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Monday, June 20, 2016

Home Theater Review!
Paradigm Prestige 2000SW
Powered 15-Inch Subwoofer
“Awe-Inducing With a Capital A”



Brevis...
Price: $3,995
Likes: low-end power, classy look
Dislikes: grill needs stronger magnets
Wow factor: it will wow you!
More info: Prestige 2000SW

by John Gatski
  Paradigm has always built impressive subwoofers — from the budget priced to the high-end, ultra low-bass producing models. I owned the late 1990’s Servo 15, and I currently use the Sub 15 as a reference;  EAN writer Tom Jung also reviewed the incredible, multi-driver Sub 1 a few years ago.
  The new Prestige 15 SW200 reviewed here is completely inline with the top-tier subwoofer niche Paradigm has created for itself. As the replacement for the Sub 15, and a thunderous bass compatriot to the various Prestige line speakers, this sub kicks out some serious oomph. Unless your system is in a huge room, one of these 2000SW’s is all you will even need to plumb the depths of movie soundtracks and bass-intensive music.

Features
 The Prestige 2000SW is a large, single-driver subwoofer with a sealed, acoustic suspension cabinet and a  15-inch (38.1cm) X-PAL™ driver — Paradigm’s overmolded Active Ridge Technology (ARTTM) surround and 3-inch high-temp voice coil. It appears similar to my woofer in the Pro 15, but the SW’s cabinet is larger (22.25-inches wide × 21.75 front-to-back × 20.25-inches tall). The sub weighs 121 pounds.
  The other significant difference is the 2,000-watt RMS Class-D amp, which can deliver low-end power to pain inducing levels to well below 20 Hz. In fact, this sub is rated to 16 Hz, though I did not have a calibrated test mic  that was rated for under 20 Hz. My mic is rated for flat measurement to 20 Hz, and 20 Hz tones could be played through the 2000SW at 100 dB without audible distortion (except for the ringing distortion in your ears if you test without hearing protection).

Paradigm Prestige 2000SW Everything Audio Network
The convenience of front-mounted SW controls

 Unlike many subwoofers, the 2000SW’s controls are on the front, including the level, phase, crossover adjustment and power switch  Back-panel features include XLR balanced input, L/R RCA inputs and input for PBK, The 2000SW comes in gloss piano black, midnight cherry, a walnut and black walnut. It is a great-looking sub that compliments the Prestige line, which includes the Model 15B stand speaker I reviewed last year, and various other floor-standing tower and center channel speakers. A smaller subwoofer, the 1000SW, also is in the Prestige line.

Get perfect bass
   As with other Paradigm products, the owner can enable the Paradigm Perfect Bass Kit to “perfectly” match the subwoofer to the room via DSP. Having used the PBK on several reviews, including my reference Sub 15, I have found that the PBK is one of the most honest DSP compensation systems in the audio biz. Though Windows only, running the program is easy, and it can significantly tighten your sub’s performance.

  Paradigm’s Prestige 2000SW is an awe-inducing, powered subwoofer that can handle the depths of most any movie sound effect, but it is equally adept at transmitting the proper bass frequencies from your favorite hi-res music. From Rock to Classical to bombastic action flicks, I do not see how you could do any better in the bass department.

 You simply set up the computer, plug in the USB mic to the computer, run the program and click the mouse. Via the computer, the system outputs bass tones and the mic reads the room. The readings are calculated and compensating EQ is applied to the bass to flatten it for the given room. If you have significant problems with boomy bass, the PBK can cure it without expensive room treatment.
  Since my tile-over-concrete, basement home theater room response has an almost flat response, the PBK did not change it much, but it is nice to know that the system can help if needed.

The setup
  I set up the sub to the left side of the home cinema room half way between the front speakers and the listening position. My 5.1 reference system consists of a professional Westlake LC2.65 center channel, two Westlake Pro LC8.1 L/R speakers, and two NHT Ones for the rear channels. The rest of the test reference system included an AudioControl AVR-4 receiver (one of the most transparent receivers I have ever auditioned), and Oppo BDP-105 and Pioneer Elite Blu-ray players.
   Speaker cables were Wireworld Eclipse, as were the HDMI cables that fed the receiver and the Sony full-array backlit, 60-inch LED monitor. All AC cables were plugged into an Essential Sound Products Essence power strip.

