AT £1,300, PARA DIGM’S Soundscape arrives with a promise of vastly superior sound quality to your average sound bar – just like B&W’s Panorama 2 and the majestic Monitor Audio ASB-2.
As an audiophile ‘bar it boasts top-quality components and sumptuous construction.
It’s reassuringly heavy, tipping the scales at 9.1kg, and its curvy gloss-black cabinet gleams like a car bonnet in a Michael Bay movie. Minimalism is preserved by a black, cloth grille on the front. A bright (but immable) LED display shines through and a row of buttons is provided on top for close control.
At 1,067mm wide, it’s well-suited to TVs of 50in+. So far so impressive, but the lack of HDMI inputs on the rear is disappointing for the money. It means you can’t pass through video signals to your TV, and there’s no RC. It also rules out the possibility of Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio decoding; a shame given that a high-end system like this could really bring the best out of these formats.
Each of the Soundscape’s seven drivers – four 4in mid/bass woofers and three dome tweeters – is powered by its own 50W amplifier. The left and right channels get a woofer and tweeter each, while the center adds another woofer. Those woofers handle frequencies below 120Hz (down to a claimed 40Hz) and Paradigm is confident they should provide all the bass you need, but if not a dedicated output lets you add an external sub.
A supplied wireless receiver connects to any woofer, making it easier to place. Fire up a fi lm and you can hear every penny of the price tag oozing from the Soundscape’s speakers. The scale of the sound stage is simply astonishing – in fact if you listened blind you could be forgiven for thinking it was coming from a set of large floor standers.
I fed the Paradigm my Hellboy II: The Golden Army BD and marvelled at its mind-blowing bass output. As the Elemental stomps down a New York street, deep, punchy footsteps fill the room. The provision of a sub output may have been false modesty.
The sonic character is snappy and dynamic but wonderfully composed. A crisp leading edge brings the sound of smashed-up cars and buildings to life, blasts from Hellboy’s ‘Big Baby’ shotgun are conveyed with speed and slam, and when the creature roars you feel physically threatened – but in a good way.
Meanwhile, silky, incisive highs ensure an open and detailed sound. Voices sound terrific, underpinned by bass and sprinkled with detail. If there’s a fl aw it’s the poor Virtual Surround mode, but the volume and scale offered without this employed is enough to swallow you up.
The Paradigm’s outstanding performance is enough to justify the hefty price tag on its own, but HDMI ports, HD audio support – and perhaps music streaming options beyond Bluetooth – should have been mandatory for the money.
Paradigm Soundscape ➜£1,300 ➜ www.paradigm.com
HIGHS: Outstanding sound quality; deep, commanding bass and eloquent detail; gorgeous design; luxury build quality
LOWS: No HDMI sockets or HD audio decoding; relatively expensive