Paradigm has been making speakers that push the boundaries of the price-to-performance ratio since 1982.

The speaker system reviewed here is Paradigm’s step up from the Monitor SE series in the current product lines and consists of the Premier 700F tower speakers, Premier 500C center channel, Surround 3 surround speakers and Defiance X12 subwoofer. The 700F and 500C are priced at $799 a speaker, the Surround 3 is $429 each, and the Defiance X12 subwoofer is $1,299 each. In my opinion, a 5.0 system with the total cost coming to just above $3,200 without a subwoofer would fall into a mid-low price category. Do these speakers carry the price-to-performance ratio typical to Paradigm’s history? Read the review to find out more about what this system brings to the table.

Paradigm Premier Speaker System with X12 Subwoofer

Highlights

Paradigm Premier Speaker System with X12 Subwoofer

  • Use of high-quality in-house developed speaker components.
  • Good looking speakers with great build quality and finish.
  • Excellent performers in stereo and surround applications.
  • High value for the performance delivered.
Introduction

Paradigm is a brand that is quite near and dear to my heart. It is the first speaker brand that marks the start of my journey into audio as a serious hobby in 1996. I still remember how the Paradigm Mini Mk3 bookshelf speakers allowed me to enjoy hi-fi sounds within the low-budget system I used as a graduate student. You and I know, this hobby can be quite expensive. Looking back, I feel grateful I found companies like Paradigm that were committed to offering high-quality reasonably priced audio products. I do not currently own any Paradigm products in my personal systems, but I still follow closely the news and the product offerings from the company. Therefore, I jumped at the opportunity of reviewing a set of speakers from Paradigm’s new product line.

Appreciating the values of a product varies from one individual to another. Paradigm as a company seems to understand this better than everybody else. Since its inception in 1982, the company’s commitment to offering products available at prices that everyone would appreciate seems to be a mainstay. If you browse the Paradigm website, you will see product lines that would meet various budgets or various levels of value appreciation.

The 5.1 speaker system reviewed here comes from three Paradigm product lines. The main and center-channel speakers are from their Premier series, consisting of Premier 700F floor standing speakers ($1,598/pair) and 500C center-channel speaker ($799 each). The surround speakers are the Surround 3 ($429 each) from the Paradigm Surround series. Completing the review system is the Defiance X12 subwoofer ($1,299 each) from the Paradigm Defiance subwoofer series. Without the subwoofer, the 5.0 speaker system is in the mid-low price point category at $3,255. The Defiance X12 subwoofer itself is in the mid-high price point category for a subwoofer.

PARADIGM PREMIER SPEAKER SYSTEM AND X12 SUBWOOFER SPECIFICATIONS

Premier 700F speaker

Design:

4-driver, 3-way acoustic suspension center channel

Frequency response:

±3dB from 73 Hz – 25 kHz

Tweeter:

1” (25mm) X-PAL™ dome, ferro-fluid damped/cooled, Perforated Phase-Aligning Tweeter (PPA™) Lens

Midrange driver:

5-1/2” (140mm) ART™ Surround with Carbon-Infused polypropylene cone. Perforated Phase-Aligning (PPA™) Lens

Bass driver:

Two 5-1/2” (140mm) ART™ Surround Carbon-Infused polypropylene cones

Sensitivity Room/Anechoic:

91 dB / 88 dB

Impedance:

Compatible with 8 ohms

Dimensions HxWxD:

39.875″ × 8.375 × 12.625″ (101.2cm × 21.2 × 32.1cm)

Suitable amp power:

15 – 180 watts

Finishes:

Gloss Black, Gloss White, Espresso Grain

Weight:

48.2 lbs. (21.88 kg)

MSRP:

$799.00 each

Premier 500C center-channel speaker

Design:

4-driver, 3-way acoustic suspension center channel

Frequency response:

±3dB from 73 Hz – 25 kHz

Tweeter:

