Paradigm Premier 200B Speaker Review
By Chris Heinonen on
The 200B is the top bookshelf speaker in the Paradigm Premier lineup. It is equipped with a 1” dome tweeter and a 6.5” midrange/bass driver and a quick look shows the influence of the Persona speakers. Both drivers include their Phase Aligning Lens to block out of frequency sounds and, as the name suggests, improve phase alignment. The top of the cabinet is different than most speakers, reminding me more of the Martin Logan Dynamo 800X subwoofer I recently reviewed but it appears to be there for style. It gives a bit of a hollow echo when rapped with your knuckles but the rest of the cabinet is very solid and heavy enough that they take some effort to move.
On the back, you’ll find a nice pair of binding posts that handle bare wire, bananas, or spades without an issue. There is also a rear port for bass and integrated rubber feet on the bottom of the speaker. The rubber feet can’t be adjusted or removed, but the spacing on them is very wide so I can’t see them interfering with any normal-sized speaker stands. For my testing, I used the Paradigm 200B’s with an Anthem MRX 1120 receiver and the NAD M10 integrated amplifier. In both cases, I listened to them with room correction disabled and then enabled.
Paradigm Premier 200B Listening Notes
I spent the first few days with the 200B using them to conduct turntable reviews for Wirecutter. Here I found that the 200B did a fantastic job in helping me to distinguish between the different tables and their individual characteristics. One turntable would have a massive soundstage on the 200B while others would be narrow and small. Some would lean towards too much treble while others would have a good balance. The bass differences were easy to make out as some turntables just had nothing in the lower octaves while others offered tight, clear lower octave response.
So why am I talking about turntables so much in a speaker review? Well, the 200B is good enough to let me use it as a reference speaker for listening to these turntables. If someone paired these budget turntables with a $250 speaker the differences might not be so apparent but through the 200B you can clearly tell a difference. Moving from a $100 cartridge to a $225 cartridge lets you hear the improvements in bass and soundstage.
Moving on from turntables, I hooked the 200B’s up to the NAD M10 and ran them through Dirac. With any pair of bookshelf speakers, I’m concerned with the bass extension they offer. Going straight to “Angel” from Massive Attack, the opening bass line from the 200B’s sounds fantastic. It fills the room and brings across the mood of the track. It can’t rattle the walls as a subwoofer can, but it has as much bass as you’d expect from a speaker this size without port noise or other issues. What the 200B can’t do is very low bass, especially when it comes to something like jazz. Putting on Norah Jones debut album, the background bass line is almost entirely missing from “Don’t Know Why”. Toggling a subwoofer on and off in the M10 lets me hear the differences between the two, and without the sub, the bass line is almost entirely absent. The bass here is on the quiet side and doesn’t dominate the track, but you’ll want to pair the 200B with a subwoofer if you need that low-octave impact.
The soundtrack from The Piano is a go-to for me as it’s the only instrument I can play at all and the sound I’m most familiar with. Listening to “The Heart Asks Pleasure First”, I can hear the impact of the hammers on the strings, and the force with which the notes are being struck. While the notes sound like I expect, it is as if they are missing a bit of the body that I expect them to have. You hear the keys being struck but don’t feel that impact that you expect, even in a smaller speaker.
For more piano, I queue up “Shadowboxer” from Fiona Apple’s debut album and the lower octaves quickly fill the room. Unlike with the soundtrack from The Piano, I have no worries about the impact of the music here. I hear her hitting the keys of the piano and I feel the impact as she hammers away at them. Her vocals fill the room, though I remain focused on the piano and how much impact these bookshelves can produce without any help.
Moving onto rock music, specifically Radiohead. Listening to “Let Down is ” the complex mix is easy to pick apart, while the lower octaves are well represented. If I include a subwoofer you can hear the bottom-end fill in a bit more, but it’s something you would barely notice unless you had heard it with a subwoofer engaged. Near the end of the track, I could hear the 200Bs reach a bit to fill in the bass, with a bit of a disconnect between the port and the driver. It was over quickly and barely noticeable, but it is the one time I heard strain. The Paradigm’s had no issues with a song as busy as this one, letting each component of the music shine.
For some more stripped-down music, I turned to 10,000 Maniacs Unplugged and some Elliott Smith tracks. On these tracks, the Paradigm’s truly shined. The acoustic guitar and piano sound full-bodied without any metallic harshness or ringing to the upper octaves. Vocals are clear and composed, and the soundstage is much wider than the 6’ I have the speaker spaced apart.
I don’t have any $1,000 price range speakers on-hand to compare the 200B to, but have listening notes from some prior models. The SVS Ultra Bookshelf outperforms the Paradigm when it comes to bass response, but didn’t serve up the soundstage or reproduce the natural piano sound nearly as well. The KEF LS50 is sometimes on sale for $1,000 and offers a bit more cohesive and detailed midrange, but the bass roll-off is more dramatic and for much of my music would require a subwoofer to be paired with it. There also is no matching center channel or towers if you wanted to build a surround system from it.
Paradigm Premier 200B Conclusions
Overall I found the Paradigm 200B to be a well designed and performing speaker. The soundstage that it can throw is impressively large and makes singling out individual singers and instruments quite easy. With acoustic instruments, it is remarkable in reproducing the natural sound without coloration so that it sounds like the musician is in front of you. The bass response is good, and almost never left me wanting for more. If you never heard the 200B’s with a subwoofer you’d never know you were missing anything, but if you do pair them with a sub their soundstage grows even larger and their impact increases.
While the acoustic lens look might not sit the same with everyone, I don’t think people will find much to complain about with the sound of the Paradigm 200Bs. After listening to them for a number of months with all sorts of material, I find them to be well designed for a balanced sound that works with a wide variety of listening material.
A well-balanced sound that works well with a wide variety of music, nice build quality and heft.
Feet can't be removed easily, other speakers offer more bass extension or a richer midrange.
The Paradigm Premier 200B is a well-designed speaker that lets you hear details from your music while throwing a large soundstage. It can't hit the very bottom octaves but the overall sound is nice and cohesive and lets you listen for hours on end without fatigue.