Paradigm Premier Speaker System Review
|Pros||Excellent build quality for the price range. Big sound with wonderful clarity and neutral tone. Dynamic, impactful sound in an attractive design.|
|Cons||Not enough low-frequency punch to run without a subwoofer. Vocals, although free and clear of nasal murkiness due to distortion and poor cabinet design, don’t have the same body and presence as higher-end speakers.|
|Summary||An excellent high-quality home theater speaker system that excels on movies and music without breaking the bank.|
|Model||800F, 600C, Surround 3|
|Drivers||800F: 1” (25mm) X-PAL™ dome, ferro-fluid damped / cooled, Perforated Phase-Aligning Tweeter (PPA™) Lens. 6.5” (165mm) Surround with Carbon-Infused polypropylene cone. Perforated Phase-Aligning (PPA™) Lens. Two 6.5” (165mm) ART™ Surround Carbon-Infused polypropylene cones|
|Dimensions||41.5" × 9.125 × 13.75"|
|Review Date||August 14, 2019|
|Price||800F: $999 each, 600C: $999 each, Surround 3: $429 each|
Released at the beginning of 2019, the Paradigm Premier speaker series is another solid entry into the already proven lineup from the Canada based company. This new line of speakers was born out of the research and development resources employed to create the company’s flagship Persona line of speakers. An actual trickle-down effect. Immediately noticeable is the similar design pattern on the tweeter and midrange grills. Paradigm refers to it as Perforated Phase-Aligning (PPA)Tweeter and Midrange Lens Technology. It is designed to increase and smooth sound output without coloration by blocking out-of-phase frequencies. Plus, they look cool. In fact, the speakers look great. I received a pair of the 800F ($999 each) floor-standing speakers and the 600C center channel ($999) in the Espresso Grain finish. One could also order these in Gloss White or Gloss Black. Given the excellent build quality of these, I’m sure any of the finishes will look superb. Also sent were a pair of Surround 3 ($429 each) to complete the 5 channel setup. Previously, I have reviewed the Paradigm Defiance X12 subwoofer, a likely addition to this setup. For this review, however, I used my own personal Paradigm Prestige 1000SW.
Unboxing and setup was a breeze thanks to the quality packaging and unboxing instructions. The MDF cabinets feel solid and, at over 53 pounds, are not light. A couple knocks on the side result in a fairly empty sound and implies some decent internal bracing. The front is finished in a matte black and feels like it could have been sculpted out of clay thanks to the smooth curves around the tweeter and woofers. That recessed tweeter is a 1” X-PAL dome, ferro-fluid damped and cooled, covered by the Perforated Phase-Aligning lens. Right below is the 6.5” Surround with Carbon-Infused polypropylene midrange cone, also with a Perforated Phase-Aligning lens. Below are Two 6.5” (165mm) ART Surround Carbon-Infused polypropylene cones for the woofers. ART stands for their patented Active Ridge Technology that, according to Paradigm, improves output and reduces distortion. That midrange PPA lens really stands out though, making for a handsome speaker.
The 600C center channel features the same 1” tweeter and PPA lens, but a smaller 4” Black Anodized X-PAL cone with PPA lens for midrange. You might notice four low-range drivers, but two are active while the other pair is passive. They are all 6.5” ART Surround Carbon-Infused polypropylene cones.
The Surround 3 speakers are a bi-directional four-driver design. On each side, there is a 1” X-PAL dome tweeter with PPA lens, and a 5.5″ X-PAL cone woofer. Stands or wall mounting is required for these.
Paradigm Premier Listening Tests
On the Blu-ray of Ratatouille, the beginning features a stormy day with rain, thunder and a great escape via the sewers. The energy of the rushing water is delivered straight to your ears and body from the Paradigm Premiers. It is easy to get lost in the action with so much enveloping the viewer, which to me is one of the most important requirements of a home theater system. Forget about what’s going on outside of the movie and the Paradigm Premier speakers will do their job well, transporting you into the adventure on screen.
