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

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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.

Conclusion

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.

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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
MetricRating
Build QualityStarStarStarStar
AppearanceStarStarStarStar
Treble ExtensionStarStarStarStar
Treble SmoothnessStarStarStarStarStar
Midrange AccuracyStarStarStarStar
Bass ExtensionStarStarStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStarStar
ImagingStarStarStarStarStar
Dynamic RangeStarStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStarStarStar
PerformanceStarStarStarStarhalf-star
ValueStarStarStarStarStar
About the author:

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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