Sugg. Retail: $1050CA, $899 US /pr
Gosh, I can remember when the Reference Series was new and hot, but I guess that was back when we were recording the Chuck Israels Quartet out in Bellingham with a pair of Studio 20s as monitors. They were awfully good then, and the v.4 successors aim to be better. Here’s how: “1[inch] (25mm) G-PALTM Gold-Anodized Pure Aluminum Domes (also developed for our award-winning Signature Series) chosen for their exceptional rigidity and improved internal damping. The reduced radius of curvature on the tweeter diaphragm has also brought about significant improvements in sound dispersion. Ferro-fluid cooled and damped.”
“7″ (178mm)…Satin-Anodized Pure-Aluminum…Bass/Midrange cones. This next generation technology material yields improved sonic performance through enhanced rigidity.”
“Bronze-Anodized Cast-Aluminum Driver Chassis, Top Plate, Kick Plate and Feet enhance the elegance of the v.4 lineup. The stunning G-PALTM tweeter, combined with the silvery aluminum hue of the new cones and bronze-anodized cast-aluminum parts, makes for a gorgeous new look.”
The new Studio 20 is quite handsome, with a curved top above the tweeter, and knurled and nubby plates around the drivers. The curved grille cover has very sheer black fabric for full acoustic transparency over a skeletal plastic frame, with some attention around its inner periphery paid to diffraction control. They don’t brag about that, as far as I can tell, but it’s a good thing, and a valid reason to leave the cover on even though it obscures the “gorgeous” drivers.
At rear we find quite luxurious looking binding posts, all gold plated except for the clear hard plastic nuts. They are bi-wire, with substantial gold-plated linking straps. Also noted on the back is the Canadian manufacturing origin, a final production inspection sticker, and each speaker’s serial number. The measurements of the Studio 20 are what you’d expect of chief engineer Scott Bagby’s team, with a smooth treble slope that complements the small rooms it will mostly be used in, or for nearfield monitor use professionally mounted on the mixing console. This is gradual, about 5 dB from 1 to 10 kHz, and continues above, with no peaks or dips, which is important for good timbral balance; listeners who choose to augment the highs will do so with most tone controls in a way that does not cause any untoward peaks and dips because response is so smooth to start with. And this real smoothness is seldom seen in smaller speakers, especially those that are not expensive models.
Below 1000 Hz, we see a mild bump in the 150-Hz range, exactly what the BBC engineered into their legendary LS/35A monitor to give the impressions of greater bass weight in such a small speaker. Not that the Studio 20 v.4 really needs it; bass extends down, again smoothly, off 4 dB at 50, -9 at 50, and about -12 at 30 Hz, not shabby for its size. Boundary augmentation can help this little speaker produce very extended, tight deep bass, though placement will be a little critical to control the mid-bass bloom.
The impedance/phase curves show a peak of about 33 ohms at about 1300 Hz, with dips down into the 6-ohm range above and below, generally benign performance that won’t trouble any amplifiers.
Though a lot of current isn’t needed, it will be welcome to get the true bass response the Studio 20 is capable of. The phase angle through crossover (lower curve between 1 and 3 kHz) is fairly high, a little more than +/-30 degrees, but this is not unusual and not a problem for an amplifier, though it may have some effect on imaging, depth of field in particular.
In listening, I remembered these speakers in their earlier incarnation as those which had served as location studio monitors on our Bellingham Sessions recordings, just a few years back. Even then, their resolution capabilities were such as to reveal the clear differences between 48 and 96 kHz resolution, and, indeed, that between 96 and 192kHz, which amazed even the musicians, who didn’t expect it to be so starkly apparent.
They’re not for a big room, of course, where a little more low end presence will be welcome, but this Reference Studio 20 version 4 evolution is exactly what was needed to extend the Paradigm legacy in superb small monitor quality loudspeakers, and is, I think, very appropriately mentioned in the same breath as the BBC’s legendary LS/35A design. Quite!
Related Reviews:Paradigm Reference Studio/40 v.2
Paradigm Studio 100 v2 Loudspeaker
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