Paradigm Persona 5F loudspeaker Page 2

Male voices, too, were excellent across the range, even though, at the lower end, their reproduction is a function of room interaction as much as of the speakers and the voices themselves. Given that my room acoustics have not changed over the years nor have the positions where I have placed most loudspeakers, the Persona 5Fs' midbass and bass were as clean and defined as those of any conventional speaker I've used. Consequently, Hans Theesink on "Late Last Night" (from Call Me, CD, Blue Groove BG-4020) sounded warmly gruff, but a bit less weighty than through some speakers. However, I definitely got the impression that the 5Fs were getting it right—I'd had the same reaction to Theesink's voice with speakers using DSP to minimize boundary interactions, such as the Kii Audio Three and the Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90. The Paradigms accomplished much the same thing but without the bells and whistles. I could hear no trade-offs, such as a loss of character, with Theesink or other low-voiced singers—eg, Leonard Cohen and Gottlob Frick.

Grouped voices were equally satisfying through the Persona 5Fs, as demonstrated by a 24/88.2 file, engineered and provided by John Atkinson, of The First Tears, from The Doors of Heaven, an album of music by Eriks Ešenvalds performed by the Portland State Chamber Choir, directed by Ethan Sperry (CD, Naxos 8.579008). The soundstage was beautifully open, spacious, and specific at low and gloriously high volume levels. The balance of bass through treble was excellent overall, and I was impressed by the Personas' ability to clearly resolve subtle shifts in dynamics. These qualities remained consistent at all listening levels.


Speaking of dynamics, the 5Fs were capable of more than just subtlety—really big dynamic shifts could be explosive. I was inspired to pull out "Return of the Garage Door," from Hi-Fi News & Record Review's Test Disc III (CD, Hi-Fi News HFN 020). Over the years, I've played this mostly to impress and terrify newbies, though I've become somewhat inured to it. But playing it through the 5Fs at a level that experience had taught me was reasonable, I jumped up off my couch twice—once when the recordist, Mike Skeet, closed the door, and again, even faster, when he banged on it. And that was in full knowledge of what I was about to hear—or so I'd thought.

This experience loosened up my volume-control restraint, and I let the Personas run free. I rounded up some tracks that have been (ab)used in the past to impress audiophiles at audio shows, just to see how the Persona 5Fs would handle them. I began with a live recording: "Stimela (The Coal Train)," from Hugh Masekela's Hope (SACD/CD, Triloka/Razor & Tie/Analogue Productions APJ 82020). It's not that massive forces are recorded here, but here are Masekela's trumpet and voice, his band expanded, the entire audience, all in a lively acoustic. Taken together, Masekela's singing, shouting, and playing, the percussion battery's pulsing crescendi, the brass, and the enthusiastic crowd's joyous responses just grab me and wrap me in their emotions. With just two Persona 5Fs driven by generous amplification, I enjoyed the thrilling sensation of having surrendered any disbelief that I hadn't been swept away to Blues Alley, in Washington, DC, in the summer of 1993.

Then came some classic orchestral demos from Telarc and Reference Recordings (pick your favorites) with their deep, spacious soundstages, their brass choirs expounding from the backs of stages to left and right, and, of course, their signature timpani and bass-drum thwacks. It was like going back to the audio shows of the past, when such demonstrations fed my sound obsessions at a time when I had little hope of being able to afford the huge, room-filling speakers I was hearing. It amazes me that these Paradigms could re-create the same sort of imposing sound in my (and my neighbors'!) living room, though they're but a fraction of the size of those behemoths of the not-so-distant past. Price? Well, that's another story—$17,000 is still a lot of money for a pair of speakers, even if it ain't nearly what it used to be.


