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Paradigm Premier 800F Tower and 500C Center Speakers Review

by December 12, 2018
Paradigm Premier 800F Tower Speaker and 500C Center Speaker

Paradigm Premier 800F Tower Speaker and 500C Center Speaker

  • Product Name: Premier 800F Tower Speaker and 500C Center Speaker
  • Manufacturer: Paradigm
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStarhalf-star
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStarStar
  • Review Date: December 12, 2018 01:00
  • MSRP: $ 2,000/pr - 800F Premier Tower Speaker, $799 - 500C Center Speaker

Model Name:800F

  • Design: 4-driver, 3-way bass reflex, floorstanding
  • Crossover: 2nd-order electro-acoustic at 2.5 kHz (tweeter/mid) and 700Hz (mid/woofers)
  • Frequency Response (On-axis): ±2dB from 50 Hz - 22 kHz
  • Frequency Response (30° Off-axis): 2dB from 50 Hz - 18 kHz
  • High-Frequency Driver: 1” (25mm) X-PAL™ dome, ferro-fluid damped/cooled, Perforated Phase-Aligning Tweeter (PPA™) Lens
  • Midrange Frequency Driver: 6-1/2” (165mm) Surround with Carbon-Infused polypropylene cone. Perforated Phase-Aligning (PPA™) Lens
  • Low-Frequency Driver: Two 6-1/2” (165mm) ART™ Surround Carbon-Infused polypropylene cones
  • Low-Frequency Extension: 27 Hz (DIN)
  • Sensitivity (Room / Anechoic): 92 dB / 89 dB
  • Impedance: Compatible with 8 ohms
  • Suitable Amplifier Power Range: 15 - 250 watts
  • Maximum Input Power: 180 watts
  • Finishes: Gloss Black, Gloss White, Espresso Grain
  • Weight: 53.4 lbs. (24.2 kg)
  • Dimensions (HxWxD): 41.5" × 9.125 × 13.75"

Model Name: 500C

  • Design: 4-driver, 3-way acoustic suspension center channel
  • Crossover: 2nd-order electro-acoustic at 2.5 kHz (tweeter/mid) and 600Hz (mid/woofers)
  • Frequency Response (On-axis): ±2dB from 75 Hz - 22 kHz
  • Frequency Response (30° Off-axis): 2dB from 75 Hz - 18 kHz
  • High-Frequency Driver: 1” (25mm) X-PAL™ dome, ferro-fluid damped/cooled, Perforated Phase-Aligning Tweeter (PPA™) Lens
  • Midrange Frequency Driver: 4” (102mm) Black Anodized X-PAL™ cone, Perforated Phase-Aligning (PPA™) Lens
  • Low-Frequency Driver: Two 5-1/2” (165mm) ART™ Surround Carbon-Infused polypropylene cones
  • Low-Frequency Extension: 47 Hz (DIN)
  • Sensitivity (Room / Anechoic): 92 dB / 89 dB
  • Impedance: Compatible with 8 ohms
  • Suitable Amplifier Power Range: 15 - 120 watts
  • Maximum Input Power: 80 watts
  • Finishes: Gloss Black, Gloss White, Espresso Grain
  • Weight: 26 lbs. (11.8 kg)
  • Dimensions (HxWxD): 7.125" × 20.125 × 13.75"


  • Neutral, balanced tonality
  • Wide dynamic range
  • Well-controlled off-axis behavior
  • Agreeable electrical load for most amplifiers
  • Sharp, clean appearance


  • Perhaps a bit too straightforward for those looking for strange and exciting hi-fi speakers


Paradigm Premier Series Introduction

We quite enjoyed o800f 600c set5.jpgur time with the Paradigm Persona 5F in our review last year, although its high cost rendered it merely a ‘dream speaker’ for most people. However, there was good news for us financial mortals this year when Paradigm announced its Premier line, a far more affordable speaker series which uses a lot of trickle-down technology from the revered Persona series. The Premier series essentially takes over the long-running Monitor S7 line’s price/build class in Paradigm’s hierarchy, starting with $800/pr medium-sized bookshelf speakers and topping out with a $2k/pair tower speaker system. For our review today, we look at the $2k tower speakers, the 800F, and the 500C, a center channel speaker that is priced at $800/ea. This speaker line poses two questions for this reviewer: how close do the Premier speakers get to the Persona speakers for only a fraction of the price? And how do these speakers fare in their own price class? Let’s now try to answer those questions…

