June 02, 2011
| by Arlen Schweiger
Some audio brands just go better together. I’ve spent much time testing Paradigm loudspeakers with A/V components, but they always sound more natural and commanding when Canadian sister company Anthem does the driving.
That’s good for Anthem and Paradigm dealers, because it provides a wealth of solutions. The latest combo in my theater pitted some of Paradigm’s latest-version Studio speakers (v.5) with Anthem’s AVM 50v processor and MCA 50 amplifier.
Over my previous Paradigm/Anthem setup, the speakers were a bump up to Paradigm’s Reference line, with the Studios a notch below the flagship Signature series, though size-wise the LCRs went from towers to bookshelf models. The electronics were a slight downgrade from Anthem’s Statement-branded D2v pre-pro and P5 amp.
The AVM 50v will be familiar to anyone well-schooled in the D2v. The front and rear panels are virtually identical, and the AVM even added tactile response to the volume control knob. It works with the Anthem Room Correction (ARC) software, a key element amid my theater’s eclectic basement architecture.
The video scaling incorporates the same Sigma Designs VXP processor that greatly enhances broadcast and standard DVD content to 1080p, which was nice for the handful of NCAA Tournament games on non-HD TruTV. Standard DVDs like Gladiator, especially during close-ups, could almost be mistaken for Blu-ray because of the keen upscaled detail.
Audio processing is where the AVM 50v falls shy of the rarified-air D2v (which costs $2,500 more), but still packs wonderful punch and clarity at reference levels that you’d expect at the price point.
As with the D2v, the 7.1-channel AVM 50v decodes every format except the latest Dolby PLIIz “height” spec, and I found the all-channel stereo very enveloping for SD TV broadcasts as well as digital audio from my PC.
The MCA 50 may bring relief on installs — at 61 pounds it doesn’t weigh half of the 130-pound P5. At 225 x 5 watts per channel (into 8 ohms) compared with 325 x 5 of the P5, you lose some oomph, but the MCA 50 is no slouch. It retains aspects such as an elegantly understated faceplate, large heatsinks and balanced XLR connections (Straight Wire cables in my setup), while the more finicky binding posts were my only knock.
The Studio 20s, which contain a 1-inch dome tweeter and a 7-inch cone bass/midrange driver, are effective in two- and multi-channel listening. Paired with my cheap turntable, they produced a lively soundstage and spot-on image for 70’s vinyl such as Derek and the Dominos’ In Concert, Billy Joel’s Turnstiles and Steely Dan’s Pretzel Logic; CDs like Phish’s Joy and Crosby, Stills and Nash’s Greatest Hits conveyed fantastic instrument and vocal definition as well as impressive dynamics. There wasn’t as much bass as the full-range Monitor 11 towers had output, but for bookshelves the Studio 20s sound much bigger than their size suggests (Studio offers towers in its 60 and 100 models).
The ADP-590 surrounds really impressed me, providing noticeably more impact than the Monitor ADP-390s previously employed. Sports broadcasts and Blu-ray concert discs presented a better sense of “being there” as the ADP-590s brought out more crowd noise.
On an aesthetic note, the Studio 20s look really elegant in their piano black gloss finish, but they are also available in cherry and rosenut wood finishes if that’s more to your client’s taste. Also, I must say that the script “P” demarcation of the company’s Reference line feels classier than the full “Paradigm” badge on non-Reference products. The ADP-590 comes in black or white, and at only about 6.5 inches deep are relatively low profile for wall mounting.
I also incorporated the Studio Series complementary Sub 12 subwoofer into the surround-sound system, which provided more than enough bottom end to enhance the bookshelf-size front channels. I set the crossover right around 80 Hz, and barely hit the volume dial to 10 o’clock in unleashing the dual 850-watt front-firing power. The Sub 12 also comes in black, cherry and rosenut, and I appreciated the balanced XLR input to keep in line with the rest of the XLR connections made to the Anthem processor.
I’m more a music fan than movie fan, and while I appreciated its prowess for two-channel audio I have to admit this Paradigm/Anthem system truly excelled on the surround-sound front. Lossless Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks on Blu-ray thrived in this setup, especially in the imaging of effects in the left and right front and surround channels.
The best example was Disney’s Ponyo Blu-ray, which balanced crisp dialogue against an orchestral score that engulfs the viewer and lets the system speak for itself.
Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.