- Written by Stephen Hornbrook
- Published on 21 May 2012
Introduction to the Paradigm Signature In-Wall Speakers
Having previously enjoyed the opportunity to review the Paradigm SA-15R-SM In-Ceiling speakers, I jumped at the opportunity to evaluate another set in my home theater. Paradigm's line-up of in-wall/in-ceiling speakers includes both the SA Series v.3 and the top-of-the-line Signature Series v.3. When deciding to go with permanently installed speakers, one does not want to choose the wrong speakers. Once that template is drawn and the hole is cut, there is no going back. It is also very difficult to audition in-walls since everyone's room has different acoustical properties. Making sure you buy the correct speaker that suit your needs and will keep your ears happy is critical with permanent installs. With that in mind, choosing the top of the line Paradigm Signature SIG-1.5R-30 and SIG-ADP's for my home theater would seemingly stack the odds of success in my favor.
PARADIGM SIGNATURE IN-WALL SPEAKERS SPECIFICATIONS
- Design: Two-driver, 2-way, In-ceiling
- Drivers: One 1" Beryllium Dome Tweeter, One 8" Polymer Woofer
- Crossover: 3rd-order Electro-acoustic at 2.5 kHz
- Sensitivity: 92 dB
- Nominal Impedance: 8 Ohms
- External Dimensions: 11.7" Diameter
- Minimum Mounting Depth: 5.5"
- Weight: 4.4 Pounds/each
- MSRP: $999/each USD
Paradigm SIG-ADP v.3
- Design: Seven-driver, 3-way In-wall Surround/Rear
- Drivers: Two 1" Beryllium Dome Tweeters, Four 4" Polymer Midrange, One 8" Polypropylene Woofer
- Crossovers: 3rd-order Electro-acoustic at 2.5 kHz; 2nd-order Electro-acoustic at 550 Hz
- Sensitivity: 90 dB
- Nominal Impedance: 8 Ohms
- External Dimensions: 20.1" W x 9.1" Length
- Minimum Mounting Depth: 3"
- Weight: 12.3 Pounds/each
- MSRP: $1,599/each USD
- SECRETS Tags: Paradigm, Speakers, In-wall, In-Ceiling
Design and Setup of the Paradigm Signature In-Wall Speakers
I use my home theater for both movies and two-channel listening so I will admit that the surround has not been my first priority. Up until now I have just be using whatever extra speakers I had laying around for rear channel duty. That happened to be a pair of Epos ELS-3 book shelves, positioned on stands beside a couch and angled towards the back of the room. Nothing about this setup was optimal, but it was cheap and got the job done. It didn't help that the speakers were in the way and took up space. Enough was enough; something had to be done about this crime against surround sound!
Talking with the wonderful people at Paradigm, we decided to go with their top of the line Signature series. I really wanted to make the jump to 7.1 so this meant a pair of SIG-ADP v.3 on the sidewalls and a pair of their new Designer Series SIG-1.5R-30 in the ceiling to provide the surround back channels. We chose the SIG-1.5R-30 because if their Guided Soundfield™ system. The two drivers are mounted at a 30-degree offset from the ceiling. This allows better directional sound than standard down firing in-ceilings, which is generally what you want from surround back channels. The SIG-ADP's are an Adapted Dipole design that provides a large, non-localized, full-range surround field- perfect for movie surround effects. Each speaker houses seven drivers- one 8" bass driver, four rectangular 1-1/8" x 4" midrange drivers, and two 1" P-Be dome tweeters.
Installation of the in-ceilings was a breeze and took under two hours, including some minor paint touchups. When choosing a location, you have to be sure there is enough clearance from your pilot hole to each ceiling joist before cutting your hole. The location of some pre-wired terminals and the ceiling joists mostly decided the final placement. I don't have a ton of room behind my couch, so my thought was, as long as the surround back channels were behind the couch and away from the sidewalls a bit that would be adequate.
