetically, the Paradigm Shift A2's are largely a simple success, but there are a few pointers not everyone will enjoy. The Paradigm logo in the bottom left borders on the garish, and the ultra-bright blue LED that shines from the front of the Paradigm Shift A2 whenever they're on is truly unnecessary.
The optional magnetised full-front grille supplied with each box mitigates this a bit, but the speakers are at their most striking with the drivers exposed.
Paradigm is keen to big-up the flexibility of the Shift A2 speakers, but this is something that's supplied by a few ground-level features rather than advanced ones. These speakers are not wireless and don’t let you hook up directly to digital outputs.
The claim of flexibility isn't nonsense, though. These speakers are designed to be either used on their own, or with as many Shift A2 boxes as you can afford.
Each speaker has both stereo 3.5mm and phono inputs and outputs, letting you string together as many as you like. They don't automatically assign channels, instead keeping things strictly manual. The rear control panel houses a switch that cycles between mono, left and right channel modes.
There's a clever simplicity here that, while not exactly high-tech, does make switching a Paradigm Shift A2 between roles as a bedroom studio monitor, a simple music player and perhaps a keyboard amp pain-free.
As the Paradigm Shift A2 are completely closed boxes, with not a port in sight, they're also blessedly unfussy about where you place them. The one downside to the DIY approach is that you have to be a little careful about volume matching.
Each speaker has a volume dial on the back, so if you're using a couple as a stereo pair, you'll need to match them manually. And even with the volume set to "zero", there's still a slight hiss that may annoy if you want to use them as computer speakers.