Paradigm Reference Studio 100 v3 Review from a Dilettante Audiophile
I am just now breaking in a pair of Paradigm Reference Studio 100 v3's - I am greatly impressed with the sound! Without question, they have improved as I have played them incessantly during the past two weeks. I have been returning to informal "reference recordings" that I played when the speakers were right out of the box, the sound is considerably more open, the base much better refined. In particular a favorite period instrument, chamber orchestra recording that has been very challenging for home playback has developed much more robust and balanced base sound. The subtle medium sized sound stage of this recording, defined placement of instruments as played is the best I have ever heard. (Corelli - Concerti Grossi Op. 6 1-6 & 7-12; harmonia mundi HMU 907015) Acoustic piano recordings on these speakers are excellent. The engineering for off axis dispersion (like pianos in a room) makes the sound reproduction very realistic on all recordings but listening to a Diana Krall Impulse recording, bass, piano, vocals only, has elicited comments like "flawless". (Diana Krall , Love Scenes; Impulse IMPD 233) The speakers work great on large orchestral pieces, again great sound stage with furniture rattling base and reproduction of timpani and base drum booms. They are equally righteous with rock and roll, blasting Hendrix, Sonja Dada or Wide Spread Panic nails the screaming guitar wizard solo thing. Their ability to reach the depth of the commonly used "synth-base" on pop recordings can be literally startling. Finally, the speakers have enhanced playback of my vinyl collection. They enhance the mid-range response and coherency of well engineered original jazz recording, especially well miked trap drum sets. (ie Sonny Rollins Quartet, Saxophone Colossus; Fantasy OJC 291; 1956, Rudy Van Gelder engineering) An A/B demo of a newly HDCD re-mastered Joni Mitchell release with the original mid-70's vinyl version was a stark example of an LP smoking a good CD. The base decayed more naturally, the vocals rode above the instruments much more convincingly. Maybe it was the re-master job? (Joni Mitchell, The Hissing of Summer Lawns; Asylum 7E 1051; 1975)
My comparison shopping for these speakers consisted of listening to the Thiel CS 1.6 and 2.4, Linn systems and smaller Paradigm Reference models. The most serious contender was the Thiel 2.4, but they just did not provide the sonic revelations that I was expecting for 4 large. And they sucked amp power like water. A switch from a 550 watt per channel to 150 watt per channel amp during the demo sealed their fate - I could hear a difference in clarity right away and 150 is much closer to my system capabilities. The Linn speaker line while beautiful forces you into the price stratosphere for "full-range" sound reproduction.
So risking withering fire from the "real" audiophiles prowling hereabouts, my current system list (as it should be, my Italian sports car and sailing yacht successfully compete for interest and dollars):
AR EB 101 turntable
Sure V15 MR Type 5 cartridge
NAD 541i CD player
NAD c270 amp
Advent Model 300 preamp/tuner
Audio Quest cables amp/preamp connections
Mapleshade Clearview Double Helix speaker wire (bi-wired)
Mapleshade equipment mounting tweaks
Finally, I have been intrigued by discussions comparing the v2 and v3. So with the Signature series the Reference Studio series has been knocked off the Paradigm flagship perch! I too wonder about the apparent loss of some weight assuming that its due to slightly smaller width and the "loss" of mass from real veneer rather than the applique on the v3. I have also read the slight difference in base extension measurement, at these frequencies, how much differentiation is possible by the human ear? A tighter, more accurate bass response in the real world (ie living room) environment that these are used in seems more important to me. I wonder if Paradigm technical and sales information for dealers addresses these matters? If so, I would like to hear or see it. Any other opinions on these matters?