1” (25mm) X-PAL™ dome, ferro-fluid damped/cooled, Perforated Phase-Aligning Tweeter (PPA™) Lens

Midrange driver:

4” (102mm) Black Anodized X-PAL™ cone, Perforated Phase-Aligning (PPA™) Lens

Bass driver:

Two 5-1/2” (140mm) ART™ Surround Carbon-Infused polypropylene cones

Sensitivity Room/Anechoic:

92 dB / 89 dB

Impedance:

Compatible with 8 ohms

Dimensions HxWxD:

7.125″ × 20.125 × 13.75″ (18cm × 51.5 × 32cm)

Suitable amp power:

15 – 120 watts

Finishes:

Gloss Black, Gloss White, Espresso Grain

Weight:

26 lbs. (11.8 kg)

MSRP:

$799.00 each

Surround 3 speaker

Design:

4-driver, 2-way bi-directional surround/rear

Frequency response:

±2dB from 90 Hz – 20 kHz

Tweeter:

Two 1” (25mm) X-PAL™ dome, ferro-fluid damped/cooled, Perforated Phase-Aligning Tweeter (PPA™) Lens

Mid/bass driver:

Two 5-1/2″ (140mm) X-PAL™ cones, 1″ (25mm) voice-coils, oversize ceramic / ferrite magnets, GRIP™ chassis

Sensitivity Room/Anechoic:

90 dB / 87 dB

Impedance:

Compatible with 8 ohms

Dimensions HxWxD:

10.625″ × 13″ × 5.62″ (27cm × 33cm × 14.3cm)

Suitable amp power:

15 – 175 watts

Finishes:

Black

Weight:

13.95 lbs. (6.32 kg)

MSRP:

$429.00 each

Defiance X12 subwoofer

Design:

12″ (305 mm) Driver with ART™ Surround, 650W RMS (1300W Dynamic Peak), Class-D amplifier, App controlled via smartphone, Anthem Room Correction (ARC®) Included.

Amplifier:

1,300 watts Dynamic Peak; 650 watts RMS

Amplifier features:

Auto-On / Off, improved soft-clipping circuitry

Frequency response:

±3 dB from 20Hz – 230Hz

Room correction:

Anthem Room Correction (ARC®) Included

Driver:

12″ (305 mm) ART™ Surround with carbon-loaded polypropylene cone

Low-pass filter:

Variable 30Hz – 120Hz

Phase alignment:

Variable 0° – 180° App or Control Panel

Inputs:

Three RCA (Left, Right, and LFE) for left/right lineout and/or Sub-Out from receiver/processor or another line-level source, Two Speaker Level (Left and Right) for input from amplifier or other speaker level source, One Micro USB for ARC™ and firmware update

Dimensions HxWxD:

19 7/16″ × 18″ × 19 7/16″ (49.3cm × 45.7cm × 49.4cm)

Finishes:

Satin Black

Weight:

62 lbs. (28.1 kg)

MSRP:

$1,299.00 each

Company:

Paradigm

SECRETS Tags:

Paradigm, Paradigm Series, Speakers, Paradigm Speakers, Subwoofer, Paradigm Subwoofer, Speaker Review 2019

Design

The Paradigm Premier 700F floor standing speakers and the Premier 500C center channel have similar enclosure designs, which departs from the traditional rectangular box-shaped and employs a slight angle towards the back. The front and top baffles of the 700F and the front and side baffles of the 500C are not exactly flat either, but instead, they have a slight curvature. The review samples have the gloss black finish, but other finishes (gloss white or espresso grain) are also available. The build quality of these speakers is excellent. The knuckle wrap test reveals that they are very well braced. The grilles of the speakers attach magnetically, a nice feature that many new speakers employ.

The Premier 700F speakers employ 3-way bass-reflex design with four drivers: a 1” X-PAL dome tweeter, a 5-1/2” carbon-Infused polypropylene midrange cone, and two 5-1/2” carbon-Infused polypropylene bass woofers. Patented Active Ridge Technology (ART) surrounds are overmolded onto the midrange cones and woofers to achieve greater excursion for greater output gain and reduced distortion. As can be seen from the figure, the tweeter and midrange drivers are ensconced by the patented Perforated Phase Aligning (PPA) lenses, which not only protect the drivers but also serve as a phase plug to block out-of-phase frequencies for a smoother and less colored response. Besides their functionality, these lenses actually make the grille-off appearance of the speakers cool and distinctive. The port of the 700F speaker is located on the rear and thus, the distance of the speaker from the back wall will affect its bass response. The 700F speaker is equipped with dual binding posts to accommodate bi-wire/bi-amplification. As is typical, the binding posts come default with a pair of metal jumpers connecting the two sets of posts for single-wire application. The feet of the speakers extend beyond the speakers’ side walls, enhancing the stability of this rather narrow tower. Metal spikes and rubber caps are supplied with the 700F to accommodate various types of flooring materials. With a height of just over 1 m, I would categorize the 700F in the small floor standing speaker category.

Paradigm Premier 700F floor standing speakers

Paradigm Premier 700F drivers

Paradigm Premier 700F terminals

The Premier 500C is the smaller of the two center-channel speakers in the Premier series. It employs a 3-way acoustic-suspension design with 4 drivers. Its tweeter and two bass drivers are the same as in the 700F. The midrange used in the 500C is a 4” black-anodized X-PAL cone. The tweeter and midrange drivers in the 500C are also covered by PPA lenses. The 500C is a medium-size center-channel speaker, which can be easily placed on the shelf or table as it does not take up too much space. It is also equipped with dual binding posts for bi-amplification/bi-wire purposes. The 500C comes with rubber feet that can be utilized to adjust the inclination of the speakers.

Paradigm Premier 500C center-channel speaker

In the Paradigm Premier series product lineup, there are no specific surround speakers. If you want to stay within this series for the whole surround setup, the bookshelf Premier 200B can be used for the surround channels. But Paradigm has specific speakers that are designed for surround applications: the Paradigm Surround 1 and Surround 3. They are in their own specific lineup and not grouped with any of the Paradigm’s product series. These surround speakers are intended to add surround sound-envelopment to complement any speaker system even from other brands. A little bit of a caveat here; if you use these surround speakers with other brands, be sure to pay attention to overall timbre characteristics of the combination. Although timbre matching among the surround speakers and the front main and center speakers is not too critical in my opinion, I would still advise using surround speakers that have close timbre characteristics with the front speakers for an optimal surround experience.

The review system came with the Surround 3, the larger of the two Paradigm Surround speakers. The Surround 3 is a two-way bi-pole design with a pair of identical drivers: two 1” X-PAL dome tweeters and two 5-1/2” X-PAL mid/bass cones. The tweeters are covered using the PPA lens as in the other speakers. The two sets of drivers occupy the extreme ends of the semi-cylindrical front baffle at an angle with each other to spread sound field in opposite directions. Two magnetic grilles cover the drivers. The Surround 3 is supplied with rubber feet for placement on the stand or shelf and a set of screws for hanging it on the wall. The speaker has a pair of binding posts on the rear and it comes in a semi-matte black finish. This finish is not the same as the gloss black finish of the Premier front speakers. Also, there are no other finish options offered, which can be a put off for somebody who wants to blend the surround speakers in a room with light wall color. The Surround 3 speaker has a solid construction quality and felt heavier than I expected.

