Surround Sound Speaker Systems

Mixing and Matching: The Paradigm Reference Signature C5 Center Channel Cone Speaker vs. Electrostatics



In most A/V publications, they will tell you to stick with one brand and line of speakers so that the tonality will be the same across the entire soundstage. That's true. But, if you look for neutrality in sound, you can mix and match with no problem. I have used electrostatic speakers (ESLs) in our home theater lab as a reference for years. The problem has always been the center channel. The front left and right ESL are 6 feet tall, and the center channel ESL was only 4 feet, and even then, the motorized projection screen would come down in front of it about a foot. Secondly, ESLs cannot be driven to high SPLs like cone speakers because the membrane only moves a few millimeters between the stators, and most ESLs don't have a lot of surface area, including the one I was using as the center channel. The front left and right ESLs did fine, but I just could not get the loudness out of that center channel ESL that I really wanted. So, I decided to use a conventional (cone) speaker for the center channel, but dreaded the problem of mis-matched tonality, as the two 6 foot ESLs are very neutral. Then . . . I heard the new Paradigm Reference Signature C5 center channel speaker at CEDIA 2009. Well, "Neutrality" could be its middle name, and I got one to try out in our lab, replacing the existing ESL. Was I disappointed in the results? Read our review to see.


  • Design: Center Channel Speaker, 3-1/2 Way, Ported
  • Drivers: One 1" Beryllium Dome Tweeter, One 4" Cobalt-infused Aluminum Cone Upper Midrange, Two 7" Cobalt-infused Aluminum Mid/Bass, Two 7" Polypropylene Woofers
  • MFR: 43 Hz - 35 kHz, ± 2 dB
  • Sensitivity: 93 dB
  • Nominal Impedance: 8 Ohms
  • Power Handling: 500 Watts
  • Dimensions: 9.5" H x 37.5" W x 17.5" D
  • Weight: 81 Pounds
  • MSRP: $3,499 USA in Cherry; $3,799 in Maple or Piano Black; J-18C Speaker Stand Optional
  • Paradigm USA