Paradigm Premier Series Speaker System Reviewed

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Paradigm Premier Series Speaker System Reviewed

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Performance
Once a month I host a movie night at my house. I invite roughly a dozen people over and whoever shows up gets a show. During my most recent movie night, we decided Interstellar (2014) on Ultra HD Blu-ray was apropos for that evening's movie, not only to introduce one guest to the work of Christopher Nolan, but also because scientists had just taken the first photo of a real black hole.

Near the end of the film, just before Matthew McConaughey's character, Cooper, flies into a black hole, there's a series of shots that have it all: a big orchestral score, explosions, loud dialogue, and tons of surround sound effects. It's the type of sequence that requires a set of high-performance loudspeakers to do it justice. The Premier speakers didn't disappoint, especially in terms of their dynamic impact. Surround sound elements were portrayed accurately and, though pushed hard, none of the speakers showed signs of compression or distortion.

Compared to my reference JTR Triple 8 speakers, the 700Fs gave a more satisfying rendition of this scene, due to their better bass response, which allowed for a lower crossover with the sub. The result was more even bass response from seat to seat and throughout the room. 

It's not just blockbuster sci-fi films that the Premier speakers excelled at. My recent experience watching Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) on Ultra HD Blu-ray was extremely positive. This film doesn't have explosions and fly-by-your head surround sound elements, but it does (loosely) tell the true(ish) story of the band Queen and its lead singer Freddie Mercury. The film is filled with a lot of back-and-forth dialogue, and I found that the 500C center channel speaker handled these scenes well, with superb vocal intelligibility. Dialogue sounded crisp, coherent, and lacked any trace of emphasized sibilance. A benefit of the 500C using a tweeter-over-mid design is that it generally avoids issues with combing, an artifact that causes variation in the tonal quality of sound as you move on the speaker's horizontal axis. Testing specifically for this artifact, moving my head left and right during expository scenes, revealed no combing issues as suspected.

The end of the film features a fabulous recreation of Queen's famous 1985 set at Live Aid, with the band performing a mashup of several of their biggest hits. The sound signature of the Premier speakers does emphasize midrange and upper-bass frequencies a bit, which I think perfectly suits rock music, and as such the Premier system really shone with this art of the film. As the band goes through the set, the crowd gets more and more involved. The Surround 1 speakers did an excellent job portraying reverb, crowd noise, and the mass singalong. I must admit, I sang along too and had my toes tapping the whole time. These speakers literally rocked my theater.

To test the two-channel stereo capabilities of the 700F loudspeakers, I lugged my dedicated two-channel equipment downstairs into the theater. I fed the 700Fs sound via a Sonore Signature Series Rendu, PS Audio DirectStream DAC, and Nelson Pass designed First Watt J2 amplifier, with DH Labs Silver Sonic cables used throughout. While this setup costs nearly ten times as much as the 700Fs and isn't the typical system most buying the Premier 700F would use, it allows the speakers to perform near their best.

As evidenced by my time spent listening to these speakers with surround sound tracks, the 700Fs have a rich midrange and upper-bass sound signature that I think is perfectly suited for Rock music. Knowing this, I cued up "Fulton County Jane Doe" from the latest Grammy-winning album by Brandi Carlile. The opening guitar riff and drum fill are hard hitting and rendered heavy, as intended, through the 700Fs. Carlile's vocals were up front and center as they should've been. Backup vocals and supporting guitar work by the Hanseroth twins flanked Carlile on both sides with excellent tonal balance in the midrange and bass. The 700Fs felt right at home, giving a satisfying rendition of this track.

Switching gears to something more acoustic, I cued up Chris Stapleton's "Either Way" from his album From a Room: Volume 1. I like to use this track as a torture test for speakers, since it features vocals that can be difficult to render faithfully. During the chorus, Stapleton is nearly yelling, which has a tendency to overpower some speakers, leading to breakup or smearing. The 700Fs remained faithful to the source, with a clear and appropriately loud rendition of Stapleton's voice, haunted by no muddying of the sound. 

One of my more recent classical discoveries is Tchaikovsky's "Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35, TH 59: III. Finale Allegro vivacissimo." I've recently purchased a wonderfully recorded performance on SACD by the Russian National Orchestra with Julia Fischer on lead violin and decided to give it a go with the 700Fs. I was impressed with how well the speakers handled the attack of Fischer's violin, especially in their delivery of the fine transient detail of her rather edgy-sounding performance. The 700Fs conveyed a great sense of dynamics and impact, too, anytime the orchestra joined in.

Given that the 700Fs having just two 5.5-inch woofers, I was surprised by the speakers' low frequency extension and control, even without the benefit of a subwoofer. Paradigm clearly has done some excellent work with the cabinet tuning and port design to allow for more bass than one would expect.

While there is a lot going on in this piece, small details never got lost in the frenzy. I could clearly make out the snare drums rattling in the background during some of the more dynamic sequences, which might have otherwise been lost on a lesser performing set of speakers.

The Downside
The midrange-forward sound signature these speakers have is a double-edged sword. For certain music it sounds great and others not so much. Rock music is where I found these speakers sound their best. However, I found I had a hard time placing certain instruments within the stereo image on some of the orchestral pieces I listened to. For movies, I found this rich midrange and upper-bass sound signature to be a positive. Sound was big, as if it were coming from the screen itself, which is exactly what you want.

The cabinets, while aesthetically pleasing, are comprised of a lot of plastics. Even at this price point, I would have liked to see better materials used. When I had the speakers set up for two-channel listening, even with the volume knob set to moderate sound levels, I could feel a lot of cabinet vibration when I placed my hands on the cabinets.

Also, while I was impressed with how much bass the 5.5-inch woofers of the 700F could produce, I've heard better in this price range. With that said, it's difficult to find floorstanding speakers, at any price point, that are true full frequency. For two-channel audio, I would recommend adding a subwoofer for the best experience. For surround sound use, I suspect most people will be adding a sub anyway.

Comparison and Competition
Not having a pair of loudspeakers near the 700Fs price point here to compare against, I decided to see how they fared against my reference Monitor Audio Platinum PL100 II loudspeakers. I was pleasantly surprised by how well the 700Fs kept up despite the large price difference. The PL100 IIs imaged a little better, offered a greater sense of soundstage depth, bass was more resolved and had an airier top end, but not as much as the price difference would indicate. The 700Fs were able to dive a little deeper with bass, as expected, due to the larger cabinet. If I hadn't known, I would have guessed these speakers cost at least twice as much as they do.

Near the Premier Series' price point, there are a lot of alternatives to choose. If I were currently in the market for a set of surround sound speakers in this budget range, I would seek to audition a set of speakers from Bowers & Wilkins' 600 series lineup or the Monitor Audio Silver series lineup.

I recommend these two specific lines of speakers because both the 600 series and Silver series lineup have been recently refreshed, adding overall performance gains through trickle-down R&D, just like Paradigm offers with their Premier lineup of speakers.

Conclusion
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Paradigm's Premier Series system. For the price, the speakers sound great and offer a lot of value by borrowing technology and design from Paradigm's higher end speakers. If you're looking to upgrade from a soundbar or basic HTIB system to something truly high-performance, Paradigm's Premier speakers should be on your short list of speakers to audition.

Additional Resources
• Visit the Paradigm website for more product information

• Check out our Floorstanding Speakers category page to read similar reviews.
• Paradigm Persona 5F Floorstanding Speaker Reviewed at HomeTheaterReview.com.

 

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HTR Product Rating for Paradigm Premier Series Speaker System

Criteria Rating

Performance

4

Value

4.5

Overall

4.5

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