Paradigm Surround 3 speakers

The Defiance X12 subwoofer has a plain black square-box look with a 12” front-firing driver featuring an ART surround. The grille of the subwoofer uses the traditional pin-and-cup attachment, not a magnetic attachment as the rest of the speakers. The subwoofer has a down firing port and thus, it comes with pre-installed feet to maintain the port spacing from the floor. The X12 is powered by a 650 W RMS class D amplifier with auto on/off feature. On the subwoofer’s rear panel, one can find three RCA line-level inputs for left/right lineout or LFE and two speaker-level inputs (Left and Right). The subwoofer is equipped with Anthem Room Correction (ARC™) technology, which is a proprietary digital signal processing system for optimizing the performance of the device to better suit the room acoustics. The calibration/optimization can be done using the ARC Mobile app for iOS/Android or the newly released ARC Genesis for PC/Mac. A micro USB input is available on the rear panel of the subwoofer should there be a need for a manual connection to run ARC using Anthem’s ARC Genesis software on a PC. When using the ARC Genesis on a Mac, no wired connection is necessary as the subwoofer’s Bluetooth connection can be used. Even if the receiver/processor used offers calibration (e.g. with Audyssey or ARC calibration feature), Paradigm recommends running ARC on the subwoofer for better bass response. The X12 subwoofer can be controlled wirelessly using the Paradigm Subwoofer App, which is available for free in Android and iOS versions. The app can also be used in demo mode to preview the available controls. Even if you have a surround processor with full capability of controlling the subwoofer, the app is a must. The app allows for control of volume, low-pass filter, phase, deep bass and much more from the comfort of your listening chair. It also features three preset listening modes (Movie, Music, and Night) and a built-in shortcut to the ARC app. Only the volume level can be directly accessed from the subwoofer panel. The Defiance X12 is not terribly heavy, but due to its size, it is probably best to get someone’s help to move it around. You would need to pay attention to the cabinet’s sharp edges to not scratch your skin while lifting it.

Paradigm Defiance X12 subwoofer

Paradigm Defiance X12 subwoofer rear panel

Setup and In Use

During the review, I used Bel Canto EVO6 gen-II amplifier (6 channels, 120 W per channel into 8 ohms) to drive the Premier 700F, Premier 500C, and Surround 3 speakers. The front-end components used in the review included AURALiC ARIES G1 music streamer and Bel Canto CD3t CD player in conjunction with the DAC3.7 from Bel Canto. Classe CP-500 and Marantz AV8802 completed the stereo preamplification and the surround processing, respectively. The 700F speakers were placed about 9 ft apart from each other and 9 ft from the main listening position with slight toe-in to get good imaging during the stereo playback. They were pulled relatively deep into the room at about 2 ft away from the back wall to minimize the rear-port interactions that could mess up the bass response. The 500C center channel was placed right in between the 700F pair and put on the stand right below the TV with a slight inclination to face towards the nominal listener’s ear position. The Surround 3 speakers were put on the stands against the side walls at about 7 ft away from the main listening position with their tweeters about a foot above ear level. The Defiance X12 subwoofer was placed near the front right corner of the room to utilize the corner loading of the bass.

I used the iOS version of the Paradigm Subwoofer Control app in conjunction with the ARC app to set up and calibrate the Defiance X12 subwoofer. The process was relatively easy and straightforward. If no room correction is needed, the Paradigm Subwoofer Control app, which connects to the subwoofer via Bluetooth, can be used to set up the subwoofer the conventional way by adjusting the Phase, Low Pass Filter, Volume, and the Listening Mode (Movie, Music, or Night). There is also Deep Bass Level control, which adjusts the bass response in the 20-30 Hz range. The best thing is you can do all these without walking back and forth from your listening position to the subwoofer. To make use of the room correction feature, you can activate the ARC feature from the Subwoofer Control app. Obviously, the ARC feature on the subwoofer needs to be run first via a mobile device or computer to get the room acoustics data and the proper tuning parameters for the subwoofer. An ARC calibrated microphone is supplied with the Defiance X12 subwoofer for the ARC setup. Alternatively, you can also use the microphone in your mobile device to do the calibration. I tried both methods and could not hear any differences between the results. So both methods were equally good and reliable. The included microphone can be used with the ARC Genesis software on a PC or Mac for more detailed calibration. ARC did make a significant improvement in my setup, producing a smoother overall bass response. Therefore, I had the feature on all the times during my evaluation.

