Paradigm Soundscape Review

When looking for a high-end sound bar, the first thing you should look at is what drivers they use. While you can get good sound with a single driver for each channel, a sound bar that uses multiple drivers for each channel will invariably sound better. When the music gets complex or a movie has rapid-fire dialogue and sound effects, the clarity of a multi-driver system will really pay off.

The Paradigm Soundscape sound bar features left, right and center channels that each have separate drivers. Combined with a well designed port system, the Soundscape is able to produce deep, meaningful bass while still maintaining clarity on difficult movie and music passages. While it lacks an HDMI connectivity, most people won’t miss it and will be happy with the experience that the Paradigm Soundscape provides.

A Simple Design

Manufacturer: Paradigm
Model: Soundscape
Outputs: 1x Sub Out
Inputs: 2x Optical, 1x Coaxial, 1x Stereo RCA
Subwoofer: No
Bluetooth: Yes
Airplay: No
Review Date: April 15, 2014
Price: $1,499.00
Company Website

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The Paradigm Soundscape design places sound quality above all else. You aren’t going to find a lot of extra features that you don’t need. You will find three 1” tweeters, one for each channel, and four 4” midrange/bass drivers. 4” bass drivers might seem small, but combined with bass ports on the side, the Soundscape specs say it produces bass down to 30Hz. Many sound bars with external subs can’t produce bass this deep.

The input selection might seem a bit retro in this world of HDMI, but it should work fine for most people. Sound bars are often about simplicity, with all your devices running through your TV and then the audio output from your TV to the sound bar. With dual optical inputs, an analog and a coaxial, the Soundscape will work well in this setup. Integrated Bluetooth allows for streaming from your smartphone, laptop, or tablet. AptX support provides the best quality Bluetooth streaming you can get today.

A unique feature on the Soundscape is the wireless subwoofer adapter. The Soundscape has an RCA sub out, but most people want their subwoofer to be out of the way, without wires connecting it. With the built-in wireless transmitter and included external receiver, the Soundscape can work with any subwoofer across the room. If you have an old subwoofer around you can use it with the Soundscape, and if you want to buy one you aren’t limited to just a few models.

Part of what makes the Soundscape integrate with a subwoofer so well is the 80Hz crossover point when an external subwoofer is used. This is the THX standard for subwoofers but it is one that most sound bars cannot achieve. The Paradigm Soundscape can, letting you attach a subwoofer without having directional bass issues. The subwoofer will take over the deep bass duties for those that need to feel their explosions.

The menu system in the Paradigm operates through the front with an 8-character display and is simple. It makes it easy to set it for wall or table placement (which affects bass and lower-mid response) but more importantly to have it learn remote commands. Teaching it the volume controls from your TV remote is quick and easy, allowing you to dispense with the remote for most tasks.

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Great Detail and Bass

Guitar through the Paradigm Soundscape is crisp and clear. There is a metallic edge to the guitar that can be in-your-face with how distinct it is. I worried that might lead to fatigue during extended listening sessions but I had no such issues. While listening to “Lost Cause” by Beck the vocals remain well anchored while the guitars steal the song through the Paradigm.

The amount of bass you get from the Soundscape is impressive. “So What” from Kind of Blue features a bass the resonates with the Paradigm. Bass is clear and powerful, but not bloated, coming from the sound bar. The sax solo kicks in and is set off to the left, though not as wide as with a pair of speakers. The soundstage is large enough to set the sax apart from the other instruments though not massive.

Watching movies on the Paradigm Soundscape is an enjoyable experience. During the opening scene of Skyfall, the chase sequence with Bond comes alive. The Soundscape has the bass to bring across the rumble of a train and the impact of a car crash. The dedicated center channel speaker keeps dialogue anchored in the center of the action and always clear. Where lesser sound bars with fewer channels lose clarity during heavy action sequences the Paradigm thrives on them.

The transition from the opening sequence to the credits is even more impressive. The rushing river that carries Bond fills the room with energy. The theme song from Adele sounds wonderful. Her voice is as powerful as it always is and the Paradigm handles movies and music well. What it can’t do on these sequences is place the action behind you. Using the movie mode with a surround signal creates a wide soundstage but not a fully enveloping one.

To push the Paradigm Soundscape to its lower octave limits I use Tron: Legacy. The opening of the light cycle battle has thunderous deep bass and pushes speakers and subwoofers to their limits. The Paradigm is capable of bringing across the message of the bass, though not to the point that a dedicated subwoofer can. Those that are bass obsessed will want to add an external subwoofer, but the bass the Paradigm Soundscape can create will please everyone else.

The Paradigm Soundscape sounds wonderful, but is missing a couple of features I would like to see. While I feel most people don’t want to switch HDMI through their sound bar, since it adds another remote, I would like to see an HDMI port with Audio Return Channel support. Some TVs are dropping optical output, or only output stereo over it, and are moving to HDMI with ARC for output.

