HEAD-TO-HEAD: Paradigm RS100 and Diva 6.1

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Steve Zimmerman, Jan 30, 2002.

  1. Steve Zimmerman

    Steve Zimmerman Second Unit

    Dec 6, 2001
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    I'm a Diva 6.1 owner and spent the afternoon with a fellow forum member doing a comparison of my speakers with the Paradigm Reference 100s. I can honestly say that both speakers sound fabulous and IMO represent a fantastic value. I especially think that Paradigms are a great value to folks who live in or near Canada.

    My System (MY COST in parens)


    Mains: Swans Diva 6.1s (US$999)

    Center: Swans Diva C3 (US$399)

    Pre/Pro: Denon 2801 (US$510)

    CD: Cheapo Pioneer multi-disc CD player ($200)

    Amp: Sherwood AM-9080 125WPC (US$350)

    Sub: B Stock SVS CS-Ultra w/S1000 amp (US$1100)

    Setup: My Divas are exactly 10' apart, toed slightly, with listening position 9 feet away--in the center of the room--and a total area of ~5000 cu-ft

    Dealer System (QUOTED PRICE in parens)


    Mains: Paradigm Ref Studio 100 Veneer (US$2100)

    Center: Paradigm Ref Studio CC (US$450)

    Pre/Pro: Anthem ??? (US$1600)

    CD: Cheapo Kenwood multi-disc DVD player ($200)

    Amp: Anthem ??? 200WPC (US$1800)

    Sub: PW-2200 (US$800)

    Setup: Dealer had the RS100s at 6' apart, toed slightly, with listening position 8 feet away--at the very back of the room--and a total area of ~2000 cu-ft



    The Swan Diva 6.1s are the closest match in terms of build structure, cosmetic beauty, and build quality to the veneer version of the RS100s. The RS100s definitely look nicer in veneer than they do in laminate, but veneer costs about US$500 more than the laminate finish. I'm aware that people in or near Canada can get much better prices than the ones the dealer quoted.

    The Paradigms are 5" taller than the Divas and weigh about 25 lbs more, but since the Divas have a top-mounted tweeter (a la B&W and others), the tweeter heights are probably within an inch of being the same. The Diva tweeter is German silk, the Paradigm is aluminum.

    Before I begin the review, let me point out a few things:

    (1) I have my Divas a full four feet further apart at home than the dealer had the RS100s. Mine are as far apart as they are because of the width of my entertainment center and the sheer size of my room. I'm admittedly much more used to that separation, but frankly, I MUCH prefer the wider soundstage this setup provides, but this obviously is a preference thing likely borne of repeated listening and has nothing to do with the speakers themselves.

    (2) I was suprised--nay--SHOCKED that the dealer was demoing the system with a cheapo Kenwood DVD player. Most high end dealers I have visited don't skimp on the CD player, regardless of whether or not the difference is really audible.

    (3) We listened to music in 2-channel mode with the mains set to large and the subwoofer turned off. We watched a few movie clips with the mains set to small and the subwoofer handling LFE plus everything below 80Hz. We did MUCH more music listening than we did movie watching and we did not audition surround speakers.

    (4) My receiver/amplifier combo together cost much less than each of the dealers Anthem separates cost individually. The Anthem amp is 200 WPC and my Sherwood is 125 WPC. I'm happy with the sound of my system, but obviously anyone who agrees that higher end amps sound better than lower end amps would point out that perhaps it's not a completely fair comparison. I cannot quantify the effect the amp difference might have had on the test, but I suspect it was a factor in the bass reproduction.

    (5) We used a sound level meter in an attempt to keep the volume of the two listening sessions as closely matched as possible. Interestingly, though, I thought the small dealer room sounded louder even when the SPL meter settings were the same, perhaps due to the fact that we were almost against a wall in the dealer room. Could that be possible?

    (6) I recognize the unscientific nature of this comparison. Obviously the comparison would be much better if I had brought the Divas with us to the dealer or if he had let us borrow the RS100s to take back to my house. In fact, one could argue that any perceived diffferences between the speakers may well be more likely due to room, amp, and connection differences than actual speaker differences. However, whatever.



