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Paradigm Reference Studio v.5 Series(Studio 100,CC-690,ADP-590,SUB 15) Review

MSRP: $9394.00
Value: :4.5stars:
Fit & Finish: :5stars:
Home Theater Performance: :5stars:
Music Performance: :4stars:
Overall: :5stars:​

As many of you will recall, I recently had the privilege of reviewing Paradigm's Reference Signature series speakers and SUB1 subwoofer. You may also recall that I was blown away by what these speakers were capable of, but had some qualms about the center channel and the overall price. It should come as no surprise then that I contacted the fine people at Paradigm to ask for an opportunity to review the Studio series lineup. Since the Studio series closely resembles what readers here are interested in from a price and performance perspective- I asked for Paradigm to send a pair of Studio 100 v.5 towers, a CC-690 center channel and a pair of ADP-590 surrounds. To anchor the whole kit Paradigm included the SUB 15 and a Perfect Bass Kit for calibration.

Paradigm's Mississauga Ontario facility is home to R&D, testing chambers, driver design and speaker assembly. Each and every part of a Paradigm loudspeaker is designed and engineered for the product it will be used in. The Studio series are no different from the Signatures with respect to quality of construction, dedicated driver design, and overall fit and finish. While the drivers used in the Sigs are more expensive to produce (with lower tolerances) and are paired with a more expensive crossover, the two lines of speakers don't differ nearly as much as one might expect.

Please note large sections of the review are hidden in spoiler tags, this is to increase readability and allow you to look at these sections independently.

Tech Specs:
Studio 100
The Studio 100 v.5 is a three-way floorstanding tower with a 1" G-PAL (Gold-Anodized Pure-Aluminum dome) tweeter vs the 1" pure beryllium tweeter found in the Signature series. The Studio 100 also features a 7" mid-woofer and three 7" woofers. The port is located directly below the bottom woofer and allows more flexible placement with respect to walls. High quality binding posts allow for bi-wiring or bi-amping as well. The dimensions of the Studio 100 are quite reasonable measuring a very manageable 44.125" H x 9.5"W x 17"D though the speaker weighs in at 78 lbs. This weight per speaker is significantly lower than that of the Signature series - largely due to different drivers used.

Studio CC-690
The Studio CC-690 center channel is a large departure from the Signature C3 center channel I reviewed - it is a much larger enclosure and features many more drivers as well. The CC-690 features a WMTMW driver arrangement - with two 7" woofers flanking dual 7" mid-woofers drivers. These four drivers flank a vertical array consisting of a 1" G-PAL tweeter and a 4.5" midrange driver. The CC-690 measures in at a whopping 37.25" wide, and 16.5" deep with a 10" height. To put it bluntly folks, this is not your average center channel. Packing more drivers than the Studio 100 I was confident the moment I un-boxed this speaker that it was up to the task of impressing me with dialogue reproduction.

Studio ADP-590
The Studio ADP-590 surrounds sent by Paradigm are quite lightweight - featuring the same design as the Signature ADP3 v.3 with a single 7" driver flanked by a 1" G-PAL tweeter and 3.5" S-PAL mid-range driver on each side in a dipole configuration. The ADP-590 weight in at a modest 17 lb, with dimensions of 8.75" high by 14.75" wide and only 6.625" deep.

All the woofers used in Paradigm's studio series are mounted with a technology Paradigm calls IMS/SHOCK-MOUNT - which consists of a proprietary butyl-rubber driver fastening system made up of a collection of isolation inserts and gaskets that almost completely decouple the driver from the cabinet. The result is minimal driver-cabinet interaction and much better sonics.


Studio SUB 15
Many of you will recall my gushing over the SUB 1 in my last review - to say I was impressed would be an understatement. When Paradigm generously agreed to send me the SUB 15 I was eager to hear what it was capable of - but also hesitant because I had set my expectations so high with the SUB 1. The SUB 15 is not your average 15" subwoofer, featuring the same 3,400 Watt Peak/1,700 Watt RMS pair of amps as the SUB 1 and a custom driver featuring RCR technology -(Resonance Control Ribs) which allows extreme fidelity due to extraordinary stiffness and low distortion. The SUB 15 weighs in at 103 lbs, and was just about as difficult as the SUB 1 to get into position. Thankfully, the exertion was well worth the effort.

Having just forgotten the traumatic aftermath of my last macho Paradigm unpacking experience, I succumbed to the same boy-like excitement as before when these showed up at my home on a pallet. Thankfully, my garage is right next to the theater and I was able to push the boxes to their respective positions without too much difficulty. Unpacking the Studio 100's took a little bit of finesse, but I managed to escape that portion uninjured. The CC-690 however presented a bit of a puzzle, as due to its width I couldn't just carry it like a normal center channel. Luckily, my wife agreed to carry the speaker from the box to the stand with me, and I was in business.

