[SoundStage!]Archived Letters
March 2008

Usher or Paradigm?

March 28, 2008

To Doug Schneider,

I am considering purchase of the Usher Be-718, Paradigm Signature S2 v.2 or Paradigm Signature S4 v.2. I have read your review of the Usher and comparison to the S2 v.1 and thought it was great (and it appears that the Usher would be the choice of these two speakers).

I know you have mentioned your desire to hear the S2 v.2, but I have not seen any review nor have I seen much in the way of reviews of the Paradigm v.2 speakers (other than your review of the S1 v.2).

From all the info I can find, there seems to be a sense that the Paradigm can sound slightly forward as compared to other speakers (which I don't like). The application is for a second system in which I tend to listed to rock music (average-to-poor recordings) in a medium-size room. Vertical/horizontal dispersion is important because I walk around the room when listening.

Do you have any thoughts regarding overall performance of the S2 v.2 or S4 v.2 versus the Be-718 in the application outlined above?

Tony Polinski

For years, I've always gotten a lot of letters regarding Paradigm speakers -- in fact, more than any other company. In the last year, though, Usher' has been a close second -- particularly since I reviewed the Be-718.

As for the characterization of Paradigm speakers being forward, I wouldn't say they're that at all. A "forward" character, to me, is a "pushed-up" midrange, something they certainly don't have but many other speakers do. However, almost all the Paradigm speakers I've reviewed have quite extended highs -- more extended than those companies who tend to roll off the top end to make the speaker a little more polite -- so maybe that's the "forward" character you're referring to. That's one problem with audiophile terminology, it's not that precise.

As of yet, I still haven't reviewed the S2 v.2, or the S4 v.2 for that matter. However, given my experience with the S1 v.2, I'd certainly put them on my audition list before I settled on the Be-718s. The Be-718 is obviously outstanding -- killer, in fact -- but given that the S2 v.2 is about the same price and Paradigm has such a strong reputation with the Signature line, auditioning before purchasing wouldn't be complete without such a comparison.

That said, one thing that hasn't been mentioned at all is power -- and that's something that could affect your decision. Although the Be-718 is great-sounding, it isn't very sensitive, meaning that it requires quite a bit more power to reach the same SPLs as my much my-more-sensitive S2 v.1s. So, depending on how powerful the amplifier is that you're planning to match these speakers with, that could affect whether the Be-718 is suitable for you or not....Doug Schneider

Reference 3 and Premier 350?

March 24, 2008


I am in the process of upgrading my Pass Labs X1 preamp with an Audio Research Reference 3 preamp (it is on order), and while researching suitable matches for a power amplifier I came across your review of the Conrad-Johnson Premier 350.

My current setup is a Wadia 861 CD player, Pass Labs X1 preamp, Electrocompaniet AW-250r power amp and Rockport Mira speakers. I would be very grateful if you could give me your views on the Premier 350 matched with the Reference 3 in my setup, specially in comparison to the current amplifier. Please feel free to voice your opinions (negative or positive). I might add that in the absence of any good audio dealers in India, my setup has all been bought based on friends' recommendations and online reviews.

Manjyot S Bubber

I think very highly of both the Reference 3 and Premier 350. However, used together, the two produced enough background hiss to be bothersome, likely due to the Premier 350's very high voltage gain, so unfortunately I would not recommend that you use both together. The Reference 3 is best paired with a Reference amp. In your price range, that would mean the Reference 110, which is a gem of a stereo amp and the perfect mate for the Reference 3. It should have no problems driving your speakers. I have also had very good luck with the Reference 3 and the Lamm M1.2 hybrid monoblocks connected balanced, although the Lamm amps cost quite a bit more than the C-J or ARC amps....Marc Mickelson

Which minimonitor?

March 20, 2008

To Doug Schneider,

I'm saving money for the Dynaudio Confidence C1. I have to buy it sight unheard because it's a special order. But you've heard the Usher Audio Technology Be-718. Do you actually prefer this speaker over the C1? How about the Synchrony One B and Two B, and the Dynaudio Focus 110 and Focus 140?

Terry Uy

I never recommend buying any audio product without hearing it first. Audio is very subjective, and even though some people may think a product is the best thing out there, you might hate it. It happens all the time.

