Paradigm Prestige Series 85F Floorstanding Speakers Review Highlights

This is an elegantly designed speaker, from the amazing finish and color, to the outrigger feet. The tweeter is clean and extended while the bass is fully realized and the mid-range sweet and detailed.

Paradigm Prestige Series 85F Floorstanding Speaker Review

Paradigm Prestige Series 85F Floorstanding Speakers Highlights Summary

  • “Crafted” in Canada
  • Forgiving placement with wide dispersion
  • Modest amplification is all that’s needed

Introduction to the Paradigm Prestige Series 85F Floorstanding Speakers Review

I wasn’t able to attend CEDIA 2014 last fall in Denver where Paradigm Audio revealed their new Prestige Series, but I was able to tour their facility in Mississauga, Ontario where the speakers are completely designed and fabricated in-house.

PARADIGM PRESTIGE SERIES 85F FLOORSTANDING SPEAKER REVIEW SPECIFICATIONS

(Supplied by Manufacturer)

  • Design: 4-Driver, 2-1/2 Way Floorstanding Speaker, Ported Enclosure
  • Crossover: 2nd Order Electro-acoustic at 2.0kHz (tweeter/mid); 2nd order @500Hz (mid/bass)
  • Frequency Response: On-Axis ±2dB from 40 Hz – 20 kHz
  • Frequency Response: 30° Off-Axis ±2dB from 40 Hz – 17 kHz
  • High Frequency Driver: 1″ (25mm) X-PAL™ Dome
  • Mid/Bass Frequency Driver: 6.5″ (165mm) X-PAL™
  • Low Frequency Driver: Two 6.5″ (165mm) X-PAL™
  • Sensitivity Room/Anechoic: 93 dB/90 dB
  • Nominal Impedance: 8 Ohms
  • Suitable Amplifier Power Range: 15 – 350 Watts
  • Maximum Input Power: 200 Watts
  • Finishes: Gloss, Piano Black, Midnight Cherry; Satin: Walnut, Black Walnut
  • Weight: 57 Pounds/each
  • Dimensions: 40″ H × 8.125″ W × 12.5″ D
  • MSRP: $1,999/each USD
  • Paradigm
  • SECRETS Tags: Paradigm, Floorstanding Speaker, Paradigm Prestige Series 85F, Floorstanding Reviews

The tour really did bring into perspective not only the intense procedure of building a world-class speaker, but also the entire process from conceptual thinking to execution. I took away from the experience, a significant understanding and respect for Paradigm. The Prestige Series took about 8 months from realization to fully executed models.

With the Studio series a bit long in the tooth, Prestige was ready for a new direction. To most who love their Studio’s, the mere thought of a “replacement” speaker must bring to question, why? Why not just another version, say Studio v6? I hope to be able to answer that for myself.

Offered to me was the second largest of the floor-standing models in the 85F (“F” for floorstanding), more than adequate for my modest listing room. For those who care as I do, the 85F’s come well packaged and the unpacking instructions clearly marked on the outer box. In no time I had the glossy black speakers upright and in place minutes from listening.

I admit I was disappointed that I didn’t receive the beautiful midnight cherry I saw in the factory which to me is one of the most beautiful finishes I’ve ever seen on a speaker! But wait, so much for bad lighting as it took me setting them in place and a flashlight shining on the side of the 85F before I realized they were the special finish I’d admired. Granted my room was dim as I unpacked but the finish is remarkable in how it truly changes color under different light conditions.

Paradigm Prestige Series 85F Floorstanding Speaker Review

Before I could take another sip of wine, I needed to hear the speaker perform before I spent any time technically. I was immediately struck by the clean and extended sound, articulate and surprisingly warm.

A bit more tweaking for placement I let them play for a while before I came back to listen “critically”.

 

Design of the Paradigm Prestige Series 85F Floorstanding Speakers

The Prestige 85F speaker is a pure classic and straightforward yet very elegant box with a 2 ½ way 4 driver design. The new tweeter is the 1” X-PAL “Perforated Phase-Aligning” Tweeter lens protecting the X-PALTM dome. My first impression is that visually, it seems to block the excursion of the dome, and the fixed aluminum lens is about 70% open. Audibly, I found no such issue.

Paradigm Prestige Series 85F Floorstanding Speaker Review

Although there are three main drivers that seem identical, the dedicated mid-range driver uses aluminum wire while the other two handling bass have copper wire voice coils. They are the 6.5” X-PAL brushed pure aluminum cone set on an injected molded and aluminum basket. The breakthrough technology is the ART or Active Ridge Technology surround. The intent is to allow greater excursion of the driver, but yet makes complete sense when the driver is so flush to the face of the speaker that it may actually brush the fabric screen?! By inverting the “bulge”, that possibility goes away.

