Review: Paradigm Studio 40 v2 Speaker
The speaker in question is owned by me and in my use since last 5 months and the audition is based on several sessions over the long period of time
The individuals taste, choice of music, volumes that need to be achieved all contribute to the ultimate synergy of the system. Paradigm states that the speakers are suitable to be driven by amplifiers in the range of 15-180 watts. I used three amplifiers ranging from 100 to 300 watts. The Perreaux with very high damping factor of over 400 had fabulous control on the woofer, which I particularly noticed, barely moved even at high volumes. I was afraid that I might fry the tweeter or blow the woofer if I cranked the volume any higher. The 100-watt Quad 405 MkII was not really able to drive them as the cone movement at high volumes (70-80%) I noticed was excessive. This time I had to worry about the woofer bottoming out too frequently and giving up. The 140-watt Quad 606 MkII proved perfectly adequate for my needs and listening preferences as it did have the oomph to drive these speakers with room to spare. For some 5 watts may be more than enough yet there are those who cannot be content with even 300 watts of power. I feel a good neutral amp of say at least 100 watts, is needed to do justice in driving these speakers.
While playing Alan Stivell’s – Renaissance of the Celtic Harp, the speakers were more than adequate in terms of reproducing the delicate sound of the instrument. I did not notice any resonance whatsoever at any frequency levels. The ambience of this beautiful instrument was conveyed very well. The high frequencies did not sound harsh and I felt that these speakers have the capability to satisfy those who tend to have long sessions of few hours in one go.
While listening to Strunz and Farah’s Primal Magic, one could hear the vibration of the strings as they were individually being plucked, the scratching sound as one moves swiftly from one fret to another. It was an exhilarating experience listening to the sounds being emanated from the flamenco guitar. You clearly hear the rise, decay, and interplay of the music.
The planar speakers excel in both high and mid frequencies but somehow lack in bass extension, not that they do not have any bass, they do, but not with the slam. I was pleasantly surprised to note that the low-end extension was very good and much better than what I expected from these bookshelves. In fact better than some of the floor standing speakers I have had the experience of listening to. The low bass on few of the CD's like Sting's - Brand New Day (A thousand years) and Cassandra Wilson's - New Moon Daughter (Strange Fruit) was solid, clean and well damped. The speakers are good enough for playing any type of music since 90% of all the music does not really go below 40Hz. The solid construction of the speaker does help in producing well-damped low bass.
Having lived with planar speakers for 6 years and almost used to low volumes generated by them, in contrast the Paradigm's were very efficient at 91 db and at 8 Ohms were relatively easy load for amplifiers. This does not mean the speakers can be connected to any ordinary mass-market amplifier as they are very revealing, as a matter of fact I should say, ruthlessly revealing, of the source components and anything in the chain including the speaker wires. This attribute of the speaker makes things pretty difficult when one is trying to achieve synergy of the system. That's the challenge with components that are revelatory. At this price bracket there are few speakers that are so revealing of source components.
Although the speakers were not quite able to match the lush sound staging of the Maggies, nor match the high frequency of the ribbon tweeter, but, compared to other similar designs Paradigms were better than any I had heard in the same price bracket and surprisingly better than some in high price category as well. Bright sounding and anemic amps should be avoided for mating with this speakers. The tweeter which some have found to be slightly bright sounding is infact not bright but very neutral soounding. as such cheap electronics tend to make it sound brighter than necessary.
At a friend’s place I had heard Cassandra Wilson’s “Strange Fruit” on the Alon Adrianna’s driven by Cary Audio Design’s 2A3 single ended 5-watt triode amplifier with the source being Wadia’s 850 CD player and I thought I was sitting in Cassandra’s lap. While listening to the Paradigm on my humble setup, I felt I was hand-shaking distance away from her, which is good enough for me at this price point. Beware; Wadia/CAD/Alon system is more than ten times the price. The bass though not very deep but is very tight (thanks to its rigid enclosure.
The speakers really benefit from a solid stand which should be ideally mass loaded. I designed my own stands which are made of mild steel and have a centre post of 6-1/2 inch dia having an opening on top which I filled with dry river sand. The bottom plate which is 14" x 14" is having 4 spikes and a lock nut for placement on the carpet as well as providing mechanical decoupling of the speaker. The difference with stand was amazing, it not only helped in better and tighter bass but also helped in improving the overall soundstage and clarity of the system. I would urge anyone going for these speakers to make sure that they get a mass loadable stand and fill it up with sand (chepest option) or lead shots. I have no idea what the sound would be like with lead shot in place but it would interesting to experiment.
Technically, the Studio 40 is a very well balanced little speaker with a pleasing design. Due to its neutral balance and fatigue free sound, it was very easy on the ears. It doesn't have extended earth shaking bass, but the bass it does produce is sufficiently weighty, articulate, and tuneful. However, this description doesn't do justice to the sheer quality of sound produced by this humble speaker that is telling you politely that I am "value for money”.
Majority of us are always striving for a product that is VALUE FOR MONEY. In the case of Paradigm Reference Studio 40 v.2, you achieve that objective for sure. I certainly have no regrets having acquired it to replace my aging Maggie’s and problems of room limitations in my new abode. Paradigm Reference Studio 40 v.2 may be a small speaker with the label "value for money" pasted on its front panel, but it sure portrays music with style and class.
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