Paradigm Studio Monitor Review
Paradigm's first flagship Studio Monitor
Paradigm is well known as a "budget audiophile's" speaker company. With speakers starting at less than $300 and going all they way up to nearly $10,000, Paradigm makes something for nearly every budget. The Company is known for fidelity, accuracy, and imaging, and for using hi-tech materials such as Kevlar and carbon fiber. Paradigm makes several lines of speakers. Their top of the line home speakers are the "Reference" series, and they make another top-line series for the studio: the "Studio Monitor" series.
Reviewed here is the original flagship of the Studio Monitor series, the Paradigm Studio Monitor. First made in the very late 1980 and on through the 1990s, the Studio Monitor retailed for around $1,900 new. Now, is that "budget audiophile", or just plain expensive? We leave that classification up to you :)
It can be hard to find the Studio Monitor on Google, because the speaker was made before the rise of the Internet, and its name is, unfortunately, too short to be specific enough for most search engines to find relevant content about it. But then again, who needs to find them on Google when one has a pair in one's own home? That happens to be the case with me, and so I am attempting to make it a little easier to find info about the Studio Monitor via Web search.
For my review, read on....
Studio Monitors in the Home
The Studio Monitor, to judge by its name, is meant to be used in a recording/engineering studio as a monitor speaker. What is a studio monitor? Well. most are made to reproduce as uncolored and unbiased a representation of music as possible, while also providing the detailed, complete dynamic range and sound spectrum of a given song's "mix".
Many studio monitors are made small, and are meant to be placed close to the engineer's head. These are called near-field monitors, and are popular because most mixing rooms are small. But the best studios have big mixing rooms, and mastering rooms can be even bigger. and it is in these studios where a speakers such as Paradigm's Studio Monitor can be found.
They can also be found in the home, which is where mine are.
Studio Monitor Technology
Paradigm Studio Monitors are big: standing nearly six feet high, and with four drivers: two 8" woofers, one 4" mid-range, and a dome tweeter. They are tri-ampable (low, mid, high), a sign of Paradigm's intent that the Studio Monitor be a speaker for the highly discriminating audiophile. For an explanation of what tri-amping is, click here, then get back to this article. The Studio Monitors are ported in the front, making some serious bass that retains a very tight profile all the way down to frequencies usually handled by a subwoofer.
So, how is the sound?
The Sound: Incredible, if you know what you are doing
If you do manage to track down information and reviews about the Paradigm Studio Monitor online, you may well find conflicting opinion regarding this speaker's sound. For a good overview of what people have to say, you might visit Audio Review. But mostly you should listen to me, and what I say is: Paradigm Studio Monitors are the first speaker I have ever owned where I did NOT feel the need to augment them with a pair of subwoofers. They are also flatter in their response than my Klipsch Heresys (this is neither good nor bad, it just is), and sound similar to my McIntosh XR-14s when paired with a set of good subs.
You may be reading this and asking "Well, are they great, or not? Why isn't he either gushing or bashing these speakers?" They are great speakers, but at this level, every speaker is "great". More important to audiophiles reading this review is how these great speakers may or may not fit with their current setup.
I use an Adcom GFA-545 amp and Rotel RSP-985 preamp to run my Paradigm Studio Monitors (PSMs). The GFA makes 100 wpc, and I have the PSMs "uni-amped", so I am not taking advantage of the tri-amping option that would allow you to use a tube amp for the tweets, and solid state for mids and highs, or any combination thereof. I am certain that using the tri-amp capability with quality amps would improve the sound. But these things sound great even with one amp channel per speaker.
The PSMs do not need to be used with subwoofers, unlike most "full range" speakers I use. I am strong believer in subwoofer augmentation for speakers of any size (at least two subs), so when I say the PSMs don't need subs I mean they go LOW and TIGHT, and their low end sounds better than a lot of subs do!
You may have read that some people don't like the PSMs. These people have no idea what they are doing. With any speaker, placement in the room, source material, amplification, and cabling all impact a speaker's sound. Also affecting sound: the room shape and surfaces. The PSMs are too big for any regular room with any wall shorter than 20 feet. Your typical living room is too small. People who set up the PSMs in small rooms are hearing so many reflections and standing waves, the sound is sure to be bad. Also, if the PSMs are placed in a corner, or too close to the back wall, their bass output can be overwhelming.
Those in the know can turn the "factory calibrated" screw behind the speaker to adjust bass output. Those even more in the know have covered their listening room's walls with sound-absorbing material, have a carpet on the floor, and heavy drapes on the windows. I myself have listened in small rooms, but after I discovered that the wrong room can ruin even the best speaker's sound, I have learned to take other people's reviews with a grain of salt.
So, if you find a pair of PSMs in good condition, for less than $800, and you are prepared to experiment with placement, EQ, and properly surfacing your room, then you should go forth and buy with confidence: this Paradigm Studio Monitor is a monster of the speaker, it sounds great (on par with many audiophile-level speakers), and could very well be the only pair of main speakers you will ever need.
Links to other helpful sites
- Bi-amping and Tri-amping: Why and How
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- Wicked Vintage Audiophiles
a place to find good deals on vintage hi-fi gear in Cambridge, Mass.