Fit and Finish

I requested that Paradigm send me the speakers with a rosenut veneer finish, and the result was spectacular. The Studio 100's, the CC-690, and the SUB 15 all came out of their boxes looking absurdly good. Paradigm's trademark tapered cabinet design looks excellent clad in the veneer and I was immediately impressed with how these looked. Unfortunately the ADP-590 does not come in a real wood finish and instead employs a plastic enclosure that doesn't quite measure up to the impressive cabinetry visible in the rest of the set. This gripe aside, it would be close to impossible to come up with a real complaint about these speakers cosmetically speaking- the finish, presentation and styling are all top notch and I have a hard time imagining a living room or theater room that wouldn't look great with these on the floor.


Having experience dialing in the Paradigm Signature Reference series speakers I reviewed earlier this year, I was better equipped to get the Studio series properly placed. I have moved houses since the prior review and my dedicated room is now a little larger at 12 x 18. With the new room dimensions, I attempted to position the speakers as far from the side and back wall as possible - settling in at about 14" from the back wall and 22" from the side wall. I used approximately 1.75" of toe-in after tweaking to improve imaging - I found this amount of toe in gave the most optimal sound. After getting the left and right speakers positioned, I adjusted the angle of the CC-690 to roughly aim at the head of people seated in the listening area.

After performing my usual series of sweeps with REW and crawling for bass, I settled on the rear right corner for placement of the SUB 15. While there was no way to place the sub in its "ideal" position (this was right next to the side wall about 2/3 of the way forward) - the rear right was fairly close and also allowed me to keep the room layout unchanged. After getting the SUB positioned hanging the ADP-590's was extremely quick and easy with the supplied brackets. While I did appreciate the ease of mounting, I must reiterate that the ADP-590's are quite obviously not solid wood speakers like the rest of this system - this probably helps control weight, but I would prefer Paradigm did the same thing with the Studio series as they do with the Signature series, keeping finish and material consistent throughout.

After positioning calibration was fairly straight forward. I installed and ran Paradigm's Perfect Bass Kit software and was able to do an 8 point measurement and calibration of the sub in about 5 minutes. I then proceeded to run a full 8 point Audyssey calibration and set crossovers according to my usual standard (80Hz on all mains, 100Hz on surrounds, and 80Hz on the sub with a 120Hz low-pass for LFE in the receiver). Level matching was confirmed with a Galaxy CM-140 SPL meter and I then left the speakers to play some music for a few hours when I left the house.

The Review System:

Interconnects: LC-1 Multi-Channel Audio Cables
Pre/Pro: Onkyo TX-SR805
Amplifier: Wyred4Sound Mini MC 7
Sources: Sony Playstation 3, HTPC[/B]

The room used for the review measures in at 12x18 and is treated with bass traps and acoustic panels throughout. The system was calibrated using XTZ Room Analyzer, RoomEQWizard, and Audyssey MultiEQ XT in addition to Paradigm's own PBK or Perfect Bass Kit for the SUB 15.

The Sound - Listening Impressions

Music Performance:
  • [CD] Michael Murray - An Organ Blaster (BWV 565)
  • [CD] Acoustic Alchemy - Very Best Of (B00006F1IJ)
  • [FLAC] Above & Beyond & Gareth Emery pres. OceanLab - On A Good Day (Metropolis) - Extended Mix
  • [BluRay] TrondheimSolistene - Divertimenti

An Organ Blaster

I'm going to insert a quote from my former review to give you a comparison (and some background info on why I chose this album):

With a comprehensive list of material to demo, I started off by listening to An Organ Blaster from start to finish. Allow me to clarify, I started listening to An Organ Blaster and it sounded so blasted good that I let the entire disc play through. As a huge fan of organ music I have spent much of my time while in Europe hanging around in churches while an organist practices or performs. I was quite happy with the organ reproduction on my own system but was still eager to hear what sort of differences I would notice.