Using the provided template, I marked my guides, cut the hole and carefully removed the sheetrock. I say carefully because many homes have blown-in insulation that will rain down on your face if you just pull away the cut sheetrock. What worked well for me was stuffing a section of rolled insulation into the opening to hold back the blown-in stuff. To finish up all I needed to do was connect the wire to the speaker, wedge the speaker into the opening and tighten the clamps. I made sure to angle the SIG-1.5R-30's toward the couch a bit to provide a little more direction to the audio effects. The SIG-1.5R-30 is part of a new Designer Series that feature an almost invisible bezel. The grills snap right into place, thanks to the tiny magnets around the edge of the speaker, and the bezel-less effect is very clean and esthetically pleasing.
Installation of the SIG-ADP's was almost as straightforward, except for one curve ball I was thrown. I could not seem to get a good fix on the stud locations on an interior wall. I had a nearby light switch and power outlet to go by, as those are generally mounted to a stud. My stud finder provided me with all sorts of unpredictable results. After talking with some people in the know, they said most likely the wall is covered in a layer of plywood situated in-between the studs and drywall. Well this would certainly confuse the stud finder.
After cutting away a small bit of drywall, sure enough, there was plywood underneath. After measuring 16 inches from the light switch and marking a guide in the middle, I cut open a hole large enough to run a wire hanger around the inside of the wall. If you bend a wire hanger at the maximum width the speaker requires, sticking it through the hole and twirling it around should give you an idea of what's behind the wall. The good news about the plywood was that this speaker would have a very solid mounting surface. Now the bad news was that cutting through sheetrock and plywood takes a lot more out of your arms! Instead of trying to feed new speaker wire through the attic and down the walls, I just bought a couple of wall plates with speaker terminals and dropped a short cable from the speaker down to the inside connection of the wall plate- simple and allows for easy disconnection if I am evaluating other speakers.
The Paradigm Signature In-Wall Speakers In Use
I installed the in-ceilings first and ran those as the main surrounds for a few days until I had time to install the ADP's. Listening to the new multi-channel SACD of Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here I was immediately engrossed in the mix. If these two Signature in-ceilings were the only thing I was going to use for surround, I could have lived happily with that. Music and sounds came from all directions and at times it felt like my room was twice as big. There were some analog synth sounds that emanated from the rear left that startled me in a good way. The Paradigm's melted away into the walls, as if there were no speakers there at all.
Saving Private Ryan starts out with an assault on the senses with the invasion of Normandy. Bullets whiz by with ferocity from all angles. The full range of the ADP's was truly appreciated here as I could feel explosions around me. The idea that surrounds only need to reproduce midrange and treble is complete hogwash. DTS-HD Master Audio allows for full range signals on all channels and there is plenty of sound information that could be lost with small surround speakers, and it frees up your subwoofers to handle only the LFE track.
I really cannot say enough about how impressive the audio engineering is on the Tron Legacy Blu-ray. It features a DTS-HD MA 7.1 track that blows away 99% of all other soundtracks. It's loud, aggressive, and full of sonic movement. I was worried going to 7 channels would be a waste of time and the benefit over 5 would be marginal at best. Well I can now through that thought away because I wish every soundtrack was mixed for 7.1. Having the Paradigm Signatures in my ceiling and walls truly took my home theater to the next level. I have no clue how I lived with my home theater prior to these speakers being installed.
Hugo was another 7.1 mix that I got to enjoy. The ticks and tocks of all the gears and cogs added a lot of depth to the 2D image of the version I was watching. Even thought my fronts are made from a different manufacturer, the sound blended quite well with the Paradigm's, creating a fairly seamless sound field.
Conclusions About the Paradigm Signature In-Wall Speakers
Deciding on a 5.1 or 7.1 channel setup depends largely on your room layout and available space. I was unsold on the idea that plopping two more speakers into my home theater would make much of a difference. Plus using up more precious space was not very appealing. Paradigm provided the perfect solution; not only could I upgrade to 7 channels, but I could do so without using up any space. In fact, I was able to gain back some real estate by ditching my rear speakers and stands. After hearing the Paradigm Signature ADP's and 1.5R-30's with 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio am I a firm believer in its ability to envelop the viewer in the movie's sound and music. Now if only we could have every movie expertly mixed in 7.1. Absolutely check out Paradigm's Signature collection of in-wall and in-ceiling speakers if you are looking for the ultimate in performance, without taking up an inch of floor space.