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Paradigm Founder 100F and 70LCR Measurements & Conclusion

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100f outdoor testing2

The Paradigm Founder 100F Towers were measured in free-air at a height of 4 feet at a 2-meter distance from the microphone, with the microphone raised to a 7.5’ elevation that was level with and aimed at the tweeter center. The measurements were gated at 8-milliseconds. In this time window, some resolution is lost below 400 Hz and accuracy is completely lost below 200 Hz. Measurements have been smoothed at a 1/24 octave resolution.

100f horizontal waterfall response

 100f horizontal profile response

The above graphs depict the Paradigm Founder 100F tower’s direct-axis and horizontal dispersion out to a 90-degree angle in five-degree increments. Information on how to interpret these graphs can be read in our article Understanding Loudspeaker Review Measurements Part II. Right off the bat, we see a nicely flat response for many of the angles up to upper treble frequencies. There is a rise that starts at around 8kHz (depending on the angle) that can end up as a 5dB peak above 10kHz over the response average. This may lend the speaker a slight amount of brightness, but that is too high in frequency to make it sound forward or harsh. That elevated upper tweeter response will probably make the speaker sound a bit more “airy” than it would be otherwise. This is a sound signature I have seen in other Paradigm models. I am not normally a fan of hot treble, but this is too high in frequency to give the speakers an aggressive sound, so I don’t find this elevated upper treble to be bothersome at all. There is a lot of spikiness in the upper treble, and I would guess that is due to diffraction effects from the waveguide since these spikes seem to shift in frequency as the angle changes.

100F response per angle 

With all of the undulations in the treble frequencies at various angles, it is slightly difficult to trace the response per frequency in the ‘waterfall’ style graphs, so the above graph provides a view of the angle responses separated for easier tracking.  When looked at carefully, it can be seen that the overall flattest response does not occur on-axis but rather between five to fifteen degrees off-axis. The response still stays within a pretty good window (not including the upper treble spike around 15kHz). I would angle these speakers for a toe-in that puts the listener at about a 10-degree angle from the on-axis direction. An average of these responses would come out to a fairly flat response overall, so I think that normal room acoustics would probably yield a very good room response. The story of all of these curves is that this speaker would be misjudged from any single response.

100f horizontal polar map

The above polar map shows the same information in the preceding graphs but depicts it in a way that can offer new insight regarding these speakers’ behavior. Instead of using individual raised lines to illustrate amplitude, 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 dispersion behavior more easily. More information about interpreting this graph can be read in our article Understanding Loudspeaker Review Measurements Part II.

In the polar map of the 100F, we can see pretty good directivity control from 1kHz to above 10kHz. That can be achieved with directivity matching the drivers’ dispersion up to a point, but an effective waveguide is still needed to control the tweeter’s dispersion, and Paradigm has achieved that with their OS waveguide. The penalties that come in the form of some diffraction effects are now paid for when we see the overall picture of dispersion. Simple dome tweeters on a flat baffle can not maintain that wide dispersion out to such a high frequency nor can they temper dispersion at the lower end of their passband. The end result is a consistent sound out to about a 40-degree angle. Listen anywhere within a 40-degree angle of the on-axis angle, and this speaker should maintain the same sound character. This also reduces the need for acoustic treatments since the reflected sound should have a strong resemblance to the direct sound. What is seen here is above average for tower speakers in this segment.

100F bass response 

The above graph shows the 100F’s low-frequency response captured using groundplane measurements (where the speaker and microphone are on the ground at a 2-meter distance in a wide-open area). Here we see a nice flat response down to 70Hz where it starts to taper off at a gentle slope. While this speaker is ported, the ported output is a bit overdamped in order to achieve this type of roll-off. The reason for this type of low-frequency response is that a flat response all the way down to port tuning has a high chance of getting over-boosted as an in-room response. The room will always add some low-frequency gain that bumps up the lower bass, and how much gain is added depends on the individual room as well as speaker position. With such a shallow roll-off, users are assured some significant deep bass output without the response becoming boomy. I would guess that most users are going to get a strong in-room response down to at least 40Hz and probably lower.