Paradigm Prestige Series 85F Floorstanding Speaker Review

The cones and matching dust cap are brushed anodized aluminum, aside from the clean aesthetic, aluminum is stiffer than the typical paper cone. The driver is mounted to the frame with what is called a SHOCK-MOUNT™ Isolation Mounting System which combines an isolation grommet with a gasket isolating the driver from the chassis.

The speaker stands 40” tall, has a relatively narrow face at 8 ½” and is 12 ½” deep. The drivers and the mounting rings dominate the face, leave the grills off, these are strikingly elegant especially with no exposed fastening.

And adding a bit more elegance and function, the cast and polished stands or outriggers come mounted to the speaker and feature 4 reversible feet with the option of either carpet spikes or rounded ends for hard floors.

Paradigm Prestige Series 85F Floorstanding Speaker Review

On the rear, there are two ports, although the upper is aligned with the upper mid-woofer driver and the bottom with the woofer pair, all three drivers share the same chamber.

Paradigm Prestige Series 85F Floorstanding Speaker Review

Adding to the well-thought design, the HF-LF combined (jumpers parallel) / HF-LF split (with jumpers removed for bi-amp) bi-amp silver binding posts mounted on a round faceplate. In the factory I noticed the mounted cross-over also mounted on the inside of the faceplate.

Paradigm Prestige Series 85F Floorstanding Speaker Review

 

 

The Paradigm Prestige Series 85F Floorstanding Speakers Setup and In Use

Visually the scale of the 85F suits my modest listening room at 12 ft x 16 ft, more importantly the speaker fits my room acoustically, it’s just the right size, not too small and not too big. I used several pieces of gear in my auditioning including a 55w integrated tube amp as well as my Parasound pair of the P-5 preamplifier and A-21 amp. Sources included digital files through my Benchmark DAC, a Marantz SACD player and Marantz turntable, while all cabling is from Transparent Audio.

I’m first struck by the incredible imagining, not just a believable soundstage but with brevity, the strength of the recording is projected with vigor. Diana Krall’s Girl in The Other Room SACD third track Temptation has a remarkable presence coming from the 85F’s. The tonal balance is superb; instruments are individually presented but not quite forward. The fullness to the upright bass is rich and forward. Her voice although a bit forward with the slightest sibilance plays off the electric guitar in an obvious dialogue. Although I found this a bit aggressive, I never fatigued or found the treble to rich or bright.

Dire Straits, Brothers in Arms SACD continued that beautiful soundstage the Prestige 85F’s offered. Track six especially; Ride Across the River is exotic with rich percussions and a haunting distant trumpet. The image is simply splendid if not superb. Knopfler’s iconic guitar is taut and steely. The floating flute draws you in, clean and void of coloration.

I wanted to hear more detail, more air; I found on my shelf Pepe Romero’s Flamenco, a JVC K2 mastered CD. His traditional guitar work is precise and accurate while the accompanied dancers tapping is forceful and delicate. I’m coming to the conclusion the Prestige 85F is not just fast, but with added warmth they exude a nimbleness. I hear nuances and subtleties and rumbling floors beneath the dancer’s feet. This recording showcases the dynamics of the Prestige 85F and how natural they can sound.

Speaking of natural, Sa Chen on piano playing Rachmaninov piano concertos on Six Etudes Tableaux produces such extraordinary extension and decay, the piano was warm and textural. I was awed by the lack of coloration again, the highs were sweet but not brittle yet the midrange notes were smooth.

What I also noticed was a wonderful deep bass. I was given a track called La Fiesta Mexicana, Prelude and Aztec Dance, with the Dallas Wind Symphony. It opens quietly with distant bells, building to a horn section, but immediately followed by large bass drums. The massive thwack can be felt if not just heard could damage some drivers if played too loud, the 85F’s handled it remarkably. I felt the amount of air they were moving from 10 feet away. In fact the room shook, the drum sound articulate and controlled, it was clean and musical.

 

Conclusions about the Paradigm Prestige Series 85F Floorstanding Speakers

The new Prestige Series is a beautiful speaker, the design and aesthetic are superb, and I can’t imagine anyone not wanting them on view in their living space. Every detail is well thought out; the lack of mounting screws, for the drivers, the brushed aluminum cones and rings, the slightly eased edges and that amazing finish. Even the rear with the designed binning posts and mounting plate and finally, the outrigger stabilizing feet with a slight front curve and the mix of polished and matte finish metal.

Sound is unmistakable Paradigm; the imagining is superb, dynamics are clean throughout without any midrange coloration. My one insignificant issue with the slightest sibilance is minor given that despite it, the speaker remains natural sounding. The bass drivers blew me away with how articulate and extended they sounded. But I loved how smooth and integral the bass was represented.

