Surround Sound Speaker Systems
- Written by Brian Florian
- Published on 12 October 2009
Anyone who already owns late model Paradigm Reference speakers or is even just familiar with the line will at first glance not think the Studio 10 to be a new model. It does in fact inherit the same driver technology as the slightly larger Studio 20, trickled down from the company's no holds barred Signature line by the way, but appearances, at least in photographs, can be deceiving: this is one small speaker! The tweeter is one of Paradigm's tried and true 1" pure aluminum domes in a massive, heavy chassis which we've come to recognize as a Paradigm norm (I often say if you look at these from the back they look like some companies' woofer motors, or at very least that of a midrange). The mid/bass driver on the other hand is their relatively new 5.5" interpretation of their staple 7" model featured in virtually every other model in the Reference line. It too features an aluminum cone but get this: it still has the same 1.5" voice coil and motor structure of its larger counterpart, all in the usual heavy cast basket. The only other difference other than the size here is the fact that we have a cone shaped dust cap rather than the alloy phase cone of the 7" models (which is sort of curious given the fact that Paradigm has made great effort to extol the virtues of this last). Crossover is quoted as 2 kHz, rather low for a single 1" tweeter, and the oval orifice of the bass reflex port is nestled in right under the mid bass driver on the front.
The cabinets of all the new version 5 Reference speakers are a genuine departure, favoring more organic sculpted curves over the square edges of yesteryear. Stop for a minute to ponder how they get this shape. Outsourced to China, the process involves laminating no less than 7 layers of the customary MDF in order to get the thickness required for the insanely solid cabinets we have come to expect from Paradigm. This in turn is wrapped in real wood veneers of either Rosenut, Black, Cherry, or the recently added high gloss "Piano" black.
On the back we have a dual set of rather beefy binding posts where I found a "fit" flaw, rare indeed for Paradigm: the curved plastic terminal plate does not mate perfectly with the back of the speaker resulting in an irregular gap at the sides. This of course in no way impacts performance but for some it might be a cosmetic disappointment given the price point. On the bottom are threaded sockets for coupling them to Paradigm's own custom speaker stands which have corresponding bolt holes.
Along the same vein as the 10, the CC-490 is Paradigm's essay at reducing the size of their already phenomenal and much lauded Reference series dedicated center channel speakers. A mere 19-1/4" wide (about the same as a typical AVR or disc player) it is remarkable that the CC-490 is still a true three was design with the same 1" tweeter, vertically aligned with a 3.5" midrange of the same construction as the 10's mid/bass, that set flanked by a pair of 5.5" woofers using a more traditional polypropylene cone material. Crossovers are quoted as 2.1 kHz and 500 Hz, this last being reasonably below any point where off axis combing would be any issue.
Having the same curved back, but in the opposite plane, the CC-490 features a couple plastic rails on the bottom to keep it from rocking back and forth. On the back is again a dual set of solid binding posts (the frame of which also is not an absolutely perfect fit against the wood) beside which is the bass reflex port.
As I mentioned at the start, subwoofers have changed somewhat over the past decade in that thanks to much more powerful amplification available at reasonable cost, we can "afford" to use smaller cabinets with longer-throw drivers to get the same output as yesteryear's massive but relatively underpowered behemoths. Well the SUB12 takes it one step further in that while it still has an insanely powerful amp and incredible long throw driver, it is decidedly not any smaller than a typical "twelve-incher" of yesteryear (and is extremely heavy!). What this means is the potential for truly prodigious output capability (or at least that is what we are here to confirm).
Specifically, the SUB 12 features a class-D amplifier quoted as being able to deliver a dynamic peak of 3400 watts and a sustained output of 1700, which when you think about it corresponds to what they can legally and safely draw from a residential wall socket (they have some models which will draw more but these come with the caveat of needing either an uncommon 20amp circuit, or in some cases one which is 240V!). Input facilities include mono/stereo unbalanced RCA and mono balanced XLR. The amp features either auto on/off or triggered power, as well as knobs for level, low-pass frequency, and phase, plus there is a USB port we'll talk about in moment.
The driver is an insanely robust 12" unit of mineral infused polypropylene and an almost ridiculously large looking surround. The cabinet features curved sides and the "outrigger" feet which feature threaded rubber capped feet. The SUB 12 is available clad in the same Rosenut, Black, Cherry, or "Piano" Black to match the mains.
Sold as an optional component for customers who do not own one of Anthem's AVM or Statement D series audio/video processors (and in some cases even for those who do), the Paradigm "PBK", or "Perfect Bass Kit", delivers all the magic of the company's ARC (Anthem Room Correction), albeit for the subwoofer only. At this time it is compatible with Paradigm's Signature SUB 25, Studio SUB 12 and 15, the X-850 Subwoofer Amp, Signature SUB 1 and 2, and SE SUB (free firmware upgrade for some models required). Look for other models to join the list in the future.
The kit includes the exact same USB mic outfit as ARC (but with a different electronic ID which makes them NOT interchangeable), plus a software CD which includes a unique calibration file for the microphone. Unlike the original add-on iteration of ARC, a PBK is not locked to a single subwoofer serial number and can be used on as many as you want.
For a detailed look at Anthem's ARC system, please see our full review of it from last year: http://www.hometheaterhifi.com/receivers/receivers-reviews/a-secrets-ssp-review.html
Difference between ARC and PBK are as follows:
Unlike the serial connection from PC to AV Processor, PBK uses a USB connection (extra long cable is included) so your PC needs two available USB ports, one for the Mic, one for the connection to the subwoofer.
There are no speakers settings or "Advanced" routines. You place the Mic and let it take readings at least 5 locations in the room. Unlike ARC you can't fuss with the settings, except to set a roll-off frequency (which you will in virtually every case want to leave at the max since your processor will provide that). It then crunches the numbers, and uploads a final filter to the subwoofer. Done. The only caveat is if you move the subwoofer you must go through the process again of course (the software also gives you the ability to erase any previously uploaded EQ and return the unit to a non-BPK state).
A note on cascading filters. If you have and Anthem processor with ARC you of course would let ARC manage the subwoofer and not need PBK. If you have something like Odyssey, especially the embedded AVR variety, it may or may not be of benefit to first apply PBK locally at the sub (at very least it shouldn't hurt). More interestingly though, even if you have an Anthem with ARC, in the case of multiple subwoofers (I am a BIG fan of multiple subwoofers), academically speaking it should well be to your advantage to apply PBK locally and independently at each subwoofer first (that is very important), then afterward putting them all on the single subwoofer channel and let ARC do its thing.