Paradigm Personas: A First Listen

I thought starting a new thread would be more appropriate since it would allow for a more focused discussion.

I have Paradigm S8v2s and have owned them, since new, for 8 years.  I have lived with them happily and when I bought them I knew they were going to be a long term purchase.  Cables, sources etc may come and go but big speakers are harder to find, harder to move and sell (I think).  I found a local dealer (the only one in BC so far) that has the entire Persona line; except the 7F.  They had the 9H, 5F, 3F and Monitor.  I got to hear all of them.  The 9H was in a dedicated room set up for home theatre.  The others were in a 2 channel only system.  Preamp/source was a Cambridge Audio preamp with a media player built in, Wadia Class D amps.  System was nice, sounded good and not the "highest end" you would expect, but more real world.  I took along a CD of Parijat: Prayer to Love (excellent CD BTW.  Highly recommended and wonderfully recorded).  I am very familiar with the CD.  My system has its own room, Luxman Class A amps, Luxman preamp, Bryston DAC, Nordost and Wirewizard Cables.  I think my system has an edge on electronics, but I will leave that out as I think that is splitting hairs.

First speaker I heard was the 5F.  The first thing that is immediate is the midrange and treble purity, clarity, integration, smoothness and extension.  I definitely say there is no discontinuity between the mid/tweeter.  Having a Beryllium tweeter myself I know what to expect, and the 5F did not disappoint.  The sound was relaxed, clear, focused with excellent detail.  No harshness, grain, etch or sibilance at all.  Imaging was also excellent; focused, wide and deep with good height.  Note that the 5F, 3F were right beside each other and the Monitors on stands right beside the 3's.  They were in an open room not a dedicated room, so I could only suspect the speakers would sound better as the environment would get better.  In short, the tweeter/mid was superb.  The best I have heard.  I would give the edge to the Persona's over my S8's in this regard, but given the mid and tweeter are both Beryllium they are going to have identical resonances on the fact the material is the same; it will be homogenous.  The S8 is no slouch, so the differences are small, but I give the Persona the edge here.  And I like my S8's.  I have not felt wanting.

The description for the mid/tweeter is identical for each model; there was no difference, perhaps a slight difference for the Monitor but its limited lower end might of SEEMED things to be more clear/detailed.  Hard to say.  Bottom end on the 9H was robust, to be polite, but to be expected too.....4 8 inch cones internally powered...I think a subwoofer here would be redundant in all but the largest rooms to be sure.  But the snap, punch and detail were excellent.  Moving to the 5 and 3, the bottom end was not as prodigious but still extended and tuneful.  Detail was excellent but to be expected the 5 was more pronounced than the 3.  I think both (and the Monitor for sure) would benefit from a sub, but I leave that to the reader's personal taste.  There was no evidence of port noise or discontinuity of any type.  Unfortunately, I have yet to find out (if you would like to bi amp) WHERE the biamp crossover is.  I found out the hard way on my S8 it is between the tweeter/mid, not the mid/bass as you would expect.  This would allow for a Class A or tube amp on the all important mid/tweeter and a robust amp for the bottom end.  I would like Paradigm to be clear on this point as finding out the hard way for me was costly.  I let a good Bryston amp go for no reason other than the fact it was not able to work in my system as planned.  

I suppose the real question is this:  are they worth it?  Well, I thought about my own system on the drive home, and since my system's weak point is NOT the speakers, I would, for me, not buy or let my S8 go unless someone gave me a good offer.  The logistics of selling speakers that are 4 feet tall, almost 2 feet deep and 100lbs is not a small feat, and shipping (unless local pickup) will be expensive.  I bought the S8 knowing it was going to be with me for a long time, and in fact I would rather keep them since they are so good (to me).   But I would buy the Personas for sure.  The high end purity and midrange clarity, coherence and detail are so good I was floored by how good it was.  Bottom end weight and volume is a personal preference, and adding subs obviates the comparison there, as either the 5 or 3 would be a killer system with subs.  I had extended time with the 5 and 3 and the jump in price between the two makes sense if the sub is out of the equation.  I think the added bottom end on the 5 could easily be made up with the 3 and a good sub, think JL Audio f112, e110 or e112.  An outboard crossover as part of the deal would be stating the obvious (in fact the JL Audio CR 1 crossover is what I am eyeing next.  With this, should some time down the road come I decide to jump up to the Personas finances permitting, it would greatly affect what Persona I get).  But by then I might have a different room so whom knows, but so long as the flexibility is there you have options.  I was hoping to see the 7F but the 9H is almost identical in  size.  Considering the competition they are up against I think they hold very well.  Making a matching Beryllium tweeter and mid is no small feat, and costly to boot.  Moreover, Paradigm's size and economy of scale is such that you get more than you pay for, this has been a Paradigm hallmark.  A smaller company could bring out a matched Beryllium set, perhaps, but at what cost?  I can see why the Persona line costs more, but after seeing them and listening to them, I don't feel at all that they are overpriced or outrageous.  Obviously the sound is what counts, but there is more to it than that.  I honestly think you get what you pay for; the real trick is finding the goods out there that go a step further and really offer the "diamond in the rough".  For me personally, the cost and logistics of selling my current speakers is not something I can do right now.  But if I could, I would have no issue owning a Performa.  The 7F is what I have sought my sights on, but the 5F is no slouch.  As a smaller speaker, there is little to fault the 3F and add in a sub (or two) out.  Even without subs, the 5 and the 3 are more than pleasant, and in a enclosed room where there is room would be interesting to know.

