Surround Sound Speaker Systems
- Written by Brian Florian
- Published on 12 October 2009
What can I say which has not already been said about Paradigm's reference speakers. The 10s and CC-490 surely do not disappoint, exhibiting Paradigm's well known definition and neutrality. The size of the 10s, and they lack of the phase cone, unfortunately do not go unnoticed though. When using them as a stereo pair they do struggle to produce wholly satisfactory bass while the 'oh so critical' midrange I believe is just ever so slightly behind the larger Studio 20s. It's just as if someone barely touched the perfectly focused lens of a camera. I don't want to overstate this though. The 10s hold up well and excel compared to other speakers their size. You just can't do miracles, even if you are Paradigm.
The CC-490, on the other hand, boarders on exactly that. Similar to the Signature series C1 it seemed to give up nothing compared to the larger models (except perhaps absolute output level). Testament perhaps to the proverbial virtues of a 3-way speaker (done right of course) the CC-490 just disappeared. Midrange transparency was such that I could enjoy my Blu-rays without being preoccupied with system performance, which is perhaps the highest compliment I can give any component.
Depending on your acoustics, both the 10s and CC-490 may be challenged in the extreme top end where if your room is somewhat 'live' they can come across as a little, shall we say, too enthusiastic as evidence by my sessions in our living room. Moving the set to the dryer signature of our acoustically treated theater, focus and balance became excellent and only got better with ARC as is now our expectation with any speaker.
Though generally not an issue for anyone in the market for speakers at this price point, it must be noted that they are most decidedly on the inefficient side of things, 86 and 87dB anechoic. While Paradigm does make effort to keep the impedance from dipping too far below 8ohm, making them a less current hungry speaker, the bottom line is if you want significant output you are going to need lots of juice, an honest 100watts at least would not go amiss here, especially if running the 10s full range. When suitably high passed better AVRs should have no problem though.
Both models crossed over fairly well using the ubiquitous THX 2nd order high pass, anywhere between 70 and 90 depending on your room and subwoofer. Speaking of which....
The SUB 12 first impressed me before the first note came through: The auto on-off is perfectly silent. No thump or snap when it kicks on, which it does promptly as the very first sign of anything other than dead air on its input (confirmed by a delightfully faint illumination of the logo on the front of the unit). Standby power consumption though is a rather disappointing 30watts, which in my locale amounts to about $2.50/month. I'm not saying that anyone in the market for a SUB12 can't afford that, but it's the principal of the thing: if a BD player, AVR, or even a massive display draws more than 2 watts in standby these days, people get up in arms. Why subwoofers are exempt from this is beyond me. Nevertheless...
"Powerful" doesn't quite cut it when describing this sub in that its output seemed unlimited for the relative small space of our theater. It never audibly distressed, even on the most profound tracks. I can only imagine that if it fell short in a cavernous space a second unit would propel you beyond your wildest dreams (and would likely be my preference over switching to a single SUB 15 or 25). SUB 12 is capable of truly visceral impact. More to the point it is one of the most articulate subwoofers I've heard in a while, certainly better than Paradigm's older less expensive ported designs which I found could get a little "fat" sounding if the stars were not aligned. The SUB 12 has that delicious, latent quality we've come to expect from sealed alignments. Implementing PBK just ices the cake, in our case principally nulling out a nasty node at about 52Hz we have which, if left unchecked, gives any sub a bloated, unfocused feel through that much used range of the spectrum. With PBK applied we witness a response which was in all practicality down by a scant 3dB at that holiest of audio grails: 20Hz.