Paradigm Premier 800F & 800C Speakers YouTube Review


One aspect that begs comparison between the Premiers and Personas is their appearance. There is no doubt that the Premier speakers are imitating the style of the Persona speakers, however, it is not simply a carbon-copy. The Premier speakers are acknowledging the fact that their engineering is directly inspired by the Persona line. The Premier speakers are a bit more stylistically toned-down from the Persona speakers, with a front-baffle of muted black instead of the high-gloss and more colorful baffles of the Persona speakers. The cabinet finish options are more conservative as well, with gloss black, gloss white, and an espresso grain. Our review units came in the espresso grain finish, which is very tasteful but also low-key. The drivers are the only ‘expressive’ visual elements of these loudspeakers in this finish, so with the grille on, they are a bit unremarkable. Some folks will like that, but personally, I prefer my loudspeakers with a bit more visual personality, so I leave the grilles off. I don’t mind that my speakers look like speakers, although I would object to an ugly speaker. Some folks think that speakers look ugly period, as though loudspeakers should be ashamed of their function, and grilles are made for these people so that their loudspeakers turn into blank boxes.

800f pair3.jpg   800f pair grille.jpg

While the grilles turn these speakers into inconspicuous black boxes, their ‘ungrilled’ appearance gives us more to talk about. As with the Persona speakers, the Premiers use Paradigm's distinctive PPA lens on the tweeter and mid-range driver. These kaleidoscopic woofer covers are bound to become an iconic design feature for Paradigm, and I think they will pay off more as a brand badge than for whatever sound quality advantage they bestow. They give these speakers an undeniably interesting look. Complementing the patterns of the PPA lenses are the ribbed surrounds of the ART woofers along with the semi-metallic sheen of the cones. The gentle curve of the front baffle along with the lack of visible screws for the driver frames or even visible grille guides (the grille magnetically attaches to the speaker) serve as a smooth backdrop to the ornate look of the drivers themselves. The front of the Premier speakers minus the grille looks, well, cool. It is stylish without being loud or gaudy. 

800f pair close4.jpg

The shape of the cabinet assists in the aesthetic that 500c 4.jpgthe front establishes. The top of the cabinet is a rounded soft black piece that is a visual extension of the front baffle assembly. The side panels taper back a bit for a more streamlined effect as well. Those who are using the Premiers in a system with a projector will want to go with the espresso grain finish since it is a very non-reflective, flat finish and will not redirect much light to the screen. Altogether, the Premier speakers look very nice; they are sharp, restrained, and clean- but without being boring.

Design Analysis

We will start our design analysis 800f pair close5.jpgof the 800F speakers first and then discuss the 500C. The 800F speakers are three-way ported tower speakers that use two 6.5” bass drivers, a 6.5” mid-range driver, and a 1” aluminum dome tweeter. The bass driver and mid-range driver cones are made from polypropylene, and both use inverted ART surrounds. ART is the name Paradigm has given to their patented surround design that uses a pleated ‘ribbing’ over the length of the surround; it is an acronym which stands for Active Ridge Technology. Supposedly, ART allows for more headroom than conventional half-roll designs. When typical surrounds are stretched at high excursions, particularly in the inward-stroke, deformations can occur from the high tension, and these deformations can cause distortion or even tears in the surround. This ridged surround design by Paradigm supposedly reduces these deformations by directing material stress to points that can better cope with it due to the shape of the surround. Paradigm claims that ART allows 1.5 times the excursion for the same surround roll that results in a 3 dB increase in headroom.

800f pair rear.jpg 

As was mentioned before, the mid-range driver and tweeter use Paradigm’s patented PPA lens that comes from the Persona series. Paradigm claims these nifty-looking grilles that cover the mid-woofer and tweeter, which stands for ‘Perforated Phase-Aligning Driver Lenses’, also serves a function similar to phase plugs, in that they prevent frequencies generated by different areas of the cones from conflicting with each other, which can happen at frequencies with a shorter wavelength than the diameter of the cone. In the pattern cut into these ‘driver lenses,’ we can see the larger holes start from the outer rim and become smaller as we move inward toward the center. Higher frequencies will be more affected by regions of the grille with smaller perforations, so they will be more greatly hindered by the central region of the driver lens. This means that the higher frequencies generated by the more recessed center of the cone will be blocked from interacting with those same frequencies that are generated by the more forward edges of the cone. Supposedly, this will help to optimize all the sound generated by the cone to keep better phase-coherence which will make for a smoother frequency response.