What else can I say, I never owned a pair of Studio’s so I’m not sure what I was missing, although I’ve heard them many times, I’m very impressed by Prestige. The “Crafted in Canada” moniker is, well, crafty but spot on about what this new series represents. Complete control of the design process and fabrication. Writing specs for someone in the Far East to follow and build can’t replace doing it in your own building, with your own skilled people. Does that translate into a more expensive speaker? I have no idea, nor do I care, in fact that might be a source of pride, pay a bit more and have it home made.

I’ve heard many, many speakers in this price range recently, but the Prestige 85F is more than a competitor, it leads.

 

  • Larry Edwards

    I have listened to a pair of CM 10 B&W speakers and so far I liked the sound best compared to anything I have listened to thus far in the $4000/pair price range.. I love to hear hears and accurate sound reproduction. I think there must be something about the tweeter mounted at the top of the cabinet because they sounded much better than the CM9 with the tweeter mounted inside the cabinet above the mid range speaker. How do the 85F Pretigue speakers sound in comparison and why should I buy these rather than the CM 10’s?

  • CyberAthlete

    I second this, I am also in the market and deciding between a few in this price range. The CM10 are extremely good. How do the Paradigm 85F compare, or the 95F?

  • Corey Hall

    The prestige is far more musical and much more accurate than the cm10. The prestige is also far more dynamic and the build quality is also far superior to the b&w. In fact I don’t know of any reason to buy the b&w over the paradigm!

  • Larry Edwards

    I now have to decide between the Paradigm Prestige 85F or the 95F. I love bass extension and these get down to 30Hz. I have a living room/dining room L-Shaped configuration. The living room measures 13’x17′ and adjoining dining room 10’x12′. One of the people from Paradigm told me I would need to play the 95F’s with higher volume than the 85F’s to take advantage of the bass extension. My concern is when having people come over to sip a few glasses of wine while listening to music. It sounds like the 85F’s might be a better choice. I know bass frequencies fall off abruptly when going from high to low volumes and it seems like I might hear the bass extension on the 85F’s compared to the 95F’s at lower volumes. Sure would mind some help on this because I am just getting started in 2 channel Hi-Fi and this will by my last pair of speakers.

  • Larry Edwards

    I meant to say the 95F’s get down to 30 Hz.

  • Carlo Lo Raso

    Speaking personally, if you have the room and budget is less of a concern, I would go with the 95F. I think they would have an easier time energizing the amount of room space that you have and I believe whatever bass you suspect the 95F may lose at low volume will be negligible as they are slightly more sensitive than the 85F. I think with these, proper placement is going to dictate your overall bass response more than volume will.

  • Larry Edwards

    Hi Carlo. Are you with Paradigm? I will be putting the Paradigm Prestige speakers into my living room. This space is an L-Shaped configuration with the dining room open to the living room. The living room measures 13’x17′ and the adjoining dining room 10’x12′. I will be placing the speakers along the 13′ short dimension of the living room along the same shared wall in the dining room. This room is currently carpeted, but we plan to extend the hardwood floors into the living room and dining room soon. That said, do you feel the 95F’s to be a better choice compared to the 85F’s? I have not heard the 95F’s, as the dealer in Colorado Springs did not have a pair on their floor to listen to and compare to the 85F’s. However, I can only imagine how full they must sound because they get down to 24 Kz. I don’t know of another speaker that can get down that low. The question is are these boomy because the 85F’s weren’t? Also, are the bass drivers fast enough to keep up and squeeze off the bass? I have heard a larger diameter has greater mass and they are less efficient than a smaller. The 85F’s have 6 inch drivers and the 95F’s have 8 inch drivers. I feel embarrassed I have to ask you about your background, but you obviously are very knowledgeable.

  • Larry Edwards

    Hi Carlo,
    Could you tell me a little about your background? I wonder if you write for an audiophile magazine and review audio equipment to include speakers or if you might even work for Paradigm? You seem to be quite knowledgeable. I will soon be retiring and these will be my last pair of speakers and I need to make sure I purchase the right ones. I would be curious to find out what you think of the Focal Aria 926 and 948 speakers. Do you like Focal or Paradigm speakers best and why?

  • Carlo Lo Raso

    Hey Larry,
    I’m actually a Senior Editor here at Secrets and I don’t work for Paradigm in my off hours. 😉
    While Piero has had extended time with these speakers, I have heard them at CES last January and I did review the matching subwoofer here so I feel it safe to say that Paradigm’s Prestige line is the real deal and hard to go wrong with. I have a rather large art studio space in my house that I use for testing two channel equipment and my above comments were based my experience of setting up and listening to tower speakers in that space. That and the main differences between the 85F and 95F are enclosure size and driver size as opposed to any conceptual difference of design lead to my thoughts. If you have the space and the money, the additional displacement of the 95F could give you some added flexibility and capability if you need it.
    Just my two-and-a-half cents.

  • Carlo Lo Raso

    No problem Larry. I replied to you further down in another one of your posts. I’m in my late 40’s and I’ve been writing for Secrets for a couple of years now but I’ve been “into” this hobby now for as long as I can remember. You can read more about each of us here in our bios which usually show up at the end of our reviews or in the “About Us” section of the website.

    In my experience, I find that this whole thing about driver “speed” is a little overblown in general. More that a driver’s size, it’s material construction and motor design are a much larger determinant to its sound and perceived precision. For the midrange/bass drivers of the Prestige line, you are talking about fairly advanced aluminum drivers which at either 6.5″ or 8″ are light and rigid enough to be equally responsive in their respective operating ranges.

    Since these are rooms that seem like they may be regularly trafficked, go onto Paradigm’s site and double check the dimensions of each speaker to confirm whether or not your available placement space may be an issue.

  • Carlo Lo Raso

    Also, I have not had a chance to listen to the Focal models you mentioned so I don’t have an opinion on them.
    If you can, check out Revel’s Performa line of speakers. The F206 and F208 are excellent sounding towers in their own right and are quite comparable to the Paradigms.

  • Larry Edwards

    What speakers do you own?

  • Carlo Lo Raso

    Bamberg Engineering Sound Lab Series 2 MTM monitor speakers crossed over to a pair of Dayton Reference HF15 DIY subwoofers.
    I also own a pair of Salk Songtowers.

  • Larry Edwards

    Hi Carlo,

    I have never heard of these speakers before. Are they expensive. Wonder why you chose to purchase monitor speakers rather than towers? I have hear monitor speakers produce very accurate sound reproduction. Interesting to learn you add a subwoofer to add the bass extension. I have listened to a pair of Focal Aria 926’s paired with their 1000 watt subwoofer I felt the bass was not seamless. I think that was do to the horrible listening room and store I listen to them at. It looks like setting up subwoofers with proper placement and crossover settings is critical and perhaps having someone set them up who knows what they are doing can make the difference. I would be interested in your listening to both the Focal Aria 926 and 948’s to see what you thought of their bass.

  • Carlo Lo Raso

    They cost about $1500.00 for the pair when I bought them 10 years ago. They are sealed cabinets and were specifically designed to be crossed to a subwoofer at about 80 Hz. I use a Marchand XM-44 external analog crossover and a Marchand BASSIS Parametric Equalizer to blend and tune the subwoofers. It all sounds quite seamless and enjoyable I assure you but it takes time to set them up properly in a room. There’s a lot of listening, measuring, moving around, etc to get it to all sound right.
    I will be going to CES next month. If I happen to run across these Focal speakers at the show, I will make a point to stop and listen. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6ad53067db8e9312a688b7f18b12900b386ab526c26b3f6d7094608d4607cb3b.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/2f02f9b7e2738491835ce1147eda2237f46456e430ffb7f10e3db0abc79d541e.jpg

  • I wasn’t able to attend CEDIA 2014 last fall in Denver where Paradigm Audio revealed their new Prestige Series, but I was able to tour their facility in Mississauga, Ontario where the speakers are completely designed and fabricated in-house.

  • With the Studio series a bit long in the tooth, Prestige was ready for a new direction. To most who love their Studio’s, the mere thought of a “replacement” speaker must bring to question, why? Why not just another version, say Studio v6? I hope to be able to answer that for myself.

  • I second this, I am also in the market and deciding between a few in this price range. The CM10 are extremely good. How do the Paradigm 85F compare, or the 95F?

  • Larry Edwards

    I purchased a pair and I think they sound great. However, I could have purchased the 95F’s for $500 more and I wonder if I just settled for second best. I just wish the tweeters were more pronounced. I wonder if anyone is familiar with the Monitor Audio Silver 8 and Silver 10’s? I liked them when I first heard them. However, they were well broken in. I went to hear a pair of the Silver 8’s that only had about 5 hours on them and they sounded very harsh. I ended up buying the Paradigm 85F’s instead.

    I wanted a pair of audiophile speakers and people I talked to in the audiophile world did not think they are audiophile quality speakers.

    I listened to a pair of the Focal Aria 936’s and 948’s and even the 948’s did not reproduce bass. The dealer felt Focal are the only audiophile quality speakers on the market. I kept asking him where the bass was. I wonder if most audiophiles despise bass?