Studio 20 v.3 / CC-470 v.3 /
ADP-470 v.3 / Seismic 12
Home-Theater Speaker System
|Theres a hi-fi
shop in Boston across the street from the famed Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The
store is no bigger than many living rooms. The owner has been selling audio for more than
30 years -- 24 of them from this storefront. Where many hi-fi shops would offer several
different brands of loudspeakers, he is satisfied offering one: Paradigm. Many may
consider this lack of diversification risky. For the owner of this small but highly
successful shop, its simply a matter of sticking with a brand that offers the best
value for the money.
Reference Studio 20 v.3 bookshelf speaker
Price: $800 USD per pair
Dimensions: 15"H x 8.25"W x 12.75"D
Weight: 43 pounds per pair
Model: Reference Studio CC-470 v.3
Price: $650 USD
Dimensions: 23.5"W x 9"H x 13"D
Weight: 34 pounds
Model: Reference Studio ADP-470 v.3
Price: $970 USD per pair
Dimensions: 13"W x 12"H x 7.9"D
Weight: 52 pounds per pair
Model: Reference Seismic 12 subwoofer
Price: $1700 USD
Dimensions: 14.75"H x 14.25"W x 14.25"D
Weight: 67 pounds
System Price: $4120 USD
Five years on speakers, three years on subwoofer amplifier
- Mineral-filled polypropylene bass drivers
- Mica-loaded polymer-cone midrange drivers
- 1" satin-anodized pure-aluminum dome tweeters
- ISM/Shock-Mount system
- Dipole surround speakers (Studio ADP-470 v.3)
- 12" high-excursion, mineral-filled polypropylene
subwoofer driver (Seismic 12)
- Two 10" passive radiators (Seismic 12)
- Adjustable crossover and phase (Seismic 12)
- 1200W class-D amplifier (Seismic 12)
- Sycamore, cherry, black ash, or rosenut vinyl finishes
Only the best products garner such loyalty. Products of
lesser caliber have a tendency to fall by the wayside or prove lethal to business. For
more than 20 years, Paradigm has offered high-quality products that have defined their
market segment. A visit to their Mississauga headquarters in Ontario makes it easy to see
why. Research and development are at the center of Paradigms philosophy. They pay
little attention to fads, gimmicks, or assertions that are not backed up by scientific
fact; their on-site anechoic chamber stands as a symbol of Paradigms commitment to
science and empirical research.
At a total system price of $4120, the Reference Studio 20
v.3-based surround system is a fine example of Paradigms attention to detail and
painstaking approach to speaker design.
Its all in the details
Paradigms Studio 20 v.3 stand-mounted, two-way
bookshelf model, Studio ADP-470 v.3 surround, and Studio CC-470 v.3 center are all solidly
built speakers that exhibit first-rate fitnfinish. A few seconds close
inspection reveal binding posts and perfectly applied, very-real-looking vinyl veneers
that would inspire the envy of many products costing four times as much. The five-way
posts come very close to what youd expect from WBT. Also impressive is how
Paradigms obsession with sound quality follows through to accessory integration.
An example is the companys Premier line of speaker
stands. The Studio 20 v.3 stand has eight holes on its top plate: four accept small spikes
that match up with the loudspeaker base, while the other four accept machine screws,
which, when installed, couple the Studio 20 v.3 to the spikes. This decouples the speaker
from the stand and removes any resonance that would color the sound.
The robust Reference Studio 20 v.3 bookshelf speaker
($800/pair) is a two-way design featuring a 1" satin-anodized pure-aluminum dome
tweeter and a 7" mica-loaded polymer-cone midrange driver. The matching Studio CC-470
v.3 center-channel speaker ($650) comes equipped with attractive outriggers with
rubber-tipped feet. The adjustable feet allow the user to line up the CC-470s
drivers with the listening position. The woofer-tweeter-woofer design allegedly produces
very wide and even dispersion without the lobing effects of similar designs. The CC-470
demonstrates the same high-quality construction as the Studio 20.
Paradigm describes their Studio ADP-470 v.3 surround
speaker ($970/pair) as having a "reverberant sound field design." The majority
of surrounds discretely use bipole or dipole configurations. Paradigm implements
both designs in the same surround, using the same tweeter and midbass drivers found in the
Studio 20 v.3. The ADP-470 v.3 is bipolar below 150Hz, which keeps those frequencies in
phase with one another. Above 150Hz, the ADP-470 is in out-of-phase dipole mode. According
to Paradigms marketing manager, Mark Aling, "this change is done in the
crossover and eliminates the choice between having a full-range bipolar design that is
easy to localize, or a dipole that is difficult to localize but doesnt play very
A clever metal bracket can be used to hang the wedge-shaped
ADP-470 on a wall. Rubber stick-on feet are installed on the lower edges of the speaker so
that the final installation is secure and free of any wall-induced buzz. My samples came
in black ebony. Most of the enclosure is fitted with black knit cloth that forms a perfect
seam with the removable grilles and gives the CC-470 a classy, high-quality appearance.
