|Paradigm Signature S8 v.2 Loudspeakers|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Floorstanding Loudspeakers|
|Written by Andrew Robinson|
|Monday, 01 October 2007|
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In the sprit of doing everything better for less money, I introduce to you the Paradigm Signature S8 v.2 loudspeaker system. Competing with the likes of Wilson, MartinLogan, B&W and Revel at half (or less) the retail price, it will come as no surprise that Paradigm has set out to build and design a speaker system that attacks the industry high-end loudspeaker value proposition. Upon first glance, even the untrained eye can see the S8s are in every facet top-notch floor-standing loudspeakers. But it’s like drooling over a Ferrari in a parking lot – you have to test the S8s out to really see what they can do, so that is just what I did.
It took a few months following the 2006 CEDIA tradeshow before my review pair of Signature S8 v.2s was ready. They were worth the wait. The Signature S8 v.2s arrived at my home right as I finished the bulk of my home renovation and reference listening room construction. I knew since CEDIA that the Signature S8 v.2s were going to play a pivotal role in my review system, so I actually designed and tuned portions of my room around them. Out of the box, finished in a beautiful natural Birdseye Maple, each Signature S8 v.2 is a sight to behold, measuring in at 48-and-a-half inches tall by eight-and-one-quarter inches deep by 20-and-a-half inches deep, weighing a whopping 100 pounds apiece. The Signature S8 v.2 ranks on my short list of speakers with a visual appearance that transcends mere loudspeaker looks and enters the realm of meaningful art and design. On more than one occasion, visitors commented that if all speakers looked as good as the Signature S8 v.2’s, they wouldn’t feel the need to hide them in bookshelves or, worse, behind furniture. It seems, despite my efforts, some of my friends just don’t grasp the concept of speaker placement and/or sound reproduction. The Signature S8 v.2s come in three finishes, Cherry, Birdseye Maple and Piano Black, each of which have a brilliant gloss finish. All of the Signature S8 v.2’s finish options are incredible and would integrate very easily into nearly any décor. There is only one caveat: the Birdseye Maple and Piano Black finishes carry a slightly higher price tag at $6,699 retail vs. the standard Cherry finish’s $5,999 per pair price. Perhaps caveat is the wrong word, for the Signature S8 v.2s are truly reference grade speakers, on par with the likes of Wilson Audio, Usher, Martin Logan, Revel and others of similar caliber, yet they cost considerably less than the competition. From a sheer economic standpoint I could end the review right here, with the Paradigm Signature S8 v.2s being named the victor. But I won’t, because I haven’t even gotten to the good stuff yet.
The Signature S8 v.2 has a true three-way loudspeaker design, boasting six drivers inside its incredibly inert cabinet. Focusing on appearance only, there doesn’t seem to be much difference between the v.1 and v.2 models of the Signature S8. However, all of the drivers have been revamped, redesigned or, better still, replaced. The v.1’s aluminum dome tweeter has been replaced with a one-inch pure beryllium dome tweeter. The midrange duties now fall to a seven-inch Co-Pal cobalt-infused pure aluminum cone instead of v.1’s polymer cone designs. The bass drivers, of which there are four, consist of seven-inch mineral-filled polypropylene cones. All of the drivers play nice via Paradigm’s own third-order electro-acoustic crossover at 1.9kHz and second-order electro-acoustic crossover at 250Hz for the lower bass drivers. The Signature S8 v.2 has a stated frequency response of 42Hz-45kHz on-axis and a 42Hz-20kHz at 30 degrees off-axis. The Signature S8 v.2 is also quite efficient for a reference speaker, boasting 92 dB sensitivity into a rather pedestrian eight ohms. The Signature S8 v.2’s relative easy load makes pairing it with a variety of amps both solid state and tube a snap, for Paradigm states that the Signature S8 v.2s can sound their best with a mere 15 watts at their disposal. Turning my attention aft, I noticed a rear-firing low-frequency extension port, as well as the Signature S8 v.2’s gold-plated five-way binding posts, with two sets facilitating bi-wire or bi-amp configurations.
Since this was to be a predominately two-channel review, I set up the Signature S8 v.2 for this configuration and connected them to my two-channel rig, consisting of my Mark Levinson No.433 amplifier and No. 326S Reference preamp via Transparent Reference interconnects and speaker cables. As a source, I used my trusty Denon 3910 universal player to spin both standard CD and two-channel SACDs. I used Transparent Reference interconnects to connect the Denon to my No. 326s preamp.
Set-up was a breeze for the most part. I was able to “walk” the Signature S8 v.2s into their positions with little incident. I played with the Signature S8 v.2s’ positioning and toe-in after a few days of breaking in the speakers. Ultimately, with the grilles on, the Signature S8 v.2s’ toe-in stopped just shy of being pointed directly at the primary listening position. This angle provided me with the sharpest center image while ensuring a wide and accurate soundstage. Going back to the Signature S8 v.2’s grilles for a moment, Paradigm designs all of their speakers with the intent that the grilles be left on, as they play an integral part in the speaker’s overall sound. I found this to be true in my listening tests and, as much as I would’ve loved to stare at the Signature S8 v.2s’ sexy driver array, the absence of the grilles was not to my sonic liking.