Half a second into the first track I knew I was in for a treat, there was something about the way the Paradigm speakers reproduced the organ that just felt more real. Switching back and forth between direct and stereo mode I noted that the S6 towers managed to produce some incredibly deep bass. Despite their excellent low frequency performance given their size, the SUB 1 was quite obviously a more capable unit when it came to sub 80Hz content . Somewhere between the combination of more agile powerful bass, exceptional imaging and the crystalline tweeter Paradigm uses, I was finally able to say with some degree of certainty that it sounded almost like the real thing. It is very hard for most speakers that I have reviewed to reproduce spatial queues properly. From an imaging perspective organ music recorded in a cavernous cathedral is among the most difficult to faithfully recreate, and I sat there in my chair shocked at just how effortlessly the Paradigms did so. Irrespective of volume or material I could not find a way to make these speakers struggle, in fact during a 10 week review period, not once did I find the speakers giving up before I did.
Once again I chose to listen to the first track of the album and found myself sitting there a good while longer, most of the album to be exact. The Studio series were very interesting to compare to the Signatures - as I was certainly more impressed by the Studio's ability to play low, but there were some ways in which the Signatures just sounded better. Unfortunately I'm comparing the recent memory of the this system to a several months old memory with the Signatures, so please accept this as my disclaimer that this is subjective, and not gospel by any stretch.

The sound the Signatures produce is hard to define, in that it's a sound without any color - it's a perfectly neutral speaker that reproduces sound stunningly well thanks in large part to cost no object design and a very high-tech tweeter. The Studio is also an extremely neutral speaker, but isn't quite as refined on the top end as the Signature is. Imaging and soundstage on the Signature was superior but not as remarkably as I would have originally thought - the sound was simply "fuller" with the Sigs than the Studio series. In sum, I'm not going to hunt for flowery language to try and describe differences - the simple truth is that the Signature series sounded better than the Studio series for music listening, not twice as good, or even half again as good - just "better", and that's not a characterization that I can easily quantify. Were I purchasing a set of loudspeakers for music alone, I would choose the Signature series every time, they are simply the better speaker, even at almost twice the price. For home theater, that distinction isn't nearly so apparent, which I'll discuss further later on.

Acoustic Alchemy - Very Best Of

I'm a big fan of the music that Acoustic Alchemy produces, as it combines elements of smooth jazz, acoustic guitar and new age in a very unique way. I listened to this album from start to finish soaking in the guitar and bass work, and trying to establish what it was that I could complain about. The truth is that I couldn't find anything wrong with the Studio series presentation of this album, it was not as revelatory as my listening experiences with the Signatures, but it was certainly worlds better than my current gear. The upper bass range in the form of walking bass lines and rhythm wasn't reproduced quite as seamlessly with the Studio series and SUB 15 as with the Signatures and SUB 1. This small gripe aside, it's very difficult to fault a great audio system for not being quite as good as a slightly greater audio system - they are both incredible to listen to and it's really a question of whether that incremental performance increase is worth it to you as the listener.

Multichannel Listening: TrondheimSolistene - Divertimenti

Again I'll quote my prior review for comparison:

TrondheimSolistene's Divertimenti recording is of course not a rock concert but a highly refined classical recording. I have enjoyed it many times in the past and it's a great benchmark for high fidelity in my collection. As the first audiophile quality recording I had listened to, it was my means of testing the maxim that good speakers highlight the flaws in a recording and sound even better with a good one. True to my expectations, this sounded even sweeter on the Paradigm setup than on my two channel system, largely in part I believe to the imaging and low end extension that the Paradigm's added over what my humble bookshelves can achieve.
The amount of detail in this recording is spectacular; with individual string plucks and even the occasional bow jump clearly audible there is no question that this is great material with which to assess speakers. The Studio series speakers and SUB 15 handled this extremely well with excellent surround immersion and a massive soundstage. The top end didn't come alive quite like it did with the Signature series, but that is perhaps an unfair comparison given the MSRP difference in these speakers. The sound that both sets of speakers produced easily trumped my Rocket system and would be hard to complain about were it not my job.


  • [Blu-Ray] Battle LA
  • [Blu-Ray] How to Train Your Dragon
  • [Blu-Ray] Rio
  • [Blu-Ray] Star Trek (2009)
  • [Blu-Ray] Tron: Legacy
  • [Blu-Ray] Hanna

Battle LA

This was the first film I actually watched after calibrating the Studio system - and remains a memorable experience. The film is full of dynamic, highly localized ULF and LF content - as well as excellent surround material. When I fired it up I spent a good portion of the first twenty minutes in shock at just how tight the SUB 15's bass reproduction was. Each and every distant artillery or ship impact was incredibly authoritative while gun fire, explosions and helicopter blades were all absolutely lifelike. Unlike my experience with the Signature C3 the CC-690 was a revelation when it came to reproduction of voices. Dialogue was crystal clear and flawlessly intelligible no matter how much was going on in the other channels. The mains also demonstrated a considerable amount of low end heft and dynamic capability as the battle raged on around me. As noted above, one of the most immediately impressive things about these speakers is the clarity of the sound - while enjoyable for a fine music recording, the real benefit of a speaker like this for a well mastered lossless surround track is that it simply gets out of the way. Watching Battle LA with the Studio's was utterly immersive.