800f PPA lens.jpg   800f tweeter PPA.jpg

Paradigm Perforated Phase-Aligning Driver Lenses (midrange - left pic ; tweeter -right pic)

The tweeter uses Paradigm’s ‘X-PAL’ pure aluminum dome composition and is mounted in a shallow waveguide in the front baffle which should help to control dispersion and raise efficiency. Regarding the cabinet, the front baffle has a rounded shape that should help reduce diffraction effects. The tapering of the side-panels might also help to reduce standing modes inside the cabinet by the elimination of parallel surfaces, and this could reduce cabinet resonances. Paneling and bracing within the cabinet use ¾” thick MDF but the front baffle uses 1” thick MDF. No doubt this thickness accounts for the bulk of the hefty 53 lbs. weight. There is a large 3” heavily flared port in the back panel. The port has a foam screen in the back so things don’t get stuck in the cabinet from children who like to hide objects. The grille also helps to protect the speaker and is more than just fabric overlaying a simple frame. The frame is a grid of hard plastic lattices that give the drivers more protection than bare fabric. What’s nice about the frame is that it is thin and low-profile, so this grille likely won’t contribute as much diffraction as most grilles would, especially since the plastic section around the tweeter is removed. The 800F comes with two different feet that can be used, rounded rubber caps for hard floors or metal spikes for carpeted flooring. 

 500c crossover2.jpg

Paradigm Premier 800F Crossover

The crossover circuit is a fairly substantial piece with an array of capacitors, inductors, and resistors. Paradigm definitely did not cheap out on the crossover, as can be seen in the picture. It creates 2nd order electro-acoustic slopes at 700 Hz and 2.5 kHz. The 800F is bi-ampable, so if the user wanted to power the woofers separately from the mid-range driver and tweeter, they have that ability.

500c close3.jpg

Paradigm Premier 500C Center Channel

The 500C center channel speaker has a lot in common with the 800F, as would be expected, so we will focus on their differences rather than similarities. The 500C uses similar but smaller bass drivers and mid-range driver, at 5.25” and 4”, respectively. Crossover between the mid-range driver and bass drivers has been lowered to 600 Hz which will help reduce off-axis lobing effects for a greater range of frequencies. The crossover circuit is similarly complex to the 800F speakers, and the 500C is also bi-ampable. The 500C is a sealed design, so no ports are present. One possible reason for the decision to go sealed on the 500C speaker, aside from the naturally smaller cabinet, is that Paradigm thought this speaker more than likely would be placed near boundaries and so wanted a low-frequency response that is characteristic of a sealed speaker which will more naturally benefit from boundary loading. One interesting design decision worth pointing out here is that the larger Premier center speaker, the 600C, mainly differs from the 500C in that it uses larger bass drivers and passive radiators which should greatly increase the low-frequency dynamic range. The outer woofers on the 600C look like regular bass drivers but are in fact passive radiators. This design decision is much more sensible than merely making them additional bass drivers, as that would have made a mess of the lobing patterns that horizontally aligned drivers will inevitably have.

Paradigm wisely went fo500c rear.jpgr a three-way design with a vertically-aligned tweeter and mid-range driver on the 500C which greatly increases its off-axis performance over the more typical two-way designs. Although there will still be some off-axis lobing effects, much of it will be relegated to frequency ranges below the room’s transition frequency. In other words, conventional room acoustics of bass frequencies will screw up the sound far more than the adverse effects of lobing would within that range. The 500C doesn’t come with feet but does come with self-adhesive rubber pads that can keep the speaker from resting directly on a hard surface. Overall, the 500C should be a good match for any of the other Premier speakers.

Listening Sessions

the 800F bass response was so good. I had to double check my subs weren't turned on.

In my 24’ by 13’ (approximately) listening room, I set up the speakers with stand-off distances between the back wall and sidewall, and equal distance between speakers and listening position, with speakers toed-in toward the listening position at an angle prescribed by the user manual. Listening distance from the speakers was about 9 feet. Amplification and processing was handled by a Pioneer Elite SC-55. No room correction equalization was used. At times, subwoofers were used to supplement the bass with an 80 Hz crossover frequency.

