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Face-Off III: Paradigm Studio 40v2

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Paradigm Studio 40v2 Bottom Line:
http://www.paradigm.com

Pro's:
Excellent dynamics and efficiency
Attractive styling
Well-balanced sound
Great value

Con's:
Slight boxy sound when placed in small rooms

Paradigm is a Canadian-based loudspeaker company whose primary focus is on performance, no nonsense build quality and value. Paradigm's current best product line, spanning from bookshelf speakers to large and heavy floorstanding giants, is from their Reference division - more commonly known as the Studio Series. The Studio 40v2 (Retail $1200/pair) is 21" H x 8" W x 12" D weighing a hefty 40lbs each! The Studio 40v2 is their middle of the line product in this series and is basically a smaller version of the Studio 60v2 with respect to driver topology, utilizing a smaller cabinet in which produces less bass output. The v2 in this series stands for the newest version of these speakers as they have been refitting from their original highly successful Studio Series loudspeakers. The v2's offer better cabinetry, extra internal baffled type bracing, more finishes, and improved crossovers. However, the drivers remain somewhat unchanged from the original series with only minor tweaks for enhanced power handling and performance.

Upon setting up the Studio 40v2's in the listening room, we were immediately overtaken by their girth and apparent excellent build quality. Lifting them was a chore. When positioned for optimal placement, it became obvious by their weight that their build quality befitted their impressive looks. These speakers were by far the best crafted, most aesthetically pleasing out of all the ones reviewed in this article. In fact, the Paradigms were the only speakers in this review that we felt looked and sounded better with their grills on. Usually we take the grills off of speakers for cosmetic and performance reasons. However, the Paradigms seemed to sound a tad smoother with them on, and looked more impressive as the grills blended as one with the cabinets.

It was refreshing to see such attention to detail that Paradigm had bestowed upon a budgeted speaker system such as this one, which made them look and feel so solid. There are many loudspeakers on the market at more than double the price with nowhere near the comparable build quality of these beauties. While excellent build quality is a great feature, a loudspeaker's most important attribute is sound quality. After all, you're not buying loudspeakers to act solely as nice furniture to fit your room's decor. We can leave that to the Manufacturers of Legacy Audio Loudspeakers.

In contrast, it is more logical to buy a piece of furniture that also happens to sound excellent. This niche is adequately filled by the Manufacturers of Paradigm Speakers.

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Notice the quality Machined Cast Metal Basket with Heat Sink

In addition to their impressive build quality, the Studio 40v2 speaker system had a very pleasant overall sound. They did not sound boomy or hollow like the B&W 600 series, nor did they sound honky or forward like the Alon's. Instead, they sounded musical and dynamic which are two critically important virtues of a quality loudspeaker design. This was likely attributed, in part, to the extra bracing in the cabinets, and the quality of the crossovers utilized. In fact, if memory serves, the original Studio Series didn't sound quite as good as these. The Studio 40v2's tonal balance was excellent, and ranked right up there as one of the best loudspeakers in this review. The midrange was clean, and detailed, slightly on the dark side, but not too forward sounding. The highs were equally transparent without sounding sibilant. In fact Sade's CD ("Lovers Rock") literally rocked on these speakers with tight clean bass extension and a huge, dynamic soundstage. When we replayed this song on the Paradigms using the Aragon and Sherbourn Electronics, the bass became even more prominent and tight, with plenty of slam. We found little reason to use a subwoofer with them in small to medium sized rooms and had to check on several occasions to be certain the subs were actually turned off. When we listened to the Rebecca Pidgeon SACD "Raven" disc, we were quite impressed with broad soundstage the Paradigms portrayed on Rebecca's voice. Although, we did notice that the overall sound quality of her voice was not as fluid as we heard when compared to some of the other speakers in this review.

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Internal cabinet, notice the amount of stuffing and baffled bracing.

The Pat Metheny / John Scofield CD ("I Can See Your House From Here") literally hit home on these loudspeakers. All of the dynamics of the instruments were clearly heard without a hint of strain regardless of how loud we played them. These speakers seemed to be bullet proof in that they accepted everything we threw at them without complaint or lack of composure.

The weakest point of these speakers that we found was that they tended to sound a little boxy when placed in smaller rooms, compared to the Axiom Audio, RBH, or Monitor Audio Speakers. This may be partly attributed to having a wider baffle, and their ability to achieve higher bass outputs than all of the other speakers in this review. It is a difficult task to build a medium to large full range speaker system with relatively large drivers while minimizing the horizontal baffle surface area. This is the reason why many companies choose odd cabinet shapes, or place the tweeter on top of the cabinet. These techniques help to minimize diffraction, resulting in a more focused and transparent sound. We felt that the Paradigms really needed more space to breathe and open up. We discovered their optimal sound character when they were placed about 10 feet apart on stands at ear level, and slightly toed in, while sitting 14 feet away from them However, the Studio 40's really seemed to excel in a larger living room environment, slightly toed in, especially when mated with a good subwoofer. They played amply loud in the larger room and welcomed more power, especially from a separate high quality power amp, as opposed to a receiver. Their bass extension was deep and tight down to around 50Hz with a smooth roll off below that.

This allowed them to seamlessly blend with the RBH sub, yielding quite an impressive dynamic presentation usually found in much larger and more costly floorstanding speakers with multiple drivers. The beautiful aesthetics and well-balanced nature of these speakers would bestow a sense of pride upon any audiophile who owned them.

 

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