100F impedance 

The above graphs show the electrical behavior of the 100F speakers. Paradigm does not clearly state the impedance of these speakers, merely saying that they are “Compatible with 8 ohms,” but these clearly are not 8-ohm speakers, at least with a nominal rating. That being said, this isn’t a particularly hard load, although it does dig down to 4 ohms at around 100Hz but not with a severe phase angle. Most amplifiers should be able to run these speakers without problem, even typical AVRs. It is probably not a good idea to really blast them with entry-level AVRs or cheap chip-amps, but it’s not likely that anyone buying speakers in this price range is going to do that. In this graph, we can see from the nadir of the low-frequency saddle that the port tuning frequency looks to be around 30Hz. We can also see from the mismatch of the lower frequency saddle peaks that the resonant frequency of the bass drivers is much lower than that of the enclosure. This is surely the result of the shallow slope of the low-frequency response that Paradigm was targeting. 

I measured sensitivity at 90.1dB at 1 meter for 2.83v. That seems to be a good match for Paradigm’s own spec which is fairly ambiguous: “anechoic sensitivity: 90dB.” These speakers don’t need a hugely powerful amplifier to get loud, although, with a maximum input power spec of 250 watts, they can handle a fair amount of juice if you happen to have an amp that can provide it.

Measurements and Analysis: Paradigm Founder 70LCR

70lcr outdoor testing

The Founder 70LCR speakers were 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 11-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.

70lcr spinorama 

The above graph shows the direct-axis frequency response and other curves that describe the speakers’ amplitude response in a number of ways. For more information about the meaning of these curves, please refer to our article Understanding Loudspeaker Measurements Part 1. Here we see a decent response up to 4kHz where we run into some kind of high-Q notch that takes a bite out of the response between 4 and 5kHz. The response shores up again above that where we get into some elevated upper treble as we saw with the 100F. While this is a flawed response, the dip above 4kHz looks much worse than it would sound since it is so narrow in bandwidth. What would color the sound more is the slight shelving of the ‘Listening Window’ and ‘Early Reflections’ curves at around 2kHz. That might give this speaker a warmer sound despite the elevated upper treble above 15kHz which probably won’t be all that audible by most listeners. My guess is that this speaker would sound a tad recessed when compared to a speaker with a more neutral response. Equalization may prove to be difficult since there are major fluctuations in directivity. I wouldn’t try any EQ fine-tuning of this speaker since the reflected sound is a bit disassociated with the direct sound.

70lcr horizontal waterfall response

70lcr horizontal profile response

The above graphs depict the 70LCR’s lateral responses out to 90 degrees in five-degree increments. More information about how to interpret these graphs can be read in this article: Understanding Loudspeaker Review Measurements Part II. These are somewhat ragged results, but the summation of the highest responses do add up to a fairly flat response when viewing them stacked up as in our profile view. The flattest responses occur at 10 to 15 degrees, and that is where this speaker should sound the fullest- when used horizontally. There is a lot going on with the 70LCR that is affecting the response at various angles. We can see cancellation lobes between the bass drivers that affect dispersion between 500 to 1,000Hz. There is some kind of off-axis notch at the crossover frequency of 2.2kHz, although I don’t know whether that is due to the waveguide or the cone or the crossover circuit. I am not certain of the cause of that 4kHz dip that we saw in the above ‘spin-o-rama’ data, although, as I said before, I don’t think that is a significant flaw. There is a flare-up in dispersion at 15kHz which is certainly a consequence of the waveguide.

70lcr horizontal polar map 

The above polar map 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. For more information about the meaning of these graphs, we again refer the reader to Understanding Loudspeaker Review Measurements Part II.

