Paradigm S-1 Signature Speaker Review

Apr 3, 2010
16,022
0
0
Seattle, WA
#1
As some of you know, my company is a dealer for Paradigm speakers. Originally, our goal was to mostly carry their in-wall products due to emphasis we have on good performing technology that fits people’s home décor. But no sooner than we listed the brand on our web site, we started to get a lot of calls, and I mean A LOT OF CALLS, from people wanting to buy the traditional floor standing units. So to take advantage of this opportunity, we decided to showcase a good sampling of Paradigms for our show floor.

If you have not looked, Paradigm makes a broad range of products. Not wanting to make our place look like the typical stereo box store, we wanted to be selective about what we showed. I must admit, I was rather resistant in carrying their smallest units. We have a focus on high-performance products and I just couldn’t see a little box performing well enough, especially in a large showroom (our space is wide open). But my team pushed by saying there were a lot of calls for their smaller units. So we decided to bring in two of their smallest speakers: The Atom and Signature S-1. I will write up another article on Atom and will focus on S-1 here.

S-1 is part of the Paradigm premier Signature line which itself as part of the Reference line (I know it is confusing but stay with me). The line has beautiful curved panels, best finishes, and their best performing transducers in them. This also means that it is the most expensive in the line. But being a Paradigm, the retail prices are still pretty reasonable by high-end measures. The S-1 is the smallest and lowest cost unit at $1,795 MSRP.

Here is a picture of our setup and the S1:



You can see the S1nestled between the supreme S8 to the right ($16,000), and Studio 20 to the left ($1,300).

Here is a close up:



You can see the diminutive size relative to my Motorola Droid2 phone. The whole thing is just twice as tall as my cell phone! We are talking small guys here. In the words of a friend who came to see them, “I could have 5 of these and no one would hardly see them in my room!”

Our source was a touch-screen Lenovo PC, filled with our reference tracks which we have listened to countless times now since I created them a while back.

To power this speaker, the first thought was to drive it with the Peachtree Nova. This is an $1,100 DAC+amp. It has an 80 Watt amp. The speakers did sound good with these but the real moment was when we hooked it up to the Mark Levinson 532H, 200 Watt/Channel, dual-mono amplifier ($8,000) with the Nova acting as the DAC via the USB connection. OK, shoot me. That is the “smallest” amp we had on hand :D. Our new reference amp had arrived for the Revel side of the house and we retired the 532H placeholder to the Paradigm section.

The 532H really transformed the sound of these little gems. The highs became pristine clean. The mid-range was sweet and distortion free. Now get this. With the 532H, there was quite a good amount of bass. I had to keep telling visitors to put their hands on the speakers as they would think the S-8s were playing instead!

This was a revelation to me. I would have never intuitively tried to “over amp” small speakers like this but here I was. To confirm, we went back to the Nova. This time the difference was even more apparent. The highs became edgy, the bass lose, and the sound was just muddy. To be sure, it was still “hi fi” sound. But clearly the Nova was holding back what these little speakers could do.

We then compared the S1 against the S8. It was remarkable how much family resemblance there was. Tonally they sounded nearly identical. The highs and mids were exceptionally close. Of course, the bass improved fair bit now. But that was mostly it. You were not getting cheap sound vs. expensive but rather, the same experience with somewhat reduced bottom-end.

A lot of credit goes to Paradigm for taking such a small package, and at such low cost to reproduce sound so good and so clean.

Spec wise, these speakers have 8 ohm nominal impedance. Sensitivity is 87/90db spl. Frequency response varies +-2db from 65 Hz - 45 kHz (20 Khz off axis). Low frequency extension is 43 Hz. No wonder there is good bass there.

If you want to build a high-value but high-performance system, I can’t recommend these speakers highly enough. Their tiny size allows them to disappear in the room making it an easier sell to whoever approves your purchases :D.
 
May 30, 2010
14,254
126
63
Portugal
#5
(...)
This was a revelation to me. I would have never intuitively tried to “over amp” small speakers like this but here I was. To confirm, we went back to the Nova. This time the difference was even more apparent. The highs became edgy, the bass lose, and the sound was just muddy. To be sure, it was still “hi fi” sound. But clearly the Nova was holding back what these little speakers could do. (...)
I really appreciate your terminology "over amp". The first time I remember doing it was using a Krell KSA300 driven by a cj preamplifier to power a pair of minuscule Rogers LS3/5a. The effect was beyond expectation - an enormous and spacious sound stage, the sound become much more dynamic and with greater presence and drive.

More recently I was present to a fantastic demo - the Magico Mini 2's driven by an Audio Research Ref 610T. Even audiophiles owning very large speakers with great bass questioned where the subwoofers was hiding, such was the authority of this system.

I am very curious to listen to the 532H. IMHO, the ML23.5 and ML20.6 were fantastic amplifiers to drive small speakers, the following line lost somewhat this capacity of "sounding great". Very good news that the new amplifiers have "it" again.
 
Jul 1, 2010
8,713
0
0
#6
When I did my last speaker search (and I really do hope it was my Last Speaker Search), before I turned toward the active option, very high on my consideration set was an "over amped" set of large Paradigm stand mounts - could have been the S1 or its predecessor. They were remarkable speakers that punched way above their weight, given enough grunt. It was, however, going to cost much more to over amp passives than I spent on my massively over-amped actives (325 watts per channel) without the advantages of active crossover, cable elimination and reduced clutter. Still, those Paradigms sounded very, very good. I think you'd have to go very far up the food chain to do better on the same scale.

