Paradigm, one of the favorite loudspeaker brands among custom integrators, is breaking its pro-only tradition and creating products for the mass market.
The new line, called Paradigm Shift, will launch with powered speakers and headphones. Additional categories will follow during the year.
It’s an unusual move for a company known for its custom-only distribution model. But Paradigm thinks the strategy will help promote the Paradigm brand to a broader audience – especially younger customers who may grow up to be serious Paradigm aficionados.
At CES 2011 (Venetian Tower Exhibits: 30-136), Paradigm is demonstrating the first products in the Shift line, including an active version of the company’s popular Atom Monitor speakers.
The new Paradigm Shift Active Atom (A2) is a bookshelf speaker, bi-amped with 100 watts of power per speaker. It is designed for any device with a 3.5-mm mini-jack or RCA outputs.
In addition, the A2 has a built-in Airport Express interface on the rear panel for wireless streaming.
Shipping this spring, the A2 is expected to retail in the U.S. for $249 each. Paradigm will sell the speakers on its own Web microsite, Amazon.com and other retail outlets at full price, but independent dealers also will sell the line.
Just Saying No to iPod Docks
Paradigm has dabbled with powered speakers before, but never in the era of streaming media.
In the late 1990s, the company tried a powered version of its Studio 20 Speakers, but Americans weren’t ready for it.
“That was an era when you asked someone to plug a speaker in, and they looked at us like we were crazy,” says Aling. “This is a different era. People desire to put audio wherever they want.”
Expected to ship this month, the Paradigm Shift A2 powered speakers, with built-in Airport Express port, will retail for about $249 each.
For its first consumer launch, Paradigm spurned the typical boom-box route.
“For us, a powered iPod dock just wasn’t the answer,” Aling says. “Speakers we know.”
But rather than competing against mass-market multimedia computer speakers, Paradigm wanted to offer something with the quality of Atom at the “affordable high end.”
If you grow up with good sound, the theory goes, you’ll continue to invest in it.
“Our primary focus is to educate consumers via the out-of-box experience,” says Paradigm product manager Zoltan Balla. “It’s difficult to educate someone on great sound unless they’re listening to it on a day-to-day basis. Hopefully we’ll have those customers as they get into their first condos”
In addition to the speakers, Paradigm is launching its first line of personal sound products, including earbuds, headphones and gaming headsets (expected retail $79-$499).
The company promises the same audio quality that Paradigm customers and resellers might expect.
Although Paradigm is manufacturing the products overseas, the headsets are all designed and engineered at the company’s Mississauga, Ontario offices, where it manufactures most of its loudspeakers and Anthem A/V components.
Known for its advanced anechoic chambers, blind listening tests and other quality-assurance methods, Paradigm obviously can’t apply those same practices to earphone development.
The company did, however, “make a fairly sizable investment” in engineering the new products.
And it sounds like they had some fun doing it. They call their audio test dummy Angelina.
“We finally found someone who would listen,” says Aling.
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Julie Jacobson is co-founder of EH Publishing and currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro, mostly in the areas of home automation, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. She majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. Julie is a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player with the scars to prove it. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson.