Having turned down the opportunity of reviewing the 120H last year after absolutely loving the 100Fs but finding them simply too large for the listening space I had, it was
with delight, I was invited to hear the 120Hs in a more suitable room. The 120Hs were presented in an AV system driven by a hundredweight of pre and power Anthem electronics. At 42 kilos each, the 120Hs were in their favoured habitat in a larger AV room and with ARC Genesis room correction, a huge centre speaker, a subwoofer, and a pair of Founder 80H loudspeakers at the rear.
You can watch this review on YouTube here.
The Paradigm 120H is a five-driver, three-way hybrid loudspeaker; the hybrid bit is that they have built-in active subwoofers at their base with an internal crossover managing the split.
The tweeter features a 25mm AL-MAC ceramic dome with a Waveguide (nominally called OSW) with a phase-aligning tweeter lens. AL-MAC is an aluminium-magnesium ceramic composite material.
The midrange has a 152mm (6”) AL-MAG (AL-MAG is an aluminium magnesium composite) cone with a phase-aligning lens. It is mounted to the cabinet using Paradigm’s SHOCKMOUNT isolation mounting system that decouples the drivers from the cabinet. In a similar way, the spikes at the base of the cabinet isolate the loudspeaker from the floor using this technological innovation.
The bass drivers comprise 215mm (8”) a CARBON-X unibody cone, with ridge technology (called ART) with the same SHOCKMOUNT isolation technology. The three woofers are powered by a separate DSP-controlled 1000 W RMS amplifier (with a 2,000 W dynamic peak). The porting is at the base of the cabinet, facing downwards, removing placement issues, largely.
Of note here in all of this design is the large amount of innovation on offer here from Paradigm.
The 120H has a frequency range of (±2dB) 22 Hz – 20 kHz, with a sensitivity of 95dB* and 8 Ohms impedance.
*From the datasheet
The cabinet is soft to the touch and reflects a high premium finish, befitting this flagship product. The faceted sides reflect the internal bracing in the cabinet. Additionally, there is horizontal bracing internally, damping any resonance. Each cabinet, claims Paradigm, is hand finished, it certainly looks and feels like it.
These pictures are walnut but there are also piano black, black walnut and midnight cherry finishes. The piano and cherry finishes are a high gloss finish.
The dimensions are H x W x D 115.3cm x 35.4cm x 44.1cm (45.4” x 13.9” x 17.4”), and they weigh in at 41.7 kg (92 lbs) each.
The Paradigm Founder 120H are £9,495 per pair.
For the review, there is an Anthem preamplifier AVM 90 (£7,650) which can offer 13.4 surround sound, but here it is 5.1 because it is being used in tandem with the Anthem 525 power amplifier (£3,895), that is ‘just’ 5.1 channels. The amplifier is driving the Paradigm 120H on either side of a huge flat-screen TV, inelegantly perched on top of a Paradigm Centre 90C (£3,150). To the rear, there are Paradigm 80F (£4,295) loudspeakers, epic in their own right. The Blu-Ray disc player is the peerless Oppo BDP 203, now out of production, sadly.
Two-channel listening is through a T+A MP 2500 R (£9,200) analogue source out to the Anthem pre and power combination.
The whole set-up is calibrated with an ARC Genesis room correction algorithm that comes with the Anthem amplifiers. I am instructed by my host to sit in the middle, almost literally where ‘X’ marks the spot.
The 120Hs are imposing yet magnetic with a sleek diagonal fold, front to back through its full height. In walnut, these are very sleek indeed, though not the prettiest, I like them very much.
Paradigm Founder 120H In AV
It is not really possible to get a real idea of performance with such a short audition, however, having experience of the 100F helped. I reminded myself of their ‘Outstanding’ rating where the review noted they were;
…articulate and detailed, dynamic and possessing great rhythm.
…when demanded, can deliver such a thunderous sound as to make it feel as if the side of the house has fallen off.
We started the AV demo with the opening scenes from Blade Runner: 2049. I have to say I actually ducked when that transport vehicle passes over the scene from the rear, what a start. It was clear from the outset the rear 80Fs were nicely dialled in for the surround sound processing and that the surround soundstage was big.
Having picked myself off the floor it was time for the greatest music film of them all, Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense directed by Jonathan Demme. The film, in my view, represents peak David Byrne and the three-night concert was never repeated. The release is coming up for its 40th Anniversary this year.
Right from the opening scene when Byrne puts the tape player on the floor, the resolution from these epic 120Hs is clear to hear. Then the pulse of Psycho Killer kicks in, the control from the active subwoofer is transparent here, as are the details from the acoustic strings.
When Tina Weymouth walks onto the stage and comes in with her bass line in Heaven, the stage widens and the sense of anticipation builds. The detail from these imposing 120Hs is admirable, this Anthem power amplifier has plenty to spare too. Thank You for Sending Me an Angel highlights the key feature of these loudspeakers which is simply how musical they are, in the reflection of the TV screen I could see my foot tapping like crazy, unbeknownst to me. I noted also the cymbals to the right-hand side and thus I heard clearly the channel separation in the soundstage. Found a Job has the same foot-tapping effect and I’ve not even reached Burning Down the House or Life During Wartime!
At the conclusion of Stop Making Sense, I opt for a car chase, to opera, from Spectre where Bond’s DB10 outfoxes a Jaguar concluding in a wet finale in the Tiber! This AV, surround setup with Anthem electronics is surely the best I’ve heard, and the most expensive.
Paradigm Founder 120H in 2 channel
…the music is tight, athletic, and joyful. It dominates you; the soundstage is lavish
More importantly, to me, the question is, how good are these 120H loudspeakers in two channels? A quick bit of tampering with the preamplifier menu turns everything stereo towards the imposing front speakers. At this point, we are CD-based, analogue out, from the fabulous T+A MP 2500 R, part of the R Series from T+A.
It is time for Fleet Foxes, of course, and Helplessness Blues is a stern test with detailed and layered guitar tracks. The Anthems with the 120Hs are poetry, the music is tight, athletic, and joyful. It dominates you; the soundstage is lavish. Most interestingly, and this happens more with Ryan Adams’ Gold album, I feel a great sense of stereo with instruments coming to me in layers, wide of the centre of the presentation.
A few photos at the end of the demo with Nirvana Unplugged at MTV leave me with a reminder of the fantastic detail these speakers have, and I must listen again to Nirvana’s version of The Man Who Sold the World.
The Paradigm 120H is the definition of musical in a loudspeaker…
Obviously, we are in crazy money territory here but Paradigm does several things really well. Notable is the musicality in their loudspeaker ranges, particularly in the Founders and the Persona ranges. These loudspeakers are packed with technology, like the hybrid active bass, the shock-mounted spikes and drivers and the waveguide technology; not to mention the phase aligning lenses on the mid and tweeter.
The Paradigm 120H is the definition of musical in a loudspeaker, it has exceptional bass control from the hybrid active bass arrangement. There is also bags of detail here and the midrange is well defined. If your floor, back and wallet is strong enough, these Paradigm 120H loudspeakers demand an audition.
Not having to move them
Anthem power amplifier
They were a bit lighter!
Full details are on the company’s site.