Paradigm Reference Active 20 Floorstanding Speakers

Active 20

User Reviews (29)

Showing 1-10 of 29  
rsea   Casual Listener [Nov 24, 2016]

I purchased these on a closeout in 2000 and 16 years later and many moves they are still glorious and surprising. They seem to draw out the best from good sources. I have a Nak CR-7a directly connected via the RCA connectors and an Accuphase DP-78 connected via the balanced connectors and no intermediaries. An MD-102 tuner sounds brilliant. These old ears could not be happier and I simply hope they will continue to function another few decades. A great pity that Paradigm did not choose to pursue the technology - who makes the equivalent or better active speakers in 2016?

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
audioaddict   Audio Enthusiast [Sep 08, 2002]
Strength:

Smooooth treble. Imaging and detail. Engineered to sound great - only a bad room or poor speaker placement can make them sound any less than great.

Weakness:

none.

I am still thrilled to listen to these speakers after 3 years of ownership. Now that I have a DVD-Audio player in the chain these speakers are really playing up to their potential. I am using a Paradigm X-30 subwoofer control unit to high-pass the speakers and low-pass my subwoofer at 50Hz. The end result is deeper, more defined bass and it seems to let the Actives play a bit louder as well. Running the Actives full range produces powerful, but slightly boomy bass (at least in my room). They may no longer be on Stereophile Magazines list of recommended components, but they're on mine and that's all that matters.

Similar Products Used: Klipsch KG4 JBL HLS 610
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Tim   Audio Enthusiast [Nov 29, 2000]
Strength:

Impressive bass for the size, very articulate treble - above all, value!

Weakness:

no phase switch

The only real negative I can find is that there is no phase switch . Therefore, the phase cannot be inverted by reversing speaker wires (there are none), this can be a problem if for example, your preamp is phase reverse. Only solution - a source with phase inverting capability.

Otherwise, there is nothing at all negative to say about these speakers! they do demand high quality components upstream, and they sound absolutely marvelous when used with a tube preamp. I also tried a few high quality SS passive pre's and was not impressed. Paradigm released version 2 sometime this year, but many people actually prefer the sound and aesthetics of the version 1. There are 2 different editions of the "version 1" out there and here is how to tell which one you are buying:

Early V1 - basic box with amp/heatsink/controls on back. fins of heatsink are all equally deep. Some users have had speakers cut out during extended periods of loud play because too much heat will trip a shutoff switch until they cool down, you are dead in the water.

later V1 - same except they have the heatsink from the V2.On this heatsink, The fins form a convex pattern with the deepest fins in the center, gradually tapering to shorter fins on the edges. The driver/amp/cabinets are the same as the earlier version, but the better heat dispersion from the better heatsink will prevent shutdowns.

ver 2 - havent heard them - the are supposed to have an improved bass driver, but the consensus is that there was little real improvement over the ver 1 - One thing I can vouch for - the new ones (ver 2) are uglier.

You would only have a problem if using at high volume for a long time.
If you can find either variations of the ver 1 or a ver 2 for much less than $1K, don't pass them up - you will not be disappointed!!

Similar Products Used: no actives, really
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Jeff Nyquist   Audio Enthusiast [Dec 03, 1999]
Strength:

Excellent overall sound. With everything designed in-house, Paradigm is able to tweak these bi-amp'd speakers to perfection. These speakers are clear almost to redline, about 98% of max volume.

Weakness:

For home theater, you'll want a sub. If you're into Heavy Metal/Rap/Dance, go for one of the larger examples in the Reference line (eg Studio 80 or 100).

Just wanted to add my two cents..

I've had these speakers for over a year now, and have continued to enjoy the sound. My setup includes:

Nakamichi IA-1z DTS Integrated
Nakamichi MB-10 5 CD Changer
Yamaha S700 DVD Player
Pioneer Elite CLD-95 Laserdisc Player
Panamax 1500
Toshiba TW56X81 16:9 RPTV
Paradigm Reference Active/20 (Front L/R)
Paradigm Reference LCR/450 (Center)
Paradigm Reference Studio/20 (Rear L/R)
Paradigm Reference Server 15 (Sub)

I specifically bought these components with one thing in mind. I needed a well balanaced home theater setup with punch, as well as excellent 2 channel audio response. Rest assured, I have been more than happy with the decisions I've made.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Darryl   Audiophile [Apr 07, 2000]
Strength:

Imaging, Mid & Upper Range

Weakness:

They make me late for work! Need to keep away from TV or monitor, as they aren't well shielded.

