Years ago while traveling through Canada with the circus, I happened upon a pub in what seemed to be somewhere between the Ice Age and the beginning of existence. It was so cold my nipples had cut through my favorite flannel shirt. I knocked the head off a beer or two and exchanged lies about fly fishing with one of the locals.
As the night wore on and my blood warmed up I found myself at home. And I pondered: I had traveled thousands of miles with the circus working as a sword-swallowing palm reader. And I had heard the complaints of almost every man, woman, and child from Pensacola to Portland. Yet I didn't hear one complaint while I was in Canada--not a single one...
What do you ask does any of this have to do with speakers? Well nothing really. But I thought it would be a good way to use the word "nipples" in a speaker review...
Actually, there is method to my madness, in that I have been continually amazed at what comes over the Canadian/American border--particularly from a speaker company known simply as Paradigm.
Competition and Comparison
If you are interested in comparing Paradigm's Phantom speakers against other speaker systems, be sure to read our reviews of the MartinLogan Script, Scenario, and Cinema speakers and the Aperion Intiumus 5T-DB Hybrid HD 5.1 speaker system. You can also find more information in our Bookshelf Speakers section and our Floorstanding Speaker section, as well as our Paradigm brand page.
Paradigm doesn't spend ridiculous amounts of money trying to market products that don't even really exist. But rather invests back into its product line and even more so, its customers. Take a look at their website and you'll see what I mean.
The Paradigm Phantom ensemble consists of two Legend towers for front left and right, a CC-270 center channel, a pair of ADP-170 dipole surrounds and a PDR-12 110-watt, 12-inch subwoofer.
Unique Features - There really aren't any features I would classify as "unique" in the Phantom ensemble. But this doesn't keep it from being a top performer...
The components I enjoyed the most in the Paradigm ensemble were the Legend left/right towers and the ADP-170 surrounds. So I'll start here first. The ADP-170 surrounds are a compact dipole design and come packaged with mounting hardware. Each surround weighs about 12 pounds due to their rigid construction. The grilles blend seamlessly into the contour of the speakers that measure roughly 10 3/4-inches tall by 6 1/2-inches deep by 9 1/2-inches wide. Each surround features a single 3/4-inch ceramic/metal composite tweeter atop a 5 1/2-inch metellescent midrange.
The Legend towers are simple and sleek. Each Legend measures roughly
40-inches tall by 12-inches deep by 7 3/4-inches wide and weighs around
37 pounds. The front baffle of each tower has a total of four drivers
and a frontward firing port. A single 1-inch ceramic/metal composite
tweeter tops three 6 1/2-inch midrange/mid-bass drivers. There are
five-way binding posts around back for solid connectivity.
Moving right along is the CC-270 shielded center channel speaker.
This speaker also features a pair of the same 6 1/2 - inch midrange
drivers found in the Legend towers along with a single 3/4 -inch
ceramic/metal composite tweeter. This ensures that the speakers will
perform with the same inherent qualities for a well-
Providing the foundation for the Paradigm Phantom ensemble is the
PDR-12 110-watt subwoofer. Here again, a straightforward design with no
frills and plenty of performance. The PDR-12 is a bass reflex (ported)
design with a single frontward firing 12-inch long throw woofer capable
of hitting frequencies at 25Hz.
Installation/Setup - Being that the Paradigm Phantom speaker ensemble
is relatively compact, there really aren't any installation issues to
speak of except with regards to placement. As with any speaker ensemble
however, proper placement is critical. This is especially true of the
center channel speaker, subwoofer and towers. The ultimate goal of
setting up any speaker ensemble is to achieve on-axis response. That is
to say that ideally you would like every tweeter in the room to be at,
or directed at, the listeners ear in the "sweet spot." Because only one
seat in the room can truly be the sweet spot, off-axis response
characteristics are especially important in home theater speaker
ensembles. Such is the case with the Paradigm.
I found the CC-270 center channel to be more than a small challenge
to properly place during set up. The CC-270 is a "set-top" design made
to rest flat on top of or below the display. The large Zenith HDTV in my
system did not allow for placement below and placement above was rather
awkward due to the "channel" between the screen and the top of the set.
A simple solution for Paradigm would be to offer a small stand that
would allow their center channel offerings to sit slightly above flush
surfaces and articulate up or down to achieve on-axis response. The
result without the stand is the creation of harsh reflective sound waves
off of the TV's surface that invariably inhibit the sound quality of
The Legend towers are not shielded but this did not seem to be a
problem even when positioned close to the sides of my display. Tower
designs are inherently the easiest to position because they are designed
with a height already on axis and simply need to be cantered in
slightly to create a proper soundstage.
The PDR-12 subwoofer has two large ports around back enabling the
woofer to attain maximum low-frequency extension effectvely and
effeiciently. The connections are few, but simple on the rear panel of
the sub, with rotary gain (volume) and crossover controls to effectively
match up to your listening tastes. Additionally, there are high and low
level ins and outs.
The ADP-170 surrounds were a snap to install and the contoured look will work well with most any decor.
Final Take - Now to the good part--the actual listening evaluation. I
connected the Paradigm Phantom ensemble to a B&K AVR-307 receiver
using a Harman Kardon DV50 DVD player as the source unit. The soundstage
did take a bit of tweaking to get right but once it was right, it was
right. I popped in my Eagles When Hell Freezes Over DVD and closed my
eyes for a spell. I was capsulated in sound and I could feel the strikes
of the guitar pick on my face. I was almost certain that when I opened
my eyes I would be there in the front row.
When the bass drum kicked in the mid-bass of the Legend towers came
alive anchored by the solid foundation that the PDR-12 subwoofer
provided. I didn't expect much from this overly simple sub, but it
certainly delivered. The highs were exceptional and the vocals were
untainted. I then jumped from movie clip to movie clip to catch a
glimpse of some sort of flaw--sure to exist--and found none.
If you're just getting into DVD entertainment or you consider
yourself an old pro...make Paradigm part of your primary vocabulary.
You'll save yourself a lot of headache and money down the line.
Suggested Retail Price
Legend left/right towers...$749 pr
ADP-170 surrounds...$ 449 pr
CC-270 center channel... $279
PDR-12 subwoofer... $419