The polar map for the 70LCR is an unusual one. It shows some problems but it also shows some strengths. The overall problem is that it isn’t very uniform at any single angle, and, as we saw in the directivity indexes in the ‘spin-o-rama’ graph, there is not great correlation between close angles and far angles with respect to the main axis. The good news is that there is, broadly speaking, a lot of output at all angles out to a 50-degree angle which makes this less restrictive than typical toppled MTM center speaker designs which have to constitute 90% of the center speaker market. Still, in order to stay out of the crossover notch, best listening is done within 20-degrees of the on-axis angle.

70lcr vertical waterfall response

70lcr vertical profile response

The above graph shows the 70LCR’s response behavior along its vertical axis. Since it can be used in an upright orientation, we will give it the same level of analysis that we have given its horizontal orientation. This being the case, the above graphs are what the horizontal response would be when used in an upright orientation. The responses in this orientation are a bit less cluttered, unsurprisingly. There are two reasons for this. One reason is that the woofers are not fighting against each other as cancellation lobes form off-axis since they keep the same distance from each other for all angles in this orientation. The other reason is that the baffle is much shorter in the upright position rather than the horizontal position, and that makes for much less baffle diffraction. Some of the same problems crop up such as the anti-resonance at 4kHz and off-axis crossover dip. These problems are narrow-band issues and I don’t regard them as very severe. Again, I think the most audible flaw would be the off-axis shelving that occurs above the crossover frequency that also happens in this orientation.

70lcr vertical polar map 

The vertical polar map for the 70LCR is OK. The thing that should stand out the most is the waist-banding that occurs above the crossover from about 2kHz up to 3.2kHz. That doesn’t really set in until after 40 degrees, and most listeners are unlikely to be seated outside of a 40-degree angle, so it’s not overly concerning. It may have some secondary audible effect in acoustical reflections, but it’s hard to say how that might affect the overall sound. In my own listening, I didn’t detect any problems, but I was listening on-axis in a room that is acoustically friendly.

70lcr bass response 

The above graph shows the 70LCR’s low-frequency response captured using groundplane measurements. This measurement essentially shows a near picture-perfect sealed speaker response. The response is beautifully flat and then takes a 12dB/octave slide downward at around 80Hz. This is pretty much ideal low-frequency behavior for a center speaker. It’s nice to see something normal about this speaker for a change!

70lcr impedance 

The above graphs show the electrical behavior of the 70LCR. Much like the 100F, Paradigm ambiguously specs this as “8-ohm compatible.” If there was an amplifier that could only run 8-ohm speakers, it wouldn’t be able to carry this load, but the good news is that few amplifiers are like that. If the user were really blasting this speaker with a budget AVR, that 4-ohm dip from 100Hz to 200Hz might cause some thermal problems after a while, but, as we mentioned before, no one is going to run these expensive speakers on a $300 AVR. As with the 100F, this is not a particularly challenging load, and it will not present a problem on any amplifier that the user will plausibly use it on.

I measured the sensitivity at 90.6dB for 2.83v at 1 meter. That is close to Paradigm's spec of 89dB, but Paradigm doesn’t offer any information about how that value was arrived at except to say it was anechoic. That makes this center a bit more sensitive than the norm, and any reasonable amplifier will make this speaker get loud.

Conclusion

100F pair3I will end this review by briefly going over the strengths and weaknesses of the products under evaluation, and, as always, I will start with the weaknesses. The Paradigm Founders speakers are generally well-conceived, but they are not without flaws, although, in my view, none of their flaws are major. Firstly, the response that I measured from the 70LCR is somewhat uneven. If you ‘zoom out’ and look at the larger picture of the 70LCR’s output, the evenness of the overall output does level out a bit, and that may be why I didn’t hear anything odd in my own listening, but there might have been acoustic circumstances in my environment that mitigated the nonlinearities in the responses, or maybe the content that I used wasn’t stuff that would have been particularly revealing of these specific flaws. To my ears, the 70LCR sounded fine. However, there are some oddities in the measured performance that are surprising given the cost of the speaker. It is an ambitious design; shaping a midrange driver to conform to an oblate spheroid geometry so it can also be used as a waveguide in a coaxial speaker on top of a tweeter with a PPA lens. There is a lot going on in that single drive unit, and perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Paradigm didn’t quite hit the mark. But, as I mentioned in the measurements section, many of the flaws are the type that is more visible on a graph than audible in a typical listening environment. The 100F speakers have a much more steady response, although there is some upper treble raggedness, but that mostly only occurs in the on-axis response.

