Paradigm Premier 7.1 Speaker System & Defiance X15 Sub Review

As Canada’s premier speaker maker, Paradigm enjoys an enviable reputation for making both affordable high-performance speakers and cost-no-object super speakers. It is also justifiably famous for making some of the most powerful subs sold to consumers. This review is about a 7.1 system comprising the company’s Premier speakers and Defiance X15 subwoofer, which make for a potent combo by any standard.

Paradigm Premier is one of four different lines of standalone speakers offered by the company. It is the step-up from the entry-level Monitor SE and sits under the Prestige line and the flagship, high-end Persona line. This system represents a change of pace as lately I’ve reviewed Atmos and DTS:X configuration, but this is a “pure” 7.1 speaker system. Of course, you can add 3D immersive audio if you want it but for this review I stuck with high-impact 7.1. Read on to find out how this Paradigm Premier speaker system performs in a home theater.


Features and Specifications

Paradigm sent me the large Premier 800F towers and 600C center channel. Surround duty was handled by four Premier 200B bookshelf speakers and the bass came from the Defiance X15 subwoofer. They shipped the speakers with a Gloss Black finish but are also available in Gloss White and “Espresso Grain” finishes. Paradigm notes that the speakers are “compatible with 8 ohms” which is a nice way of saying impedance varies but these speakers will do fine hooked up to an AVR.

Premier is “Crafted in Canada” which is to say, manufactured there. Check out this video for more on that:

The 800F towers ($999 each) are a 3-way design comprising four drivers: Twin 6.5″ carbon-infused polypropylene cone woofers, a 6.5″ midrange made of the same material and a “1” (25mm) X-PAL™ dome, ferro-fluid damped / cooled dome with a perforated phase-aligning tweeter (PPA™) lens. Paradigm rates the frequency response at ±3dB from 43 Hz – 25 kHz with an anechoic sensitivity of 89 dB (92 dB in-room). Maximum power handling rating is 180 W.

Paradigm’s Premier 600C center ($999) is an impressive piece of hardware. This is a 3-way center channel done right—it’s more than a match for the towers: Six drivers (one tweeter, one midrange, two mid/bass drivers, two passive radiators) provide the output. The 600C actually slightly more sensitive than the 800F tower speakers (91 dB anechoic) while offering the same power handling of 180 W. This is a plus because the center channel is called upon to reproduce the most sound of any channel in a multichannel system. The driver array has two 6.5″ woofers, two 6.5″ passive radiators, one 4″ midrange and a 1″ dome tweeter. The rated frequency response is ±3dB from 60 Hz – 25 kHz.


Paradigm Premier 200B bookshelf speakers handled the surround channels.  Photo by Mark Henninger

The Paradigm Premier 200B is an excellent 2-way bookshelf that has more than what it takes to handle the surrounds in this system. It uses a 1″ dome tweeter and a 6.5″ mid/woofer to generate ±3dB from 55 Hz – 25 kHz frequency response with 87 dB sensitivity (anechoic). Maximum power handling is 80 watts.

Model Power Handling Freq Response Sensitivity Impedance
Premier 800F 180 W 43 Hz – 25 kHz 92 dB (in-room) 8 ohms
Premier 600C 180 W 60 Hz – 25 kHz 94 dB (in-room) 8 ohms
Premier 200B 80 W 55 Hz – 25 kHz 90 dB (in-room) 8 ohms

Here are the specifications with in-room sensitivity.

Bass is a key part of the home theater experience. I reviewed the Defiance X15 subwoofer ($1499, click here to read the review) and found it to be a very impressive performer. There’s nothing modest about it, it’s a huge ported sub that digs deep. Moreover, it hits hard and thanks to built-in Anthem Room Correction there’s no bass bloat. It served as the foundation of this system with its 900 watt (1800 peak) amplifier and ±3 dB from 18Hz – 240Hz frequency response.

A Denon AVR-X8500H took care of all source switching, processing and amplification for this system. The projector used is a Sony VPL-VW295ES and the screen is a 110″ (diagonal) Ambient Visionaire screen by Screen Excellence.