Music Listening

I like to use orchestRavel_Mussorgsky.jpgral music to begin to see how tonally balanced a speaker is, because the sound of a full orchestra is spectrally dense, so there won’t be many frequency ranges that are missed, unlike more instrumentally minimal genres. Another reason is that I know how oboes and violins and timpanis are supposed to sound as opposed to many other genres of music that don’t use natural acoustic sounds. One recording that comes highly recommended due to the musical artistry of the players and also its recording quality is ‘Ravel: Ma mère l'oye; Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition,’ a 2014 recording performed by Anima Eterna Brugge, a Belgian orchestra of performers led by Jos van Immerseel, who uses period accurate instruments and period-accurate playing techniques to reproduce the music as it would have been heard when it was first introduced. The pieces played are, of course, the title pieces: Maurice Ravel’s ‘Ma mère l'oye’ and Modest Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures at an Exhibition.’ While I don’t actually know how these pieces sounded upon their initial performances over a century ago, this recording as rendered by the Paradigm 800F speakers sounded like a convincing recreation. All of the instruments sounded natural, and the instrumental soundstage sounded clear and authentic. The acoustic space conveyed by the recording sounded organic and vivid, and that has a lot to do with the recording techniques employed by the sound engineer, but it still took a good set of speakers to properly translate that acoustic space into my living room. I was a bit surprised by the authoritative bass; while many tower speakers in this class have good bass response, with the 800F speakers, I had to check to make sure to pure 2-channel mode, even though I clearly remember doing so, because it sounded like the subwoofers were being used. The subs were not turned on. In the end, I very much enjoyed ‘Ravel: Ma mère l'oye; Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition’ as replayed on the Paradigm Premier 800F speakers, and I could not find fault in their superb reproduction of this album.

I'm not sure how much more anyone could ask for in the 800F's playback given their cost.

One album tBook_of_Secrets.jpghat I turned to for something with an emphasis on a single human voice is Loreena McKennitt’s ‘The Book of Secrets,’ a 1997 studio album that is very typical of McKennitt’s compositional style which is primarily Celtic but infused with influences from around the world. While the centerpiece of this album is McKennitt’s smooth soprano vocals, it is dense with instrumental accompaniment with many instruments getting their own moments to shine like violins, pianos, and classical guitars. Since I am familiar with McKennitt’s voice, an album like this is one that I can use to detect if a speaker isn’t quite getting it right, and that can be a problem where crossover frequencies lay in vocal ranges as they do with the 800F. Would the 800F’s crossover frequencies be heard in Loreena’s singing? To the 800F’s credit, I was not able to detect anything amiss in their reproduction of her voice. Imaging was spot on as well, with McKennitt’s voice anchored dead center in the soundstage and various instruments with clear placements at left, center, and right positions. Despite being a studio album, many of the instruments had a lifelike presentation, and McKennitt’s voice had a well-defined, concrete presentation even with her ethereal singing style. I’m not sure how much more anyone could ask for in the 800F’s playback of ‘The Book of Secrets’ especially given the cost. The 800F speakers are not cheap at $1k each, but I am still surprised at how much can be had for that feasible sum. Listening to ‘The Book of Secrets’ on the 800F speakers makes me want to get the Paradigm Persona 5Fs again to see what those could be capturing that these don’t. These sound full, detailed, and realistic; I have no doubt that the Persona’s are better speakers, but listening to the Premier speakers made me unsure of what exactly made those far more expensive speakers better. On this album, the 800F speakers sounded great!  

An album that I listenDebussy.jpged to in order to hear a simpler and more focused sound from the speaker was ‘Debussy: Complete Music for Piano Duo.’ As the title suggests, it is the recording of all of the duets for piano that Claude Debussy wrote. This album is a three-disc set performed by two Italian maestros, Massimiliano Damerini and Marco Rapetti and contains over three and a half hours’ worth of music. Most of this I had never heard before, and I have to confess to not being very knowledgeable about Debussy’s work outside of his most popular pieces such as ‘Clair de Lune’ and ‘Nocturnes,’ so I had a dual motive in selecting this album: I wanted to explore Debussy’s work some more as well as have a single-instrument recording to listen on the 800F speakers. This is a studio recording so it doesn’t have a concert hall ambience, and this allows it to have more of the piano’s direct sound rather than the reverb that comes with a concert hall. While I prefer the concert hall ambience, I can appreciate the more focused sound on the piano itself (although there are two pianos in this case). On the 800F speakers, the pianos here sounded crystal clear, and each note sounded whole and not like the amalgamation of different driver sounds that they actually were. In addition to deftly capturing the piano’s tonality, the 800F speakers managed to recreate the pianos’ wide dynamic range. Those who have played piano or who listen to live playing can attest to the fierce dynamics that pianos have in person. You need to turn the volume up on a decent recording to get that realism, and your speakers need to be up to the task. I find that many bookshelf speakers can’t quite make that stretch. The 800F speakers were able to capture the strike of a piano’s attack. Of course, they need to be played loud to do that, but I didn’t get a sense of compression or distortion.

