Paradigm Prestige 15B Speaker System Review


Prestige 15B Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Seismic 110 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $6,145

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Advanced driver designs
Fine-grained, transparent, dynamic playback
Compact but powerful subwoofer
Minus
Boxy, non-curved enclosures

THE VERDICT
Paradigm’s Prestige series speakers and Seismic 110 sub employ unusual driver design to achieve remarkable transparency and punch.

As I sat down to write this review of the Paradigm Prestige speaker system, I couldn’t get a seemingly unrelated subject—the Pono hate—out of my head. No joke, folks: I sat at the keyboard for hours mulling it over. What chance did I have to convince readers that a $6,145 speaker system is worth hearing when a $400 music player is greeted with language like “don’t buy” and “snake oil”?

OK, I know I’m preaching to the converted. You probably wouldn’t be reading Sound & Vision if you weren’t open to the idea that a well-designed speaker system has the power to bring you closer to music. That’s what the Paradigms did for me when I informally played a few recent additions to my high-resolution music library (more on them later). I felt as if a curtain had been lifted and music was in the room with me—not just recorded music, but music.

Between Signature and Studio
The Prestige series is brand new. It lodges between Paradigm’s top-of-the-line Signature speakers and midpriced Studio series, with the slim-and-trim Millenia and value-oriented Monitor further down. (If you don’t want to pay $400 for a music player, you may be a Monitor kind of guy, and that might even be a shrewd decision on your part.)

The Prestige lineup includes three towers, the 95F ($2,499 each), 85F ($1,999 each), and 75F ($1,499 each); a single monitor, the 15B ($799 each); the 45C center ($1,299) and larger 55C ($1,699); and a dedicated surround speaker, the 25S ($999 each). Finish options include midnight cherry, walnut, and black walnut veneers, and piano black.

Prestige is closer in price to Studio than to Signature. The 15B monitor, reviewed here with the 45C center, costs only 100 bucks more per pair than the chunkier Studio 20 v.5 (I use the v.4 in my reference system). While the 15B’s boxy 0.75-inch fiberboard enclosure lacks the sweet curved sides employed in the latest Studio line, the edges use a lock-joint construction for greater structural rigidity than is customary from the usual 45-degree-angle box cut. And when you remove the magnetically attached grilles, you may notice that the 1-inch-thick baffle has a visual economy lacking in the overbuilt-looking Studio as well as a new tweeter lens and other driver-related refinements. I like the massive robotic look of the Studio just as much, but that may be a matter of taste. Perhaps it’s a guy thing.

Paradigm loves acronymic tech-speak, so your head may spin when I tell you that the 15B and 45C have 1-inch X-PAL fluid-cooled tweeters with PPA tweeter lenses and FEA-optimized pole-piece assemblies. Meanwhile, the 5.5-inch woofers in both speakers (dual woofers in the center) have 5.5-inch X-PAL drivers, ART surrounds, Shock-Mount isolation mounting systems (shared by the center’s 3.5-inch X-PAL midrange driver), and high-temp voice coils.

As to the parts that aren’t self-explanatory: The PAL in the X-PAL drivers refers to pure aluminum, which combines light weight and stiffness with highly pistonic (that is to say, piston-like) movement. The PPA (Perforated Phase-Aligning) tweeter lens, which covers the tweeter, has concentric rings of holes that diminish and then disappear as they approach the center. Besides having a protective function, the lens (a variation on the more common phase plug) blocks out-of-phase frequencies to provide what the literature calls “smoother, extended high frequencies with incredible detail and higher output.” The FEA (Finite Element Analysis) pole-piece directly behind the tweeter dome has a contoured cavity that scatters reflections and expands the tweeter’s low-frequency extension from 1,800 hertz (with a conventional pole-piece) down to 1,200 Hz. This allows a lower crossover point to the woofer, resulting in potentially smoother off-axis response.