Setup and Use

I installed this Paradigm Premier 7.1 system in my dedicated home theater. The 600C center channel sat just below the screen, with the 800F towers located on each side of the screen and toed in a bit. The 200B bookshelf speakers sat upon speaker stands, one pair flanking my sofa and the other pair behind it.

I ran ARC on the Defiance X15 sub and then ran Audyssey on the entire system using the Denon X85000H. The result, according to the MultEQ Editor app, was a system that can play “flat” from 16 Hz to above 20 kHz, which covers the entire audible range of sound. Furthermore, because the sub is so powerful, the system can offer this full-range sound at high output levels, which is key for playing movies with soundtracks that exploit such power.

With no surprises in the setup process, I used this system over the course of a month to watch a variety of movies including Venom, First Man, Bohemian Rhapsody and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. The overall effect of the system is luscious, the sound that comes out of the speakers matches the scale of what’s on the screen perfectly. From tiny, delicate details to impressively grand effects, the Premier speakers worked together to generate a seamless circle of sound.

The 800F towers in this rig are, on their own, a great choice for a 2.0 or 2.1 system. Indeed, configuring the X8500H to run in 2.1 mode resulted in a profound 2-channel listening experience… with bass dialed-in just right. It’s a 2-for-1 special of sorts, this 7.1 system is great for movies but it’s also an amazing stereo. By using only two of the X8500H’s channels and sending the bass to the sub, the system was able to achieve concert levels in my living room without the rig breaking a sweat and go beyond that, too.

And the bass… oh man, that X15 bass. With the right music (dubstep for example) this system goes beyond offering a mere “listening” experience. It is a full-on, tangible, physical way to enjoy music. Bass takes on texture, you start to feel each percussive hits in your bones. Then again, same goes for rock music. I Queued up Jane’s Addiction and crank it and the kick drum plus guitars are basically doing the same thing as electronic sine waves and synth drums. This speaker system lets you feel the music, if you so choose.

Seven years ago, I composed a number of musical tracks that intentionally incorporate super-deep bass. I mastered those tracks with a 5-subwoofer DIY rig I built and tuned—meticulously following instructions on this site for how to use parametric EQ to integrate them and correct for room effects. It’s how I learned much of what I know about subs today—hands on and with the help of community. I mention all this because I’ve used these tracks on many subwoofer systems and more than any other music, I know exactly how the bass should sound and feel.

So, having said all that, upmixing Dub King tracks like “The So Low Project” and “Throbberizer Dub”  to 7.1 surround gave me the exact result I sought. Buttery bass the dips right into the subterranean world of infrasonics along with ambience that creates a holographic soundfield where all the speakers are invisible, even the center channel blends in perfectly (the original mixes were made taking upmixing to surround into consideration).

Ultimately, the 800F towers are worthy candidates for use in a 2-channel rig that kicks ass without breaking the bank. If you want to start “small” pair them with an AVR and build your system out from there—first add a sub for 2.1, then go to 5.1 and if you have the room behind your seat, 7.1. What matters is once you implement surround-sound with this speaker series, you’ve got the excellent 600C taking care of center channel duties. Point is, you can have a series of speakers with great towers and bookshelf models and if you don;t have a center to match, that leaves a hole. Paradigm made sure the opposite is true here.


Conclusion

Premier is a no-nonsense, highly refined, highly capable line of speakers designed to match up well with a premium AVR and offer a well-rounded performance.

During movie action scenes, I was not thinking “Hey, I really miss those height effects.” The reality is 7.1 is highly immersive. Having said that, height channels are the one thing I’d add to this rig. However I’d also argue that even if the goal is 7.2.4 or beyond, you should first invest in a solid 7.1 foundation, because most of what you hear in a movie mix is a regular surround-surround mix. Therefore, it’s crucially important to get your 5.1 or 7.1 system “done right” before expanding upward.

This Paradigm Premier system achieves a very high level of fidelity considering the asking price. To my sensibilities, the best thing about the system is the availability of a center channel that’s a proper 3-way design and truly a match for the towers! Add the fact it’s all made in-house, in Canada, at a price that’s competitive and you can see why Paradigm is such a popular speaker brand.

The Premier line from Paradigm is a Top Choice 2019 selection. It’s a great choice for anyone that seeks attractive, affordable high-performance 3-way speakers for their surround-sound system.