These speakers are unbelievable. Even my 6 year old son now sits and listens to music with me. I've listened to dozens of CD's I hadn't listened to in years. Imaging is stunning; one thing that comes to mind is on the MFSL Gold disk of Pink Floyd's The Wall. There are interesting electronic effects on this CD (helicopters, spoken word, TV sets being turned on, walking). These images are distinct and clear. I don't have the vocabulary to tell you how wonderful these speakers sound. David Wilcox (a singer-songwriter) has recorded some excellent, natural-sounding CD's. It sounds like he is sitting between my speakers in my living room. Keb' Mo' (blues player, lots of acoustic guitar and a deep, rich voice) sounds amazing too. Mary Black (Irish singer), Cowboy Junkies, Miles Davis '50's records, Bach, Beethoven, everything I have listened to sounds like I never heard it before. Image, depth of image, accurate natural sound. I am in audio heaven. I listen to lots of small-group jazz (mostly from the 40's and 50's) pop, rock, R&B and some classical. These speakers don't have a weakness (not even bass, in my opinion, though I am not a bass freak). I don't know what I'm going to do when I want to add a center channel and surrounds. I am spoiled rotten with the sound of these speakers.

I have an old (20+ years) Yamaha CR-2020 receiver, and use a Toshiba DVD player as my CD player. I can't wait to get a better receiver to play these (I'm thinking of a Denon 2800 now, since I don't need to worry about the wattage or current). I'm still thinking of a receiver because I may buy some non-powered speakers for the surrounds, or use my old MB Quarts (which sound great with these speakers, as I can play them both with my receiver).

Don't buy these speakers if you are a bass freak, unless you are going to add a subwoofer. If you are into the quality of the sound (particularly mid and upper ranges) these speakers will give you goosebumps.

A question, has anyone out there changed the interconnects? To What? What do you think?

Five stars all 'round. Best speakers I have heard for less than $10,000 (Duntech Soverigns).

Similar Products Used: None as good
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Paul Lee   Audio Enthusiast [Dec 26, 1999]
Strength:

This speaker exhibits excellent imaging and a very neutral and revealing sound.
It sounds excellent even when you are not in the sweet spot. No need to buy an amplifier since its integrated into the speaker.
Comes with very good and very long interconnects.

Weakness:

Bass is very good for such a small speaker, but the overall sound is still improved with the addition of a subwoofer.

The integrated amplifiers adds a subtle but noticeable improvement. It seems especially revealing in voices, making them sound more seemless and natural than other speakers I have listened to. Another thing I've noticed is that these speakers don't sweeten up your music. I began to realize the limitations of many of my older recordings I once thought sounded sweet. I've found, with these speakers, the recording has become the weak link in my system. (If only those audiophile labels didn't make such boring music...) Overall this speaker is an excellent value that has given me only extreme satisfaction for over year.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
David Bolster   Audiophile [Oct 18, 2000]
Strength:

Accuracy, close to ideal balance, huge and accurate soundstage, very fast and great impact. Lots of depth. Pretty transparent.

Weakness:

Ahh, here's the catch. They are very sensitive to positioning and set up. Good stands are a must, and they should be placed fairly well out into the room. don't worry about loss of bass, just use this formula: room width times .277. ex.: room width: 13ft.(156 inches X .277= 43 inches. This is the distance from the side wall to the center of the woofer for side to side placement. For distance from back of speaker to wall behind them while, according to this formula calls for 70 inches ( room width x .447 ) for a 13ft. wide room, for a mini monitor, you'll lose too much bottom end although imaging is staggering. In my 13 X 19 ft. room the speakers are on the short wall 50 inches from the wall to the rear of the speaker. This turned out to be an awsome placement, fairly flat across the board with a slight rise at 200 HZ and down 5 db at 32HZ. Try to use the first formula for side to side place ment if possible but you must experiment with back to front placement. Remember though, side to side placement should be at least 6 inches different than front to back placement. Now I've heard some strange comments re: this speaker so here's some other tips: don't blame crappy, bright, non transparent recordings on the active 20's. They are not forgiving in this regard. they demand very good quality components and source material. Also, make sure you do not have the volume control passed the 12 o'clock position, threr is a gain stage before the power amp sections in the active 20's. This is presumably for instances when someone is trying to run a low output source such as a diskman or something into the paradigms. But this gain stage is bypassed when the vol. control is no higher than half way up. Some people assume that running the actives wide open on the vol. will give the cleanest signal, not so in this case. Playing your preamp or int. amp at a higher vol. setting will be much cleaner than putting the active 20's very inferior "preamp" section into the signal path. And keep interconnects as short as possible and try to use low capacitance cable such as thr kimber kable products. I've gotten my interconnects to the paradigms down to just 5 and a half feet. Sure they're suspended in air but they're no longer dragging on the floor either, but I was blown away by the difference just cutting 3 feet off the cables made. For those really adventurist types, if your warrenty has expired yet, you should re-wire the internal wiring from power amp module to tweeter and woofer with cardas cross 15gauge(tweetwe) and 11gauge (woofer) 6 nines purity wire. This will cool the tweeter a little while improving immediacy and coherency quite noticably, since the wiring used internally, like so many other damn good speakers, is obviously a design compromise.

