Paradigm Persona 5F loudspeaker

Since its founding in 1982, Paradigm has developed and sold high-value loudspeakers. When my wife and I acquired our weekend house in 1992, I selected a pair of Paradigm Esprit/BP speakers for our audio system there. Shortly thereafter, however, I wanted to take my big step into multichannel, and it seemed that the Esprits' bipolar radiation would present problems for multichannel sound in my relatively small room. Back then, Manhattan still had many audio salons; after shopping around, I replaced the Esprit/BPs with Paradigm's Reference Studio/60 v.2s, and in 2004 stepped up to the Studio/60 v.3s.

Although I reviewed succeeding versions of the Studio/60 and acknowledged their sequential improvements, the v.2s remained my reference speakers in Connecticut for more than 10 years. Despite that, I had not ever considered Paradigm speakers for my big system in Manhattan because, as good as the Studio/60s were for the money, Paradigm offered nothing to compete in the high-end market with companies like Bowers & Wilkins, Focal, KEF, Revel, Sonus Faber, Wilson Audio, and many others. With the release of their new Persona series, Paradigm has entered this new and perhaps even more competitive market.

Paradigm's R&D facilities include a 33,000-cubic-foot anechoic chamber, double-blind listening rooms, and a proprietary testing and measurement system derived from those used by Canada's National Research Council. In combination with their 225,000-square-foot factory, they can design and build all major speaker elements in-house. The Persona series includes the 9H, with internally powered and equalized woofers; the floorstanding 7F, 5F, and 3F; the stand-mounted B; the C center-channel model; and the SUB subwoofer. The Persona models share refreshingly modern cabinet designs and a bewildering array of finishes, with options of five standard and 18 premium cabinet colors (add $2550/pair), two colors of metalwork (front panel and base), two colors for the midrange and tweeter lenses, two colors for the woofer cones, and three colors for the grille: a total of 552 possible combinations.

But before wrestling with all those options, the first choice should be of a particular model. I opted for the 5F: its size suited my room, its price fit my comfort zone, and it's a three-way floorstander with enough low-frequency extension—down to 23Hz—to satisfy me.

As for the technology of the 5F and its brethren, the magic word is beryllium. The Persona tweeter is a 1" beryllium dome whose voice-coil fits a magnetic pole-piece designed using finite-element analysis, and the motor assembly is damped and cooled with ferrofluid. To optimize the dome's dispersion, it sits behind a phase-aligning perforated grille, or acoustic lens.


While beryllium tweeters are used in many high-end speakers, beryllium midrange diaphragms are far more rare. The 5F's 7" beryllium midrange has a 1.5" voice-coil and is crossed over to the tweeter at 2.4kHz. With most drivers, in considering the relationship between the frequencies being propagated and the possibility of audible break-up modes, such a large size might be a problem. However, the 5F's diaphragm of pure beryllium is rigid and light enough that cone breakup should be sufficiently high in frequency not to be a problem. Also, the phase-aligning perforated lens, similar to the one covering the tweeter, should control any problems of dispersion/beaming due to the driver's size. To those considerations one might add another: the 5F's 7" midrange driver, with its large magnetic motor and shock mounting, should increase midrange power handling with no negative consequences due to its size. Despite beryllium in finished solid form being robust, it is brittle—the acoustic lenses Paradigm installs over its beryllium drivers also serve to prevent anyone from directly touching and breaking the element.

The Persona 5F has three 7" woofers, each affixed to the inner surface of the heavy cast-aluminum baffle, which conceals their frames and suspensions. Like the midrange driver, the woofers are shocked-mounted (isolated) from the front panel and have 1.5" voice-coils. They handle only frequencies below 450Hz, but at relatively higher power levels, and instead of beryllium they're made of Paradigm's denser X-PAL (for "pure aluminum") material; a new Active Ridge suspension for better-controlled compliance and a massive magnetic assembly are also featured. They're loaded by a bass-reflex enclosure formed from seven layers of HDF, bonded to one another and shaped under high pressure, with RF waves used to accelerate the curing process. The cabinet is vented through a downfiring port in the speaker's bottom panel, into a space created by the metal pedestal on which the speaker sits.

918para.250.jpgThe Persona 5F is quite attractive. The pair I received was finished in metallic Aria Blue with silver metalwork, lenses, and cones, but without grilles—they cut striking figures in my room. I liked how the silver lenses and cones blended into the silver of the baffle, while the deep blue of the curved-back, slant-top enclosure subtly receded from my visual attention, minimizing the prominence of these substantial objects in the room while leaving no doubt as to their raison d'àtre.

