I was hoping to get down to Cerritos today to listen to some speakers made by "Audia Sound Labs" that the manager of a store there thought I might like, but due to time constraints I was unable to make it. (sorry Mike) Hopefully I can get there next week. I did however have about an hour to get to my absolute nearest dealer and compare the Dynaudio Focus 220's with these:Paradigm Studio 100:
I brought a couple of different CD's with me, but mostly the same. One of the new ones was Quincy Jones "Big Band Bossa Nova." I am sure everybody knows the first track on it as it was used to death in the Austin Powers movies... much of the disk is a bit cheesy, but it is recorded well. The second track, however, is great, very dynamic, lots of sounds, truly a BIG band. As soon as it started playing on the 100's I thought "nice... definitely a wall of sound." I could hear the bells, saxophones, trumpets, drums, guitars... all distinct and separate. Saxophones and muted trumpets both had a nice tone. everything was very clear, very dynamic.
The Beatles "Come Together" had a full, warm, smooth bassline. Guitars and vocals were in balance and equally as full as the bass. I skipped forward to "The End," and the Paradigms sounded great. Vocals were nice and clear. Guitars were crunchy and I could hear the decay on the amp in-between the chords. Drums were good, but I failed to note anything about them. That is unusual for me, because it is the drums that I like best about that song, I guess I was too busy listening to all the other sounds going on...
Cymbals, were very distinct.
Erykah Badu showed very nice bass impact from the Studio 100's. Rim shots sounded great. This set of Paradigms brought the vocals more forward with this music, and seemed to strip away some of the lushness of them. There is a definite edge to their sound.
Fela Kuti was handled well, another dynamic recording, on a dynamic speaker. Actually, I think that is the best way to describe the Paradigm Studio 100's. "Dynamic." They have a very nice separation of sound with this music, nothing gets muddled together. Horns have a definite edge to them, coming across a little bright. I think that along with the upper mid push that seems to run through the Studio line, that the 100's have a mid bass push too. I like the impact that it creates. I actually feel the bass lines with these speakers. Though, they do not move enough air to let me feel the kick drum like you would at a live show.
The second "new" disk I brought today was Stanton Moore "All Kooked Out." He is the drummer (one of the best out there right now, IMO) for the band Galactic and tends more toward jazz with his solo releases. On this one he is accompanied by Charlie Hunter who plays an 8(I think) string bass/guitar. He gets some great sounds going with his custom instrument and has an instantly recognizable style... (wait a minute I am supposed to be writing about the speakers! Sorry about the digression, I am a music junky... "Funkmonkey, the music junky." Man, sometimes I crack myself up
) The 100's actually sounded great with this recording. Nice full bass (again), highs are crisp, sax sounds true, and drums are solid. I don't notice any accents with this music.
Fu Manchu- guitars sound a little too edgy, bass has nice impact and fullness... I am feeling it again. Overall they sound good with hard rock but maybe a bit too crisp.
I get the impression that the Paradigm Studio 100's would make an outstanding set of fronts for home-theater/movies, especially with the way that they treat vocals. I really love their bass impact, and the depth that they reach with out sounding flabby. If I took these home I would have to use an EQ to tone down the upper mids/highs a bit because I ultimately feel that they are a bit out of balance. If the top end of these were more smooth, like the Dynaudio's, or the Usher Be's, I would buy them. I still may, as they are certainly in my top four.
I should also add that these are physically the largest speakers I have listened to, the Martin Logans stand taller, but the Paradigms have a bigger footprint and take up the most volume of space. They are also distinctive in their styling, especially with the grills off. Eight drivers and two tweeters can be pretty imposing to look at, for one pair of speakers.
I managed to do a quick comparison to the Dynaudio Focus 220's, as the place I went had both....Dynaudio Focus 220
Overall I thought that the Focus 220's were a much smoother sounding speaker than the Studio 100's. Less punchy in the bass and less crisp in the highs. That is not necessarily a bad thing, it is just a difference in sound from one speaker to the next, and each would have advantages with different kinds of music. For example, I liked trumpets better on the Dynaudios, but saxophones better on the Paradigms. Erykah Badu rattled the grill covers on the Dynaudio's today, and we had to remove them to listen. The sloppy bass issues I had the other day were gone, they sounded deep lush and defined. But, next to the Studio 100's the Focus 220's did not go quite as low. Overall I preferred the sound of Erykah Badu on the Dynaudio's, though I would want to supplement their bottom end with a sub. Quincy Jones had a bit less sparkle on the Focus 220's, but everything was still distinct and clear, just less forward. The same thing can be said about Stanton Moore, and Fu Manchu: less forward; in your face; not as crisp, or punchy as the Studio 100's. I still really like the sound of the Dynaudio Focus 220's, they seem to be content to blend into the background and let you enjoy the music. More refined and understated, in both looks and sound, than the "I am going to ROCK your face off" attitude of the Studio 100's.Jump to Round 8