I have had these for almost a year. These ones are incredible. I run these with B&K 7570 and B&K Ref II pre amp. I play lot of Rock music and movies. For Music I havent heard anything better than this till now.
I play them really loud with very little uncomfortability. Full marks for Paradigm. Great speakers. I have C-3 Center along with them. Eventhough the subwoofer ENERGY S-12 is 8 years old and is a sub standard compared to the S-4s, these mix pretty well and B&K preamp has good features like cross over control.
I recently decided to upgrade my paradigm Reference Studio 60's. These are now being used as left/right on my home theatre set-up.
The main reason for the upgrade was because I moved the 60's to the home theatre to see what the effect was, and they didn't come back to my den.
I decided that a pair of series 3 Reference 100's was the obvious choice, but before spending my $ I decided to do the rounds, I listened to BW's, Klipsch, and about half a dozen of the usual suspects, but nothing grabbed my attention, and when I got home, I'd listen to my paradigms and think.
I contacted a local dealer, primarily to hear the 100's he didn't have them but suggsted that he could let me listen to a couple of other speakers. He also explained that he prefered the Signature series and had some coming in soon. I paid him a visit and listented to a couple of speakers, but again nothing impresed me that much.
I raed some reviews of the S series and decided to go back and hear them. He had s2's set-up in a listening room, I was floored by the sound, it was just what I wanted to hear! I ake about s8's but the price and the delivery wait made me consider the s4's he had in stock more carefully.
The s4's are now in my listening room, burned in, hooked up to my NAD C370, and I couldn't be happier.
I mainly listen to Jazz, and Theatre Organ (I have recorded a few Organ CD's). These speakers IMAGE like crazy, and after a few minutes you realize that you are not lsitening to a speaker but the music. The mid range has been described as liquid not quite sure waht that means, but to me its just perfect. In big band arrangements each instrument is visible no muddy ensemble. In small ensebles the string Bass sounds like it's there in the room with you, piano is just "live" resonant not harsh and twangy, Brass and reed instruments jump out perfectly. When it comes to Pipe Organ there is no boomy bass just a tight sound, OK the walls don't move, but if you want that get a sub, the high end reeds are clear, quiet flues just warble, percussons are clear and distint,and when that "full sound hits it's clear not mud!
I love these speakers, and I thoink they are a near perfect "jazz" speaker. But as always before you buy go listen to lots of options, and take your CD's with you! Remember don't buy on impluse
When I was auditioning speakers about 6 mos ago to relace my polk sda-2b towers that I had used for 15 years, I looked at a number of different midpriced brands including definitive tech,b&w, klipsh, infinitive,kef,and newer polk audios. I was leaning toward the def techs (but I wanted matching front and rears and the towers were too big) or the b&w 800 series bookshelf speakers. I liked them both but neither was that much better than my polks to warrant spending that much money. I had wanted to hear the paradigm studio 40's and 100's also and found their dealer in denver. I took my demo cd and went to listen. The 40's were ok. the 100's were good, but again not that much better than my polks to warrant my spending the money.
Then I made the mitake of going into another listening room where they had the paradigm signature series. All they had on display were the s8's which are floorstanding, but I thought 'what the hey?' why not listen while I was there.
I was blown away. I had never heard anything that good. I admit I had never listened to really ,really top of the line $10,000/pr plus speakers because I knew I couldn't afford them so why torture myself. The s8's were about $6000/pr and also out of my price range, but the salesperson told me that they had 2 bookshelf models, the 2-way s2's and 3-way s4's. The s2's they had there and I auditioned-very nice- but I was looking for something a little bigger with a better lower freqency response range. The sales peson told me that they were expecting some s4's in soon and she gave me a call in a couple of weeks letting me know they were in. I listened to them next to the s8's and with a sub set up with them at the right crossover I couldn't tell the difference.They were a little more than the b&w 800's but not that much.
To be fair I went back to the store that had the b&w's and put on my cd and listened to my three favorite test songs-'it's getting harder to breath' by maroon 5, 'little wing' by hendrix and beethoven's 9th and listened again. The padigms just seemed to sound better, significantly better.
I waited another couple of weeks and went back to both stores and listened again. I am normally a very skeptical person so I wanted to make sure I had really heard a difference. The b&w's were again very good. The paradigm's again blew me away. The clarity and realism were outstanding. The soundstage was full and the imaging was exellent-I had to make sure the center channel wasn't turned on by mistake.
I listened to some dvd's also since I was going to be using the speakers in a home entertainment system and was equally impressed.
After waiting a week to avoid making an impulse buy, and weighing the pro's (they sounded great) and cons (could I really afford them) I went back and bought the s4's (x4 for front and rear), the paradigm signature c3 center and the signature adp's for surrounds. All 7 speakers cost about $8400.
I had to wait a couple weeks for delivery, but now that I've had them for 6 mos I still am amazed sometimes when I listen to an old cd or dvd for the first time on the paradigms at the improved sound.
I couldn't be happier.
And by the way they look great too. At that price they should, but the cherry finish I ordered them in looks, well cherry.
Don't buy a speaker because I like it.
Buy a speaker because you like it.
The only real value of my review is to add a speaker to the list of those you audition in your 'buying experience'.
