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 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
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.