Panzer, I sold my Paradigm 40's to get the new ACI Sapphires. To me, for music, the ACI's are the better speakers FOR MY TASTES.
The ACI's have a perfect combination of detail in the high frequencies without a hint of brightness. The treble is so ultra smooth. These speakers sound MAGICAL on good recordings. In fact, I appreciate these babies more and more with each passing day. They truly sound better the more you listen.
Now, there is nothing wrong with the Paradigm 40's. They are great speakers also. They have a more prominent top end, which some may prefer for HT, but because your listening habits are 80% Music, I would say the Sapphires are the better play here. My listening habits are more like 90% music, so I tend to side with your way of thinking.
One thing I did like about the Paradigms more than the Sapphires was that to me, they were a more forgiving speaker on bad recordings. Some of my metal discs from the 80's sounded better on the Paradigms. The Sapphires are like a window to the world...if you feed them garbage, they will give it right back to you and trust me, on bad recordings, the material sounds bad. They should just try to haze fraternity pledges by listening to "Little Guitars" off Van Halen's DIVER DOWN on these speakers...not pretty to listen to.
However, good recordings like Eric Clapton's Unplugged or most SACD recordings will make you feel like you are in the room with the artist.
I like the fit and finish of the Sapphires more than the Paradigms as well, there is no plastic on the outside of the Sapphires and I have mine finished in Maple, which is a much classier look than the Veneer finish of the Paradigms.
Unfortunately, I haven't heard the Revels. There is no local dealer for those near me and to be honest, I've hit the point of diminishing returns with the ACI's...I'm pretty content right now and I'm normally pretty critical of my system...The ACI's do a lot of things extremely well at a price point that I can eminently live with. You should check them out.
The revels are quite nice indeed. I've not heard the ACI's, so no comment there, and while I like the Digms a lot, they are outpriced, and outperformed by the Revels. Go listen to the revels too if you can. I don't think it's an even fight at all between the Paradigms and the revels though. Trying to remember the revels, they were detailed all around, and not bright, my digms can sometimes be a little fatiguing on Clapton's unplugged album and other similarly bright recordings, but the revels were right on, and very nice bass too. Take a listen, they're a bargain.
Between the three, I would go for the Sapphire's. You may also want to look at other choices like Onix Ref 1's, Ellis Audio 1801's, and other similar speakers. Like has been mentioned, these speakers are highly revealing, so if you want to enjoy lower quality recordings, it is recommended to have another system, or maybe taking a look at other choices.
If I was doing a bookshelf speaker I would do either the Onix Ref 1 or the ACI Sapphires. Actually I would do the Onix and never really thought more about the Sapphires because of just how ugly they are to me but if that doesn't bother you then I've heard they are amazing and are comparable to the Ref 1.
I'd rank them Sapphires-Revels- Paradigms. I have to say that I don't find the Sapphires too revealing,. They strike me as a great balancing act. For instance, music that was unbearable on my Wilsons isn't bad on the Sapphires. Most recordings sound great. As mentioned, they won't hide flaws, but few high-end speakers do. The Revels would be a pretty close second, but I think the Sapphires have the edge in imaging and that balance thing. They also cost significantly less than the Revels.
As to appearance, I think they are gorgeous. I'm personally pretty sick of shiny black boxes and the same veneer everywhere. Of course looks and sound are something you have to decide for yourself. If you like the look, audition them and see what you think.
IMO the Paradigms have better dynamic capability (impact / slam) vs. the other choices. If optimal placement is a problem then the M20's placement compensation control circuit may be a critical feature. I haven't heard the ACI but the other two have different sound qualities... go audition and decide which you prefer.
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