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Reign of the Mini-Monitors II: Paradigm Premier 200B

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My first encounter with Paradigm was in 1992, about ten years after the company made its start just outside of Toronto, Canada. I wanted an inexpensive but decent sounding pair of bookshelf speakers for a second system that would go in a bonus room office above the garage. So I did what audiophiles usually did in the previous century, I got in my car and drove down to my local audio shop. Sam and Ed of Audio Solutions were always ready to greet me when I walked through the doors. The Atom was the newest model from Paradigm that they had in stock, but the more substantial Titan was only a little more expensive and seemed the better value given the relatively large space I had planned for them.

Like its cousin, the PSB Alpha, the Titan was a 6.5-inch 2-way with a non-removable grill cloth and drivers that mounted to the baffle from inside the cabinet. The back of the Titan’s enclosure was made of quality plastic with a cardboard port and 5-way binding posts. The white vinyl wrapped enclosures were made of particleboard and not particularly heavy, but they felt sturdy enough and sounded great. They were bright, punchy speakers that were a step above mass-market alternatives and a solid value for $219/pair.

Until just a few years ago, I continued to think of Paradigm as a fine Canadian budget-oriented loudspeaker manufacturer and often recommended them to friends and family who were just getting started with the audio hobby. You really could not go wrong with Paradigm loudspeakers in a starter system.

Obviously, I had not been paying close enough attention to the brand, because over the past twenty-five or so years, Paradigm has dramatically expanded the depth and breadth of their loudspeaker product lines. At present, the company offers over twenty different collections and series of products ranging from wireless lifestyle and outdoor rock-shaped garden speakers to 9,000 watt home theater subs and $35K high-end towers. It’s astonishing to me how far the company has come since I brought home that first pair of Titans.

The Premier Series is new for 2018 and includes two different sizes of towers, center channels, and bookshelf speakers ranging from $399 to $999, all individually priced. While one might guess that Premier was the top series, followed by Prestige and then Persona, the reality is the opposite. To drive this point home, the Persona 9H is 3.5 times heavier and 17.5 times more expensive than the corresponding Premier 800F tower. The Premier Series sits between the Monitor SE Series and Prestige Series, offering customers a high-performance yet affordable entry point with plenty of room to grow.

The home theater press has covered the Premier series, yet I have not seen as much discussion of them in audiophile circles. Given their heritage, I expected Paradigm Premier loudspeakers to perform well for our 2-channel use case, so I was delighted to have an opportunity to spend time with the 200B, the larger of the two bookshelf models, for The Reign of the Mini-Monitors Series.

Persona 200B and my old Titans are both 6.5-inch 2-way monitors, but that’s where the similarity ends. Comparing the two would be as pointless as comparing a 1991 Honda Accord to a 2019 Tesla Model 3, so I won’t even bother. Instead, I’ll share my understanding of the 200B’s design and how they perform within the context of dedicated 2-channel listening.

 

Product Description

The Premier 200B speakers are packaged and sold separately in the US for $499 each. Within each box, there’s a user’s guide and a black fabric-wrapped plastic grill backed with six strong magnets hiding behind soft foam-rubber pads. A seventh pad protects the silver Paradigm “P” logo at the bottom of the 200B’s front baffle when it is covered by the grill. The top of the 200B is covered in a convex plastic cap. Rapping on it with your knuckles produces a dull “thak-thak” sound. A similar flat plastic cap, fitted with four ⅜-inch tall circular rubber feet, covers the bottom. The feet are near the corners of the relatively deep enclosure, preventing them from interfering with the rubber bumpers on the top plates of my Sanus speaker stands.

The front baffle is covered in a high-quality plastic from which the tweeter’s waveguide is formed. A natural wood pattern is printed on veneer, which wraps around the sides and back. The rear panel sports a flared port and a single pair of gold-plated 5-way binding posts.

 

Function Follows Form

While the swirly pattern that covers the 200B’s midrange is definitely eye-catching and screams of trickle-down technology from Paradigm’s fabulous Persona Series, I really didn’t think much about it during initial setup and early listening sessions. However, after a week or so, I noticed something peculiar: a complete absence of any subtle peaky response in the upper mids and lower treble. In my room, this was most readily observed with other speakers during piano runs but sometimes also with brass and stringed instruments. There is an evenness of tone from the 200B across this range in passages where I am accustomed to hearing some notes slightly accentuated.

It was at this point that I reached out to Oleg Bogdanov, Director of Product Development for Paradigm, to better understand the magic behind this improvement. He explained that, for their new lines, including Premier, Paradigm has incorporated their patented technology called Perforated Phase-Aligning Lens or PPA™ for short.

“Situated in front of the tweeter and midrange drivers, the PPA acts like a phase plug, blocking the interaction of out-of-phase frequencies, smoothing output, and increasing the perception of details without coloring the sound. The PPA also serves to protect delicate drivers.”

From a distance, the 200B’s tweeter looks like a typical 1-inch dome positioned at the center of a dispersion controlling waveguide. Closer inspection reveals what is actually another PPA™ Lens. These two advanced phase plug lenses affecting the mids and highs work together to render an uncanny evenness of tone across their respective ranges. I have never experienced this phenomenon in this room, even from loudspeakers ten times the price of the 200B. It’s really quite remarkable.

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