    In short, both sets of speakers sound fabulous to my ears. I was suprised at how well the Paradigm tweeter sounded, since I had heard rumors that the aluminum tweeter could sound harsh at times. It was brighter to my ears than the Diva tweeter, but not too bright although perhaps a bit more fatiguing for extended listening. I thought the clarity of the Paradigm tweeter was actually slightly better than the Divas. The friend who came along with me gave a slight nod to the midrange of the Paradigms, I slightly preferred the midrange on the Divas. I preferred the soundstage and imaging of the Divas, but as I said before that's likely due in large part to positioning differences.

    Based on the test tracks we listened to, the Paradigm Ref 100s appear to go a bit lower in the bass than the Diva 6.1s, but at frequencies above, say 35Hz, they both handled bass equally well. I preferred the bass response on the Divas on the famous Strauss piece but that the Paradigms handled the low bass on the 2nd track of Sara McLauchlan's (however she spells her name) Surfacing album with more authority. Both were very tight and clean, such that some people might not find a subwoofer necessary for music listening with either speaker. I did notice that in the dealer's room (where we were seated about a foot from the back wall) that the bass seemed to backsplash off the wall behind us, adding to the uuummpf feel. I'm of the opinion that someone buying the RS100s would do well to buy a high power amp to be able to get the bass performance we were hearing and it made me want to hear the Divas with a similarly expensive amp. Also, call it sacrilege but I would (and do) still prefer to set both of these speakers to Small and use a high quality subwoofer--even for music--so the "how low can you go" argument is a bit of a moot point for me.

    Cosmetics are admittedly superficial, but I do like the look of the Divas better than the RS100s. However, the RS100s come in several different finishes I believe so there's more flexibility.

    We didn't do enough Center channel comparisons, so I'm calling it a wash. I thought both had exceptional clarity.

    The only thing that really disappointed me about either the Divas or the Paradigms was the PW-2200 subwoofer. Perhaps it was the room, perhaps the dealer didn't have it properly configured, but it either sounded *way* too boomy or non-existent. We could not find--even with the dealer's help--a volume level for that sub where the bass sounded clean and solid. There was simply no happy medium, and frankly we both agreed that the SVS CSU absolutely blew it away. Of course, the CS Ultra costs more--but I'm willing to bet a steak dinner that the similarly priced CS+ (and even lower priced CS) would still easily outperform the PW-2200. For music listening, I love my CS-Ultra but would NOT use the PW-2200.



    I'll say this... All things considered, if the two sets of speakers cost the exact same amount and I had plenty of money to spend on amplification, I think I would probably give a slight nod to the Paradigm Reference 100s. I really wish I could compare the two speakers using the same amplifier.

    Given the significant price difference and the fact that I was able to purchase the Divas *AND* the top-of-the-line SVS subwoofer for the price of the Paradigms, I'm very happy with the choice I made. Still, I think in the ~ $2000 price range the Paradigms represent a great value--and they're even cheaper if you're willing to go with the laminate construction and/or smuggle them over the border from Canada. (Not recommended, please consult your attorney, etc.)

    The fact that there several competitively priced choices--and great sounding ones at that--is all good news to A/V enthusiasts, I say.

  2. TerryC

    TerryC Stunt Coordinator

    Oct 19, 1999
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    Nice honest and thorough review. As you mentioned its impoosible to do a "real" review in different rooms but I think you did a great job with what you hard to work with.

    Your results mimic my experiences. I've always found no one speaker sounds best with all recordings. I've always thought certain recordings sounded better between different speakers, ends up making the selection process even harder!
  3. EricHaas

    EricHaas Supporting Actor

    Dec 25, 2001
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    Nice job! We all appreciate your objectivety. I would wager at least 80% of the people here would one way or the other conclude that the speakers they own are at least marginally superior.

    I have not tested the Divas, but from pictures I *really* like their looks. I briefly considered them for that reason and because of positive online reviews, but not being able to demo them steered me away. I ended up with Paradigm Studio 20's BTW.

    Oh, one other thing. Since you are of the setting speakers to small and using a good sub approach, what do you think are the major advantages of your 6.1's over say a pair of 2.1's, or for that matter, a pair of 100's vs. 20's?
  4. Andy L

    Andy L Stunt Coordinator

    Nov 26, 1999
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