The Persona 5Fs were easy to maneuver and position. I removed the provided jumpers and plugged sets of AudioQuest Oak/DBS biwire cables from a pair of Classé Signature Mono monoblocks into the four posts on each speaker. I also jacked up each speaker's rear two feet just a bit, to slightly tilt down the tweeter axes, and toed them in until they were aimed directly at my head as I sat in my listening spot. They sounded just a bit bright, but I eased that by toeing them out first by about 5°, then up to 15°.

To get an idea of the Persona 5F's sound, I began with Leif Ove Andsnes's loving survey of the piano music of Sibelius (CD, Sony Classical 88985 40850-2). His piano was clear and rounded, with good prominence. There seemed to be no obvious emphasis of bass or treble, and though my intention was only to sample the album, the Paradigms seduced me into listening to all of it. It reassured me that my setup of the 5Fs was more than acceptable. I was ready to dive deep into music and sound.

I listened to some of my usual suspects. Gerald Finzi's song "Come away, death," sung by mezzo-soprano Marianne Beate Kielland accompanied by pianist Sergej Osadchuk (24-bit/192kHz stereo PCM download from SACD/CD, 2L 2L-064-SACD), and "Can't Stand the Rain," from Sara K.'s Hell or High Water (CD, Stockfisch SFR 357.4039.2), sounded pure and whole. Kielland seemed to stand a bit back from the speaker plane, and I heard her draw breath before singing—a subtle and natural introduction to hearing to her light, lovely tones. Sara K. was closer to the microphone, but with just enough space for her voice, much darker in tone and pitch than Kielland's, to fit into the ambience. Through the Personas, both were as convincingly realistic as I have ever heard them.

Paradigm Electronics Inc.
205 Annagem Boulevard
Mississauga, Ontario L5T 2V1
(905) 564-1994

mtrot's picture

Excellent! Your impressions reflect exactly mine about the 3F. Considering that Paradigm only rates low frequency extension to be 1Hz deeper with the 5F over the 3F, I'm wondering under what circumstances it would behoove someone to pony up the extra dollars for the 5F.

gabemtz83's picture

dont base the frequency response based on a spec sheet. The 5F sounds tremendously bigger than the 3F. I own both Persona 7Fs and 5Fs. I recently put the 5F's in my theater room after days of comparing to the 3F. As i already own a set of 7F's in my living room, it was gonna be hard to convince myself to spend the difference for the 5F. After hours of comparing the two i had to go with the 5Fs. They sound so much bigger! Thats saying a lot because the 3F is an incredible speaker!

Kal Rubinson's picture

I cannot say but I recently heard the 3f and didn't find the bass lacking. However, that was under unusual and unfamiliar circumstances.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Is 5F "Persona non grata"? :-)..........

Indydan's picture

I've owned 3 pairs of Paradigms at different price points. I find them good for home theater, but there are more refined speakers for music.

gabemtz83's picture

Persona is not your average paradigm!

Johnseye's picture

I think one of Kal's points was that the Persona's aren't what you've heard from Paradigm in the past. I would agree 100%.

yooperaudio's picture

Thanks for the enjoyable review of the Paradigm speakers. I noticed your comment about the Benchmark AHB2s (which I own) - is the known feature of the AHB2s that you referenced just that they reveal a lot of detail, or that they reveal detail better when floor-standing speakers are positioned in a straight-ahead position (30 deg. off-axis to your nose)? Mine are at about 25 deg. off-axis now (about 5 deg. toe-in from straight ahead), and they are doing very well, but I've never thought of pointing the speakers straight ahead to hear what happens. I've got an equilateral triangle setup, with my seating position maybe 10-12" father out from equilateral apex. Guess I'll try it - thanks again!

Kal Rubinson's picture

This is a work in progress. I have been listening to some speakers "on-axis" with the AHB2s and, for multichannel, prefer it. However, it is not always possible for other speakers.

jeffhenning's picture

"AHB2 question about speaker positioning..."

" the known feature of the AHB2s that you referenced just that they reveal a lot of detail, or that they reveal detail better when floor-standing speakers are positioned in a straight-ahead position (30 deg. off-axis to your nose)? Mine are at about 25 deg. off-axis now (about 5 deg. toe-in from straight ahead), and they are doing very well, but I've never thought of pointing the speakers straight ahead to hear what happens. I've got an equilateral triangle setup, with my seating position maybe 10-12" father out from equilateral apex."

"I have been listening to some speakers "on-axis" with the AHB2s and, for multichannel, prefer it. However, it is not always possible for other speakers."

Seems like a lot talk about speaker positioning and the amp being used.

Again, an AHB2 will have no effect on the speaker's in room frequency response and the speaker's radiation pattern.

Do you need more explanation?

Kal Rubinson's picture

The first two quotes are from another poster and the third does not even imply anything like what you infer. I do not require anything further of you. (This is not to say that I am disputing what you have posted.)

jeffhenning's picture

Your speakers and their frequency response, group delay and dispersion patterns will have several (or several dozen) orders more effect on where you position them in room than the amp driving them. Most likely it will make no difference at all with a load invariant amp like the AHB2.