I also want the LED readout to be larger. It is only 8 characters and using a fourteen segment display. Using an LED dot matrix display that is 2 lines and 20 characters per line would display more information and be easier to read. Or even copying the phenomenal remote that Vizio is including with their sound bars now as it is the easiest to use today. I prefer the on-bar display to the on-screen display of many other bars, but it can still improve.


I measured the Paradigm Soundscape sound bar using a UMIK-1 calibrated microphone and RoomEQ Wizard software. Six different positions are each measured 8 times to reduce any measurement anomalies. I average all 48 measurements to reduce room effects using the method described by Brent Butterworth.

paradigm soundscape frequency response with title 20 khz

Looking at the measurements we see bass response that is good down to below 40Hz. Response is relatively flat out to 15.5 kHz and then there is a steep roll-off after that, likely due to tweeter directionality during measurements. Relative to 1 kHz the frequency response is +5dB/-2.5dB flat, excluding the deep bass where room modes come into play. For a sound bar this is nice and flat.

paradigm soundscape six position measurements

Looking at six different positions, we see that the frequency response is relatively equal for all listening positions. If you have a group of friends over on the couch, or are listening to the Paradigm Soundscape solo, the sound will be good for everyone.

Sound First, Features Second

Paradigm has put sound quality first and features second and I think that is the way to go. Most extra features are never used by people, but the benefits of better sound quality everyone will hear. The most impressive aspect of the Paradigm Soundscape is the amount of bass this bar can create. It isn’t as small as some of the sound bars out there, but it plays much deeper than you’d ever expect it to.

I’ve heard a huge number of sound bars through my work with The Wirecutter, Secrets of Home Theater, and Reference Home Theater. The Paradigm Soundscape might be the best that I’ve heard to date. It doesn’t have any major flaws, and it sounds superb. It offers a huge step up over the speakers built into your TV without the complexity of separate components. For great sound quality with little hassle, the Paradigm Soundscape is the sound bar you should go listen to.

Review Summary
Product: Paradigm Soundscape
Pros: Wonderful bass for the size, detailed sound, wireless subwoofer transmitter
Cons: No HDMI with Audio Return Channel, Small LED Display
Summary: Paradigm has placed sound-quality first and created a sound bar that handles movies and music with ease
Value: 4/5
Performance: 5/5
Overall: 4.5/5

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  • Compared to the Motion Vision, I found the Soundscape to be a little clearer, and offer better off-axis listening as well. The addition of Bluetooth and the included Wireless Subwoofer Transmitter make it easier to use as well.

    • Paddy

      Hi chris
      Could you please share your techincal views about Paradigm Soundscape vs BOSE Cinemate SR1

      • I’ve never heard the Bose so I can’t comment on it. Sorry.

        • PaxRomana

          How about Yamaha’s best 5100?

          • I haven’t listened to the Yamaha 5100, only the 4300 model. I prefer the Paradigm for overall sound quality, but the 4300 has the best fake-surround I’ve heard from a sound bar by far.

  • jshell123

    Hi Chris,

    I’m looking for something to connect to my home theater PC (a Mac Mini), to watch movies and listen to music (rock, jazz, piano, pop).

    Thanks for the great review — the martin logan was my first choice in a soundbar until I saw this.

    However, now I’m thinking two Paradigm A2’s or the Millenia CT 2, but I really like that each A2 speaker is autonomous.

    Thoughts? Suggestions?

    thank you.

  • Jay Last

    But isn’t it true that if you connect your bluray player etc. via HDMI to your TV, then optical out to this, that you won’t be getting the full sound since it is being converted?

    • Yes, you cannot get Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD audio through an optical output. You can get 5.1 lossy (Dolby Digital and DTS) or stereo PCM (basically CD quality) audio through it. However, the benefits of those higher-end codecs are very hard to discern through any sound bar. If you really are concerned with those, I’d suggest moving up to a receiver and separate speakers setup. It’ll offer better sound quality and performance at the cost of complexity. The Paradigm is very good, but still can’t compete with separates.

  • Dave

    Hi Chris, as an avid movie watcher, I have a dilemma: Should I purchase the Paradigm soundscape or the Paradigm MilleniaOne CT? I simply want the superior sound quality. Thank you

    • I wish I could tell you, but I’ve never listened to the MilleniaOne CT. With the speakers spread further apart you should get a larger soundstage but you’ll lose the center channel. I have the MilleniaOne speakers and the sound very good in a 5 channel setup, but I’ve not heard the CT.

  • For an audio add-on, you could get a subwoofer to add additional bass. Since it includes a wireless transmitter you can put the subwoofer out of the way but still get extra bass. That’s the main thing that comes to mind.

  • I’m not at the bar right now so I can’t test to be certain, but what Loudness would typically do here is engage some sort of dynamic range compression. So if you’re listening during the day and want to have the full range with loud explosions but quiet sounds as well, have this off. If you are listening at night where you want to hear the dialogue and not have loud things wake up the house, then turn this on.

    Bass and Treble left at the standard settings worked well for my room. The bass you might want to adjust based on your room, since bass is highly affected by walls.