Paradigm Studio 100 Floor standing speakers

The last Paradigm speaker I tested, the Eclipse/BP, was a bipolar system. But the Studio/100, which comes from this Canadian company's Paradigm Reference division, is a conventional, front-radiating, design. The four speakers in the Reference division's Studio series, of which the Studio/100 is the top model, are meant to compete with high-end models while selling for relatively modest prices (from $1,800 per pair down to $650 per pair).

To achieve the Reference Studio series' goals, Paradigm-which makes all its own drivers, crossovers, and cabinets-concentrated on the speakers' sound, as judged by double-blind listening tests, and not on fancy features that don't directly contribute to the sound. Though the company has extensive engineering and R&D facilities, it also uses the findings of Canada's National Research Council. Through its studies, the National Research Council has found that listeners prefer speakers that have flat and smooth on- and off-axis frequency response (particularly through the midrange), smooth total energy response, and low distortion.

The Reference Studio/100 is a three-way, floor-standing system that uses four drivers: two vertically stacked 8-inch woofers in a vented enclosure, one 6-inch midrange in a sealed enclosure, and a 1-inch tweeter. The cabinet is only 10-1/4 inches wide but is 16-1/4 inches deep.

A long port tube, with a large diameter and flared ends, emerges just below the woofers. It tunes the vented box to 20 Hz, which lets the Studio/100 generate usable power down to 17 or 18 Hz-uncommonly low, even for subwoofers. Tuning the system this low raises the risk of increased distortion at higher frequencies, where most of the bass energy in recordings typically resides. For this reason, designers of vented boxes usually choose higher tuning frequencies, between about 32 and 45 Hz; this minimizes bass distortion on most music.

The Studio/100's long-throw woofers and midrange driver have damped, mica-loaded polymer cones, which are said to provide smooth, uncolored response. These drivers also have large magnet assemblies with symmetrical field geometry, high-temperature multilayer voice coils, damped butyl-rubber surrounds, and diecast aluminum frames.

The tweeter has a low-mass aluminum dome with a textile suspension. Its voice coil is wound on a ventilated aluminum former and is cooled with magnetic fluid. The tweeter's faceplate is tapered, to minimize diffraction and to smooth on- and off-axis response.

Paradigm says it designs its drivers to have near-ideal response instead of designing crossovers to correct the drivers' flaws. This allows the use of simple crossover networks. The company states that its crossovers are phase-coherent, quasi-Butterworth designs built with high-quality, close-tolerance components. The Studio/ 100's crossover is on two small PC boards, one each for the high and low frequencies, and is on the rear of the input-connector cup. It contains 10 components: two resistors, four inductors, and four capacitors. The woofers are connected in parallel and driven by a second-order low-pass filter. The midrange driver is fed by a bandpass network consisting of second-order low- and high-pass filters. The tweeter crossover is a second-order high-pass filter. The midrange and tweeter are connected in opposite polarity to the woofers.

Heavy-gauge copper cable is used for all internal connections, and the gold-plated input terminals can accept cables of large diameter. The terminals allow bi-wired or biamplified connections; straps are provided for conventional, single-cable, wiring.

The Studio/100 was designed to sound best with its grille on. The grille fits flush with the drivers, to minimize edge diffraction and smooth the response.

Like the Eclipse/BP, the Studio/100's cabinet uses a bracing system that Paradigm calls the Cascade Enclosure. Three large, full-perimeter shelf braces (effectively, shelves with large holes) connect the Studio/100's front, back, and side panels. Vertical braces lock the shelf braces to each other and to the cabinet's top and bottom. This assembly is said to be very rigid and strong. The cabinet stands on gold-plated, solid-brass, adjustable feet that have sharp spikes and locking collars.

Use and Listening Tests

The Paradigm Studio/100s were quite simple to unpack, move around, and set up. They're just about the maximum weight and size one person can handle easily. For the money, construction quality and appearance were very good. The cabinets were vinyl-wrapped yet looked quite handsome.

The grille is designed as an integral part of the Studio/100. Without the grille, the drivers protrude from the front baffle to a distance that just equals the thickness of the wooden grille frame. When the grille is in place, the drivers' edges essentially disappear, and the front of the system forms a smooth, diffraction-free surface. The grille, which attaches with pegs that fit sockets in the baffle, was easy to remove and reinstall.

The speaker's spiked feet were also easy to attach and remove. The spikes pass through thick brass locking collars that can be used as ordinary feet if the spikes are reversed. I used the speakers with the spikes in place.

