Paradigm's Founder 120H loudspeaker & Anthem Electronics

My first surprise of the day came when I squeezed what I thought was Colgate from a red-and-white tube onto my toothbrush. It turned out to be hydrocortisone cream, also from a red-and-white tube.

Mistakes were made. F-bombs were used. Obsessive rinsing and spitting ensued.

After that, I ventured out and got my second surprise, this one considerably more pleasant.

In one of the third-floor Saturday Audio Exchange rooms (SAE is one of Chicagoland's oldest audio stores), I encountered a new flagship Paradigm loudspeaker, the floorstanding Founder 120H ($8499/pair). Driving it were an Anthem STR preamp ($4299) and its STR power-amp twin ($6499), both pictured below.

These glossy, slightly tapered Canadian speakers are special in three ways. First, they're partially self-powered. An internal amplifier drives the three 8'' low-mass, high-excursion carbon-cone woofers, leaving an external amp to feed the aluminum/magnesium-ceramic tweeter and the 6'' aluminum/magnesium-cone midrange driver. The 120Hs are the only hybrids in Paradigm's six-product Founder line.

Second, Paradigm includes Genesis room-correction with each 120H it sells. Nice.

Third and most important, sonics. Just a hair over 45'' tall, these are not huge speakers. But they sounded huge, with room-pressurizing bass so deep (low-frequency extension down to 18Hz!) that it should have been coming from a cabinet with double the volume. Are the laws of physics different up in Canada?

On the wonderful "Jazz Variants" by O-Zone Percussion Group, there was just one thing that impressed me more than the almost boundless dynamics: timbral accuracy. Every strike from a range of drums and hand percussion—from massive timpani to itty-bitty bells—sounded full, clear, and real.

I'm told that the Founder series got its name from Paradigm founder Scott Bagby, who bought back the company from US investment firm Shoreview a few years ago; and that these are his first products after the comeback. I don't know anything about how Shoreview managed or influenced Paradigm. I do know that audio companies tend to benefit from the ideas and dedication of an owner who balances profit with passion.

Obviously I haven't heard every other contender, but of all the speakers I've listened to in the crowded sub-$10k realm, the 120H would be my first choice for an extended home trial.

George S's picture

These were really nice speakers. I was very impressed with the demo I heard.