Terence Robinson, owner and chief designer of Paradox Enterprise, has been making bespoke high end audio components and loudspeakers for over forty years.
Like many ‘old stagers’ in this business, with a history going back to the beginnings of our avocation, Robinson has quite defined opinions about all aspects of the ‘business’. Design, print, ‘audio personalities’, just ask him.
He has maintained a going concern in the high desert of Southern California and has many loyal customers.
I was contacted by Paradox and decided to give their Pulse monoblocks a run in my system. Even though a boutique company, they’ve been around long enough to recommend as a manufacturer to our readers, if the sound and value warrants.
At USD$14,000/pair, these solid blocks are not cheap. Robinson extols (read below) the use of only the very best quality internals. Case machining is good – but you’ll get no Jeff Rowland or Boulder bling. Better than utilitarian, I thought they looked the part in my rack.
Quality parts include Mundorf MLytic power supply capacitors, 12 gauge copper foil chokes (DC PI filtering), paralleled transformers, quad stacked Schottky diode bridge, transistors 4302 and 4281, A/C PI filtering, buffered output to run sub woofer amps, Cardas binding posts, Vampire gold RCAs, and their own Paradox wire (Robinson sent along a phalanx of wires and power cords to try along with the amps, which I did for the full review period). The Pulses are hand built in Victorville, CA and come with a money back guarantee, less shipping.
Robinson eschews ‘Specifications’. I can assure him, many of our readers do not. That said, he does offer a few tidbits:
Input impedance: 100k ohm
Max Power: 100 watts
Solid State A/B operation, idles at 5 watts
No on/off switch ‘as they sound best left on’
I asked Robinson, chief designer and owner of Paradox for a little background on his company and design philosophy:
Paradox Speakers started nearly 40 years ago with a planar magnetic speaker, later exhibiting at a Chicago CES. Since then we have made several different types of speakers for discerning customers. Over time Paradox Speakers became Paradox Enterprise as we began to produce components in addition to our loudspeakers.
About five years ago Paradox Enterprise started a new chapter with the Pulse line of electronics and cables.
My engineer (my brother Ronald Robinson) and I have created some very unique products not built as "NORMAL" electronics are built, instead built as if we would be the end user.
First item to go is bling as it serves no sonic function and can (will) degrade the sound through its own distortion or noisy ground plane the same way fluorescent lights, dimmers and remote controls can.
Second, spare no expense. Sometimes this means omit items like a power switch, there are NO bean counters for the Pulse line, if it is inside, it is the best we know of.
Third, use all 40 plus years of our knowledge bank.
Paradox Pulse has only one end goal and that is to build the absolute best sounding products available at any price period.
All Pulse products will continue to evolve as more advanced products like capacitors, devices, connectors, our circuit topology and cables become available.
One of Paradox's longest and most coveted quests has been to find superior sounding wire. We think we have something special and it is not copper, silver, gold or platinum. I rarely hold secrets from others but this is one I will not divulge.
The Pulse amplifier is a very minimalist approach to amplifiers and thusly has limited power. We rate it at 100 watts but that is just a number where the VA of the transformers will start to reach their limit. The device itself is rated for 250 watts.
I think the amplifier to be the single most important component in a audio system followed by connections, source and speaker. I know most do not agree with that assessment.
Setup is fairly straightforward. As there is no on/off switch (which doesn’t bother me a bit), ensure all other components are turned off before hookup. They sit at idle at 5 watts, and don’t get too hot under the collar. I broke the amps in for 50 hours before I began serious listening.
When attaching wires various, you’ll quickly recognize the quality parts Paradox uses on/in its kit.
The Pulses have a robust, vivid sound matching some of the best solid state amplification. When the music calls for delicacy, the amps deliver the most beautiful, diaphanous sound. They were a little intimidated, cold and fresh out of the packaging (first rate shipping container, BTW), but break in and warmth showed their true colours.
Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé was a perfect piece to show off the virtues of the monoblocks. Dynamics range from pppp to triple fortes and everything in between. Only amplifiers with the best dispositions give the listener the cornucopia Ravel requires. Too many confuse p and f as mezzo forte — they lose the subtlety. Sure, you can get a serious wallop from most decent amps, but great speakers, speakers that can decipher every musical message, deserve the best in amplification. The Pulses delivered everything this listener wanted, whether the craziness of the Danse Générale or the tender love scenes, featuring, of course, the flute in its most famous solo.
Underneath the flute solo, the basses are vamping in a very quiet dynamic. I was hearing the bass clearly, low and with speedy transients, but bass with timbral accuracy — another benefit afforded the listener by Paradox.
The Parodox’ conservative power rating remains a bit of a mystery, when there seemed to be gobs of effortless power available to my not particularly efficient Raidho X-T1 Loudspeakers. I traded my 110 watt Audio Research amp because I felt the speakers needed a little more legroom. The ARC could drive them, but on loud rock or heavy orchestral repertoire, they seemed a little inhibited. No such inhibition with the similar rated Pulses. Designer Robinson did suggest, in his anti-spec screed, that his amps will sound like they have much more power. Steely Dan’s live Bodhisattva tested that theory. It’s very demanding, if the electronics are to give the feeling of the live event and decipher all the musical goings on. The amplifiers were superb, here. Donald Fagen’s crazed voice never sounded so present to me. Unless you have terribly inefficient speakers, the Pulses’ power will do just fine.
Stereophile and a few other print magazines won’t do a review unless the manufacturer in question has a dealer network. Five, at least, I think.
The advent of the web produced different types of entrepreneurs with many selling their wares direct from a web landing page. As with any internet purchase, caveat emptor. However, the testimonials on the Paradox Enterprise site, the different types of equipment they manufacture (including some fascinating analog kit), the 30 day money back guarantee, and the wonderful quality in both build and sound of these excellent monoblocks, I suggest you give them a look.
Further information: Paradox Pulse