Paradigm recommends that the Studio/100s be broken in before use, so I fed them a high-level, low-frequency sine wave for several hours. I used conventional (single) wiring; the rear-mounted terminals were easily accessible.

The owner's manual folds out into six 8-1/2 x 11-inch pages, one side in English and the other in French, and covers all models in Paradigm's Studio series. It discusses the listening room, speaker location, connections (including a chart of suggested cable size versus length), prevention of speaker damage, bi-wiring, and passive biamping (driving the speaker's high and low sections with separate amplifiers but without an external electronic crossover). Paradigm recommends aiming the speakers toward the listener (which I did in my listening tests) and spacing them somewhat closer together than I normally do-6 feet apart for a distance of 9 feet from listener to speaker. (I normally space speakers 8 feet apart and sit 10 feet away).

Spoiled by the performance of the speakers I tested last month, the KEF Model Fours (which cost about three times as much as the Studio/100s), my expectations for the Paradigms were not very high. Boy, was I surprised! From the beginning, the Studio/100s made an extremely favorable impression. They rattled my windows and doors on music that had high levels of low bass yet accurately reproduced the subtle nuances and room ambience of well-recorded chamber music.

On Pat Coil's excellent jazz/pop album Schemes and Dreams (Sheffield Lab 10042-2-F), the Studio/100s' sound and spectral balance were very similar to those of the B&W 801 Matrix Series 3 speakers I used for comparison. The Paradigms did particularly well with the percussion and high-frequency sounds on this disc; their response was smooth and extended, without the hardness I've heard from some metal-dome tweeters. Their bass response on this music was very satisfying; the Paradigms delivered a lot of punch and articulation at only slightly lower levels than the B&Ws did. The Latin horns on track 6 were loud, clean, and pure, and their presentation was properly up-front. I had to turn the Paradigms down by about 2 to 2.5 dB so that they would not be louder than the B&Ws. The Studio/100s also had very broad horizontal and vertical coverage.

With pink noise, the Paradigms went as far up and down the scale as the B&Ws, sounding just slightly different front the 801s; a bit of tonality was evident in the midrange that the B&Ws did not exhibit. On the stand-up/sit-down test, the Paradigms' fine performance equaled that of the B&Ws. With band-limited pink noise, the Studio/100's clean output at the lowest (20-Hz) third-octave band equaled that of the best systems I have tested. There was less wind noise and turbulence from the Paradigm's port than from the B&W's played at the same level. The Paradigm's output in the next few third-octave bands was also extremely good. However, I noticed some limiting of the output at 32 and 40 Hz as compared to the B&W's output.

The Paradigm Studio/100 is one of the few speakers that can properly reproduce the low, 22-Hz, note on track 4 of Respighi's "Pines of Rome" (London 410 145). Even fewer can do justice to the 17-Hz organ pedal note on track 2 of Saint-Saens' Symphony No. 3 (Philips 412619), but the Studio/100 succeeded here as well. When I play these two CDs through most speakers, I either don't hear this bass or hear intermodulation distortion of the higher frequencies. The Studio/100s also reproduced the orchestral passages on these discs very well-smoothly and cleanly and with a broad, accurate soundstage.

These Paradigm speakers handled the extreme dynamics of the Rachmaninoff piece (track 18) on Antonin Kubalek's fine piano CD, My Gift to You (Dorian DOR-90218), very well. These Paradigms reproduced the loud, massive chords with great authority and did not diminish the power of the composition, the performer, or the piano he played.

The Studio/100s played rock and modern country music at near-concert levels. The bass was satisfyingly gut-thumping, and I could really get into the large-scale presentation.

Well-recorded female vocals, such as on Jewels of the Polish Baroque (Dorian Discovery DIS-80136), were quite realistic, and the Studio/100s reproduced the delicate hall reverberations with a spacious and uncolored immediacy. The trumpets on track 7 were particularly effective; I heard no trace of hardness.

Reviewing two excellent systems in a row, the KEF Model Fours and these Paradigms, has made my job very enjoyable. The Studio/100 has many of the same fine qualities as the Model Four, but its price is far lower. And the Paradigm's low bass response is superior, bordering on the phenomenal (pipe-organ aficionados, take note). The Studio/100 delivers an excellent combination of attributes. It can play loud and clean while maintaining superb overall sound quality, has extended bass response, and also looks quite good-all for a reasonable price. Highly recommended!

Paradigm Studio 100 Floor standing speakers photo