Surround Sound Speaker Systems

Paradigm Rock Speakers

ARTICLE INDEX

Design

I unboxed these on a rainy day and was not able to install outside so I set them up in my living room and did an A-B comparison with my Paradigm Studio 20v.3, definitely cut from the same cloth, similar treble but weaker midrange and low end than 20's, understandably from smaller enclosure and drivers. The fact is that they use the same high-frequency driver and similar low frequency driver as the new and improved Monitor series speakers, which have been heralded as the new budget audiophile standard. My system is PS3, iPod shuffle and nano, Denon AV2309, and the Onkyo RC-160 I was currently reviewing. Connections were made with Monoprice HDMI 1.3a and speaker cabling was my standard Blue Jeans Cable BJC twelve white for all speaker connections. Just for the record, there was very little discernable difference between the two receivers when playing MP3s or CDs outside.

These speakers come with security spikes that are supposed to be driven twelve inches into the ground and then attached to the speaker to prohibit someone from making off with them. I had two problems with this. First, the cord that attaches to the security spike is plastic and easily cut. Second, the spike, while hard to get out of the ground, certainly wouldn't deter anyone serious about stealing a pair of $800 speakers, I'd recommend a longer spike that attaches directly to the bottom of the speaker which would prohibit them from getting too much leverage without damaging the speaker itself (who wants to steal a busted speaker?). Another good alternative would be a small steel cable similar to the ones included with a Kensington lock.

Paradigm's description of the speaker: a "3-driver, 2 x 2-way coaxially mounted high-frequency drivers, Single speaker system" is curious. How are they getting stereo sound from a "single speaker system?" The first thing I noted about their sound is that the dual tweeters in each speaker (see picture below) seem to be wired out of phase from each other (meaning the positive and negative terminals are reversed) but in phase with one of the tweeters from the other speaker. This is what allows the speaker to give you a surround feel with only two speakers. While I've found out of phase speakers to not be ideal in the past, it appears that Paradigm engineers really got it right with these and they pull of the desired effect of giving very dispersed sound with very good detail by essentially placing ½ of each channel of stereo inside each of the speakers. I also find it interesting that the setup of the driver array mimics some of the new surround sound speakers that are used for dipolar use (or a rear center channel in some instances), with a larger midrange cone mounted behind the dual tweeter array. I wouldn't think this a likely configuration for a stereo pair, but it seems to work well for the Paradigm. Maybe they'll release this as a surround option for future Studio series speakers as well.

The review period was approximately 3 months through some of the harshest conditions that Texas has seen; starting with 100-degree days, then a foot of rain, then sleet/freezing rain/40 mph wind and finishing off with 2 weeks of weather where the low was in the teens and single digits and highs near 60. Through all of this, the Paradigms cranked right up when asked to and their sound never changed. Though this is what is expected of outdoor speakers, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that speakers from other manufacturers might not fare as well.