- Powerful, controlled bass
- Mids lack texture
- Bit too "fun" to function as serious monitors
- Distracting front LED
- Review Price: £658.00
- 5 1/2in aluminium woofer
- 1in aluminium dome tweeter
- 2x 50 watts RMS
- Five finishes
- 3.5mm and phono inputs
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.
Paradigm Shift A2 Design
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 Shift A2 Connectivity
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.
Paradigm Shift A2 Sound Quality
The driver array of the Paradigm Shift A2 is a standard 2-way layout. There’s a 5 1/2-inch aluminium woofer below a 1-inch aluminium dome tweeter.
A non-ported relatively petite speaker, you might expect these little monsters to have trouble producing enough bass. But this is absolutely not the case.
At moderate volumes with a fairly bass-heavy track, the in-out movement of the 5 1/2-inch main driver is clearly visible – closer to the behaviour of a subwoofer unit than a mid-range driver. Low-end management is good, though, with non-lumpy, non-boomy bass response. Even with tracks mastered with too much bass, the Paradigm Shift A2 coped well. This relatively forgiving nature may not be what you’re after if you are looking for a pure studio monitor solution, though.
The top-end is accomplished too. It’s smooth, well-defined and has a strong presence without tripping over into harshness. There’s a good sense of space to the top frequencies too.
Strong bass and treble make the Paradigm Shift A2 great fun speakers, and unless your source is particularly low-output they’re capable of reaching party-fuelling volumes. You do need to be careful when switching between different types of source, though, as we almost blew our eardrums out a few times during testing.
Keep the volume in check and the Paradigm Shift A2 offer a pleasant listen with good clarity for speakers with a generous low-end. However, they are not perfect. There’s not a great deal of texture to the mid-range, which can leave vocals and instruments such as violins sounding a little cold and bereft of tonality.
This issue seems to affect orchestral music the most in our testing, where the lack of a kick drum beat and the excess of detail to be rendered in the middle of the frequency spectrum does down the Paradigm Shift A2’s best bits and highlights the weaknesses. However, hook the speakers up to some dance music and you have a recipe for good times.
Paradigm Shift A2 Verdict
The Paradigm Shift A2 active speakers are a bit too much fun to be considered serious studio monitors, with a clear emphasis on the bottom and top ends of the frequency spectrum. However, if you’re after a more casual active speaker that’s quick to setup and happy to be swapped between sources from musical instruments to MP3 players, it’s a good-sounding solution that looks the part too.
Score in detail
Sound Quality 8