The woofer surrounds—the flexible piece that attaches the circumference of the cone to the basket—feature ART (Active Ridge Technology), with ridges overmolded onto the cone, for greater excursion and what is claimed to be a 3-decibel gain in distortion-free output compared with that of conventional surrounds. The Shock-Mount isolation mounting system on all the woofers and the center’s midrange uses rubber inserts and gaskets to decouple the drivers from the enclosure, controlling interaction between them along with sound-polluting resonance and vibration. Brushed-aluminum finishes and matching concave dust caps give the woofers and midrange a sleek appearance that complements the snazzy-looking tweeter lens. Incidentally, Paradigm designs and builds its drivers in-house.

If you opt for a tower model, you’ll get a polished steel and aluminum base with reversible feet. Don’t want spikes to damage your hardwood floors or carpet? Unscrew the spikes and reverse them, and you’ve got blunt nubs instead.

Oh, and the Sub
The Seismic 110 subwoofer ($1,650) we mated with the Prestige has been part of my reference system since it came out four years ago, and for which a formal review here is long overdue. Paradigm spent a lot of time and money refining this unique sub, and the results are both visible and audible.

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The 37-pound sub’s die-cast aluminum chassis may look massive in photographs but is actually just 13.5 inches tall. Its 10-inch front-firing copolymer polypropylene cone is built in two parts, with the flat outer cone locked onto the voice coil by an unseen inner cone with I-beam cross-section support arms. An inverted surround made of overmolded Santoprene—a material that combines the characteristics of vulcanized rubber and thermoplastic—has corrugations to allow “extreme excursion” while remaining stable and centered. You’ve got to see the driver moving, as well as hear it, to believe it. I’m surprised the 850-watt RMS Class D amp doesn’t make the darned thing fly off the sub and hit the wall.

The sub supports both XLR and RCA connections and meshes with Paradigm’s Perfect Bass Kit for com- puter assisted room correction. It is just the awesomest compact sub ever, and I say that after years of using it.

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Associated equipment included the whole menagerie: a Pioneer Elite VSX-53 A/V receiver, Oppo BDP-83SE universal disc player (for movies and music), Panasonic DMP-BD87 Blu-ray player (for music and streaming), Lenovo Windows 7 laptop, AudioQuest DragonFly v1.2 USB DAC, Meridian Director USB DAC, Micro Seiki BL-21 turntable, Shure V15MxVR/N97XE cartridge, and the phono stage of a Denon PRA-S10 preamp. All movie demos (and the first music demo) were on Blu-ray Disc.

Live Long and Image
Refinement and transparency are Prestige’s prime directives. The 15B monitor and 45C center offer finer-grained mid and high frequencies than the Studio 20 I have enjoyed for so many years, especially with harmonically rich instruments like violins and cymbals. They also offer a clearer window into hi-res content and are a little more candid about the flaws of both associated gear and content. The Prestiges aren’t forgiving speakers; mating them with a midpriced or better receiver would be worth the investment. (I should note in passing that the Studio 20, with its 7-inch woofer, has the advantage in bass. But the Prestige 15B’s 5.5-inch woofer may be more appropriately compared with that of the smaller Studio 10.)

COMPANY INFO
Paradigm Electronics
(905) 564-1994
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
twm1988's picture

Hi Mark, I’ve been waiting for Sound and Vision to post a review of the Prestige series for a while and was hoping you’d be the person to do it seeing as your reference’s have been Studio 20’s for a long time.

Seems like the Prestige outperform the Studio’s in most if not all sonic areas, but I’m also curious how the Prestige compare to the Dynaudio Excite X14’s and center you reviewed a while ago. You mentioned in that review that the only time you missed your Studio’s was during some orchestral music. Would the Dynaudio Excites be in the same league as the Prestige’s in terms of detail resolution, transparency/neutrality, imaging, and soundstage width/depth?

Thanks for any info you can give Mark, and thanks for another excellent review.

Mark Fleischmann's picture
Thanks for your vote of confidence! I reviewed the Paradigms and Dynaudios about a year apart, so when I got to the Paradigms, I didn't have a recent memory of the Dynaudios to work with. I have a pretty good idea of how my Paradigm Studio 20 reference speakers sound because I return to them on a regular basis. Others come and go, and I rely on the published text and measurements as much as you do. My general impression of both manufacturers, gathered over the years, is that Dynaudio prefers a warmer sound, while Paradigm goes for more detail, but that kind of crude generalization may hurt more than it helps.
twm1988's picture

Hey Mark, thanks for the info it does help. I had auditioned Dynaudio Focus 110’s a couple years ago and did also find them a bit too warm. I was just curious about the Excites as the Focus series are now being discontinued and I have never heard the Excites before.