The Paradigm Premier system had no trouble translating the intense spectacle occurring in Hawkings, Indiana in the third season of Stranger Things. The evil Mind Flayer not only attacks the kids on screen but you as well via dynamic punches delivered from the Premiers. That nostalgic 80’s inspired soundtrack sounds a million times better on the Paradigms than it did on the boomboxes of that era.
Though still a movie that missed the mark by lightyears, Star Wars: Episode One – The Phantom Menace does have incredible sound engineering. The lossless soundtrack on the Blu-ray disc sounds great on the Paradigm system. Lightsabers have a tactile presence you’d expect from an energy sword, if it existed. The pod race scene excels as well, with the pod engines rumbling left to right and front to back. The Paradigm Premiers put the viewer inside Anakin’s pod as he races around Tatooine.
That fantastic sound mix for Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse perfectly shows off the Paradigm Premier speaker system as the clanks, knocks, drips, and rattles of the Spiderverse happen all around you. The matched drivers seamlessly blend these effects as they move from one location to another. When Spidey is facing off against the Green Goblin, I feel the impact of each attack. Even at high volume levels, the Premier 800Fs and 600C dialog remains exceptionally clear. The elevated train zooms by with the weight you’d expect from such a massive machine. That killer soundtrack is more than properly represented by the Paradigm Premier speaker system. Listening to that soundtrack in pure stereo mode via Spotify direct allowed those 800F main speakers to show off their goods. “Sunflower” has punch but also a wide, engaging soundstage. Lyrics have a slight hint of sibilance, but nothing distracting and I expect mostly due to the processed recording style.
With the multi-channel SACD of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, the Paradigm Premier setup creates a vivid, cohesive musical experience. This mix makes aggressive use of all five speakers. Footsteps in “On the Run” are placed all around the room, as are the synth and guitar tracks. Everything blends together, left to right, front to back and the bi-directional design allows the surrounds to scatter the sound around you more than a standard speaker. This is exceptionally effective with the clock sounds that open up “Time.” Following up the clocks, the drums move all around you, building up to that brilliant lyrical moment when the vocals begin. Everything sounds tight, composed, yet dynamic and impactful via the Paradigm Premier speakers. I turned the sub all the way down for this test and have to say, if you lived in an apartment, I think you could be happy without a subwoofer. If that isn’t a concern, I would say the 800F are a tad lean on the low end and definitely benefit from the addition of a sub. When cranking the volume on this SACD, the Premier’s had no problem keeping up, in fact, they sounded even better. The performance was more enjoyable with no signs of a fatiguing sound. So go ahead and let these puppies sing!
With Bon Iver’s “666”, the Premier 800F creates a big, buttery smooth sound, with vocals within the main imaging plane, between the two speakers, and instruments backing them up on the sides and extending behind the speakers.
Female vocals from Ingrid Michaelson on “Are We There Yet” are clear and plentiful. Trying to find something to be nitpicky about I would like a touch more body behind the vocals. Though in this price range, clarity without sibilance is of utmost importance and the Premier 800F succeed there.
Paradigm Premier Conclusions
For those looking for an impactful home theater experience beyond that provided by soundbars and smaller speaker solutions, the new Paradigm Premier collection is a fantastic value. You get what most would consider more sound than they’d ever need for less than four-grand (not including a subwoofer). That leaves room in a $5000 package for a Paradigm Defiance sub. Audio has always been 50% of the home theater experience for me, so to watch a blockbuster movie without quality sound feels like a waste. Let films like Spider-Man Into the Spiderverse shine with a quality speaker system like the Paradigm Premiers and watching movies at home will never be the same. Like me, you may soon grow to despise going to the local movie theater as most of them only sound loud and unpleasant. The Paradigm Premier speakers are happy playing at everyday normal levels, but can really sing if thrown some quality power. Another excellent speaker design by Paradigm and easy for us to recommend.