For sometnero_welcome_reality.jpghing on a very different side of the musical spectrum, I listened to Nero’s ‘Welcome Reality,’ a popular 2011 dubstep album that is mixed at nearly full throttle for its entire duration. It is a loud, brash, and relentless music experience, and, being dubstep, it has a heavy emphasis on bass frequencies. I decided on this album to hear what the 800F speakers sound like on purely artificial studio productions that use significant compression and all sorts of other studio trickery. Music made and mixed largely on computers and have no natural acoustic ‘scene’ is the most common type of music listened to these days, so it is more than likely what is going to end up being what is heard through these speakers. Don’t mistake the above sentences as me being dismissive or contemptuous of this kind of production though; I enjoy the hell out of this stuff! Perhaps I should turn in my audiophile card, but the truth is I listen to more pure studio creations like this album than acoustical recordings such as the Debussy album discussed above, although I greatly enjoy music on both ends of this production spectrum and everything in between. But enough about me; how did the 800F speakers sound with ‘Welcome Reality’? This album begs to be played loud and so that is what I did. It sounded great. While some potent subwoofers could have reproduced the bass with more chest-punching power, the bass from the 800F speakers was unexpectedly strong. This is not to say that the bass was excessive compared to other frequency ranges, but that when it was pushed to keep up with other ranges at higher volumes, it was able to do that. What I found in listening to this album at spirited levels was that the 800Fs have no trouble playing loudly. These speakers can do parties as well as they can do delicate and meticulous. They can rock out as well as they can be used for critical listening, however, if I listen to any more albums as loudly as I listened to ‘Welcome Reality’ I fear my critical listening days will soon be over due to hearing damage. My ears are still ringing!

Movie Listening

The Paradigm speakers performed magnificently.

One movie I had been savinTree_of_Life.jpgg to re-watch for a speaker set that had a very wide dynamic range was Terrence Malick’s 2011 emotional epic, ‘The Tree of Life.’ The Blu-ray edition opens with this message: “For optimal sound reproduction, the producers of this film recommend you play it loud.” Viewers with sound systems that can play loudly without problems would do well to heed this advice for a truly rapturous aural experience. It is not that the sound mix of ‘Tree of Life’ was meant to be blaring loud; that advice is there so that dialogue can be heard at nominal levels so that brief moments of loudness can have that much more impact. This is contrary to many movie scores, especially movies with lots of action, where the entire movie is mixed loud all the way through so that moments that should have a sonic impact just get lost in the clamor. The score for ‘Tree of Life’ is an assemblage of classical recordings, plus original pieces by Alexandre Desplat, that propels it into being one of the greatest examples of the power of classical music in film, alongside such towering achievements like ‘2001: A Space Odyssey,’ ‘Fantasia,’ and ‘Amadeus.’ Many viewers might be put off Malick’s non-linear narrative, but no one could seriously argue against the emotional force and high quality of the musical score.

With the volume turned up high, I put the Premier 800F and 500C speakers to work on the ‘Tree of Life.’ The Paradigm speakers performed magnificently. There was just one aspect where they stumbled: the deep bass in ‘Tree of Life’ was more than they could handle at a high volume level, and I heard some significant woofer fluttering. I had forgotten that ‘Tree of Life’ had such heavy deep bass, much of which lay below the speaker’s port tuning frequency. I remedied this by setting the speakers to ‘small’ in my AVR which turned the subwoofers on. After activating the subwoofers and high-pass filtering the main speakers, I encountered no more problems, and was captivated by the Premier speaker’s excellent reproduction of the drop-dead gorgeous soundtrack of ‘Tree of Life.’ The Premiers masterfully captured those peaks in the sound mix that prompted the producers to encourage loud playback. Previously, the bass was so competently rendered by the Premier speakers in my music listening that I thought they would be able to handle this movie’s bass just fine without the subs, but the ‘Tree of Life’ dug too deep in frequency for the loud level I was listening to. I can’t fairly hold the Premier’s inability to replay very deep bass at high output levels against them; few speakers can manage powerful sub-30Hz bass, even at much higher price points than the 800F/500C. They are not spec’d for such extreme deep bass, and these frequencies lay outside its intended operation.

Taking a 180-degree turn from the ‘Tree of Life,’ aSpeed_Racer.jpgnother movie I watched with the Paradigm Premier speakers was the 2008 action-packed kitsch-fest ‘Speed Racer.’ Those who have seen ‘Speed Racer’ know that it is so cartoonishly garish that it reaches nearly psychedelic levels of surrealism. I don’t normally enjoy movies that are intentionally campy but ‘Speed Racer’ is so deliriously over-the-top that it is more like an experimental film. I decided to watch it in order to hear what the berserk car racing scenes would sound like on the Premier speakers amidst the dialogue and music score. The Premier speakers passed this test with flying colors. Dialogue was never difficult to understand even during all the racing carnage and Michael Giacchino’s energetic orchestral score. Racing cars roared past the listening position with a resounding peeling of tires on the tracks along with the crunching metal of their collisions. Gun battles and ninja attacks also round out the effects sound mix of ‘Speed Racer,’ which the 800F and 500C speakers executed with a larger-than-life cinematic quality. The speakers helped this movie’s sound mix achieve its goal of being both goofy and thrilling at the same time. I don’t have any complaints about the performance of the speakers for a film like this; everything sounded like it was supposed to, or at least how I think it was supposed to sound. It’s hard to say for a movie so detached from reality as ‘Speed Racer.’ As with ‘Tree of Life,’ for loud volumes, a subwoofer should probably be employed for all the deep bass in a sound mix like this one. 