Paradigm Subwoofer Control app

As usual, even though I was reviewing a 5.1 speaker system, I did extensive stereo music listening using the main speakers, the Premier 700F. This is not my first encounter with the Paradigm Premier series speakers. In the Florida Audio Expo just a few months back, I had a chance to listen to the larger brother of the 700F floor standers, the Premier 800F. They were being mercilessly demonstrated side-by-side with the mighty Paradigm Persona 9H, which is the top-of-the-line of the brand’s flagship series at more than 17 times the price of the 800F. This was truly a David vs Goliath situation no matter how you look at it (physical size or price tag), which in a way showed Paradigm’s confidence regarding the performance of the Premier series. In that demonstration, the 800F speakers really showed their poise, holding their ground very well without giving much to the Persona 9H.

Knowing what the 800F is capable of doing from the Expo, I expected nothing less from the Premier 700F speakers. True enough, the 700F speakers fulfilled my expectations with ease. Listening to them up close and in a familiar setting (unlike the show setting) actually made me appreciate the capabilities of the speakers more. They may not have the last word in accuracy, but they are very musical speakers that are sonically well-balanced all across the audible frequency spectrum, except at the lower-bass range. I do not mean that the speakers are bass shy. In fact, for a relatively small tower, the bass coming of the 700F was quite powerful, belying its size. The highs produced by the speakers are airy with good details. The imaging capability of the 700F is also impressive. While the speakers might not portray as deep a soundstage as some of the best I have tried in this category, they produced solid center images and an impressively wide soundstage. Overall stage presentation of the 700F was slightly forward, creating a sense of intimacy with the musical performance.

Andrea Bocelli’s Si

Andrea Bocelli “Si”

The midrange strength of the 700F was clearly on display through Andrea Bocelli’s Si deluxe edition (2018) album. The purity of Andrea Bocelli’s vocals and the huskiness of Dua Lipa’s vocals in the duet performance If Only from the album were conveyed convincingly through the 700F, engaging the full emotion of the song.

The portrayal of the soundstage with the musicians involved in the song was also believable. Bocelli’s vocal naturalism was also displayed beautifully through the 700F speakers in his rendition of Meditation from the same album.

Although the bass produced by the 700F was sufficient to keep the music from sounding thin or bass-less, there were occasions where augmenting the lower bass response with a subwoofer was desirable to make the music sound full and complete. Hence, I also evaluated the 700F speakers in a 2.1 configuration with the use of the Defiance X12 subwoofer.To do this, I connected the second line-level output of the Classe CP-500 preamplifier to the left/right RCA inputs of the X12. I found that a 65 Hz low-pass filter crossover yielded the smoothest blend with the700F in my setup.

Michael Buble’s Love (2018)

Michael Buble “Love”

The track My Funny Valentine from Michael Buble’s Love album (2018) clearly demonstrated the advantage of a properly dialed-in 2.1 setup over just the stereo configuration. I thought the 700F without the subwoofer augmentation rendered the track nicely with good musical texture and impact.

With the help of the X12 subwoofer, the track sounded fuller with more authoritative and extended low-frequency beats underlying the song, making the whole sonic presentation more impactful. Overall, the augmentation of Defiance X12 subwoofer in the stereo setup brought more articulation, extension, and clarity to the musical bass content in the program material.

In surround applications, the Paradigm combo of 700F, 500C, Surround 3, and Defiance X12 left little to desire. They were that good! First of all, the timbre match of the system was very good. Sounds seem to move effortlessly from speaker to speaker during movie playback with no noticeable change in sonic characteristics.