How to Train Your Dragon

As many of you will recall from my review of this film and the Signature Series earlier this year, I am a huge fan of the way this film is mixed, with plenty of deep bass and a good amount of surround activity there is no question it's great demo material. I always like to start off with chapter "First Flight" where Hiccup finally learns to fly on Toothless. The sound of the air rushing past the viewer along with the powerful wing strokes of Toothless combine with a great piece of the score by composer John Powell to create one of my favorite demo scenes on Blu-Ray. I compared the sound of this chapter to that of my Rocket system and found that the Paradigm's literally stole the show for HT use. While the Rockets are a great speaker (I did purchase them for that reason originally) - their sound is a tad more warm and laid back than I've come to prefer. The neutrality and clarity the Paradigm's were able to deliver was instantly noticeable as minute elements in the score and surround mix were suddenly audible. Where the Rocket (sonically speaking) is an excellent jazz and vocal speaker - the Studio's really deliver when it comes to HT use, electronic music, and rock/metal. It was this difference that immediately struck me as I replayed this chapter for the umpteenth time; the Studio's were simply more dynamic with much better highs and more authority on the low end. The Studio series also image extremely well, throwing a massive soundstage that really helps with immersion for HT use.


Rio's samba filled soundtrack is a great test for both music and HT performance rolled into one. In a 5.1 configuration the Studio series did a superb job reproducing the sounds of Rio de Janeiro, vocals and instruments. The full bodied dynamic sound that these speakers provided was readily apparent as soon as the film began with the SUB 15 doing a superb job of reproducing the percussion elements and the CC-690 effortlessly recreating vocals and dialogue. While Rio isn't full of reference level demo material, it is an enjoyable listen and I found myself extremely happy with the way the Paradigm's sounded, bass was deep and powerful while high frequency content was perfectly recreated without any harshness or sibilance. The ability of the CC-690 to reproduce audio without a hint of compression or "boxiness" as I references in my last review was refreshing - I am extremely critical of center channels that have a hard time reproducing the full range of the human voice, particularly deep male voices. With smaller center channels like the C3 I constantly found myself pulled out of the experience by noticing something unnatural about vocal reproduction. Thankfully, the CC-690 removed any doubts I had about Paradigm center channels by integrating seamlessly into my movie watching experience, never once destroying my sense of immersion, and more than once taking my attention by just how good it sounded.

Star Trek

I like to think that I am not the only trekkie out there who replays the warp jump scene repeatedly due to the powerful LFE content. The SUB 15 lived up to its expectations, producing powerful bass that dug as deep as necessary while still remaining superbly clean. It's hard to compare a sealed high-powered sub like the SUB 15 to a low power ported design like the MFW-15 - as this is hardly an apples to apples comparison, however it warrants mentioning that the SUB 15 is the most articulate 15 inch sub I have ever heard. The ability of this sub to play deep and produce such tight, punchy bass is astounding and it was well appreciated in Star Trek in the warp jump scene, as well as the bombastic emergence of the Narada from the black hole. The mains and surrounds really brought this mix to life and had no trouble reproducing the ultra-high frequency environmental effects or the excellent sound design present throughout the film. Dialogue was crystal clear and the ability of the Studio 100's to play loud and low really helped in the more taxing scenes of this film. The ADP surrounds were slightly disappointing here as I found them blending almost too well with the front soundstage. While dipoles do tend to blend in, I found myself wishing that surround content was reproduced as well by these as it was by the ADP-590's I listened to during my review of the Signature series.

Tron: Legacy

Where to start with this low frequency assault on the body and senses is quite the dilemma. Tron: Legacy features some of the most relentless and ridiculous bass content of any film out there, not for pure low frequency extension, and not for explosions or the like, but for the pulse pounding in-your-face score from Daft Punk. The now iconic theme music the film opens to ("The Grid") was mesmerizing with the Studio series - the SUB 15 really brought this home for me; the bass line benefiting immensely from a sub articulate enough to handle it without muddying the sound. The mains demonstrated their prowess in the light-cycle race and the fight at Zuse's "End of Line" club, effortlessly reproducing the bevy of strange digital sounds Tron:Legacy brings to the table. Each and every sonic element was perfectly separated, and I found myself frequently hearing things I hadn't heard before, particularly in the higher frequencies. While the Studio may lack some of the finesse and refinement present in the Signature series, you'd be hard pressed to find me complaining in the middle of a movie.


