Paradigm Reference Signature S8 Speaker System
Paradigm Elevates the Art
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to attend a demonstration of Paradigm’s Signature Reference Series at its quasi-premiere at Definitive Audio in Bellevue, Washington. I’d been a long-time fan of Paradigm’s Reference line of loudspeakers, and I was excited to see its new flagship paired with Anthem’s Statement products.
When I walked into the room, I immediately felt bad for the folks at Paradigm. Definitive was using a new room for this setup, and it was overly large and poorly treated. Given the conditions, I didn’t think Paradigm had much of a chance to shine. Boy, was I wrong. Not only did the Signatures perform at a level few demonstrations I’ve heard have ever provided, they were the buzz of the event. Every person I met with over the next few days talked about how amazing that demo was, despite other outstanding demos from companies like Meridian, B&W, and Wilson Audio at the same event.
Ever since then, I’ve been eager to have a go at Paradigm’s flagship line of speakers. The fact that they sounded so effortless in that enormous room made me wonder how they would sound in a more realistic home theater environment. Now several years later, I have that chance.
Different Cabinets, One Voice
I put together a five-channel system for this review. Paradigm’s flagship S8 floorstander handled the main speaker duties. To round out the system, I chose the C5 center channel and a pair of ADP3 surrounds. All of these models share the same drivers, and Paradigm went out of its way to ensure timbre matching across the series.
This isn’t the first time Home Theater has reviewed the Signature speakers, but Paradigm has made some changes to the line in the last few years. The original Signature line featured aluminum-domed tweeters, which the industry has praised for their light weight and stiffness. The new line goes a different route and features beryllium-domed tweeters. Manufacturers have used beryllium in tweeter designs for some time now, mainly as a strengthening agent. Beryllium-domed tweeters are now a burgeoning trend in high-end designs.
Beryllium’s combination of low weight and extremely high rigidity make it an intriguing tweeter diaphragm material. We haven’t seen a lot of beryllium-domed tweeters because the metal is hard to work with. Plus, inhaling beryllium’s dust (usually only an issue during manufacturing) is toxic. Paradigm is one of those rare companies that is so vertically integrated, it was able to tool for safely working with the metal and make its tweeter domes from a pure sheet.
Paradigm is notable among speaker manufacturers for making so many of its speakers’ components in-house. On these speakers, only the cabinets are outsourced from China. Paradigm’s Canada facilities are world renowned, and the company even makes its own machines for component tooling. Paradigm tests all its speakers in an anechoic chamber and then performs listening tests in a double-blind testing room.
The S8 is a three-way design with a total of six drivers. This includes the beryllium-domed tweeter, a cobalt-infused anodized aluminum-coned midrange, and four 7-inch bass drivers. The cabinet widens as it flows back, and the top has a nice curve as well. Paradigm designed the grille to aid in sound dispersion, not just to protect your cones from probing fingers.
There’s a single port below the lowest driver for low-end augmentation. The S8 provides some serious low-end energy, which is useful if the room placement supports it. However, you need to integrate a subwoofer to get the full-bodied effect of synthesized ultra-low-frequency sounds.
The flagship C5 is a beast of a center; it weighs in at more than 80 pounds. The cabinet curves back from the front baffle and tapers in the back. Like the rest of the Signature line, it’s available in a wide variety of high-gloss finishes and is designed for use with the front grille on. The C5 is a three-and-a-half-way speaker that adds a smaller aluminum-coned midrange driver right below the beryllium tweeter. This configuration eliminates many of the problems associated with center speakers that use horizontally configured drivers. A pair of 7-inch aluminum-coned midbass drivers and two 7-inch bass drivers flank the tweeter and midrange, for a total of six drivers. Paradigm designed the upper models of the Signature line as full-range loudspeakers. The company rates all of these speakers’ bass extension in the mid-20-hertz range. I was definitely impressed with their low-frequency performance, even at very loud listening levels.