The Prestige 2000SW is attractive in any finish

  My initial measurements revealed an excellent, in-room response — based on my PBK analysis and a conforming analysis with my own professional real time analyzer (RTA). With test tones, my overall measurable speaker bass performance, using the sub’s crossover was within 3 dB from 150 Hz to 20 Hz, the extent of my measurement microphone.
  I know the 2000SW can put out loads more response under 20 Hz, I just could not accurately measure it. I had a 16-Hz tone on a test BD that I played. Well-below 20 Hz energy  is not directly audible to the human ear, but the ultra low-bass room 16-Hz tone was quite impactful on room vibration, generating an amply rattled window from the second floor and coat hangers shaking in a first-floor closet.
  My 20-Hz warble tones could easily be played to 100 dB, and I could hear a good bit of it — as well as accurately measure it. Suffice it to say that the Paradigm Prestige 2000SW is a major-league subwoofer that can push clean, high-level bass from well under 20 Hz to the crossover point. It is significantly louder at 20 Hz than the old Sub 15, thanks to a bigger box and much more horsepower.

The audition
  Once everything was calibrated, I grabbed a stack of bass-intensive Blu-rays and commenced listening to the multichannel system, with the Prestige 2000SW as its anchor.
  First up, the Jack Ryan-reboot action yarn The Sum of All Fears. As mentioned in previous reviews, this movie has a nuclear dirty bomb explosion that plumbs the depths of  the audible and subsonic bass spectrum. A quality sub will give you a whack in the chest followed by several seconds of room-rattle inducing bass that is akin to a real cannon shot. The Prestige Sub relayed the explosion with a force that I seldom have heard with a single-driver subwoofer. Much more floor and wall vibration.

No sonic strain with Prestige's 2kW amplifier on duty

  In comparison, the previous model, the Sub 15, can produce the essential sonic tones and the audible effects fairly close to the 2000SW, but not as much of the subsonic effects. Room noises that I never heard before could be heard with the Prestige firing full force. This is some subwoofer! I heard the same results from  the U571 Blu-ray, the submarine thriller from 2000. Again, the Prestige 2000SW delivered the rapid-fire, depth-charge explosions’ bass with a brute force that was so relentless, I was glad when the sequence was over; the bass  literally wore me out.
  On the 2015 movie, San Andreas — an earthquake hits the West Coast action yarn starring the Rock — the earthquake audio scenes were produced with a high-impact, rumble intensity that continuously vibrated my listening chair. At the 95 dB+ levels, the sub never hinted at any strain or audible distortion. A couple kW of power and a precision, beefy,  15-inch driver keeps this 2000SW clean — real clean.

Musical bass
  Thunderous movie bass has its place, but what about music? An accurate subwoofer also should complete the musical spectrum with a non-hyped, bottom end that augments the musical performance. And the Prestige 2000SW handles music just fine, thank you.
  On the anniversary re-recording of the Telarc Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture Surround SACD, the tympani rolls and the cannon shots plumbed the depths of this famous orchestral performance. The cannon shots are a lot cleaner in this version, versus than the original 1978 recording, and I could feel those blasts right in the gut  — without hearing any out-of-control artifacts.
  On The Mercury Living Presence The Complete Bach Cello Suites - Janos Starker SACD, the sub augmented the instrument’s gentle low-end to remind you of how it sounds sitting in front of a performance of this grand stringed instrument. Though it is a 15-inch sub, not a duo of 12’s, I never got the sense that the 2000SW exhibits any slow response character. Percussive blasts of bass were tight and fast on most any kind of music. On a Pentatone surround SACD of classical organ, I really got to feel the force of the huge pipe organ feeding through my system. You could feel the bass, as well as hear it.
  I heard the same results from  the U571 Blu-ray, the submarine thriller from 2000. Again, the Prestige 2000SW delivered the rapid-fire, depth-charge explosions’ bass with a brute force that was so relentless, I was glad when the sequence was over; the bass literally wore me out.

  I even had the sub in action during the several vinyl playing sessions (with a Sorbothane isolation base to reduce potential feedback). On the direct-to-disc Cadillac Mack and The Detroit 4 record, circa 1978, Vishnu Wood’s upright bass is deep, plump and quite intimate in the piano/drums/bass/trombone recording. The 2000SW gave the jazz combo’s sound an added girth (compared to my Westlake stand speakers straight up) to reflect the actual tonal balance of the recording — with being overly bloated. Who says records can’t have some low end.
  Overall, I did not have any performance complaints with the Prestige 2000SW. It is not the cheapest high-end sub, but not the most expensive either. Considering its versatility and major-league bass production, it may be somewhat of a high-end bargain.
  The only complaint I had was an ergonomic anomaly. The magnetically-attached front grill would sometimes slide down the front panel during bass intensive movie soundtracks. On its short slide down the panel, the grill touched the front-mounted volume control and turned down the level. I ended up putting two temporary pieces of Velcro, just underneath the two bottom grill magnet positions on the cabinet front. That fixed the ole grill slide. Might need stronger magnets. 

