Bookshelf Speakers

Paradigm Signature S2, Version 3 Bookshelf Speakers and Anthem Integrated 225 Amplifier

ARTICLE INDEX

In Use

What I was most impressed with at CEDIA had been the upper-end clarity of the S2s on the recordings that we heard. Higher pitched instruments and sounds were detailed without being edgy or harsh as many speakers can often be. Additionally, the soundstage the the S2 managed to project in that room was far better than I had expected to hear. CEDIA listening rooms often dictate that speakers are much closer to the walls that would be preferable, but the S2s did a remarkable job in that case.

When I fired the system up and listened to Eric Clapton Unplugged, these qualities came through in spades. The soundstage of the S2s was very wide, but most notably was very deep. Much of the music seemed to radiate from beyond the back wall, really bringing the depth of the stage that it was recorded on back to your listening environment. The picking of a guitar came through with the metallic notes of the strings coming across, but it was a very easy sound to my ear. In person, the sound of someone picking a guitar is usually not something that would cause you to wince, but with many tweeters you can find that those higher notes will have a glare to them that is very fatiguing. The Beryllium tweeters were very detailed, but still smooth and very relaxing to listen to with a guitar.

I've been trying to raise my son (now 17 months old) as a music lover, and so he has been bombarded by all sorts of music from the time he was born, but he’s really taken to jazz. Esperanza Spaulding is a jazz bassist that virtually no one had heard of until she won the Best New Artist Grammy this year, but she received plenty of air play on the jazz radio here in her hometown of Portland. Her award-winning album was just released as a double LP and I couldn't wait to queue it up for my son and I to listen to on the Paradigms.

The Paradigm/Anthem combo presented a wonderful window into the recording studio. Though originally mastered digitally at 24/96 before the transfer to vinyl, there was exceptional clarity to the recording and the attributes that I had come to love with this setup really shone through again. The soundstage was wider than the speakers and again extended well beyond the rear wall in depth. The musicians and their instruments had their own clear space on the recording. There was a bassist over to the right of the stage, with a pianist in the center-rear. The sense of being next to the studio while they recorded was brought home to my basement. I sat back to enjoy the show, only getting up from my seat to flip the record.

The main worry I had with the Paradigms and their size was a lack of bass on certain material. For whatever reason I've always had a desire for full range speakers, regardless of how much of my music actually plumbs that bottom octave regularly. One album that I thought would do a good job of that was Metallica's classic release Ride The Lightning. The deluxe 45 RPM vinyl release has brought out all the detail that was in the master tapes, hiss and all. Whatever worries I had vanished with the opening tones of For Whom The Bell Tolls. The bell that opens the track came across clearly, but the thunderous guitar and drum lines that open the song pinned me back in my seat. There was no shortage of bass coming from the S2's, and the tweeter and midrange were fast enough to keep up with the incredibly fast guitar that is emblematic of early Metallica. Perhaps if my interests were aimed towards chamber music that used a pipe organ regularly, or kettle drums, I would have missed the extra oomph that the larger models from Paradigm could provide, but the S2's provided plenty of bass for my diet of classic rock, jazz, and modern alternative and independent music.

The last thing that I played on the Paradigm’s before they had to leave was the new vinyl release of Eric Clapton Unplugged. I've been listening to the CD release for years, and using it as a reference since I've been writing for Secrets, but it finally was given a high quality release on vinyl from Warner Brothers this year. Everything I loved about the album was there, but with what I thought was a larger soundstage, and smoother, more relaxed highs compared to the CD. The bass might have lost a little touch of weight, but I found the vinyl edition to be a more natural, enjoyable listen than the CD version. It just put me a little closer to the experience of being there for the recording of the album and was a wonderful listen before I had to say goodbye to these speakers.