What is the Paradigm Persona Series?
It’s an uncompromising range of speakers that not only has size on its side but the kind of build quality, audiophile components and rare earth elements that seriously jack up the cost. Make no mistake, these are very high-end speakers, with a price tag to match. The Persona Series is the definition of an aspirational product, but do you actually get what you pay for in this life?
The system reviewed here is composed of the Persona 3F floorstanders (£10,700 a pair), the Persona C centre speaker (£7,200), the Persona B standmounts (£7,800 a pair), and the Persona SUB (£6,900). That’s a total outlay of £32,600, and the crazy thing is the 3F is the smallest and cheapest floorstander in the Persona range!
Related: Best Home AV Products 2019 – Editor's Choice Awards
Paradigm Persona 3F Floorstander SpeakerThe Paradigm Persona 3F is a rear-ported floorstanding speaker that uses two 7-inch woofers, a 7-inch mid/bass driver, and a 1-inch tweeter. The sheer size means there’s room for these larger drivers, but they aren’t just big, they also use some fairly expensive components.
Specifically, Beryllium which is a rare chemical element with low mass, high tensile strength and extreme thermal stability. The tweeters and mid/bass drivers all use Truextent Pure Beryllium foil, which has been formulated to be stiffer and significantly lighter than other premium diaphragm materials.
Paradigm hasn’t bothered with traditional grilles, preferring to keep everything on show, although there are metal grilles over the tweeters and mid/bass drivers. However, even these aren’t purely decorative, their patterns actually form a Perforated-Phase Aligning (PPA) lens that is designed to cancel any out-of-phase aberrations.
The result is a speaker with a claimed sensitivity of 92dB, a claimed frequency response of 46Hz to 45kHz and an impedance of 8 ohms. However, if that isn’t enough for you, and you fancy something a bit bigger, there also the Persona 5F (£16,000 a pair), Persona 7F (£23,500 a pair) and flagship Persona 9H (£33,800 a pair).
The overall design is elegant, with an elliptically tapered rear and sloped top plate, while the Canadian craftsmanship is meticulous. These speakers boast an unprecedented level of engineering and construction with hand-made non-resonant cabinets, machined aluminium matte grey baffles and premium-grade finishes. There are also dual high-quality binding posts at the rear.
The Persona 3F might not be cheap, but there’s no denying where the money has gone. There’s a heavy base that provides stability, and the choices of finish are just as impressive. The review sample was finished in metallic-gloss Sonic Silver, but you can also choose metallic-gloss Aria Blue or high-gloss Harmony White, Vanta Black and Carbon Black.
These are among the biggest and heaviest speakers I have ever reviewed: measuring 241 x 1126 x 155mm (WxHxD), and weighing in at 34kg.
Paradigm Persona C Centre SpeakerThe Paradigm Persona C is a dedicated rear-ported centre speaker designed to complement any of the floorstanders in the range. As a result, it uses four 7-inch woofers, a 4-inch mid/bass driver, and a 1-inch tweeter. It has a claimed sensitivity of 93dB, a claimed frequency response of 43Hz to 45kHz and an impedance of 8 ohms.
The design and engineering are identical to the Persona 3F, with the same staggering level of build quality and choice of gorgeous finishes. The Persona C also has dual high-quality binding posts at the rear, and there’s an optional dedicated stand. You’ll probably need this because this centre speaker is ridiculously big. In fact, it’s heavier than the Persona 3F, measuring 914 x 263 x 415mm (WxHxD) and weighing a whopping 38kg.
Paradigm Persona B Standmount SpeakerThe Paradigm Persona B is a rear-ported standmount speaker that uses a 7-inch mid/bass driver and a 1-inch tweeter. It has a claimed sensitivity of 92dB, a claimed frequency response of 60Hz to 45kHz and an impedance of 8 ohms. The B is laughingly referred to as a bookshelf speaker by Paradigm, but if you are planning on putting this speaker on a bookshelf, you might want to reinforce it first.
The Persona B has the same slopping top, tapered rear and solid base as the rest of the range, along with the same level of build quality and choice of gorgeous finishes. The Persona B also has dual high-quality binding posts at the rear, measures 225 x 435 x 330mm (WxHxD) and weighs in at 14kg. Like the Persona C, there are also dedicated stands available.
Paradigm Persona SUB SubwooferThe Paradigm Persona SUB is sealed active subwoofer that uses six 8-inch woofers in a hexagonal shape. If I thought the rest of the Persona range was big, nothing could have prepared me for the size, and particularly the weight of the SUB. This beast is massive, and has a powerful 1,700W of amplification, with dynamic peaks up to 3,400W.
The Persona SUB is designed to match the aesthetic of the Persona Series, with the same styling, build quality and finishes. However, it’s also capable of delivering monstrous amounts of bass, going down to a frightening 12Hz (19Hz in the bypass mode). To achieve this it needs to be big, measuring 435 x 470 x 460mm (WxHxD) and weighing a back-breaking 53.6kg.
Despite its size, initially, the rear panel looks rather sparse. There are simple level, crossover and phase controls, along with LFE phono and balanced XLR inputs, stereo phono inputs, a 12V trigger, and an auto/on/off switch. But if you look closer, you’ll see a mini-USB port, which suggests there’s more to this sub than meets the eye.
The Persona SUB supports Anthem Room Correction (ARC), and includes a calibrated microphone, cables and stand in the box. Once you’ve installed the free software on a laptop, you can take up to ten measurements in different locations, and use ARC to optimise the response curve of the SUB, eliminating the negative aspects of your room.
How was the system tested?