The Seismic 12 subwoofer ($1700) is heavy (67 pounds) for
its small size. Its piano-lacquered top plate contributes to an upscale appearance that
doesnt call undue attention to this 14" cube. The 12s overall
construction is excellent and conveys more a feeling of rock than of wood. Controls for
crossover, gain, phase, and 60Hz Contour, along with both single-ended RCA and balanced
XLR connections, give the user plenty of setup flexibility. And as in Paradigms
Anthem line of amplifiers, a comprehensive set of turn-on options allows the Seismic 12 to
awaken via 12V trigger or by sensing a signal on its inputs.
The Seismic 12s twin passive radiators and judicious
amount of equalization enable it to reach down to 17Hz (-3dB) in the average room.
Although its passive radiators may look like 10" drivers, their role is the same as
traditional tuned ports. Each radiator is weighted so as to resonate at a specific
frequency. Paradigm states that a 17Hz tuned pipe would be much too long for a box of this
I positioned the Studio 20 v.3s at the same locations where
my Canton Ergo RC-As usually sit: 6 apart and 3 from the front wall. Because
of room restrictions, the right speaker sat within 15" of the sidewall, while the
left speaker was some 5 away from the left wall. Both speakers were toed-in about 10
degrees to mitigate any secondary wall reflections.
I placed the CC-470 v.3 center atop my widescreen monitor,
and the ADP-470 v.3 surrounds on the wall to each side of my listening position and about
3 above my head. The center, or null point, of the cabinet was in line with my head.
The Seismic 12s small size allowed me to place it
under an end table. I bypassed the 12s internal crossover by setting it to Maximum,
and used my Outlaw ICBM to blend the surrounds, center, and fronts. The crossover
frequency of all channels was set to 80Hz. The 12s 60Hz Contour control can deliver
up to 6dB of added "impact" to film soundtracks. In my room, movies and music
sounded best with the Contour set to "0."
The Paradigms preferred neutral to slightly forward
amplification. The laid-back sound of Conrad-Johnsons MF5600 power amplifier created
a full and powerful presentation. However, the high-frequency bite of explosions, cymbals,
and ambience was on the dull side; action films such as Matrix Revolutions
didnt have enough visceral impact. Voices were, however, quite seductive. The
dialogue in American Beauty pulled me right into the disturbing but engrossing
Replacing the C-J with the neutral, ever-so-slightly
forward Audio Research 150M.5 power amp changed things dramatically. The neutral character
of the Paradigms allowed well-produced film soundtracks and music to come through with
excellent fidelity and startling dynamic range.
Chapters 19-21 of Matrix Revolutions filled my room
with clean, pristinely lucid sound. "The Battle for Zion," juxtaposed with
Niobes ballsy handling of the Hammer, never missed a beat. The outrageous mass of
sound effects and artillery fire sounded neither veiled nor compressed. Everything from
the menacing metallic squirm of squiddies to the millions of spent bullet shells provided
a unique sonic signature. Voices never got lost within the mix. The Paradigms had a very
delicate and detailed treble. The Paradigms Satin-coated Pure Aluminum (S-PAL) dome
tweeters never sounded splashy or grainy, treading an impressive line between intoxicating
sparkle and hands-off transparency.
Bass from the Seismic 12 was breathtaking. Several times I
looked over at the little cube, amazed at the quality and quantity of bass emerging from
it. Subterranean frequencies in the "Ice Field," in chapter 16 of Titan A.E.,
sounded tight and clean. There was no overhang, and no apparent midbass bloat: bass
energy seemed to emerge from below the floor to shake the house. The Seismic 12 never
sounded strained or lacking in power.
One of the most striking aspects of the Paradigm
systems performance was its coherence. The v.3 versions of the Studio 20, Studio
CC-470 center, Studio ADP-470 surround, and the Seismic 12 kept their composure while
producing perfectly defined bass, midrange, and high frequencies amid the chaos of action
films, and were delicate and revealing during more thought-provoking stories, such as Rabbit-Proof
Fence. Insects, the breeze, water, and the crackling undergrowth of Australias
Outback sounded frighteningly real. And Peter Gabriels bass-heavy score didnt
fall prey to the annoying room resonance that plagues other, lesser subs.