I would feel guilty if you were to buy the paradigm's on my or anyone's recommendation, without listening to them yourself. There were a good number of speakers that I did audition before buying the s-4's. There were also a number of speakers I wanted to audition but either couldn't find a dealer in my area or (and I can't understand this) the dealer didn't have the speakers available to audition.
Buying speakers, or any audio equipment, should be based on your listening preferences only. And personal preferences are totally subjective. You will like what you like.
I really liked the Paradigm s-4's. Thats why I bought them.
I would urge you to listen to them before making a purchase, but please don't ever buy anything because of what someone you don't know - like me or ,especially a salesman-thinks.
Buy the speakers that you really like.
I've had the opportunity to hear this speaker paired up to various equipment two times. For my own taste, it has failed to impress me on every occasion.
The first time I heard it, it ran through an older Anthem AVM-20 pre/pro and an Anthem 5 channel amp with plenty of muscle to drive it. In stereo mode it sounded very clean, with good bottom end punch. No warmth in the low end, mostly punch though. After auditioning it against a pair of Martin Logan Clarity's I ended up buying the Clarity's (more resolution, more airy, warmer bass, better dispersion, bigger sweet spot). I see many people here say that Paradigm has a very liquid midrange. If you want to hear a truly liquid midrange then listen to an electrostatic speaker like Martin Logan/Soundlab/Accoustat to hear a TRULY liquid midrange. All in all this speaker is still limited by the box it's in, and consequently suffers from the box effect. Even more affordable than the S4 is Monitor Audio's old 9'i and it sounded much more refined and smooth in the highs, albeit darker.
The second time I heard it, it ran through a Linn SACD/DVD/CD player costing 2 1/2 times the S4's and some Linn preamp costing 1 1/2 times the price of the S4 and a Bryston 4BSST amp at similar cost to the Linn preamp. I compared the S4 directly to the PMC OB'1 on classical music by Gergiev (Beethoven's symphony #5 on SACD). The result: absolutely NO COMPARISON, the OB1's absolutely destroyed them in every respect: bass, musical presentation, instrument separation, natural timbre. On the highs, the S4 sounded like they were just blaring music out compared to the OB1's which presented a nice coherent soundstage, more laid back and palpable.
So all in all, this speaker failed to impress me every time I auditioned it against something else. I'm no fan of Linn electronics (too bright, although very accurate) or Bryston (not as musical, dry sounding, with little airiness) but even there, PMC's surpassed them.
I think that this speaker would probably best serve a true rocker/heavy metal fan. In this musical range, generally speaking, volume counts for more than natural vocal timbre or overall presentation of the actual band as a coherent image. So it would make for an affordable speaker here.
I've recently heard that this speaker is very demanding of electronics. Paired up to the new Anthem Satement pre/pro and their new 325wpc amp, I heard that the S4 can really impress. If I get a chance to audition it in the near future and like what I hear, I will rectify my posting here. Hopefully this Anthem/Paradigm synergy works since they are made for each other, otherwise my review will stand.
Sorry to all Paradigm fans out there, I think these speakers are great for movies and for hard rock/metal where no subtelty is needed. Raw power will do, which is what these speakers are in my opinion. I just hope that following this review some people will go and audition this speaker against others out there and compare the benefits of each before they make a decision on buying the S4.
Lastly, the S4 reminds me of a Bebel Gilberto concert that I attended in Toronto at the Carlu centre in 2004, where her music was so loud that I could no longer enjoy it nor the pile driver effect delivered through the bass of the speakers used to amplify her voice (and no, they were not Paradigms). So I left, in the same way that I left these speakers behind after auditioning them every time. I plan to keep my ears for another twenty years.
Value rating: 3 stars (fair deal if you like their sound)
Overall rating: 3 stars (average speaker in my opinion, not too musical)
I was not looking forward to buying new speakers being quite happy with my maggie 1.6qr's. unfortunately for the audio portion of my life my new bride did not appreciate their beauty and after some marital negotiation my beloved maggies were sold on audiogon.
I started the search reading online reviews, stereophile and absolute sound and visiting select dealers in the seattle area.
after I narrowed the selections the mrs. agreed to enter the final decision process. ( how does it look ).
My interest was peeked by reviews of the paradigm signature s2 and s8 at different online review sights. both were very lauditory and off to definitive audio we went. I brought along my usual patricia barber modern cool in sacd, super bass 2 and the marvelous masada string trio.
the speakers were hooked up to electronics that were close in cost to mine and we let the music play. the wife thought the high gloss maple finish lookded great- which it does- i was impressed enough to keep it on the short list and return another day on my own.
to shorten the story i purchased a pair and have slowly, maybe even reluctantly come to the conclusion that they surpass the maggies in most areas and are inferior in none. (not even coherency)
treble extension is exquisite (not a strength of the maggies). mids are marvelous especially voices and bass if not more extended than the maggies is more tuneful. the s4's are more musically detailed and i find myself more drawn into the music.
when i pull the speakers 3-4 feet from any wall in my 20X14 room and turned to fire at my position, the music opens up and allows the stage to fully develop with only a minor loss of bass reinforcement. on patricia barbers new live cd the sense of aliveness makes me smile as even in 2 channel i am welcomed into the audience and very close to the stage.
In sum i am quite happy with the paradigm signature s4's which did beat out several more expensive speakers. they are beautifully made, solid as rock and most of all extremely musical