Review: Paradigm Reference Studio 100 v3 Speaker

Category: Speakers

Paradigm Reference Studio 100 v3 Review

I am just now breaking in a pair of Paradigm Reference Studio 100 v3's - I am greatly impressed with the sound! Without question, they have improved as I have played them incessantly during the past two weeks. I have been returning to informal "reference recordings" that I played when the speakers were right out of the box, the sound is considerably more open, the base much better refined. In particular a favorite period instrument, chamber orchestra recording that has been very challenging for home playback has developed much more robust and balanced base sound. The subtle medium sized sound stage of this recording, defined placement of instruments as played is the best I have ever heard. (Corelli - Concerti Grossi Op. 6 1-6 & 7-12; harmonia mundi HMU 907015) Acoustic piano recordings on these speakers are excellent. The engineering for off axis dispersion (like pianos in a room) makes the sound reproduction very realistic on all recordings but listening to a Diana Krall Impulse recording, bass, piano, vocals only, has elicited comments like "flawless". (Diana Krall , Love Scenes; Impulse IMPD 233) The speakers work great on large orchestral pieces, again great sound stage with furniture rattling base and reproduction of timpani and base drum booms. They are equally righteous with rock and roll, blasting Hendrix, Sonja Dada or Wide Spread Panic nails the screaming guitar wizard solo thing. Their ability to reach the depth of the commonly used "synth-base" on pop recordings can be literally startling. Finally, the speakers have enhanced playback of my vinyl collection. They enhance the mid-range response and coherency of well engineered original jazz recording, especially well miked trap drum sets. (ie Sonny Rollins Quartet, Saxophone Colossus; Fantasy OJC 291; 1956, Rudy Van Gelder engineering) An A/B demo of a newly HDCD re-mastered Joni Mitchell release with the original mid-70's vinyl version was a stark example of an LP smoking a good CD. The base decayed more naturally, the vocals rode above the instruments much more convincingly. Maybe it was the re-master job? (Joni Mitchell, The Hissing of Summer Lawns; Asylum 7E 1051; 1975)

My comparison shopping for these speakers consisted of listening to the Thiel CS 1.6 and 2.4, Linn systems and smaller Paradigm Reference models. The most serious contender was the Thiel 2.4, but they just did not provide the sonic revelations that I was expecting for 4 large. And they sucked amp power like water. A switch from a 550 watt per channel to 150 watt per channel amp during the demo sealed their fate - I could hear a difference in clarity right away and 150 is much closer to my system capabilities. The Linn speaker line while beautiful forces you into the price stratosphere for "full-range" sound reproduction.

So risking withering fire from the "real" audiophiles prowling hereabouts, my current system list (as it should be, my Italian sports car and sailing yacht successfully compete for interest and dollars):

AR EB 101 turntable
Sure V15 MR Type 5 cartridge
NAD 541i CD player
NAD c270 amp
Advent Model 300 preamp/tuner
Audio Quest cables amp/preamp connections
Mapleshade Clearview Double Helix speaker wire (bi-wired)
Mapleshade equipment mounting tweaks

Finally, I have been intrigued by discussions comparing the v2 and v3. So with the Signature series the Reference Studio series has been knocked off the Paradigm flagship perch! I too wonder about the apparent loss of some weight assuming that its due to slightly smaller width and the "loss" of mass from real veneer rather than the applique on the v3. I have also read the slight difference in base extension measurement, at these frequencies, how much differentiation is possible by the human ear? A tighter, more accurate bass response in the real world (ie living room) environment that these are used in seems more important to me.
I heard the entire Paradigm line at Sounds & Images in Linwood, NJ while I was auditioning turntable and cartridges and phono stages (Denon, NAD and Aragon). I heard them powered by a Denon integrated amp and thought the entire lineup was terrific, especially the monitors with the built-in amps. I haven't heard the newer Definitive bookshelf speakers, but I wanted for nothing with the powered Paradigms, even the un-powered Studio/20 which at the time was only about $600 in black ash and had nice bass for its size. Beautiful stands, too.
a friend traded in his Ref 80 v2's for 100 v3s.

my take: the tweater in the 80 made me want to stuff my ears with cotton balls they were so harsh / abrasive. the v3's crossover or design or tweater choice is MUCH improved.

they seemed too 'boomy' for my tastes, but i think my friend's smaller room (he went from a 27-foot ceiling 2500sq ft loft to a rather normal-sized 2bdr townhouse) was hurting the speaker's performance.

not my 'kind' of sound, but they had decent soundstaging, VERY (too?) powerful bass. very lacking in midrange tho, but that is a personal-pref. kind of thing. he's getting a pair of Sonic Frontiers Power-3 tube amps which should REALLY tame that bass and warm stuff up a bit *crosses fingers*

oh btw 80clock, i know your pain, i've got a german sports car that sucks money like a black-hole... hobbies like racing cars, skiing, golf are NOT audio-cash-friendly :D
I have been hunting for new speakers for over a year and the Paradigm Reference Studio v3 100's are a serious contender for the money. I actually agree with the other post that the bass is a bit overwhelming but when I auditioned the 40’s they where even better suited to my tastes. I flip-flopped from the 40’s to the 100’s and finally decided to put the 40’s on my “A” list. A friend of mine that is far less patient than I went a head and purchase the 40’s, matching center speaker (CC-470) and rears (ADP-470) along with there “Seismic” subwoofer. He is powering all this with a Rotel 5.1 receiver. I have to tell you – the movie “Master and Commander” nearly had me convinced I was on a boat - I got chills. Music is smooth and clear with bass that nearly gave me internal injuries. This guy is hard on his equipment … he has never even heard of Bach or Tchaikovsky. It’s “Puddle of Mudd” and Nickleback … full blast. I have to tell you … they sound GREAT. I brought over a mixed selection and spent about 4 hours playing with speaker positioning and different source material. It’s amazing how these speakers can be as soft as a feather and had hard as a sledge hammer with instantaneous transition. I listened to Sting, Alison Krauss and BB King and then went to Alan Parson’s Project on 24 bit DVD audio. I switched to some live stuff I just got from the Dead’s summer tour. The concert at the Gorge was incredible and the recording from the soundboard was one of the best. We even threw on the Steely Dan DVD Two Against Nature (in DD 5.1) and it was a real treat. All in all, these speakers are not cheap but not all that expensive either and seem to be a real solid investment for all around use. I have listened to Thiel, JM Labs and Martin Logan. I am looking at B&W Nautilus 804’s next. I also want to hear the Von Schweikert VR4’s. I don’t consider myself an audiophile BUT I am an avid music lover and have been buying music for almost 30 years. I have bought and dumped tens of thousands of dollars into audio equipment and I’m not particularly happy with what I have now. I think I could learn to love the new Reference Series. I am ready to spend $5000.00 but if I don’t have to … why should I? The other consideration is speaker matching if you plan on going with a home theater setup. A good match between the front and center speakers is critical for DD 5.1 and up. The Paradigm has entire Reference line to fit a lot of different needs. I like the thought of having a matching 5.1 set. I have thoroughly listened to the Paradigms … and love them. Let’s see what B&W can do for three times the price.

I listened to these at my local dealer and fell in love. Took 'em home, broke 'em in, and they just sound great. Full range, and they just get smoother and smoother. I had a pair of Klipsch La Scalas for many years and they were really nice. Good sound, very efficient, and extremely low SAF. The Paradigms are perfect for me. Your results may vary!