There is no amp on the planet better than the AHB2. There are a couple manufacturers that make amps on par with Benchmark. Not one of them costs less than 200% more than an AHB2.

I digress though.

Your amp is not the solution or problem. Your speakers and room acoustics are the problem. No amp can fix them. You need better speakers or better acoustics or both.

If you can't win races with an engine that has more HP than everyone else, you should be looking at the set up of your car. And if that is as good as everyone else's, then, you need to look at who is behind the wheel. That works on every race track in the world.

The analogy is valid.

Just sayin'.

Kal Rubinson's picture

I do not know who or what you are addressing in your post. No one has suggested that any of the three amps were a problem or a solution. We are talking about one specific pair of speakers. Just sayin'.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Is it possible to get in-room frequency response for KR's listening room like JA's and MF's listening rooms? :-) .............

Kal Rubinson's picture

AFAIK, JA does measurements in the reviewer's home listening room in cases where the product (usually a loudspeaker) is too large and heavy to be efficiently shipped or for him to physically manuever on his own. In recent memory, he measured the BeoLab90 speakers in my room.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

BTW ......... These Persona 5F speakers are approximately the same price as the Kii Three active, built-in DSP speakers which were favorably reviewed by KR and listed under Class-A Stereophile :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

For passive speakers we could use external EQ/DSP for optimizing the in-room response and to suit personal listening preferences. Lot of home theater processors(pre-pros)/receivers come with built-in EQ/DSP, for example :-) .........

KR reviewed several such external EQ/DSP products in the Stereophile recommended component list :-) ..........

dalethorn's picture

There's a product (a tweak) you can find in most audiophile shops, which looks like a coat hanger with cupped hands on each end. You wear it on your shoulders/neck like a collar and the 'hands' sit behind your ears. The soundstage and sense of aliveness it brings are amazing, and given that the 'hands' can be turned a few degrees each direction helps to tune the response.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Sure, we could use DSP/EQ and, generally, I do. But for stand-alone reviews (i.e., not in my column "Music in the Round"), I always set up and assess the product as will the majority of readers: Without DSP/EQ unless built into the product. The reason is to report on the inherent capability of the product as it comes from the manufacturer.

Now, I am aware that this seems like a false dichotomy because there is no justification for abjuring DSP/EQ with stereo and yet to rely on it for multichannel. I do use for both!

dalethorn's picture

I wouldn't want to take this too far off course, but ..... there are many equipment reviews here that describe (apparently) small differences in sound, where such differences justify a significant expenditure. So when an external/addon DSP is figured in, not only would we be talking about much larger differences in sound due to the user's DSP settings, but I would expect at least small differences in sound from the DSP itself when the settings are flat, neutral, or otherwise zeroed out - just because the DSP was added into the signal path.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be you could review the latest DEQX flagship model HDP-5? :-) ............

Kal Rubinson's picture

I did review the DEQX PreMate in 2014. Is there a compelling reason to review the HDP-5?

Bogolu Haranath's picture

I know about your review of the DEQX PreMate ........... I read that review ......... The new HDP-5 has additional capabilities including Roon ...... You can check the DEQX website .......... May be a follow-up review, if possible :-) .........

Kal Rubinson's picture

I do not think the inclusion of Roon justifies consideration since Roon is a known matter. Are there any other significant and new inclusions?

I am not trying to be difficult (although it may seem so) because I am a big fan of DEQX and would consider using it if they offered something that was suitable for my multichannel system. The issue is whether there is a reason for a follow-up.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

From what I see from the DEQX website, we may need several HDP-5 units for multi-channel configuration ...... My interpretation may not be correct ......... You may have to directly communicate with the manufacturer and/or a representative. I'm sure they are gonna be happy to communicate with you. Your review is featured on their website :-) ...........

Kal Rubinson's picture

True. They know of my interest but they have not determined that it is worthwhile for them to make a single device appropriate for a multichannel system. I would love a 6-8channel DEQX.

Russellbobby's picture

and haven't looked back.
Even though they have similar measurements to the 3F they just sound much "bigger". Heard these at Axpona with a pair of Mono Mcintosh MC611 doing 1 kilowatt peaks and these speakers never even shivered. 105 db at 20 ft in a 30x60x20 banquet room. Just saying they will rock as well as play as intimate as you like.
I am only 20 inches off my front wall but still have front to back depth between players. The beauty of the down firing port as you don't need a lot of room with these speakers. Running a couple of Odyssey Kismet monos and a MicroZotl 2.0S and they sound pretty damn nice. Much better in the mid and lower bass and a much more balanced sound overall than the Magico's.

MDKELLY504 Atreides's picture

I own the Signature 6S’s; anyone compare the Performa 5F speakers to the Signatures?