PMC’s Twenty5is. These Paradigm Founder 100Fs are up there, such is their presence….
The Founder Series sits in the Paradigm range towards the higher end, and it is surely the best looking of the Paradigm speakers. Founder looks to me like it is more accessible price-wise than the flagship Persona range, retaining a prestige performance level but sitting firmly above the Premier and Monitor ranges that Paradigm has. All the ranges feature floorstanders, standmounts and a centre AV option. This Paradigm Founder 100F is a 3-way, 5 driver floorstander sitting just below the top of the range 120H that has an active bass, an addition that seems wholly unnecessary given the huge bass performance of the Paradigm Founder 100F.
There is an attention to detail that I recall when researching the Persona range. The driver technology, outlined on the site, is extensive and features composites of aluminium and magnesium in the cones, reminiscent of those in Focal’s premium ranges.
The midrange driver has a phase alignment lens like that in the Persona range. The tweeter too has phase alignment technology over the driver cone.
The speakers are spiked and have a Shock-Mount system that isolates the cabinet from the floor in two places in the feet with a non-return system. The hole that retains the spike has a rubber/spongey material that effectively isolates the floor from the cabinet in this arrangement.
The cabinet is heavily reinforced and braced to manage the low-frequency pressure that resounds out of the bass port in the base of the Founder. Paradigm claims the bracing turns the ‘cabinet into a monolith stronger than the sum of its parts’, it certainly feels like it is judging by the weight of the heavily reinforced box.
Unboxed speakers are 106.5cm x 32.8cm x 40.9cm (HxWxD) and they weigh in at 32.7 kg each. They are available in piano black, black walnut, midnight cherry and the walnut finish I have.
The Paradigm Founder 100F have a claimed frequency response at ±2dB of 42 Hz – 23 kHz and have an impedance of 8 Ohms with a quoted sensitivity of 93dBs.
The Paradigm Founder 100F are retailing near £5,400 for the pair in the UK.
These are two of the most beautifully finished speakers I can recall, there is a bit of styling diagonally to the sides of the cabinet, top corner to opposite bottom corner, that gives them a bit of a stylish Pininfarina feel (the Italian car stylist from the 50s, synonymous with Ferrari). The rear panel of the speaker is slightly slimmer than the front at the top of the speaker, but this tapers even towards the base. They are in no way obtrusive in our lounge; indeed, they could be a piece of art such is the way they have folded into the room.
The satin touch walnut finish I have is absolutely to die for. Even the black full-length grilles are delicious, held on with magnets in each corner.
Assembly, out of the box was a clear and simple process, the spikes are attached with the speaker upside down in the box, then it is a simple matter of righting up the speaker on the feet in position. Out of the box, the speakers come on a full-length fabric sock. The binding posts are extremely heavy and substantive, there is a biwiring opportunity if preferred or even biamping is possible.
I’m using a pile of Naim electronics, a NAC N-272 streaming preamplifier, with a NAP 250 power amplifier to drive the speakers through the Atlas Mavros speaker cable. I also have the use of a thunderous Moor Amp Angel 6 which has a claimed 150W/channel into this same 8 Ohm load. Towards the end of the review, I have put in the Moor Amps Angel preamplifier with the Moon 280D streaming source that I reviewed a few weeks ago to revelatory effect, see below.
The speakers are big, heavy but very beautiful to look at. They are manageable positionally and I have them fractionally toed in. It is grilles off, definitely, for me, looking at the array of drivers adds to the pleasure of listening to these speakers.
Articulate and Gentle
I ran the Founders in using the Naim system but the arrival of the Moor Amps Angel 6 with 150W/channel demanded a change of approach and I switched out the NAP but retained my Naim streaming preamplifier. I’ve found the speakers to be articulate but gentle in equal measure, take for example Nils Frahm’s Some (Tidal FLAC, 44.1kHz), this is such a detailed track with a gently tapping snare that is barely perceptible, but there it is. The track and the speakers are fizzing with energy. And yet they are so subtle. Similarly, The Tunnel by the Tord Gustavsen Trio (Tidal MQA, 96kHz) has exceptional detail, particularly in the cymbals (they are so lifelike near 2’55”), you feel you are in the recording studio, adjusting the angle of the microphone.
This atmospheric soundstage is again revealed by the snappy acoustic guitar intro in The Civil Wars’ Billie Jean (MQA Studio, 44.1kHz) cover. I’m often minded after listening to this cover version to go to Chromatic’s Sound of Silence (Tidal FLAC, 44.1kHz) cover. Here the speakers deliver the mournful vocal over the tempting and lonely bass line with such great ease you are reminded in the vocal the song is about the inability of partners to communicate.
Really, it was time for a bit of excitement and to test out the dynamic performance of the loudspeakers, there’s no better track than Miles Kane’s Don’t Forget Who You Are (MQA Studio, 44.1kHz). What a buzzing track this is as the Gibson guitar cracks into the speakers.
Next for a bit of rhythm and easy neo-jazz I listen to Sault’s Bitter Streets (Tidal FLAC, 44.1kHz) with the wonderful crispy snare. The track is so vibrant and alive with these speakers you simply cannot help nod your head and pat your knee.
To listen to the low end, I put on the track 2049 from Hans Zimmer’s Blade Runner 2049 Soundtrack, I also co-incidentally turned the NAP 250 up a degree or two too much. As the track started the kids came running into the room as they thought something had ‘fallen off the side of the house’. Well, that’s a start. There is no better track for the low end than listening to Newton Faulkner’s cover of Teardrop, the Paradigm Founder 100Fs deliver with thunderous poise, it is enough to drive you to tears.
I was thinking of inserting the pair of REL T/zero MkIIIs I have in residence to support the lower end as I’m convinced subwoofers can add value to most speakers, but two things happened to halt this idea. Firstly, the Moor Amps Angel 6 was digging the low end out of the tracks I was trying and secondly, the Founders were delivering it!
Moor Amps preamplifier and Angel 6 power amplifier
Using the Moon 280D as a source, the effect of inserting the Moor Amps Angel 6 and Angel preamplifier has been effectively to blow my Naim NAP 250 out of the water in respect of grip, resolution, and dynamic performance §.
The Moor Amps Angel reviews will follow this Paradigm Founder 100F review, suffice to say I’m on the verge of selling my Naim equipment lock stock and barrel and starting again. The fact that the Paradigm Founder 100Fs can reveal the difference in performance is a testament to them and I’m tempted to sell everything, buy the Moor Amps and buy the Founders at this point.
These Paradigm Founder 100F are articulate and detailed, dynamic and possess great rhythm. They can carry a vocal track with gentle composure and yet, when demanded, can deliver such a thunderous sound as to make it feel as if the side of the house has fallen off. All this, when combined with the beauty of the cabinet adds up to an impressive package, this is high-end performance, at this relatively modest price point. In my view, these speakers perform at their dynamic best with plenty of power.
Gorgeous to look at in Walnut
Styling on the cabinet
I’d have black with black
§ The fact is with the Angel 6, I am comparing NAP 500 performance (claimed 140W/channel into 8 Ohms) to NAP 250 performance (80W/ch) really. The Moor Amp Angel 6 is 150W/ch, but then again, what is a watt?
Full details of the Specification are on the company’s site