|Paradigm Reference Studio Home Theater System (100v4/CC-690/ADP 570/Servo 15v2)|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems|
|Written by Ken Taraszka, MD|
|Tuesday, 01 May 2007|
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Music And Movies
Throughout the burn-in period, the bass produced by the Paradigm Studio 100v4s impressed me, going to the lowest depths needed for anything except perhaps organ music. While I had experimented using the subwoofer for some of my two-channel listening, I didn’t feel it was necessary, so I didn’t use it; I never felt shorted of bass. I turned to Soul Coughing’s Irresistible Bliss (Warner Brothers), an amazing ska album with plenty of variety to test the Paradigms. “Super Bon Bon” showed their ability to handle serious bass and complex passages simultaneously, while “Soft Serve” had the deep bass lines and real-life vocals the band is known for. The tone of this song is much different than the remainder of the album. Keyboards jump in and out, while the song carries a deep funk groove to it. The Studio 100v4s easily handled the keyboards, vocals and the subtle strumming of the guitar, while keeping the bass solid. The Paradigms kept me truly entertained throughout this song and, for that matter, the rest of the album. The scratching of the frets on the start of “Soundtrack To Mary” seemed so real; the guitar came through with a sharp and plucky nature to it. The bass was full and deep. Though slightly less taut than from my reference Canton 809DCs, the Studio 100v4s reproduced deeper bass.
Nickelback’s album All the Right Reasons (Roadrunner Records) is an album full of powerful drums and guitar, so I figured it would be perfect for the Studio 100v4s for some more two-channel listening. The opening song on the album, “Follow You Home,” begins with fast drums and rapidly expands with brazen guitar. Chad Kroeger’s vocals start quietly but increase in intensity and the Studios did an amazing job keeping all these elements separate and powerfully displayed, even at the 100 decibel level. The bass was so impressive that I checked twice to make sure I wasn’t using the subwoofer. Bass was simply felt as well as heard. “Animals” is full of fast transitions and, again, the Paradigms easily covered anything this song had and kept the bass guitar and drums clear while the lead guitar was slamming. “Rock Star” always reminds me of Kid Rock and has a somewhat different feel to the rest of the album. The mellowness of the song was done well and I couldn’t help tapping my feet and singing along.
I got home from a particularly bad day at work and wanted some angry music to clear my head, so I put on The Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks (Warner Brothers). Growing up outside of New York City, I got to see many of the original punk bands, and the Pistols were truly a sight. “Submission” gives me all the elements I want from punk: forward vocals, deep bass and raging guitar that had to be played loud. The Studio 100v4s easily handled the brazen guitar, brilliance of the cymbals and Sid’s thunderous, sloppily played bass at extreme volumes. Johnny Rotten’s voice had an eeriness to it I loved. “Pretty Vacant” starts with a lone guitar and quickly builds in intensity to full-on punk angst. The Studio 100v4s never lost step with the emotion of the music, effortlessly demonstrating the powerful bass this system is capable of producing. The volume level attainable from these speakers is insane, and can easily surpass your ears’ comfort level while keeping it all together musically. I couldn’t have asked for a better speaker for this music and my mood that day.
Moving onto multi-channel audio, I cued up the SACD of Aerosmith’s Toys in the Attic (Sony). “Uncle Salty” had a great feel to it while giving me the unfaltering bass I had come to expect of the Paradigm system. Steven Tyler’s voice had a slight edge to it, but its forwardness worked well with this old classic. “Walk This Way” kept me rapt in bass, while the rears filled the soundstage with enticing surround. On “Big Ten Inch,” the Paradigms easily kept the almost flapping sound of the song lively and fun with full surround.
I next chose the SACD of David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (EMI Records). During “Soul Love,” the clicking seemed to come from everywhere while the deeper tones powered through, the balance of these speakers was perfect. Rick Wakeman’s harpsichord on “It Ain’t Easy” had a wonderful delicacy to it with its tinny notes, while the powerful surges in dynamics were no problem for the Paradigm system. Background vocals filled the room, while the lead came from up front and stayed there. “Ziggy Stardust” showed great depth, while demonstrating the exceptional balance of this system with smooth transitions from speaker to speaker. The guitar started off far to the right, while David Bowie’s voice seemed to come from above me; clearly, this is an amazingly balanced system. The adapted dipole surrounds gave loftiness to the surround sound mix that was enjoyable. Though not as precise in imaging for multi-channel audio as the direct radiators I am used to, they mated perfectly with the rest of the system.
For movies, I first turned to Pearl Harbor (Buena Vista Home Entertainment) on Blu-ray via my Sony BDP-S1. This film covers multiple subplots in great detail and offers everything from quiet love scenes to full-on war sequences. The delicateness of the quiet passages were as well-handled as the massive impact of the explosions. Details like the spinning down of the crop duster in the beginning of the film were well-placed and followed the screen image perfectly. Surround effects were full, even from the smallish Studio ADP 590 speakers. In the early scene when Walker (Josh Hartnett) and McCauley (Ben Affleck) are playing chicken, the surround effects were perfectly placed and the deep tones of the plane engines were excellent. Voices and subtle music filled the room during the medical examination and made for an unusual realness to this scene. Transitions were perfect when the Japanese came flying in and the subwoofer filled in adeptly where the rears left off. I was constantly impressed by the Servo 15’s ability to simply dominate the bass. I do not mean the Servo overpowered the bass – it simply handled anything thrown at it and went as deep as you could hear, or more often feel, making the impact of gunshots and bombs incredible.
My next pick was Van Helsing (Universal Studios Home video) on HD DVD. The story concerns a mythical character, played by Hugh Jackman, who hunts down monsters and is called to Transylvania to fight Dracula. The movie starts off as the crowds encroach on Victor Frankenstein’s castle. In this scene, the lighting strikes and bang of the battering ram on the door were amazingly contrasted by subtle conversations. The claps of thunder and the roar of the crowd had awe-inspiring dynamics. The breaking of the absinthe bottle was well-placed and crystal clear. During the Paris scene, the bass in the background was impressive, while the chiming of the bells at Notre Dam rang true. The ensuing scene with Mr. Hyde’s jumping into the picture offered more deep and resounding bass, while the classical music in the background filled the soundstage. While I agree with Mr. Hyde that we all have our little problems, this system showed none in its reproduction of the film.
The Paradigm Studios clearly impressed me, but to really test bass, I have only two words for you: King Kong. King Kong (Universal Studios Home Video) on HD DVD was my be-all, end-all test for the Paradigm system with movies. The Paradigm Studio system blew out this remake. When the crew makes it into Kong’s territory on Skull Island, the bass of this film can easily undo many if not most systems, but the Paradigms held tight and shook everything else, including but not limited to my walls, couch and even appreciably shook me. The throatiness of Kong’s voice was unbelievable through this set-up and, thanks to the system’s exceptional integration, surround effects moved across the room effortlessly. While the fronts can easily go deep, the sub clearly reinforced them and made everything seem truly larger than life throughout this film. When the camera crew gets run down by dinosaurs, the system was simply over-the-top impressive. The roars of the dinosaurs had an intense depth to them, while the strings of the background music stayed smooth and clear. The guttural nature of Kong’s grunts was so real it seemed like the large ape had invaded my room.