Paradigm Reference Studio 60 v.5 loudspeaker Page 2
One emergent advantage of all this was the ability of the Studio 60 v.5 to resolve great detail in choruses and massed instruments. Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall," from Burmester's Art for the Ear (CD 2), was a real treat. Listening to that track, I was impressed with the low-bass power and extension that Paradigm can get out of three 5.5" drivers. It may not have been what you get from a real subwoofer or a well-loaded woofer of 1215" diameter, but within its limitations it was tight and defined, and could impart a visceral impact when required.
That left the treble to be considered, and here I don't have a lot to say. Earlier Studio models were criticized for their tendency to sound bright, particularly off axis, making critical their placement with respect to reflective room boundaries. Perhaps it was because the v.5's small mid-woofer was blending more smoothly with the tweeter's output, but I found the high end natural and transparent. Percussive accents, such as those on many tracks of Willie Nelson's Night and Day (DVD-Audio, Surrounded By SBE-1001-9), were right where they belonged instead of excessively highlighted.
Overall, the Studio 60 v.5 had an open, engaging sound. Dynamics, within the ambit of the hardware, were excellent as well. The soundstage was wide and deep but not recessed. If anything, I felt a greater sense of presence from many recordings, though I don't think this fits the traditional use of the word forward to label bright or peaky loudspeakers. On the other hand, this sort of sound won't be kind to bright or peaky recordings, and is atypical of the slightly recessed midrange of traditional "audiophile" sound.
I also did some listening in multichannel with two v.5s in the front, supported by my old Studio 20s in the rear and, on the bottom, the new Paradigm Sub15 subwoofer. All the attributes of the v.5s' two-channel performance were retained, including excellent and stable center-image fill, so long as I sat somewhere near the centerline. Bass management set to 40Hz, with different pre-pros, room EQs, and sub positions, freed the v.5s of any significant dynamic constraints. This, too, underscored the performance capacity of the v.5's low end: with a 40Hz crossover, only the very bottom musical octave was attenuated.
Friends and Relatives
I recall finding the Studio 60 v.3 an improvement on the v.2, but the magnitude of the improvement was small. Not so with the Studio v.5, which is a clear advance over the v.3, no doubt resulting from the v.5's entirely new cabinet design and construction and reconfigured driver array. The v.3's bass extension seems a bit greater than the v.5's due to the former's bigger drivers and cabinet, but this comes, I think, at the cost of a bit of woolliness. This I concluded after applying careful bass/room EQ to both models, which resulted in bass performance from the smaller, more stylish v.5 that was nearly equal that of the v.3. As for the rest of the two models' sounds, it was like wiping clear a slightly cloudy window: until then, I didn't appreciate how much I'd been missing. The v.5 is still a Paradigm Reference Studio, but more enjoyable in every way than its predecessor.
In the June 2009 Stereophile I reviewed the PSB Imagine T, a similar Canadian loudspeaker with similar pricing; a comparison seemed obligatory. First, the PSB's cabinet is smaller and contains two 5.25" cones, compared with the Paradigm's three 5.5" drivers. The result of this is somewhat predictable: More bass was apparent from the Paradigm than I could get from the PSB, despite all my experimentation with the latter's port plugs. Second, there were cabinet resonances that I could easily feel on the PSB's top and side panels (and which are visible in JA's fig.3, on p.71 in June), and while I couldn't detect any such on the Paradigm, neither of the PSB's resonances seemed to have any audible consequence.
On the other side of the ledger, the PSB's smaller cabinet is likely to be accepted into more living rooms, and its real-wood finish is simply spectacular. Paradigm's veneer, while also of excellent real wood, lacks the Imagine T's cathedral grain-matching. Paradigm also has that signature metal base on the front, giving it a more modern but slightly more "macho" appearance; whether one prefers that to the PSB's cleaner look is a matter of taste.
The really big feature of the PSB, though, is its midrange clarity, which impressed me from the get-go, and which Paradigm closely approaches in the v.5. But here the PSB Imagine T still has the edge, as was evident with chamber music, solo voices, and small jazz groups. Choosing between them might hinge on your music preferences: The Paradigm could clearly handle Pink Floyd and Mahler with aplomb; the Imagine T needed the support of a subwoofer to provide comparable satisfaction.
Kudos to Paradigm for breaking the mold of a successful design in order to improve it. I can't think of any parameter in which the Reference Studio 60 v.5 is not a significant advance on its predecessors. Keeping in mind that the earlier Studio 60s were themselves pace-setters in their day, the Studio 60 v.5 sets the bar even higher for both performance and appearance.