Surround Sound Speaker Systems

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


The Sound

For listening, I used our reference equipment setup which includes an OPPO BDP-83 Universal Blu-ray Player, Denon AVP-A1HDCI SSP, Classé CA-5200 power amplifier (5 x 200 watts), a Sherbourn 2 x 200 watt power amp for the dipole side speakers, and the speakers mentioned previously. Cables were Nordost and Emotiva.

To come to the point, I was speechless at how well the C5 blended with my ESLs, not just in neutrality, but in the way the sound swept all the way across the front. I could not detect any difference in the sound from the C5 sitting off to the side, compared to sitting directly in front. This is due to the tweeter and upper midrange driver being arranged vertically, and that upper midrange driver is only 4" in size. The way this works is that the smaller the driver, the less the falloff when you move off-axis. And, it is the upper frequencies that get attenuated off-axis. Also, the C5 is rated to 35 kHz on-axis, and it falls to 20 kHz off-axis ± 2 dB. This implies that you will not hear any noticeable rolloff in the audible highs off-axis. Now, I do have to say that moving off to the side definitely affects the sound from the ESLs. That is one of their weaknesses. The highs fall off considerably off-axis.

Ah, now room-correction to the rescue. The Denon AVP-A1HDCI has Audyssey room correction built-in. It corrects for the frequency response at any sitting position you wish. You have to go through six measurement positions, but if you want, you can set the microphone in the same spot (the sitting position you will always be in) for all six measurements. That procedure corrected for the high frequency rolloff in my off-axis easy chair (guests get to sit on the couch which is in the center viewing position, but they don't know I have done the room correction for MY sitting position. We also have a new Anthem D2v in the main lab, and it has room correction as well, but it is Paradigm's own, not Audyssey. We will talk about that installation experience soon. Note that the Paradigm sounded very neutral with or without the Audyssey correction. No boominess, chestiness, nasality, or extra sibilance. I used the room correction mainly just to get those high frequencies from the ESLs in my off-axis chair. To heck with the couch.

Anyway, the Paradigm C5 . . . no, no, I can't say, "just blew me away," because that's is in every A/V magazine on the planet, including ours. How about, "It sounded as if a veil had been lifted," no, no, no, I hate that phrase. Maybe, "My jaw was on the floor." No, been there, done that, too many time. How about, "This is a superb speaker. I will be bolting that speaker stand to the floor, and the C5 is bolted to the stand. It isn't going anywhere." Yup. That's it.

As an aside, here is a video of Paradigm's CNC machine that automatically assembles various speaker enclosures. This is why Paradigm products are such a good value. They assemble everything in their own factory, right down to the voice coils. Click on the photo to see the video, which is a full 1,920x1,080 high definition WMV (Windows Media Player file). It's a big file, so be patient and let Windows Media Player do its thing with the buffering before it starts to play.

By the way, do you know what CNC means? It's an acronym for Computer Numeric Control. It came about years ago when computers were first used to machine various items, but the programming was very basic, and the capabilities were limited. The term really needs to be updated to Computerized Precision Machining, or CPM, because the machining abilities of these things are amazing. Paradigm actually builds their own CNCs in their factory, so when one says they manufacture everything from scratch, it really means everything.