Paradigm Premier 800F Tower and 500C Center Speakers Measurements and Analysis


500c outdoor testing2.jpg 

The Paradigm Premier 800F speakers were measured in free-air at a height of 4 feet at a 2-meter distance from the microphone, and the measurements were gated at a 5-millisecond delay. In this time window, some resolution is lost below 400 Hz and accuracy is completely lost below 200 Hz. The Paradigm Premier 500C speaker was measured in free-air at a height of 7.5 feet at a 1-meter distance from the microphone, and the measurements were gated at an 8.5-millisecond delay. In this time window, some resolution is lost below 250 Hz and accuracy is completely lost below 110 Hz. Measurements have been smoothed at a 1/24 octave resolution.

800F waterfall response.jpg

500c waterfall response.jpg

Paradigm Premier 800F and 500C Horizontal Response +/- 90 degrees 

The above graphs depict the Premiers’ direct-axis and horizontal dispersion out to a 90-degree angle in ten-degree increments. Both the 800F and 500C exhibit nicely neutral responses. The 800F has a very slight elevation in its response from 5 kHz to 10 kHz. This might make it sound just a tad forward and maybe a bit more detailed when compared to a perfectly neutral speaker, but the difference would not be huge. We do see a slight dip in the 800F response at 15 kHz that falls down to 10 kHz as we move off axis, and the movement in frequency with respect to angle suggests some kind of diffraction effect or comb filtering. My guess is that this the result of the PPA lens on the tweeter since its design would suggest that more higher frequencies would be occluded on direct axis than off-axis angles. Regardless, it is an audibly negligible aspect that is of more interest for reasons of acoustic science than anything that would be heard. Since it occurs at such a high frequency, it will not have a serious impact on the sound. Most adult men have a substantial amount of high-frequency hearing loss at 15 kHz, and there is very little recorded content that is important in that region anyway. It is mostly just heard as ‘air’ or a hint of ambiance by those who are able to hear sound in that range.

One aspect to note about these graphs is the beautifully uniform dispersion of both speakers, especially the 800F speakers. The dispersion is wide and, more importantly, uniform, which is to say that the off-axis response resembles the direct axis response. This is important because much of what we hear from a speaker is not sound coming directly from the speaker itself but reflected sound from all the in-room surfaces. This means that the behavior of the off-axis response will have a major effect on the sound character of the speaker, and a simple direct axis measurement is not sufficient to characterize the performance of a speaker. This is why we at Audioholics give so much prominence to off-axis measurements in our reviews. The 500C speaker does well in this regard, and the 800Fs perform very well.

We do see evidence of the crossover from the bass drivers to mid-range driver on the 500C measurement: there is a horizontal lobing pattern that forms above 500 Hz at off-axis angles. Relative to other center speakers, it is quite mild and shouldn’t have a very serious effect on the sound. Paradigm could get rid of it if they had used a lower crossover frequency from bass driver to mid-range driver, but they may have decided that the higher power-handling of the bass drivers in that frequency range was a better trade-off. That was likely a wise decision, even if it resulted in a mild flaw in this measurement, which, again, isn’t likely to be readily audible and certainly not objectionable. The 500C also has the angle-dependent high-frequency dip as seen on the 800Fs, which supports the theory that it is due to the PPA lens on the tweeter. The 500C’s response isn’t quite as pristine as the 800Fs, but it is still very good, especially when you compare its off-axis dispersion against two-way MTM speakers.

800f polar map.jpg

500c polar map.jpg

Paradigm Premier Horizontal Response +/- 90 degrees: Polar Map 

The above graphs show the same information that the preceding graphs do but depict it in a way that can offer new insight regarding these speakers’ behavior. Instead of using individual raised lines to illustrate amplitude, these polar maps use color to portray amplitude, and this allows the use of a purely angle/frequency axis perspective. The advantage of these graphs is they can let us see broader trends of the speaker’s behavior more easily. The measurements for both the Premier speakers are good, but there are some similarities and differences that are worth briefly discussing. Both speakers have very good coverage out past a 40-degree angle from the direct axis, so anyone sitting within an 80-degree wide angle in front of them should hear a full sound, except perhaps for the very high frequencies which do fall off as we move away from the direct axis.