Pictures do not do the speakers justice.  They are gorgeous.  Fit and finish is superb, certainly better than my S8. The lenses are really trick.  I don't think there should be any trouble with the WAF but their styling is a bit modern, some might not like it.  The room presence is not nearly as strong as you would think; the S8 being so deep and narrow hides in the room well.  The Personas do as well, but are so gorgeous you don't want to hide them.  You would think the 9H to be imposing, but that is not the case, especially if you are use to bigger speakers anyway.

I am very impressed and happy that the "step up" Paradigm has made has been done well, with thought, focus and obvious results.  As to relative to what is out there, especially to what I have heard, they compete favourable with much more expensive speakers, and I have heard Focals (which is another brand I like because, surprise, they have a Beryllium tweeter).  I just think the matching tweeter/mid, especially at the price, is hard to beat.  And I am sure that the better the gear upstream would only help the sound.  The 5Fs or 3Fs in my system with the gear I have would be very interesting.

Who knows what the year brings.  I give the Personas the highest recommendation, and this is from someone whom has owned a good pair for years without complaint.  If anyone is thinking of trying out a pair I urge you to do so if possible before making any decisions.  Paradigm, with the Personas, has truly evolved into a high end brand, and deserves consideration as such.  

See, there's somebody for everything!  Horns, ribbons, diamonds, ceramics...even Personas:-/)
Had 20 min audition of the Persona 3F at a local dealer with all McIntosh electronics.  Room set up was less than optimal because the dealer just moved into a new building and was still setting up systems.  No significant room treatment.  Under these less than ideal conditions, I heard very good transparency and extension both in bass and high frequency.  However, the sound was hard, as one would expect from metal drivers. I'll have to revisit when everything is optimally set up.
Hi everyone, I just caught up with this thread this morning and it amuses me to no end that it has digressed ( and degenerated) so much away into a fist fight of "who's is bigger". The way people go about defending their views on speaker brands seems like they have a financial interest in them! 
Anyway, short of sermonizing, my take is that there will always be the next best thing because of constant innovation. When I bought my Rockport Aviors, they were said to compete in a league way above their price point......and I truly believe that they still do in many respects. But that doesn't make them the only giant killers out there. The Revel Salon 2, which is another speaker i love, is even cheaper and in my view, still better ( in my view)than most costing twice. 
The point I make is that speaker choice, like most others in this hobby, is highly system dependent and very personal. As much as I like the meaty presentation of the Aviors, they aren't for everyone out there....and they are also very system dependent. They sound amazingly dynamic and transparent driven by my Burmester monos. But may not sound as lush if paired with a 30 watt SET ( my view pls).
As to speaker companies and their resources, while I truly respect what Paradigm have been able to achieve with the resources that they have, the same goes for companies like JBL, Yamaha and Pioneer ( the erstwhile owner of TAD). by the way these companies have even deeper pockets and some of their products probably punch way above their weight class like the JBL M2 and now the Yamaha NS 5000 ( I haven't heard them so I won't comment).
So, my point is that we should probably focus more on the attributes of the personas and the electronics that they should be paired with to bring out the best in them, instead of engaging in this fist fight which will never reach conclusion.

apologies if this sounds like a rant.......I just felt compelled!!
Had a listen to the 3f's tonight. They are a very impressive speaker. Very detailed but not fatiguing. Nice tight and punchy bass, wide soundstage. A very smooth sounding speaker. I preferred them over the Aerial Acoustics 7t's which I heard a couple of weeks ago.
Interesting, recently did a similar bake-off over a couple of weekends. Listened to Spendor, Kef, Bryston, Aerial and Paradigms. For me it came down to the Aerial 7Ts and Paradigm 3fs. I listened to both for hours and was able to A-B them on tracks I am familiar with. To me they were so close in all respects. Both speakers disappeared in the room....fantastic range, clarity and imaging and to say that I could live with either is an understatement. To my ears the most noticeable difference was at the top end and after extended listening sessions I just liked the 7Ts better (and bought them:)
As mentioned in other posts, all of these are good enough to reveal the different electronics driving them. Do an apples to apples comparison, then listen to them with your gear and do a home demo if you can. Your ears are the only ones that matter...if you give it enough time and keep an open mind, you don't have to choose a speaker, the speaker will choose you.