We Canadians are very proud of our audiophile high end equipment manufacturers. Loudspeaker design, particularly, seems to be a specialty of our country. Companies such as Totem, Axiom, PSB, Verity and others have been producing quality speakers for many years. Paradigm Electronics is one of the most popular, manufacturing a full range of loudspeakers for comparatively inexpensive prices.
Because Canadians have access to the National Research Council (NRC) in Ottawa, many of our companies have a technological leg up regarding measurements and their effect on loudspeaker design and topology. Most Canadian manufacturers have used the NRC at some time in their history. Paradigm, however, has done its own homework for many years. I remember many friends purchasing Paradigm speakers back in the early 90s. The company has grown exponentially over the years and now designs and produces everything, including cabinetry and drivers, in house.
The Paradigm Prestige 95F loudspeaker is the top speaker in the Prestige line. The pair I reviewed were finished in a highly polished 'Midnight Cherry', one of the most beautiful finishes I have seen on a loudspeaker, especially at this price point. The finish takes over twenty hours to complete on each unit.
To add to the speaker's good looks, Paradigm ships the 95Fs with aluminum 'feet', adjustable for carpet and wood floors. The rear plate binding posts are ready for bi wire, but have jumpers for the more single minded. Single bananas, here. Bass reflex in design, the rear also houses two ports.
The speaker is a 4-driver, 2-1/2 way floor stander. All four proprietary drivers are made of aluminum, even the tweeter's phase plug. Crossover is a 2nd order electro-acoustic at 2.0kHz (tweeter/mid) and 2nd order @400Hz (mid/bass). The 95F is said to go down to 24Hz and be 94dB efficient. Driving these with limited power and down to thunderous bass was not a problem. Impedance is 8 ohms.
Setup takes minutes. I had the Paradigms firing directly into the room, with no toe in. I enjoy the wider soundstage this placement usually delivers. I think the Paradigms keep their musical shape no matter what angle they’re playing. Unlike my reference Raidho X-1s, which definitely require a toe in to sound their best. Paradigm suggests the 'speakers utilize 2.5-way crossover technology to greatly improve off-axis performance (for listeners not positioned directly in front of the sweet spot) and boost deep bass dynamics.' Sometimes, too much aural trickery pushes a speaker into benign territory. A fault I've noticed in Paradigm products of the past. The 95F?
Happily, I can report that this Paradigm speaker is not benign in reproduction. Colours (not 'colouration') and dynamics abound and with a very truthful display of instrumental and vocal timbre.
My latest piano 'go to' for reviews (and pure listening enjoyment) is the superb Beethoven Sonatas CD by French pianist Pierre-Arnaud Dablemont. Dablemont exudes sheer joy in his music making and with considerable dramatic range. Much of the drama is in his execution of Beethoven's numerous sfz of fp expressive markings. Dablemont shows his expertise by recognizing the explosive/loud-soft difference that many musicians confuse or ignore. The 95Fs managed the fulsome dynamics with ease and never lost sight of the essence of the piano's timbre -- percussive but rich. I urge our readers to follow the CD link above [no financial association with Audiophilia - Ed]. You won't be disappointed by this remarkably assured artist and his profound interpretations.
I know it's becoming an audiophile old chestnut, but I do love Shelby Lynne's Just a Little Lovin'. There is so much musical information in the opening track, first 4 bars -- drums, cymbals, decay, transients, guitar, rim shots -- a percussive potpourri. Most well designed speakers can sound impressive on this opening, but I listen for the brief 'ambient' moment before the first gentle bass drum ('kick' drum to our US friends) and to the rim shots. Yes, there's information other than a click on the snare drum's metal rim. No, not 'I can tell he's using birch sticks' nonsense, but there is a depth heard on speakers as well balanced and refined as the Paradigms. And Miss Lynne's delicate imitation of Dusty Springfield sounded just fine to me. Her ethereal voice floated beautifully in the soundstage, just as audiophiles like. Not as defined as heard on my reference speakers, which are champions of defined imaging, but superb for a speaker of this size and topology.
Each tessitura is in a solid relationship with each other -- nothing juts out, nothing jars. I threw on Track 1, 'the' Track 1 that should be in all audiophiles' arsenal -- Thomas Newman's soundtrack to American Beauty. You all know of my fascination and admiration for this chart and its composer. Unique, catchy and made up of untuned and tuned percussion and synths. I use it to test driver speed. Do you hear all of the resonance inside the Latin Percussion (noun, not adjective), the true timbre of marimbas numerous and the super low, tight synthesized bass? This CD should be on all your 'to purchase' lists. If your system is dialed in, you'll hear subterranean bass utterly removed from the mid range and treble (Newman wants it this way) and a myriad of struck and bowed percussion, each in its own time and space. Don't forget to listen carefully to the synth gliss shortly after the opening. How many layers can you hear? The Paradigm held its own and replicated the colours and dynamics well, if not in primary colours. There was a little builder beige, if I'm being completely honest.
Full on orchestral music was very enjoyable. I was still a little concerned about the beige, so for an ear scrub, I played the recent the Jakub Hrůša Dvořák Overtures (watch out for this very good conductor). He's on his way up, but he's been recording with Tokyo bands and second tier Czech orchestras. His latest on Pentatone exhibits his wonderful artistry but with an orchestra that is on the lean side and is not helped by the 'comfy' recording. The 95Fs did a good job of projecting Hrůša's musicality and laid bare the shortcomings of both performance and recording. Accurate. Far more primary than beige.
The general demeanour of the Paradigm was relaxed yet offered the detail and power much admired by audiophiles. For your run of the mill music lover, this speaker, at a smidgen under CAD$5500, is a must hear. For audiophiles wanting refinement, with gorgeous looks and a high wife acceptance factor, the Paradigm Prestige 95F Loudspeaker receives my warm recommendation.
Further information: Paradigm