However, you did ask about my own personal preferences, and I will give you those. I did like the sound of the Dynaudio Confidence C1 a little bit more than that of the Usher Audio Technology Be-718. However, it wasn't a thing where one was necessarily better than the other -- an important consideration given the vast difference in price (the Be-718 is less than $3000 per pair, while the C1 is over $6000). They were just different, and this is where that subjective element comes in. Frankly, someone may like the Be-718 more, and I'd be OK with that. However, I will also say that I do like the way the Be-718 looks versus the C1. I just can't stand the way the C1 looks.

As for the other Dynaudios, I haven't heard the Focus 140 at all. However, I have heard the Focus 110 in my room. I found it to be quite a full-sounding speaker despite its small size. I also liked the way it looks. In fact, if someone wants a small, attractive speaker with a robust sound, it's one to consider. However, I thought it was bettered sonically by the Ascend Acoustics Sierra-1 that I reviewed on SoundStage! A/V and costs about 50% less.

As for the Synchrony One B and Two B, I have reviewed the Two B on SoundStage! A/V and found it to be an outstanding loudspeaker for $1500 per pair. I imagine that the One B, which is $2000 per pair, would perform similarly.

Does all that put you in the right direction? Will you like any of these speakers more than the C1 or Be-718? That's hard to say. No, scratch that -- impossible to say. As I said, it's you who has to decide, and the most important thing to take from all this is that you're far better off hearing the speakers before you buy. It's the best way to avoid making a costly mistake....Doug Schneider

Simaudio versus Cambridge?

March 17, 2008

To Doug Schneider,

Your review of the Simaudio Moon CD-1 CD player has interested me in the product. Have you had a chance to compare it to the highly regarded Cambridge Audio Azur 840c? Since they are in the same price range, I was hoping to find a comparison of these two models.

Rich Vergona

For quite some time we've been trying to get the Cambridge products in for review -- not just the CD player, but the integrated amps and receivers as well. We've covered the products extensively at shows. However, we haven't received anything yet.

But it's letters like this that prompt us to investigate further. The Cambridge units are obviously competitive, and readers want to know about them. Therefore, we're going to contact the North American distributor again. Let's see what happens....Doug Schneider

Paradigm or KEF?

March 14, 2008

To Doug Schneider,

I enjoy reading your reviews.

I am in a position for buying a new pair of speakers. (I currently own a pair of Paradigm Signature S4s.) I have auditioned the new Paradigm Signature S6 v.2 and really like the refinement from the old version. However, I am also interested in the KEF Reference 201/2, which you reviewed.

Is the KEF 201/2 a better speaker overall than the floorstanding S6 v.2 with the new tweeter?

Pat Del Sordo

That's a very interesting question because price-wise, the KEF Reference 201/2 and Paradigm Signature S6 v.2 are in the same ballpark. But, even though fairly close in price, they're quite different speakers.

The S6 v.2 is a three-way design with quite a large cabinet and with two dedicated woofers. The 201/2 is pretty large for a stand-mounted speaker and it, too is a three-way design, but it's not the size of the S6 v.2 and has only one woofer. Therefore, based on that alone, it's easy to see how the S6 v.2 would go deeper in the bass and, quite likely, be able to play louder.

Furthermore, they both employ advanced technologies, but they're a little different again. For example, the 201/2 has KEF's Uni-Q driver technology, while the S6 v.2 employs more conventional discrete drivers but features Paradigm's advanced beryllium-dome tweeter.

Mentioning these things is to point out this: The speakers are similar enough in price but different enough in most other ways that there's no way someone can say one is "a better speaker overall" than the other. They're different, and likely equally as good, but for different listeners in, most likely, different listening environments....Doug Schneider

Wilson Audio X-2s and room size

March 11, 2008


I've read with great interest and enthusiasm your articles on the Wilson Audio Alexandria X-2 speakers. Recently, a great opportunity arose in which I could be the lucky recipient of a used X-2 (Series 1) at half of the retail price. The speakers are in mint condition and are being sold by the authorized Wilson Audio dealer here. The great upside for me is to convert the speakers into a Series 2 edition and still save a significant amount of money by buying used.