The Studio ADP-470 v.3 surrounds produced diffuse but meaty
fill. These are the most accomplished surround speakers I have listened to. The exciting
concluding chapter of Tears of the Sun has a surplus of gunfire and aircraft
flyovers. The ADP-470s reproduced each effect within the surround image, and against the
backdrop of incidental jungle sounds, with exhilarating depth and pinpoint placement. The
surrounds delivered a level of realism and creepy you-are-there presence that gave me
The same level of realism was obvious in the vocals and
dense melody of Seals newest album, Seal IV [Warner Bros. 47947]. This
extremely well-produced DVD-Audio recording sounded fantastic through the Paradigms. On
"Loves Divine" and "Touch," Seals soulful voice was rich,
sweeping, and rock-stable. The same vibrant surround image I noted on film soundtracks
continued through every multichannel disc I spun. The surprisingly effective and
beautifully produced Music from and Inspired by the Film Monster [DTS Entertainment
1112] kept me riveted to my couch throughout its 115 minutes. Through the Paradigms,
musician BTs melodic surround mix broke down the walls of my room and delivered me
back into the psychotic but compassionate world of Aileen Wuornos.
Nor did the Studio 20 v.3 leave me wanting with two-channel
music. The same natural, effortless sound quality was evident on Eiji Oue and the
Minnesota Orchestras dynamic recording of Coplands Appalachian Spring,
from Showcase [Reference Recordings RR- 907CD]. When the music called for the
Paradigms to react, they did so, without compressing dynamics or smearing detail.
Ive enjoyed the superb clarity, speed, and dynamic
prowess of the Canton Ergo 5.1-channel surround
system ($5500) for some time. When it comes to tight, low-distortion bass and transparent
articulate vocals, the Ergos are a class act.
In some cases, the Paradigms eclipsed the larger Cantons.
Where the latter can sound sterile and a tad dry, the Paradigms offered a warmer,
subjectively sweeter sound. The Cantons midrange leans toward a more pinpoint
presentation of voices, while the Paradigms offered a more diffuse yet controlled
interpretation. Both systems high-frequency extensions are excellent -- which you
will prefer will depend on your taste in timbres. The Cantons are smooth if brighter; the
Paradigms offered impressive detail while being, overall, slightly laid-back.
The two systems bass performances were quite
different. Although the Cantons are larger, Paradigms Seismic 12 sub evened the
odds. The Paradigms were more warm and punchy, the Cantons more lean and detailed. Both
possessed compulsive toe-tapping rhythm and pace.
An involving surround-sound experience requires speakers to
be well integrated. I found the Paradigms created a more seamless and convincing surround
image. Although Cantons more traditional direct-radiating Ergo Fs offer wide
dispersion and good fill, they cant touch the more naturally enveloping quality of
the Studio ADP-470 v.3 surrounds. The Studio CC-470 v.3 and Canton Ergo CM500 DC
center speakers are in different classes. Where the CM500 DC competently handles
vocals with good intelligibility, the CC-470 v.3 was a model of clarity and integration.
The CM500 DC does not "disappear" as well as the CC-470 v.3, and lacks a
little bit of clarity off the center axis. This is a common issue with other
midrange-tweeter-midrange designs. Canton claims to have corrected this problem in their
upgrade of this model, the CM502 DC.
If you enjoy bracingly dynamic music with a little more
bite to cymbals and horns, then the Cantons are hard to fault. While their dynamics are
hardly soft, the Paradigms slight restraint keeps them from "hitting the
ceiling" the way the Cantons do.
The Cantons look better than the Paradigms. While the
Paradigms vinyl cladding is the best Ive yet to see, it lacks the
Cantons buttery-smooth, deeply lustrous finish. Real-wood cherry finishes and classy
metal grilles give the Cantons a very upscale appearance.
The Paradigms are a no-brainer bargain. The Seismic 12
subwoofer and Studio ADP-470 v.3 surrounds are especially impressive, exhibiting all the
necessary character traits not only of very accomplished music reproducers, but also the
articulation and excitement of an exceptionally high-quality multichannel, home-theater
system. Very few speaker systems Ive heard approach this level of accomplishment or
consistency at such an affordable price. With well-engineered products such as this,
diversification is overrated.
|Preamplifier - McCormack
- Outlaw ICBM
|Amplifiers - Conrad-Johnson
MF5600, Audio Research 150M.5
- Esoteric DV-50 universal audio/video player
|Cables - Analysis Plus,
- Mitsubishi WT-46809 rear-projection widescreen monitor (with Duvetyne modification and
full ISF calibration)
|Power Conditioners -
Panamax, Shunyata Research