Like many music and home theater enthusiasts, I find bookshelf speakers very appealing. Done right, they can seem almost magical in their ability to cast a large, lifelike 3D soundstage without being intrusive in your living space. Canadian loudspeaker company Paradigm has a longstanding reputation for manufacturing high-end products that deliver great value when it comes to the performance-to-price relationship. Recently, I had the opportunity to audition the Paradigm Reference Studio 10 v.5 bookshelf speakers, the smallest model in the company's Reference Collection, which falls just below the flagship Signature Collection. Don't be fooled by the "version 5" moniker, as the Studio 10 was a brand new model added to Studio Series when Paradigm updated the whole series awhile back. Prior to that, the Studio 20 (big brother to the Studio 10) had been the entry-level model in the series. I was curious to see if the Reference Studio 10, with an MSRP of $549 each, might represent the performance-to-price sweet spot in Paradigm's lineup.
For my evaluation, I spent two consecutive Friday afternoons at specialty audio retailer Stereo Design putting the Studio 10s through their paces with a variety of Redbook CDs that are very familiar to me. David Nielsen of Stereo Design gave me the run of the house for my evaluation. On both sessions, I paired the stand-mounted Studio 10s with an Ayre CX-7e CD player and an Anthem 225 integrated amplifier.
The Studio 10's two drivers include an elevated one-inch gold anodized, pure aluminum dome tweeter and a 5.5-inch pure aluminum bass/midrange cone driver with a 1.5-inch voice coil. An oval-shaped aluminum front port resides below the two drivers for extended bass performance. According to Paradigm, frequency response is +2dB from 62 Hz to 22 kHz. The two drivers are housed in a beautifully sculpted, curved cabinet design measuring just 12 inches high by 7.88 inches wide by 11.88 inches deep and wrapped in real wood veneer. The four available cabinet finishes include cherry, rosenut, black ash, and a gorgeous piano black. The sleek design aesthetic of the Paradigm Studio 10s would complement almost any room décor. On the back are two sets of high-end binding posts to accommodate either bi-wiring or bi-amping options. I chose to leave the substantial jumpers in place, using a single pair of speaker cables for my listening. The build quality and design touches that Paradigm has packed into these little speakers had me thinking they cost more than their asking price. While the Studio 10s can obviously be located on a shelf, Paradigm recommends you mount them to the coordinating design J-29 stands (at $249 each, these are a bit pricey) and place them as you would floorstanders for best performance. So that's what I did.
Click on over to Page 2 for the Performance, High Ponts, Low Points, Comparison and Competition and Conclusion . . .