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Since its founding in 1982, Paradigm has developed and sold high-value loudspeakers. When my wife and I acquired our weekend house in 1992, I selected a pair of Paradigm Esprit/BP speakers for our audio system there. Shortly thereafter, however, I wanted to take my big step into multichannel, and it seemed that the Esprits’ bipolar radiation would present problems for multichannel sound in my relatively small room. Back then, Manhattan still had many audio salons; after shopping around, I replaced the Esprit/BPs with Paradigm’s Reference Studio/60 v.2s, and in 2004 stepped up to the Studio/60 v.3s.

Although I reviewed succeeding versions of the Studio/60 and acknowledged their sequential improvements, the v.2s remained my reference speakers in Connecticut for more than 10 years. Despite that, I had not ever considered Paradigm speakers for my big system in Manhattan because, as good as the Studio/60s were for the money, Paradigm offered nothing to compete in the high-end market with companies like Bowers & Wilkins, Focal, KEF, Revel, Sonus Faber, Wilson Audio, and many others. With the release of their new Persona series, Paradigm has entered this new and perhaps even more competitive market.

Paradigm’s R&D facilities include a 33,000-cubic-foot anechoic chamber, double-blind listening rooms, and a proprietary testing and measurement system derived from those used by Canada’s National Research Council. In combination with their 225,000-square-foot factory, they can design and build all major speaker elements in-house. The Persona series includes the 9H, with internally powered and equalized woofers; the floorstanding 7F, 5F, and 3F; the stand-mounted B; the C center-channel model; and the SUB subwoofer. The Persona models share refreshingly modern cabinet designs and a bewildering array of finishes, with options of five standard and 18 premium cabinet colors (add $2550/pair), two colors of metalwork (front panel and base), two colors for the midrange and tweeter lenses, two colors for the woofer cones, and three colors for the grille: a total of 552 possible combinations.

But before wrestling with all those options, the first choice should be of a particular model. I opted for the 5F: its size suited my room, its price fit my comfort zone, and it’s a three-way floorstander with enough low-frequency extension—down to 23Hz—to satisfy me.

As for the technology of the 5F and its brethren, the magic word is beryllium. The Persona tweeter is a 1″ beryllium dome whose voice-coil fits a magnetic pole-piece designed using finite-element analysis, and the motor assembly is damped and cooled with ferrofluid. To optimize the dome’s dispersion, it sits behind a phase-aligning perforated grille, or acoustic lens.

While beryllium tweeters are used in many high-end speakers, beryllium midrange diaphragms are far more rare. The 5F’s 7″ beryllium midrange has a 1.5″ voice-coil and is crossed over to the tweeter at 2.4kHz. With most drivers, in considering the relationship between the frequencies being propagated and the possibility of audible break-up modes, such a large size might be a problem. However, the 5F’s diaphragm of pure beryllium is rigid and light enough that cone breakup should be sufficiently high in frequency not to be a problem. Also, the phase-aligning perforated lens, similar to the one covering the tweeter, should control any problems of dispersion/beaming due to the driver’s size. To those considerations one might add another: the 5F’s 7″ midrange driver, with its large magnetic motor and shock mounting, should increase midrange power handling with no negative consequences due to its size. Despite beryllium in finished solid form being robust, it is brittle—the acoustic lenses Paradigm installs over its beryllium drivers also serve to prevent anyone from directly touching and breaking the element.

The Persona 5F has three 7″ woofers, each affixed to the inner surface of the heavy cast-aluminum baffle, which conceals their frames and suspensions. Like the midrange driver, the woofers are shocked-mounted (isolated) from the front panel and have 1.5″ voice-coils. They handle only frequencies below 450Hz, but at relatively higher power levels, and instead of beryllium they’re made of Paradigm’s denser X-PAL (for “pure aluminum”) material; a new Active Ridge suspension for better-controlled compliance and a massive magnetic assembly are also featured. They’re loaded by a bass-reflex enclosure formed from seven layers of HDF, bonded to one another and shaped under high pressure, with RF waves used to accelerate the curing process. The cabinet is vented through a downfiring port in the speaker’s bottom panel, into a space created by the metal pedestal on which the speaker sits.

The Persona 5F is quite attractive. The pair I received was finished in metallic Aria Blue with silver metalwork, lenses, and cones, but without grilles—they cut striking figures in my room. I liked how the silver lenses and cones blended into the silver of the baffle, while the deep blue of the curved-back, slant-top enclosure subtly receded from my visual attention, minimizing the prominence of these substantial objects in the room while leaving no doubt as to their raison d’àtre.

The Persona 5Fs were easy to maneuver and position. I removed the provided jumpers and plugged sets of AudioQuest Oak/DBS biwire cables from a pair of Classé Signature Mono monoblocks into the four posts on each speaker. I also jacked up each speaker’s rear two feet just a bit, to slightly tilt down the tweeter axes, and toed them in until they were aimed directly at my head as I sat in my listening spot. They sounded just a bit bright, but I eased that by toeing them out first by about 5°, then up to 15°.

To get an idea of the Persona 5F’s sound, I began with Leif Ove Andsnes’s loving survey of the piano music of Sibelius (CD, Sony Classical 88985 40850-2). His piano was clear and rounded, with good prominence. There seemed to be no obvious emphasis of bass or treble, and though my intention was only to sample the album, the Paradigms seduced me into listening to all of it. It reassured me that my setup of the 5Fs was more than acceptable. I was ready to dive deep into music and sound.

I listened to some of my usual suspects. Gerald Finzi’s song “Come away, death,” sung by mezzo-soprano Marianne Beate Kielland accompanied by pianist Sergej Osadchuk (24-bit/192kHz stereo PCM download from SACD/CD, 2L 2L-064-SACD), and “Can’t Stand the Rain,” from Sara K.’s Hell or High Water (CD, Stockfisch SFR 357.4039.2), sounded pure and whole. Kielland seemed to stand a bit back from the speaker plane, and I heard her draw breath before singing—a subtle and natural introduction to hearing to her light, lovely tones. Sara K. was closer to the microphone, but with just enough space for her voice, much darker in tone and pitch than Kielland’s, to fit into the ambience. Through the Personas, both were as convincingly realistic as I have ever heard them.


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