The 500C center-channel speaker was a very capable center anchor to this surround-speaker system. Its capability to play loud without any hint of strain was better than typical center channel speakers of its size. It was sufficiently dynamic to portray convincingly the sound effects correlated with the action on the screen. All dialogue was conveyed with excellent clarity and sounded natural through the 500C. The horizontal and vertical dispersion characteristics of the 500C center channel were sufficiently wide to handle typical small to medium sized home-theater setups. I did not notice significant changes in sonic clarity from this center channel as I shifted to the left or right up by three or four feet away from the nominal center seating position.

I typically use a combination of regular bookshelf and/or on-wall monopole speakers for surrounds and obtain satisfying results. But I felt that with Paradigm Surround 3 bipole surround speakers I had a better sound envelopment leading to enhanced surround impressions. All without noticeable loss of surround information localization, which in my opinion was quite good with the Surround 3. The sonic envelopment in portraying a sport-arena atmosphere, with crowd noises all around, that I experienced while watching some live broadcasts of NHL playoff games gave me a realistic and satisfying feel. The Surround 3 was also sufficiently adept for surround music applications, creating a believable sonic envelopment from the sound reflections of the recording studios or concert halls.

Earlier, I mentioned about how well the Defiance X12 subwoofer added bass extension for stereo music applications. In home-theater applications, the X12 subwoofer could deliver the bass energy in the soundtrack with ease and seemed to have enough reserve power to handle even the most demanding bass scene. Its presence added the necessary bass weight to make some action or explosion scenes more impactful. The X12 subwoofer also demonstrated finesse when delivering the bass accompanying the background music in the movie tracks.

ALT

During the review, I had a chance to play various movies through the Paradigm speaker system. The soundtracks of the movie Skyscraper (2018) in Dolby Digital really exemplified the performance of the speaker system. I was not that crazy with the movie storyline, but its soundtrack highlighted both sides of the dynamic extremes with its soft and loud passages and surround effects that really gave the surround speaker system a serious workout.

And this Paradigm surround sound speaker system did not flinch, handling both the delicate sonic background music and the loud structural failure/explosion effects with ease. The dialogue could be picked out clearly in the middle of the busy action scenes, a testament to how good the 500C center channel was. The bass rhythms underlying many of the scenes in the movie were conveyed articulately by the X12 subwoofer. The Surround 3 speakers delivered the room-filling surrounding sound effects convincingly to make me feel in the middle of the action on the screen. I have no doubt that this speaker system will enhance your home theater experience with its first-rate surround-sound performance.

Conclusions


The brand’s tradition of offering high price-to-performance ratio products is alive and well, being exemplified by the PARADIGM 5.1 SYSTEM comprising a pair of PREMIER 700F FLOOR STANDING SPEAKERS, a PREMIER 500C CENTER CHANNEL, a pair of SURROUND 3 SPEAKERS, and a DEFIANCE X12 SUBWOOFER. This system delivers outstanding performance for stereo music and home-theater/surround applications.

Likes
  • Handsome looking speakers with excellent build quality and finish.
  • Magnetically attached grilles.
  • Use of quality components (some proprietary) throughout.
  • Excellent timbre matching among the speakers in the system.
  • Great stereo and surround performances.
Would Like To See
  • Other finish options for the Surround 3 and the Defiance X12 subwoofer.

The Paradigm 5.1 speaker system reviewed here is comprised of versatile speakers that perform well in home theater settings and possess satisfying levels of musicality for stereo music applications. The system’s strong overall performance is built upon the strong individual performances of the individual pieces of the system. The main speakers, the Premier 700F floor standers, are equally at home in stereo or surround applications. The Premier 500C center channel is a medium-size center channel that performs bigger than its size indicates. The Surround 3’s are very capable surround speakers that can produce convincing ambient sound for a heightened surround experience. And the Defiance X12 is a powerful and musical subwoofer that can handle music and movie soundtracks equally well. This is a system that I can easily recommend for dual-purpose stereo and surround applications. For its awesome performance and versatility, the Paradigm system reviewed here indeed offers tremendous value for the price.