One similarity between the 800F and 500C speakers that we see is the nature of the high-frequency null. It does seem to grow wider as we move away from the direct axis. Off-axis evenness is pretty good, but we do see a bit of waist-banding in the 800F a bit above 1 kHz. There is also some waist-banding in the 500C in upper bass and lower mid-range due to the bass drivers causing phase cancellation with each other at outer angles. The cancellation is not bad and doesn’t even really start until a 50-degree angle off-axis.

What is interesting to note is the difference in width of dispersion for the mid-range drivers between the 800F and 500C. The mid-range on the 800F has a narrower dispersion pattern, and this is partly due to it much larger 6.5” cone than the 500C’s 4” cone. However, that doesn’t seem like it would be enough to account for these speaker’s nearly inverse behavior at the band just above 1 kHz where the 500C generates sound at a very wide angle as opposed to the 800F, which is slightly constrained compared to the rest of its frequency range. Above 2500 Hz, they are much more alike, and that is undoubtedly because they have the same tweeter that is used in the same range. When comparing the mid-range dispersion responses between these speakers, I am guessing that perhaps the high-pass filter on the 800F, a 2nd-order electro-acoustic slope at 700 Hz, is having a more profound effect on the lower end of 6.5” midrange. Ultimately, when factoring off-axis dispersion, these speakers are really only timbre-matched where the tweeter takes over. That isn’t unusual though; very few speaker sets that have a dedicated center speaker are fully timbre-matched. If any exist, I have not seen them.

800f 500C low frequency response.jpg 

Paradigm Premier 800F and 500C groundplane bass response 

The above graph shows the Paradigm Premier 800F and 500C low-frequency responses that I captured using groundplane measurements (where the speaker and microphone are on the ground at a 2-meter distance in a wide open area). The 800F looks to have an anechoic F3 of around 60 Hz, but the slope of its low-end rolloff doesn’t become precipitous until about 40 Hz. 40 Hz looks to be the port tuning of the 800F, but port output contribution seems to be less than that of driver output. Paradigm may have voiced it this way in order to avoid too much boundary gain that can occur with having a totally flat response down to port-tuning in low bass frequencies. The in-room F3 is likely to be much lower than the anechoic F3 that is shown in this graph. The same is true for the 500C since it has a gradual 12dB/octave low-end slope that is characteristic of sealed speaker designs. The 500C’s F3 looks to be a bit below 90 Hz.

800f impedance.jpg   500c Impedance.jpg

Paradigm Premier 800F and 500C Impedance and Phase Responses 

The above graphs show the electrical behavior of the Premier 800F and 500C speakers. Paradigm specifies the impedance of these speakers as “compatible with 8 ohms.” That spec is a little bit evasive in my opinion, but it’s obvious that these speakers will not present a serious problem for most AVRs or amplifiers. The 800F does see a dip to nearly 4 ohms centered around 150 Hz where there is a steep phase change as well. That might be a problem for a very flimsy amplifier if these speakers are played loud, but it is the only area that poses a challenge. Everywhere else is a relatively benign load. One thing we can see from these measurements is that the port tuning point for the 800F looks to be just above 45 Hz. We can also see the resonant frequency of the bass drivers in the 500C is about 75 Hz. The 500C doesn’t quite have as severe of an impedance minima as the 800F but its nominal impedance looks to be a bit lower on average. Entry-level AVRs might have a problem with this speaker set if they are cranked hard, but outside of that scenario, there is no need to worry. It’s not likely that anyone who buys these speakers will pair them up with an entry-level AVR anyway.

Sensitivity measurements for 2.83v at 1 meter were measured at 88.8 dB for the 800F and 89.7 dB for the 500C. This is close to Paradigm’s spec for this rating which is 89 dB anechoic for both speakers. It was slightly unusual that the 500C managed to be a tad more sensitive than the 800F considering the design differences, but this can be explained by the 500C’s somewhat lower average impedance. Anyway, these sensitivity measurements are typical for speakers of this design type and are pretty good. A powerful amplifier is not needed to reach loud levels with these speakers since a couple watts is already more than enough to drive them to over 90 dB at 1 meter. These speakers are relatively efficient.