With my complaints out of the way, let’s get on with my compliments, of which there are many. First of all, the performance of the 100Fs is very good. Aside from some upper treble shagginess that isn’t very consequential, we have a very flat response from lower treble extending down to the bottom of the speaker’s bandwidth. It has excellent dynamic range and could surely handle a larger room if given a couple of hundred watts. Directivity is well-controlled up past 10kHz, so they won’t be fussy about placement for good sound nor will they require any serious acoustic treatments in an average room for a good sound. Their sensitivity and electrical load are good as well and won’t present any problems for any competently engineered amplifiers. The great sound of the 100Fs is backed by a solid set of measurements.

70lcr5

On the subject of performance, while I was a bit critical of the 70LCR’s measured performance above, it does have its strengths such as a wider dispersion pattern than traditional MTM center speakers. In fact, for all of its rocky off-axis response, it will still have a preferable dispersion pattern for a center speaker role than pretty much any toppled MTM. Also, its low-frequency response is essentially perfect for a center speaker; almost totally flat, and then a 12dB/octave slope starting at 80Hz which is a textbook THX crossover filter for a center speaker. What’s more is its above-average 90dB sensitivity so it doesn’t need a ton of power to sing loudly.

 100f outdoors

Aside from the performance of the Founders speakers, there is the dead-sexy appearance. These are some gorgeous loudspeakers, especially in the midnight cherry veneer. The industrial design done on these speakers is top-notch. They really do look like luxury items and could complement the interior decor of nearly any high-end living space. The build quality is excellent as well, and these products have the heft and solidity that is suggested by their appearance.

 Founder trio3

In the end, I enjoyed my time with Paradigm’s Founder 100F and 70LCR loudspeakers, and I think that buyers will feel the same way. They look nice, and they sound great. I do think that the coaxial drive unit in the 70LCR might benefit from a little bit more time in the oven, so to speak, but it didn’t sound bad at all in practice. The 100Fs are terrific loudspeakers from top to bottom, and I would love to keep the pair that I was sent, but sadly I must send them to Gene next to showcase in the AH Smarthome. The good news is if you're on the market for an upscale speaker system, you're going to have a killer one with the Paradigm Founder series that you will surely enjoy for years to come.

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 QualityStarStarStarStarStar
AppearanceStarStarStarStarStar
Treble ExtensionStarStarStarStar
Treble SmoothnessStarStarStar
Midrange AccuracyStarStarStarStar
Bass ExtensionStarStarStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStarStarStar
ImagingStarStarStarStarStar
Dynamic RangeStarStarStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStarStarStar
PerformanceStarStarStarStarhalf-star
ValueStarStarStarStarhalf-star
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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Recent Forum Posts:

shadyJ posts on January 09, 2022 21:13
52980

To celebrate the reacquisition of Paradigm to one of its founding members, Paradigm has released a new speaker series to replace the aging Prestige line in the fittingly-titled “Founder” line. The Founder series incorporates a great deal of cutting-edge loudspeaker design that is both brand new for these models as well as evolutions on technology from previous models. Given how highly that some of their previous loudspeakers have performed, that bodes well for the Founders, although they still must prove themselves in practice instead of coasting on prior success. That brings us to today’s review of the Founder 100F floor-standing speaker and Founder 70LCR speaker where we look at how much all of that advanced design has added up to. Let’s dive in!

READ: Paradigm Founder 100F and 70LCR Review
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