A great product if you give it the care it deserves. Also it takes a minimum of 200 hours to break in so don't make judgements befoer then.

Similar Products Used: Fully hot rodded and upgraded rega planar 3 with grado reference master cart. Rega planet with up graded caps and power supply, McCormack upgraded preamp and phono preamp. Turntable is sited on a constrained layer shelf on a target wall mounted shelf, and all interconnects are kimber kcag silver. Also if you have adjustable input gain on your preamp use the lower setting so you can keep the active 20's at their 12o'clock possition.
OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
5
ben vehrs   Audio Enthusiast [Jun 17, 2000]
Strength:

Clarity, soundstage, imaging, depth, transparence, etc, etc, etc.

Weakness:

finding two outlets where you want them to be, but at least the cords are long enough

Simply put:

If you want the best sound for a good price and don't have the room (or an understanding mate) -- these are for you. Especially now; the new models (version 2) are out. These new ones sound great as well but are a bit more edgy on the top end. The version one's are more natural and pure sounding, and now that the new ones are out, deals on versions one's are galore. So have at it kids. I am in love. Background: I live in barracks, sort of like a dorm room, so space is not an option. I am 20 years old, so money is not an option. And my love for music overrides my joy of getting to be a man and hook up lots of cables and other crap like that. So I am in heaven. Thanks for reading my plea.

ben
'

Similar Products Used: Dynaudio Twynns, Dulcet c98, swans m-1
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Tony Swei   Audiophile [May 09, 2000]
Strength:

mind blowing highs and mids
great price performance

Weakness:

none

I've had these for about 6 months. After having auditioned many speakers at many different price levels, I couldn't be more pleased with the Active 20s. Vocals are so realistic I get chills. They have an extremely detailed, yet smooth sound that just draws you in. If you listen to these in the morning, you may have trouble making it to work.

I can't imagine beating this sound with any passive/amp setup costing up to $5k. The only thing that came close in my auditioning was a B&W/Krell combo costing TEN times as much.

Add a sub if you want to go low.

My setup:

Sony DVP 7700 CD/DVD
Bryston BP25
Active 20s
M&K MX 125 sub
Kimber Hero XLR interconnects

Similar Products Used: B&W 803, Monitor Silver 4, Paradigm Sutdio 60s
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
James   an Audio Enthusiast [Feb 06, 1999]

I have a small room with a lot of furniture in it. Has been very hard to get good imaging etc. I tried various speakers (towers) and though they sounded nice, the depth, spatial image etc. sucked. These are great. They allow for a lot of tweaking, on tweeter and bass mid range. They almost alway just disappear from the room, leaving the music. Mostly classical and opera and home theatre. In my room they can be as loud as my hearing can take, don't get congested when there is a lot going on in the mucic. Each sound is located in it's spot like you could reach out and touch the person or instrument. Tuned to my personal preference, they came out perfect with all my test discs (such golden ears ;) ) For the first time when the speaker moves his voice moves precisely with him, side to side, front to back etc.
For the price, I doubt if my room could sound better. The built in switchable 100 hz crossover is too high to use without the sub losing localization freedom though. I leave it off and use them full range with a Hsu sub or, with theatre, use my preamp's crossovers. Mighty pleased. The stands add to the cost though.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Showing 1-10 of 29  

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