Paradigm Reference Studio/40 v.2

      Date posted: December 24, 1999

Paradigm Reference Studio-40
Size: 20 1/2″H x 9″W x 11 1/2″D
Sugg. Retail: $1350 pr (veneer), $1100 (laminate) (CAN)
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 Almanac 2000 Audio Ideas Guide)

      It’s almost a year since we reviewed the Reference Active/40 (Wtr 99), and I thought it would make some sense to follow up with a look at its unpowered sibling, the Studio/40. This speaker uses the same drivers, but with a passive crossover, and it doesn’t have the flexibility of level and frequency contour adjustments. However, it does have the potential of sounding better when driven by a superior amplifier to that provided in the Active/40.

     In my view, both speakers are the best looking and most room friendly of the Reference series. The size is not intimidating (it took two people to pack up the Studio/100s), but big enough to provide solid bass at any reasonable level. It uses the same metal dome tweeter as the other speakers in the series, so will offer the same level of resolution, with the potential of lower diffraction from a baffle that is narrower than that on the bigger models. It’s also very handsome, with its solid side panels and Chevy Cavalier-like spoiler on top.

Paradigm Reference Studio 40 Cutaway

     The Studio/40 is a 3-way design, with the aforementioned tweeter, a 6 1/2″ mica-polymer bass/midrange, and a polypropylene woofer of the same size. The cabinet is rear ported. Available finishes include Light Cherry, Rosenut, Black Ash, Brushed Graphite (grey), and White in laminates, and Light Cherry, Rosenut, and Black Ash in veneers.

     In these second generation Reference Studio models, the tweeter has been refined, and the internal bracing of the enclosures beefed up for greater rigidity and sonic neutrality. This Cascade internal matrix can be seen in the cutaway photo, and includes an isolation chamber for the midrange driver to minimize resonances.

Paradigm Reference Studio-40 Frequency Response

     We’ve become used to textbook measurements for Paradigm speakers, especially Reference models, and the Studio/40 is no exception, +/-2 dB over much of the frequency range, with a gentle bass rolloff that allows room reinforcement of the deepest bass, which, of course, comes out of the cabinet’s rear port. It can be seen that the Pink Noise Sweep and Summed Axial Response are almost identical, a good sign with multi-driver dynamic systems. The on-axis quasi-anechoic response is very smooth through the midrange, with a mild peak in the upper area between 5 and 7 kHz, and the treble tends to roll off above. The axial curves are very similar, indicating excellent dispersion and thus even tonal balance on all axes, that at 60o about 5 dB lower in level, which helps control reflected energy. The one area in which the on-axis performance differs from that 15o and beyond is in the upper midrange where there is more energy radiated on the direct axis. I’ll say more about this in the listening comments.

     Impedance of the Studio/40 was very smooth, especially through the midrange, remaining between 5 and 9 ohms, and the bass peaks were mild at just under 15 ohms. The phase angle in the midrange is also unusually mild for a 3-way system, varying by about +/-15o. This speaker is a very easy load for amplifiers of any sort, and has a high sensitivity of 91 dB.

Paradigm Reference Studio-40 Impedance Curves

     With measurements that are quite similar to the Soliloquy 5.0s, the Studio/40s had some sonic similarities, though the extra upper midrange energy of the 5.0s was higher in frequency, and the bass rolloff a little steeper. Both, when properly sited, produce credible deep bass. The Paradigm has a slightly more forward quality, but is otherwise a very neutral reproducer. That extra on-axis energy between 5 and 7 kHz can be heard, and if it were tamed by about 2 dB, the Studio/40 would be, in my opinion, a virtually perfect dynamic loudspeaker. It has everything else, and in most cases, won’t even need a subwoofer. Its dynamic capability is huge, even in a large room, the tonal balance is, as noted, near perfect, and the dispersion characteristics are just about ideal. It images well, though side-to-side placement is more palpable than depth of image. A notable strength of the Studio/40 is its transient speed at all frequencies, everything from bass drums through bongos to triangles reproduced with a very real speed and presence.

     Is it better than the Active/40? Well, that’s a hard one, especially with close to a year between speaker auditions. Let me wimp out by saying that the ability to adjust the bass and treble to suit the room and listening distance makes the active version very attractive, but I felt that the Studio/40 was a little more acoustically transparent when driven by our resident Bryston 3B ST. Though I’ve reviewed many Paradigm models over the years, the Reference Studio/40, not only for its audio performance, but also for its looks and size, ends up as my favourite speaker from this Canadian company. And at this kind of price, that’s saying something.

Andrew Marshall

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