Tim
 

JackD201

[WBF Founding Member]
Apr 21, 2010
11,053
33
48
Manila, Philippines
#7
I have fond memories of "over amping" Contour 1.1s with my 23.5. I've also "over amped", LSA 1 Statements and VSA VR-1s and VR-2s with Lamm M2.2s. Good fun!

My daughter has B&W 303s partnered with an old Yamaha amp. Hand me downs from years past. Hooked up to a Bel Canto Integrated I was shocked at what the lightweight shrill and muddy little things had in 'em.

It appears there's wisdom in overfeeding small monitors :)
 
#11
IMO you can never have too much power.
Steve,

I beg to differ. As you may recall, I was getting too much rush or hiss running through my 105 dB/1w/1m efficient OMA New Yorker speakers (they only require 1/2 to 2 1/2 watts to be loud) more so with my 400 watt class A/B @ 8 ohm and 125 watts class A Aragon Palladium 1K than I was with my Krell KAV-250a/3 250 watts class A/B, 60 watts class A amps. But, neither of these amps have any gain control. My First Watt M2 25 watts class A amp is much better for this aplication with only a small amount of noise. This amp is much more than is need and provides the kind of power that is being referred to for speakers of more moderate sensitivity.

Rich
 
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#13
Hi Steve,

Yes the gain control comes from either the Preamp of the Phono Preamp when used for variable output. But, as I was pointing out for extremely sensive speakers there is such a thing as too much power. The amps alone even without the Preamp or the Phono Preamp caused the rush or hiss. Both the Aragon and Krell amps had a sensitivity of about -118 dB.

Rich
 
Apr 3, 2010
16,022
0
0
Seattle, WA
#14
One word about speaker sensitivity: unless it is stated at the full frequency range, it could be at just 1 Khz or wherever the speaker does well which may not be a match for the spectrum of hiss or general noise.. In that sense, sensitivity ratings of speakers are not good predictors of whether you will or will not hear noise.

To wit, we had a digital amp that had a hiss on our near 100 db efficient Wisdom speakers. We took the amp and hooked it up to Revel Salon 2s which are some 15 db less efficient and the noise was there essentially unchanged!
 
#15
One word about speaker sensitivity: unless it is stated at the full frequency range, it could be at just 1 Khz or wherever the speaker does well which may not be a match for the spectrum of hiss or general noise.. In that sense, sensitivity ratings of speakers are not good predictors of whether you will or will not hear noise.

To wit, we had a digital amp that had a hiss on our near 100 db efficient Wisdom speakers. We took the amp and hooked it up to Revel Salon 2s which are some 15 db less efficient and the noise was there essentially unchanged!
Amir,

I can not say for sure, but I know that when Jonathan Weiss was going over the print out for my speakers (they are/were the one and only since they are the Prototypes) that basically for the whole frequency range they had a sensitivity of a little above to a little below but overall 104.5 or 105 dB/1w/1m. But again, the Aragon Palladium 1k amps were noisier than the Krell amps with these speakers which were much noisier than the First Watt. The same Aragon Palladium 1K and Krell amp had perfectly acceptable amounts of noise with my more normal Nola LCR Reference or Viper IIA speakers, my rebuilt Dahlquist DQ-10 speakers, or my Dahlquist DQ-6 speakers.

Rich
 
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May 30, 2010
14,254
126
63
Portugal
#17
One word about speaker sensitivity: unless it is stated at the full frequency range, it could be at just 1 Khz or wherever the speaker does well which may not be a match for the spectrum of hiss or general noise.. In that sense, sensitivity ratings of speakers are not good predictors of whether you will or will not hear noise.
My experience is similar to yours. I have also found that most times the advertised speaker sensitivity is of limited value. May be because they are taken in anechoic conditions, once you put the speakers in a real room the relative efficiencies can differ by as much as 3dB from published when measured with pink noise.
 
Feb 8, 2011
19,285
84
48
Vancouver Island, B.C. Canada
#18
Oh Canada!

Some manufacturers like Paradigm give you two loudspeaker's sensitivity; one for in-room, and the other in anechoic chamber.
The variance is about 3 dB.

Paradigm also give you two types of frequency response: one with a +/-2 dB from the low to the high of 22 Khz, and the other up to 15 Khz.
Also they give you the bass response for in-room (minus 3 dB), and bass usability (about minus 10 dB).

Paradigm is one of the companies that is true to their numbers!

There are other great Canadian loudspeaker companies like Paradigm that you can trust their specs! ...Mirage, Energy, Axiom, Coincident, Totem, PSB, and several others...

Canadians are the real deal! :) ...And proud to be one! ...Now sing with me; Oh Canada!... :D
 
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Apr 3, 2010
16,022
0
0
Seattle, WA
#19
Canadians are the real deal! :) ...And proud to be one! ...Now sing with me; Oh Canada!... :D
If they only knew this to be true :). The other day I had a Canadian guy in. You should have seen his jaw drop when I told him Paradigm was Canadian and the history of the company and such. He had no idea. It is a bit like our population not knowing who our Vice President is! http://www.newsweek.com/2011/03/20/how-dumb-are-we.html

"How Dumb Are We?

When NEWSWEEK recently asked 1,000 U.S. citizens to take America’s official citizenship test, 29 percent couldn’t name the vice president. Seventy-three percent couldn’t correctly say why we fought the Cold War. Forty-four percent were unable to define the Bill of Rights. And 6 percent couldn’t even circle Independence Day on a calendar."

Oh boy.
 
Feb 8, 2011
19,285
84
48
Vancouver Island, B.C. Canada
#20
Amir, I already knew about all those poor facts! :)

Also Paradigm build all their drivers in house, for the people living in the darkness! :D
{I've been following my Canadian companies (electronics, loudspeakers...) since the sixties!}
 

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