Normally when I wrap up a review at this p800f hero shot.jpgoint, I like to briefly go over the strengths and weaknesses of a product, but I just can’t think of any real weaknesses of these speakers. If I had to say something critical, I might say that there might possibly have been more measures that could have been taken to get the 500C’s mid-range performance to better match that of the 800F, but it could be that it was made to better match the Premier 700F or the Premier bookshelf speakers (I specifically requested the 500C to come along with the 800F speakers). But this is a trifling criticism, and rather academic as well, since I didn’t notice any audible mismatch between the center and left/right speakers when I was listening to them. However, if Paradigm could address the off-axis burst of energy in the 500Cs just above 1 kHz, they would not just be a good match for the 800F speakers but could viably serve as more than just a center speaker. In fact, if Paradigm evened out the mid-range dispersion, I don’t see why they couldn’t make for good left or right front speakers as well, despite their intended role.

One criticism I might level is that there isn’t any really good reason for a bi-amplification option and that it is an unneeded manufacturing expense. I understand the supposed benefits of bi-amplification- that intermodulation distortion can be reduced- but a well-designed speaker shouldn’t have serious levels of intermodulation distortion from any kind of amplification method. I think the 800F and 500C speakers are well-engineered enough so that intermodulation distortion is not a problem no matter how it is amplified. So by providing the bi-amplification option, Paradigm is more bowing to market pressure to add a near useless feature. Granted the cost increase to add this feature isn’t likely to be large, but it just increases the chances that the user will end up misusing it and degrading the sound of these speakers. In other words, it will probably end up doing more harm than good. However, this isn’t really a fair criticism against these particular speakers, since I have reviewed many bi-amplifiable speakers in the past and didn’t ding them for including this feature. I am just stretching to find anything to complain about with this speaker set because they are a solid design that don’t have any serious flaws. Nonetheless, I would prefer to see bi-amplification left to speaker designs that could realistically benefit from it in a tangible way, and those speakers are mostly very powerful speakers intended for large-venue reinforcement or live-sound applications, not home audio products.

500c close4.jpg

Paradigm 500C Center Channel

I just can’t think of any real weaknesses of these speakers.

With that petty nit-picki800f 600c set6.jpgng out of the way, let’s go over the high points of the Paradigm Premier speakers. For me, their chief attribute is their high sound quality: these are a terrific-sounding set of speakers. I can’t really pick out a specific aspect they do especially well in because they are such a well-balanced design. They image well, they are tonally-neutral, they have very good dynamic range, and they have reasonably uniform off-axis dispersion. It all adds up to a great listening experience. As I mentioned before, they don’t play nice with very low frequencies at high output levels, but no tower speakers or center speakers in this price range could. Since they are such a neutral and well-balanced design, they are blind to content; they will sound good with anything (unless the content wasn’t intended to sound good). The 800Fs would make as good a two-channel music speaker as they would be a great part of a surround sound system. And by using a three-way design with a vertical tweeter and mid-range driver, the 500C center speaker mostly avoids the lobing patterns that plague conventional MTM center speakers horizontally oriented. 

Along with their admirable sound quality, the Premier speakers look quite understated, yet nice, and are reasonably sized, so they are not likely to visually dominate the room they are in. They could easily blend in a wide variety of décors. They have relatively well-behaved electrical behavior too, so they will work well with most amplifiers.

The Premier speake800f pair close up.jpgrs are simply well-engineered and sensibly designed speakers, but they are not inexpensive, so we have to ask the question: How do they fare in light of their cost? There is certainly no shortage of stiff competition at these price points, but I would say there is room for the no-nonsense audio engineering and appearance of the Premiers. These are a ‘no-drama’ type-product, and I mean that as a compliment. They work well, and they work as intended and will not be the cause of any controversy. There is nothing peculiar or lacking with them. If you just want straight-up good sounding, well-rounded speakers, they are a solid contender. They are high-fidelity speakers without any unusual quirks, caveats, or surprises, and while they are not cheap, they are not exorbitantly expensive either. Those shopping for loudspeakers in this price range would do well to give these a demo at their nearby Paradigm dealer. I very much enjoyed my time with the Premier speakers, and while I have heard plenty of considerably more expensive speakers, I know I would be quite happy to live with a set of Premiers.

The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor
Build QualityStarStarStarStar
Treble ExtensionStarStarStarStar
Treble SmoothnessStarStarStarStarStar
Midrange AccuracyStarStarStarStar
Bass ExtensionStarStarStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStarStar
Dynamic RangeStarStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStarStarStar
About the author:
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James Larson is Audioholics' primary loudspeaker and subwoofer reviewer on account of his deep knowledge of loudspeaker functioning and performance and also his overall enthusiasm toward moving the state of audio science forward.

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