Paradigm Signature S4 Loudspeaker

      Date posted: February 24, 2004

Paradigm Signature S4

Size: 22″H x 8 1/4″W
(sides tapered front to back)
Sugg. Retail: $3900 CA pr, $3400 Cherry; $3000 US pr, Cherry: $2600 pr
Manufacturer: Paradigm Electronics Inc.,
205 Anagem Blvd., Mississauga, Ont. L4V 2T1
(905) 564-1994 FAX 564-8726
U.S.A.: (905) 632-0180

(Reprinted from the Winter/Spring 04 Audio Ideas Guide)

      Even with a new sleek box shape, the Signature S4 looks unmistakably Paradigm. I guess it’s the drivers, designed and made in house. The tweeter is, like all the other drivers, a totally new design especially for this top-of-the-line series. It’s a 1″ “G-PAL gold-anodized pure aluminum dome” with “dual super neodymium ring magnets. Ferro-fluid damped/cooled”, its rear wave feeds into a chamber with finned heat sinks, and the die-cast basket is shock-mounted to eliminate any vibration beyond that of the dome itself.

     The midrange driver is a 7″ “MLP TM mica-loaded polymer cone”, with a “gold anodized solid-aluminum phase plug, 1 1/2″ voice coil; AVS(TM) die-cast heatsink chassis” and “IMS/Shock Mount”. The bass driver, also 7″ in diameter, uses a “mineral-filled polypropylene cone”, with a 1 1/2″ voice coil, mounted in similarly die-cast and shock-mounted fashion. Sensitivity is said to be 91 dB room/anechoic, with crossovers at 400 Hz and 1.8 kHz. Gold-plated, clear-plastic-nut 5-way connectors allow bi-wiring or amping. The S4s weigh in at 43 lbs each.

     Signature loudspeakers are available in numerous glossy veneer finishes: Cherry, Natural Birdseye Maple, Rosewood, and Piano Black Gloss. The shape and size of the S4 are unboxy, compact, and elegant with grilles on or off. The grilles are engineered to minimize diffraction and maximize dispersion through a combination of tight fit around the protruding driver/port array, and braced curvature to deflect as little direct sound as possible. Also, the elegant curved shape of the cabinet and extensive internal bracing minimize internal standing waves and resonances that could come out of the port.

Paradigm Signature S4 Frequency Response

     Our measurements certainly confirmed several of the design goals for the Signature series. Response across the range on axis is very smooth, +/-2 dB from 70 Hz to 20 kHz, the tweeter’s response unusually extended. The bass rolloff of the reflex enclosure is quite gentle, with response down about 8 dB at 40 Hz, and 10 dB at 30. The slope in the midrange is mild, and probably intended to make what is a smaller-room speaker more liveable at closer listening distances.

     The axial curves, at 0, 15, 30, and 60 degrees off axis are extraordinarily closely grouped, amply verifying the goal of wide dispersion, and response to 20 kHz even at 60 degrees off axis. Very few speakers I have measured can even come close to this linearity of axial performance, and the net result for owners is that their S4s will sound the same pretty much anywhere in the room.

     The Summed Axial Response (SAR) at top shows more distinctly the +/-2 dB tolerances, with the gentle rolloff at top and bottom. Properly placed, a pair of S4s can be predicted to provide more than adequate deep bass performance. We’ll see in the listening sessions. Paradigm Signature S4 Frequency Impedance

     The impedance curve of this speaker is very linear, with only one bass peak (ported designs usually have two, one for the driver, and the other for the port; the rise at 20 Hz suggests a very low port tuning), and a smooth 5-ohm plateau from 100 to 1500 Hz; a slight rise above the upper crossover reaches 9 ohms in this nominal 8-ohm design. The phase curve below is exceptional, with only a positive shift of 20 degrees through the crossover, which could be characterized as +/-10 degrees , almost unheard of in a bookshelf speaker. The S4 pair should, to put it colloquially, image like crazy!

     In listening, the depth and breadth of image with choral sound was palpable. The sense of ambient energy around the singers was very well defined in space. The S4s do tend to image a little outside the speakers, and their transient speed serves to make recording spaces seem more realistic, as well as making percussion and plucked instruments more natural and live sounding. The S4 will naturally sound better with a subwoofer, and the PSB S10 was available, Paradigm not having supplied one of the new Signature models. I listened to our standard Speaker Evaluation collection of my own and Clive Allen’s recordings, and other good commercial recordings.

     Another 2-disc set which showed off the S4s well, was sent to me by Ray Kimber, all recorded using his new IsoMikeTM system that puts a baffle between a pair of omni mikes. These are amazingly realistic and dynamic recordings that shine with the fast, precise Signature sound.

     As well as percussion, guitars, and brass, strings sounded very natural, with perhaps just the slightest bit of extra sheen; there was lots of natural cello overtone, especially on our baroque cello Bach with Sergei Istomin, and woodwinds, usually well back in the orchestra, had a natural space and timbre.

     I did feel I could just hear a little the mild horn loading of the tweeter, but this is what also helps produce the S4’s amazing dispersion and high sensitivity. And for whatever reason, I did prefer the speakers ever so slightly with grilles off, notwithstanding their generally benign effect.

     This speaker reproduces piano especially well, its dynamics definitely a factor on the General Lavigne excerpt from our Juno-nominated Debussy Preludes Set, engineered and produced by Clive Allen.

     In sum the Paradigm Reference Signature S4 amply demonstrates its superb measurements in its acoustic performance. Set up optimally in a small or medium-sized room, this is a speaker that will provide superb reproduction, and excellent bass to 40 Hz with judicious use of boundaries.

Andrew Marshall

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