Paradigm Persona 9H Loudspeaker Page 2

On the subject of bass, perhaps now's the time to tackle that Anthem Room Correction but the headline story is that the 9H uses conventional passive crossover technology for the midrange and treble, and an active crossover for the bass, operating from 400Hz downwards. All the electronic room correction activity is confined to the bass, and thus able to compensate for sub-optimal positioning, the speakers each having a USB port to connect to the owner's or installer's PC running the ARC software. Each speaker has buttons on the rear to toggle ARC on/off, and run sweep frequencies, while other controls allow you to have the logo on the front of the speakers on or off, and switch a dimmable LED giving a pool of blue 'ambient' illumination from the base of the speakers.

sqnote Spine-Tingling
That last feature reminds me too much of those lights you see underneath customised cars – these loudspeakers really don't need gimmicks like that. They're more than sufficiently impressive – actually, make that amazing – in their own right. Indeed, of all the speakers I have encountered in decades of reviewing, the Persona 9H is right up there in the top ten, and maybe even the top five.

From the first notes played, it was clear something very special was happening. Opening up gently (and on a Canadian theme) with Kate & Anna McGarrigle's 'Be My Baby' [Dancer With Bruised Knees; Warner Bros 7599-25958-2] I was immediately captivated by the vitality with which this familiar track was presented. The sisters' voices had a lovely fragility, with the tight harmonies crisply defined, and a broad, deep sense of the soundstage in which the performances were placed.

If that wasn't spine-tingling enough, a switch to the 1974 New York Philharmonic/Boulez recording of Ravel's La Valse, from Boulez Conducts Ravel [Sony Classical SS 89121] showed the Persona 9H loudspeakers' way with the fluidity of the orchestra, and then their ability to make this listener jump with the power of the percussion, which just explodes into the room. Moreover, these speakers seem capable of delivering any level one might require without any sense of stress or restriction. True, those who like their music smooth and soft may not be too chuffed, but the effect of the 9H in full flow is nothing short of glorious.


That said, the speakers can be sweet and light on their feet with Copland's own recording of 'Billy The Kid' [Copland Conducts Copland; Sony Classical SS 89041] and then deploy their immense power and speed with Frankie Goes To Hollywood's 'Welcome To The Pleasuredome' from the Rage Hard compilation [ZTT 177SACD]. It's a track I have used often, both as a stern test and an absolute riot, but I don't think I have ever heard it as clean and hard-hitting as it did via these Paradigm flagships, even with my phone's VU SPL meter suggesting we were peaking at around 105dB some 4m from the speakers.

Still Gripped
Scale back the musical forces, or at least the complexity, and the Persona 9H 'sound' showed itself well-suited to the cleanly-recorded interplay of the Oscar Peterson Trio's A Jazz Portrait Of Frank Sinatra set [Verve 0602498625750], with subtle drumming from Ed Thigpen, Ray Brown's bass with great snap and resonance, and of course Peterson's delicate touch on the keyboard much in evidence. It was one of those times when you fire up one track just to have a listen, and then find yourself still gripped when the album finishes.

Mind you, that kept on happening during the time I spent with the Persona 9H speakers, with artists as diverse as The Who, Murray Perahia playing Chopin, and the punchy bass and drums of Monty Alexander's band on his My America album [Telarc SACD-63552].

Hi-Fi News Verdict
They may be big, expensive and undeniably heavy, but Paradigm's Persona 9H speakers are outstanding in every respect, from the superb quality of build and finish to their scintillating sound. Don't be fooled by that modest power requirement and seemingly benign impedance: partner them with a high-quality, high power amplifier, and prepare to be dazzled by a design fully justifying its flagship status.

Paradigm Electronics Inc.
Supplied by: Pulse Cinemas Ltd, Essex, UK
01279 647 039