My greatest apprehension, though, is the size of my room. My listening room measures 23'L x 14'W. However, my ceiling height reaches about 12.5' at its apex. The room's cubic dimensions are quite significant in terms of volume as a result of my high ceiling. Notwithstanding, I still feel it may be insufficient as compared to your room's dimensions of 29'L X 20'W in terms of allowing the grand scale of the music to project. I would really appreciate your thoughts on the matter, as this purchase is just around the corner.

Rey Martirez

I think your room will be fine, and you'll hear all that the X-2s can provide. You don't need a huge space for the X-2s because they can be tailored to a great degree to your room and listening position. Hopefully buying from a Wilson Audio dealer means that you'll get setup from them, which will maximize the speakers' performance in your room. If not, I would make it a condition of the sale, as you won't hear the X-2s at their best without professional setup and tuning....Marc Mickelson

Universal player for use with Anthem electronics

March 6, 2008

To John Crossett,

I don't know how often you get e-mail from fellow listeners who have used your reviews to make good buying decisions. I want to say I am one of them!

I am an audio/music nut who, due to the normal state of finances these days, had to be rather creative and budget-minded in looking for some new equipment. I had gotten off the constant-upgrade roller coaster some time ago, tired of all the boxes and the continued pursuit of the ultimate (?) system. I was looking for a system that would be rather simple, sound good, and, most of all, not be too terribly expensive. Maybe not beer budget, but not crazy money either.

I came across your reviews of the Anthem TLP 1 and PVA 2 last year and thought I might check these products out at some point. After scouring through the usual reviews, I finally realized that a dealer in my city was a Paradigm dealer and had access to the Anthem gear as well. I was able to get on loan the pair and try them at home. I was glad I did. They filled the bill very nicely. What made me really key in on these pieces was that you used Magnepan '1.6s for your review. I have a pair of MMGs on Sound Anchor stands, and DH Labs interconnects and speaker cables. Needless to say, this all works out very well, and I am enjoying the system very much.

I don't know if you have time to make any recommendations, but my limitation right now is that my source is merely adequate -- a Sony DVD player that I use for music CDs as well. I don't even know the model number. It is a cheap $79 job. I would love to get a decent universal player, but my main love is music first, then movie/video. Any recommendations for the above system as far as synergy at, say, the under-$1000 mark? I was fortunate to have the dealer for Anthem here, not much else available in Indianapolis, or I should say somewhat limited.

Any help would be appreciated. Your reviews always seem to be straightforward and very well put together.

Timothy Frazeur

I'm glad I was able to steer you toward some gear that both fit your budget and brought you sound you can enjoy. That's always my goal. As for a recommendation for a universal player, check out the units from Oppo. Yes, they are inexpensive, but they sound really good. I have one myself....John Crossett

Advice on integrated amp

March 3, 2008

To Doug Schneider,

I'm putting together a two-channel high-end system. I recently purchased Von Schweikert VR-1 loudspeakers. I have a Music Hall CD25.2 CD player, but now I need a quality integrated amp to use with everything. I am debating between a used Musical Fidelity A3.5 or the Creek Creek 5350se. Which of these integrateds will prove to be the best match for the VR-1s? My musical tastes are acoustical folk, light rock from the '80s, smooth jazz -- stuff like Sting, James Taylor, and Kenny G. I love tight bass and smooth, flowing detail. I do not listen to heavy metal/hard rock and will play at lower to moderate levels.

Michael Campton

First off, I have to say that no one can simply recommend the best integrated amp for the job without actually trying the integrated with the speakers (along with the necessary speaker cable that goes in between). Some people try to, mind you, but they're just giving you a load of bad advice.

That said, I do know that the VR-1s are quite easy to drive (I reviewed them), and looking at the specifications of those integrated amplifiers, I see that both of them should drive the speakers quite easily. However, I've used neither, so I don't know how good they actually are. But, I have used the new Simaudio Moon i-1 integrated amplifier -- a review appeared on GoodSound! on March 1 -- and found it to be excellent.

Therefore, the best thing I can suggest is to also add the i-1 to the list and then try to actually listen to all three with your speakers....Doug Schneider


[SoundStage!]All Contents
Copyright SoundStage!
All Rights Reserved