Paradigm Persona B Loudspeakers Page 2

For installation, Paradigm sells its purpose-built B-29 stand, in black or silver, to raise the speaker's tweeter to ear-height. For set-up, I followed the recommendations of a minimum of 20cm from the rear wall, and as far from side walls as possible while maintaining an effective distance between them in relation to my listening position. Once toed-in to optimise imaging, I was ready.

sqnote Lost In Space
Some loudspeakers have an obvious star attribute from the moment you begin listening. Maybe it's speed or bass weight, or treble definition. This wasn't the case with Paradigm's Persona B, simply because its performance all-round was remarkable. There was rhythmic ability, dynamic attack and a fulsome bass and midrange to drive up-tempo pop and rock. With acoustic recordings and female vocals, it won me over with its astonishingly open and articulate sound. Imaging was pin-point accurate. In fact, I often found myself 'suffering' from sensory overload.

Yello's 'Junior B' [The Eye; 44.1kHz/16-bit FLAC] requires a loudspeaker with resolution and soundstaging ability to do it justice. When Jade Davis sang 'Baby, I lost in space' the lyric couldn't have been more apt. The space created by this standmount pair was enthralling, with Yello's guest vocalist an almost ethereal presence in the centre, floating atop a sea of electronic bleeps and well-defined bass. I struggled to reconcile the size of the soundstage with the compact speakers in front of me.

Black Night
Low-end lovers might look suspiciously at the Persona B's 178mm bass/mid and expect it to come up short. After all, you can find bigger drivers on far more affordable standmounts. But while the little Paradigm has its limits in terms of ultimate low-end extension, there's still impressive bass weight, and an absolutely imperious performance across the frequencies it can muster. The 'Junior B' bassline sounded textured and meaty, and never drew attention to itself or felt out of step with the track as a whole.

With a stripped-down composition – Johnny Cash's cover of 'The First Time I Saw Your Face' [American IV: The Man Comes Around; American Recordings 063 339-2] – the Persona B had nowhere to hide. Apart from a gentle background of acoustic guitar and organ, this is all about the singer's legendary baritone, and here it was captivating, being clear and full-bodied, yet full of subtle inflections. The Persona Bs crafted a startlingly intimate performance that had me settling in for a long late-night listening session accompanied by The Man in Black.


Next up was Dire Straits' 'Money For Nothing' [Brothers In Arms; Vertigo 824 499-2], which provided an all-round showcase of the Persona B's talents. The introduction was light and fluid, with synthesiser effects and Sting's falsetto vocal both enjoying the spacious soundstage and rich delivery of those beryllium tweeters.

Perfect Harmony
As the track built to a peak, there was a weighty, snappy energy to snare and bass drums. Knopfler's iconic riff came next, its complexity and harmonic flourishes laid bare. Then the band locked into a tight groove that was impossible not to nod along to, and the speaker was happy to oblige, subjectively free of any hint of breakup, as I raised the volume. Enter the old hi-fi trope about 'hearing new details'. I've listened to 'Money For Nothing' countless times, but on this occasion I had the sense I was hearing everything the track had to offer, perfectly presented and balanced.

The Persona B's high-frequency handling warrants specific praise. There's a crisp, distinct edge to both hi-hats and fret slides that's a perfect contrast to the velvety smoothness elsewhere. And the soaring nature of its tweeter was particularly evident during Mike Oldfield's 'North Star/Platinum Finale' [Platinum; Virgin CDV 2141], where his high-pitched guitar outro sounded sweet and thrillingly undistorted. The complexity of this four-track suite, both in terms of instrumentation and stereo imaging, posed the Persona B no problems either.

This speaker sounds superb with anything you care to throw at it. The Marshall Tucker Band's live recording of 'Everyday (I Have the Blues)' [The Marshall Tucker Band; 44.1kHz/16-bit FLAC] is ramshackle and riotous, the group at times clinging onto its blues rhythm with levels varying wildly. The Persona B conveyed it sublimely, placing crowd claps and whistles at the back of the soundstage, and capturing every half-pitch bend and leading edge of Toy Caldwell's guitar playing.

Changing tack entirely, Chase & Status's dance anthem 'All Goes Wrong' [Tribe; 44.1kHz/16-bit FLAC] benefited from the speaker's precision timing and bass handling. The continuous deep notes that carry the chorus had a purity that spoke of a cabinet and driver working in perfect harmony. Less all goes wrong, more all goes right…

Hi-Fi News Verdict
Definitely not persona non grata, this standmount speaker stands out as worthy of its flagship status. Yes, you'd expect superlative performance at the price, but the Persona B's blend of clarity and musicality with its vice-like control of the low-end and expansive presentation is routinely breathtaking. Finally, Paradigm's cabinet design and luxurious finish sends its appeal skyrocketing into orbit!

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