Enough about showing off. What about beauty? Zemlinksky's tone poem Die Seejungfrau (The Mermaid), based on the Hans Christian Andersen tale, is all about seduction, and communicates in a language at the nexus of Wagner, Mahler, and Debussy. In a recent live recording with Cornelius Meister leading the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra (CD, CPO 777 962-2), the opening is a warm, inviting carpet of low strings that smoothly rolls into the languorous, sweet surging of the upper strings, then the glory of the full orchestra. Dynamic outbursts punctuate a rising urgency followed by similar but elevated sequences of mounting emotions. The ebullient opening and the alternating brisk and lilting passages of the second movement are refreshing, while the mood of the third begins like that of the first, but soon swells with joy and satisfaction. Through this work, a symphony in all but name, the orchestra was seamlessly presented by the Persona 5Fs, from the depths through the peaks, the sound of the Vienna Konzerthaus embracing me, complete with occasional but unobtrusive audience noises. The low strings and timpani had weight and detail, and never became clouded or boomy at high levels, attesting to the firm control of the Personas' woofers.

A good acoustic environment, coupled with Paradigm's engineering, made for truly satisfying bass, and the abiding quality of the Persona 5Fs' bass performance had been easy to achieve because I pretty much know the best spots for it in my room. This was aptly demonstrated with a fascinating new recording, Paddle to the Sea, by Third Coast Percussion (CD, Cedille CDR 175). The title work, composed by the ensemble, is based on the classic children's book and film of the same name. Also included are works by Philip Glass and Jacob Druckman, and an arrangement of a traditional chant from Zimbabwe. Filled with simple melodies, a few with a Latin flavor, that are curiously gripping, this is not a smash-bang percussion disc. I listened with delight through the Personas for the details of some very low, soft tones from what sounds like a marimba, through a range of exotic instruments tapped or stroked, to the very pure tintinnabulation of small bells. The title piece also includes some natural sea sounds. The entire disc is mesmerizing.

But it's those bells that remind me to comment on something about the upper treble of the 5F that had nothing to do with quality, as the sound was consistently transparent. It was the balance of the HF around, I'm guessing, 10kHz, that at first seemed a bit prominent with respect to the upper midrange. This was why, during my original setup with the Classé Monos, I gradually angled the 5Fs more laterally, from 5° to near 15°, with reference to when they are aimed directly at my nose (0°), in order to restore a satisfying balance.


However, each time I switched power amps, it was necessary to readdress the interaction of HF balance and speaker toe-in. With the Parasound Halo A 31, the sound was not much different from that with the Classé Monos, but I found it more tolerable in the HF, allowing full enjoyment at toe-in angles closer to on-axis. In hindsight, the Halo A 31 may have been a better match to the 5Fs from the outset, but it may not have let me recognize the critical need to carefully adjust the toe-in. On the other hand, with the 5Fs at the original reference 15°, the insertion of the Benchmark AHB2 amps demanded yet another adjustment. What worked with this combination was to have the 5Fs face directly forward, so that the line from the tweeter to my nose was about 30° off axis. In those positions, the 5Fs seemed to better reveal details (a known feature of the Benchmark). I became more aware of the subtle instrumental accompaniment in Ešenvalds's The First Tears, and how the speakers "disappeared" from the soundstage like aural Cheshire Cats. None of the three amps had any difficulty powering the 5Fs at any level, high or low.

Compared to my reference Bowers & Wilkins 802 D3 Diamond speakers, the 5F is more "lean and mean"—its bass is much tighter and it lacks the larger B&W's "authority" in the upper bass. The 5F's midrange was a tad more delineated but it was also more forward harmonically and in presentation. On the other hand, I felt there was a practical advantage in the 5Fs' ability to maintain balance and a coherent soundstage at very low listening levels.

Overall, Paradigm's Persona 5F is a truly excellent speaker in a stylish and easily accommodated package. It need not be favored with any particular type of music or listening level, and aside from requiring some attention paid to toe-in, it was very easy to set up. Throughout my time with the Persona 5Fs, their sound quality repeatedly sidetracked me from my job of critical analysis. Often, I planned to only sample an album or work but found I couldn't resist the temptation to enjoy the whole thing. I believe that the Persona 5F is a more-than-worthy competitor for any similarly priced speaker, and deserves to be considered when shopping in this market. For Paradigm, it's an auspicious entry into the thinner air of high-end audio. Welcome.

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?