 The verdict
   For those who like to maintain brand consistency, the Prestige 2000SW is a perfect, low-frequency mate to the various standalone speakers in the aforementioned Prestige line. The black piano lacquer finished version sent to me was gorgeous, and is sure to match whatever speakers you mate to it. Overall, Paradigm’s Prestige 2000SW is an awe-inducing, powered subwoofer that can handle the depths of most any movie sound effect, but it is also equally adept at transmitting the proper bass frequencies from your favorite hi-res music. From Rock to Classical to bombastic action flicks, I do not see how you could do any better in the bass department. An Everything Audio Network Stellar Sound Award for the Paradigm Prestige 2000SW.
  John Gatski has been evaluating consumer, audiophile, home cinema and professional audio gear since 1988. In 1995, he created Pro Audio Review, and he has written for Audio, Laserviews, Enjoy The Music, The Audiophile Voice, High Performance Review, Radio World and TV Technology. Everything Audio Network is based in Kensington, Md. Articles on this site are the copyright of the ©Everything Audio Network. Any unauthorized use, via print or Internet, without written permission is prohibited. John Gatski can be reached via everything.audio@verizon.net



Friday, June 3, 2016

EAN First Listen/Review!
Prism Sound Callia
Stereo Audiophile 32-Bit DAC


 Pro Pedigree Transfers to Prism Audiophile DAC

by John Gatski
  I have been reviewing Prism Sound professional audio products since the early 1990s. The UK-based audio manufacturer has produced highly regarded, high-end analog and digital products over the years — from its  premium analog Maselec mastering EQ to the various multichannel A/D-D/A converters. Your studio had to have some coin to afford Prism, but the engineers always say it was worth the investment
  In recent years, products such as the Firewire-based Orpheus recording interface, as well as a series of USB-connected recording products, have put Prism squarely in the forefront of serious home recording quality, maintaining a sonic edge. And all the while , Prism continued  to manufacture in Merry Ole England..
  Knowing this history, I was quite pleased when Prism President Graham Boswell showed me his company’s first audiophile DAC — at the 2016 CES in Las Vegas. The working prototype, called Callia, sounded quite detailed and resolute, and it was predicted to come in well under $3,000.
  Based on a few days of testing and use, this First Listen preview gives an overview of the Callia, as well as a bit of hands-on time. I will author a more in-depth review at a later time, but readers will note that I am impressed by this DAC.

Features
  The $2,595 Callia is loosely based on the Lyra USB recording interface I reviewed a couple of years ago — but without the A/D and the recording studio connectivity/virtual mixer of its pro brethren.  The Callia features up to 32-bit integer, 384 sample rate PCM, and 1X-2X DSD via DoP. Bucking the ESS Sabre and AKM DAC chip bandwagon, Prism’s has implemented its favorite D/A chip, the Cirrus Logic CS4398, Prism adds a custom-designed, premium-part, analog stage for line out and HP; the DAC boasts a noise spec greater than -115 dB (20 Hz-20 kHz), according to Prism Sound’s specs.

  Throw in 32-bit/384 sample rate capability, DSD playback, a great headphone amp and its under $3,000 price, and it becomes clear that the Callia meets the criteria for an Everything Audio Network Stellar Sound Award. That is Stellar with a capital S!

  The sharp-looking Callia comes in a dark-gray, anodized front panel, and is proportioned in a 3/4 width, one-rack space high chassis. The elegant-looking DAC is quite uncluttered on the front panel, with a large line-output volume control, a separate, smaller headphone volume control, the headphone jack and the standby/input selector switch.
  A series of LEDs lights fleshes out the front panel including input indicators: (Auto, TOSLink SPDIF, RCA SPDIF, USB). The second bank of separate LEDs reveal the audio input status — a DSD LED and a PCM LED (via the word length 24-bit light LED). The DSD sample rate is indicated by either the non-illumination of the 2X light (2.8MHz) or the LED’s illumination, which indicates the 2X 2.8 MHz DSD sample rate — 5.6 MHz.

Bit/sample rate indicators
  When playing PCM, the sample rate is indicated by illuminating either the 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz LED, plus either the 2X or 4X LED. Thus, 24/96 will be indicated by illumination of the 48K LED and the 2X LED, plus the 24-bit LED. With 24/192 material, the display shows  the 48K LED, plus the 4X LED (48 x 4 equals 192) and the 24-bit LED. A 384 sample rate (a very rare recording indeed) is indicated via illumination of the 48K LED, the 4X LED, plus the 2X LED (48 x 4 equals 192, and192 x 2 equals 384).

Just enough I/O to make it a complete DAC/preamp

  Real 32-bit integer audio (not 32-bit floating point) is indicated by the 24-bit LED glowing red instead of blue. When a 16-bit recording is played, the 24-bit light does not glow at all.
  You have to do a bit of multiplication in your head to know exactly what sample rate you are playing beyond 44.1 and 48, but I am glad Prism included this info, especially the PCM word length indicator, I have been pushing DAC manufacturers for the past eight years to include that feature, and now many of the major DACs have it.