Though originally not on my list of Blu-Ray films to audition with this speaker system, I was so impressed by the audio in Hanna that I thought it would make a great addition to my review material. In the vein of Tron:Legacy, Hanna features a score from the Chemical Brothers, another case of a music artist scoring a film and the result is brilliant. Hanna possesses all the usual charms of an action film, deep impactful bass, active surrounds, and plenty of fighting, shooting and general noisemaking. Unlike most action films, the score is not your typical orchestral/rock fusion - while the score does move in that direction occasionally, by and large the Chemical Brothers have come up with something unique here; the score is haunting, original, whimsical and beautiful all at the same time, and serves as the perfect platform for testing speakers. I'm sure I've already waxed poetic about the strengths of this system for highly dynamic action content already, but I'd like to focus on detail and dynamic range here. Hanna's score is mastered such that the volume level can be extremely low, or startlingly loud - and all of this belies the level of detail in the mix. During extremely quiet scenes, the Studio's were no less capable or impressive - in fact the way even low volume effects and dialogue were translated into sound was nothing short of stunning. Many loudspeakers I have had the pleasure of listening to are so-so at low volume, good at moderate volume and only really start to "sing" once they are cranked up. While the Studio series from Paradigm do love power, the true strength of these speakers is that they sound almost as good with the volume at a conservative late night level as they do cranked up to reference level.

When listening with my Rocket speakers at comparable SPL levels I would frequently find myself struggling to make out dialogue or discern activity in the surrounds, while the Studio series had none of these problems at the same SPL level.


Here we are again! Somehow, brave reader you have survived this wall of text and reached the end, or perhaps you're one of those lazy types that skips straight to the good parts. Whichever category you fall into, I would like to thank you for reading, and acknowledge that once again I have had the pleasure of reviewing an excellent set of speakers thanks to a generous review loan from Paradigm. The MSRP of this set comes in at $9394.00, which is just under 50% less than the Signature/SUB 1 system. Given that price difference, the sonic differences make a good deal of sense. The Studio system sounds incredible, especially given most buyers will rarely pay full MSRP for these speakers. In comparison to the Signatures I do think that the Studio is a better value - you get most of the way there sonically for about half the money. If music reproduction and sonics are the only thing you care about then the Signature is the speaker for you. The Signature series are better in almost every way sonically speaking, but they are not different enough to warrant the price jump unless you are a critical listener. To the average enthusiast, movie nut or music lover the Paradigm Studio series are without question one of the best possible ways to spend your money. They produce a crystal clear, neutral sound and have an incredible ability to play both loud and low. The custom drivers, fit and finish and overall package is hard to argue against. For home theater use, these are a better buy than the Signature series I reviewed last year in a couple of ways:

First, I specifically requested the CC-690 for this review as I suspected my complaints about the C3 last time were largely due to cabinet size and driver count - not a design flaw. It turns out that the CC-690 outdoes the C3 in every way that matters, especially given the primary purpose of this channel is for movies. The CC-690 is absolutely effortless at reproducing dialogue, at any volume level I could stomach it didn't even break a sweat. This combined with the dynamic capabilities of the Studio 100's to produce an incredible home theater listening experience that in every conceivable way, was superior to the Signature series. Keep in mind that the advantages the Signature series speakers have (higher quality driver, tweeter, and beefier cabinet) aren't really relevant when watching movies - airy ultra-refined treble and extra smooth mids are pretty hard to pick out amidst the many other things occurring in modern surround mixes. For these reasons, the home theater buyer is likely to be extremely happy with the Studio series, and in the process save about $6000.00.

A setup like this is a large investment, and for many of you the sort of gear you hope to move up to in the future at some point. I have every confidence that should you audition the Paradigm Studio series and SUB 15, that you'll be highly impressed. In the case of the system that I just reviewed, I have chosen to put my money where my mouth is and have purchased the Studio 100's and CC-690. Due to space constraints and all the review gear moving in and out of my media room, the SUB 15 will have to go back to Paradigm, though I'll be sad to see it go.

For the home theater enthusiast, or the avid audiophile the Studio 100, CC-690, ADP-590 and SUB 15 make a spectacular combination. Though the true strength of this system is in the home theater, it reproduces music just as well if not better than anything else I've heard in the price range. If you happen to be in the market for new gear, I highly recommend that you give this system a listen and make that determination for yourself. Highly recommended.

Highly Recommended

Please see the Paradigm Reference Studio v.5 Series (Studio 100,CC-690,ADP-590,SUB 15) Review: Discussion Thread for Questions and Comments
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