I do favor a neutral speaker with more detail resolution, so long as it’s still refined and not on the bright/harsh side of things. I think I can probably turn my attention elsewhere than the Excites now. I will definitely have a listen to the Prestige’s, along with Revel’s Performa3 M105 which I have heard are a near perfectly neutral speaker as well, without being bright or fatiguing. The Prestige and Performa are probably more fair to compare against each other.

If the Prestige’s add in an Atmos capable version in the near future, would that be enough to push you to upgrade to them from your Studio 20’s?

Thanks for the help again Mark!

Mark Fleischmann's picture
I might go for something more neutral than the Prestige -- that's the chief strength of the Studio 20. I'd also like to get more bass extension so that the speaker can play full-range on occasion. Both the Prestige and the Studio 20 are fine down to my usual sub crossover of 80 Hz but after that they roll off considerably.
twm1988's picture

That's interesting the Prestige's are a bit colored, I would assume the Signature series from Paradigm are much more balanced, though well out of my budget.

Have you heard any of the Revel Performa's Mark? Any reviews I read praise them for their neutrality and balance.

Mark Fleischmann's picture
I've been meaning to do Revel but our other reviewers keep beating me to it. I hope to get a monitor in for review eventually. The only Revel I've reviewed in the past was one of the first-generation towers and that was for another publication.
twm1988's picture

Well I’d be very interested in a review of the Revel bookshelf’s. Luckily my local Paradigm dealer also carries Revel speakers as well, so I will try and get a demo of them sometime soon, maybe see if I can take them both home for a couple days to try with my setup & equipment.

I was also talking with my Dynaudio dealer and I mentioned that I may not be so interested in the Excites anymore, and he suggested I come in and have a listen to the ATC SCM 7 that they carry. Says it’s not as warm as the Dynaudio’s, and is more neutral and detailed but not fatiguing. So there’s another one I will check out too.

Anyway, thanks for your help Mark, and I hope they send a set of Performa’s for you to review sometime!

buckchester's picture

Hi Mark,

Would you mind elaborating on the differences between the Prestige and Studios?

I compared the graphs for each and noticed that these Prestige speakers seem to peak in the high treble range, whereas the Studio 20 v.4s that you measured some years ago did not. They appeared to have a much smoother frequency response. Based on these graphs, I would have expected you to describe the Prestige as sounding brighter in comparison to the Studios. Would this be a correct assumption? If so, am I correct to interpret your review to mean that you still liked the sound of the Prestige more than the Studios?

I’m curious – will you now be replacing your Studio 20s with these new Prestige speakers in your reference system?

Thanks.

Mark Fleischmann's picture
One reason why we publish both subjective text and objective measurements is that they sometimes point in different directions. Readers are welcome to take it all in and reach their own conclusions, as you have done. But once I've written nearly 2,000 words on a subject, I've generally said everything I wanted to say, and dealing with subsequent assumptions and interpretations can only muddy the waters. Re your last question, the answer is no -- the Studio 20s, besides measuring well, are hardwired into my consciousness and it will take a cataclysm to make me replace them. When I do, it will be something equally neutral and Atmos-enabled.
buckchester's picture

It's too bad that the authors here often don't reply to reader comments. I think I'll look elsewhere for my reviews in the future.

Mark Fleischmann's picture
Sorry for the tardy reply. I try to keep up with reviews when they're still on the homepage. After that I generally lose track of them except -- as in this case -- when the web editor calls something to my attention.
GG's picture

Hi Mark. Thanks for this review, especially the update on the little bulldog sub! I'm finally considering some money on subwooferage and would love to know what you think about the Seismic in a room that is ~2800 cu ft? Would it be too little sub for movies/music? Or is that room size fine for a powerful 10 incher like this one? There are cheaper subwoofer alternatives with larger drivers but I'm getting a very good deal on this + PBK kit so I'm leaning toward it. Thanks!

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