The back panel
  On the back panel, the Callia sports a set of balanced XLR line outputs, a pair of unbalanced RCA line outputs and fthree digital inputs (SPDIF TOSlink, SPDIF RCA, and USB 2.0). The 32-bit PCM audio path and and sample rates higher than 192 are only active via the USB input. Thus, computer players, such as Audirvana, JRiver, VOX, etc, are needed to play the ultra-res music.
  Callia’s rear panel also features a series of small DIP switches that allow tailoring the gain of the headphone amp for those HPs that need a bit more grunt to make ‘em loud enough. I left it in the stock position, which was plenty of gain for the AKG K812 and the Oppo planar magnetic PM-1 headphones I used for the listening sessions.

Listening impressions
  My early-bird sample Callia came with no remote control (they don’t come with one apparently), but it was easy to set up. It was plug and play with my Apple Macbook Pro using the included USB cable, as well as external sources via the SPDIF connections. I connected the Callia to the Apple laptop and commenced playing. I connected the DAC;s XLR line outputs to a Pass Labs X350.8 amplifier, which drove my MartinLogan Montis loudspeaker. I also listened to various bits of hi-res music via headphones. Having heard the prototype at CES and having reviewed the Prism recording interfaces that utilize the same DAC chip, I was sure that I would like the sound of the Callia in my various set ups. My assumption was quite correct.
  When playing a PCM 24/192 copy of the Tom Jung-recorded Warren Bernhardt — So Real SACD album, I was very impressed with Callia’s accuracy. Through my AKG K812 headphones, the "Autumn Leaves" track was transmitted from the DAC HP output with  a smooth, precise, transient character with a detailed, percussive soundstage The Steinway piano was spot on —without any audio grit when listening to the high-amplitude, upper-register piano notes. Prism’s Boswell said the analog signal path design must match the crucial stages of the D/A circuit — in order to get the best sound from a DAC. I have to agree; the Prism DAC is the best-sounding, Cirrus D/A chip-equipped audio DAC that I have ever auditioned!

Everything sounds brilliant
  My positive impression never wavered — no matter what kind of music I threw at it. A test DSD piano recording from seven years ago,  done by Tom Jung who used the incredible Joe Grado HM-P1 omni microphones, — showcased the Prism DAC’s ability to squeeze out every bit of nuance from the piano/room sound.
  Prism’s Boswell said the analog signal path design must match the crucial stages of the D/A circuit — in order to get the best sound from a DAC. I have to agree; the Prism DAC is the best-sounding, Cirrus D/A chip-equipped audio DAC that I have ever auditioned!

  The DSD version of James TaylorJT album showed that the DAC is not just for Classical and Jazz lovers. Pop and Rock sounded good as well. The deep layer of instrumentation on JT’s “Handyman” (strings, Fender Rhodes piano, double-tracked backing vocals and crisp percussion) are delivered as good as DAC’s two to three times the price.
  I also played 2L 24/352 (DXD) Classical recordings and my own high-sample rate recordings, made at 24/384, to test the Callia’s ultra hi-res playback capability. Using Audirvana from the Mac, the Callia had no problem decoding the files. I even played a 32-bit integer file (a 24-bit audio file up converted to 32 bit by padding it with extra 0’s) to see if the DAC could detect the 32-bit audio file from the Mac laptop. It did, indicating 32-bit by turning the 24-bit light from blue to red — just like it should. This was done via USB from the Mac, again using Audirvana as the player.

More to come
  This first listen/look at the Prism Sound Callia is just a sampling of the in-depth review process that it will undergo over the next few weeks, including some in-depth measurements from our bench tester Bascom King. But just from these initial listening sessions, the Callia is as good as I expected. And the HP amp is better than I expected — since I had not listened to the circuit via my own phones at CES. The HP amp ranks up there with other top-notch DACs, such as the Benchmark, Mytek and Oppo HA-1.
  From my brief, few days of listening, my initial impressions are that the Callia is a classy, open, detailed-sounding DAC with plenty of width and depth in the stereo presentation. Throw in 32-bit/384 sample rate capability, DSD playback, a great headphone amp and its under $3,000 price, and it becomes clear that the Callia meets the criteria for an Everything Audio Network Stellar Sound Award. That is Stellar with a capital S! Click Callia for more info.



  John Gatski is publisher/editor of Everything Audio Network. Articles on this site are the copyright of the ©Everything Audio Network. Any unauthorized use, via print or Internet, without written permission is prohibited. ©Everything Audio Network