The Persona 3F floorstanders were positioned at the front of the room on either side of the projector screen, the Persona C centre speaker just fitted below the screen, and the Persona B standmounts were located at the sides and just behind the main listening position. The Persona SUB was placed at the front of the room, in what little space remained.
Testing used a mixture of material ranging from Blu-ray and Ultra HD Blu-rays, CDs, DVD-Audio discs, SACDs and music streaming services. The primary source was the Oppo UDP-203 4K Blu-ray player, and amplification was provided by the reference Arcam AVR850 AV receiver in a 5.1-channel configuration.
The first thing you notice is the beauty of these speakers, and it’s almost a shame to hide them in a home cinema. Not that speakers this big are ever likely to be discreet, although the option of a Vanta Black finish means they can easily disappear in the darkness of a dedicated room. What’s more amazing is, that in acoustic terms, this system is capable of a similar disappearing act, with these enormous cabinets vanishing, and leaving a flawless sonic signature that fills the room.
I started the testing off with Yesterday and was immediately bowled over by this system’s incredible level of musicality. There’s an exceptional sense of transparency and some amazing amounts of detail retrieval that deliver every note with absolute clarity. When the title song is first performed, you can hear fingers on guitar strings and breathy vocals. The same is true when the lead character first plays Hey Jude to his parents in a world that has never heard of The Beatles. The soundstage is so precise and accurate that it’s like you’re in the front room with them.
Later in the film, the lead character performs Help!, with the song representing his own anguished mental state. In this example, the system reveals its ability to take those subtle details and deliver them across a massive soundstage that completely sells the scene’s live setting with width, depth and scope. His sense of frustration is heard in a powerful sonic delivery that tears up the song with thrashing guitars, driving drums and howling vocals.
This sense of scale also comes to the fore with a finale that takes place during an Ed Sheeran concert at Wembley Stadium. In this scene, the huge speakers effortlessly fill the room with a commanding acoustic presence. As a result, you feel you are in a cavernous stadium with 100,000 people. The rear speakers perfectly pick out individual voices with clarity, and the centre speaker ensures the vocals are delivered with cohesion and focus. The three front speakers seamlessly blend to create a wall of sound, while the sub effortlessly weaves in the bass of the drums and the weight of the crowd.
A system this good and with this kind of epic delivery deserves a film that matches it in terms of scope and scale. Movies don’t come much bigger than Avengers: Endgame, and the system reveals its ability to instantaneously move from the intimate to the immense. It handles transients with remarkable skill and combines them with perfectly timed bass. During the early part of the film, the numerous dramatic scenes are rendered with incredible clarity, with clear dialogue, and all five channels creating a sense of three-dimensional space.
Later in the film, as the stakes are raised and the action gets bigger, the entire system steps up a gear and cranks out a tonally perfect and incredibly immersive surround experience. All the channels deliver the effects with precision, seamlessly steering them from one channel to the next. There’s a frenetic intensity to the action, with a visceral impact to the explosions thanks to the subwoofer flawlessly integrating with the other speakers.
The sub is just monstrous in its performance, hitting ultrasonic depths that go so low you can feel them. In conjunction with the rest of the system, the low-end foundation is incredible and the bass is delivered with staggering levels of speed and control. As a result, all the low frequency effects have a physical impact you can feel, as missiles slam into the Avengers' base before the climactic battle. There are ground battles and spaceships exploding overhead, but the system handles every visceral hit without missing a beat.
Another film with an epic soundtrack that relies on serious amounts of bass is Aquaman. In fact, it’s composed almost entirely of big moments, with even the slightest punch being accompanied by effects that are the aural equivalent of a sledgehammer. The sequence where Aquaman rescues a submarine from modern-day pirates is a great example of the acoustic pummelling this soundtrack delivers. As he breaks through the top hatch, it smashes its way down the corridor like a sonic shockwave. The hatch bounces off the hull with a pleasing thud, and bullets ricochet around the room as the tweeters perfectly render each high frequency dink.
The subwoofer lays a foundation of bass that gives every punch added weight and impact and, at the end of the scene, as Aquaman lifts the submarine to the surface, the entire system generates so much bass energy that you can almost feel the weight of the water. Later in the film, Aquaman descends into the trench as a mass of creatures swirl around him. These sounds are steered around the room with impressive precision and no discernible change in tone. This system is superbly balanced, with the overall soundstage retaining a seamless sense of cohesion that's combined with a light touch when it comes to detail retrieval, and a powerful delivery when it comes to action.
- Staggering performance
- Epic soundstage
- Awesome bass
- Superior components
- Amazing build quality
- Gorgeous design
- They ain't small
- High-end price
Paradigm Persona 5.1 Speaker Package Review
The Paradigm Persona Series is an exceptional speaker package, and while clearly beyond the reach of most people, it does at least prove you really do get what you pay for in this life. When size, components and cost are not an issue, the result is an uncompromising performance that is often a revelation.
The system as a whole produces a soundstage so utterly convincing that it’s hard to imagine most other speakers even coming close to this level of performance. They certainly surpass any system that I have reviewed to date, although at a cost equivalent to that of a decent family car I’d expect nothing less.
What I hadn’t counted on was the sheer scale of the soundstage, with a dynamism and transparency that is often breathtaking. The clarity and detail retrieval is exceptional, the tonal balance superb and the power handling incredibly responsive. The subwoofer is just a monster, producing the kind of bass foundation that perfectly suits a system with such epic delivery.
It’s fair to say the Paradigm Persona Series is the best speaker package I have reviewed to date, and there really is nothing I can recommend that even comes close. For that reason alone, they deserve a Reference Status badge, and if you’re lucky enough to have the space and budget to afford these Beryllium beauties, then you’re in for a treat.
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