The Canadian audio company Paradigm is well known and highly respected in consumer audio circles. For decades the company has balanced cost friendliness and advanced design concepts to provide audiophiles with some of the best sounding and most affordable speakers ever produced.
Jumping into a new category the Toronto-based company entered the wireless whole-house audio market not too long ago with the introduction of its Premium Wireless Series. Utilizing the Play-Fi wireless audio platform from DTS, the line includes a choice of powered speaker products, as well as the newly announced PW Amplifier.
Featuring a Class-D amplifier design from its sister company Anthem, the two-channel PW Amp amplifier is rated to deliver 100 watts RMS into a 4-ohm load, and it produces peaks of 200 watts into 4 ohms. A key feature to help dealers integrate the product into their clients’ homes is the inclusion of the company’s Anthem Room Correction (ARC) automatic equalization suite to ensure the amp produces the best possible audio experience no matter what type of environment dealers install it.
After unpacking the amplifier I placed it between a pair of Paradigm Prestige 75F floorstanding loudspeakers and connected the amp to the speakers using a pair of Monoprice speaker cables terminated with banana plugs. Next I plugged the power and ran an Ethernet cable from a Luxul network switch to the amp’s rear panel. Finishing up I downloaded the Play-Fi app for iOS and put it on my iPhone 6 and iPad 2. Already having a Definitive Technology W Studio Soundbar with Play-Fi I wanted to see if there were any differences between the Def Tech app and the generic Play-Fi app, and I found there is no major difference other than how the apps open. The Def Tech app greets users with Def Tech logos, and Play-Fi opens with a lifestyle family scene with the Play-Fi graphic embedded into it.
Getting into the setup: Just like other wireless systems the Play-Fi based amp prompts installers through a series of setup steps. From the time I installed the Def Tech gear, to the launch of the Paradigm line, I will fully credit DTS for streamlining its setup process to make it much more dealer friendly. Following the prompts to place the amp on my network, to naming the zone and plugging in the streaming services I subscribe to, I found that it took only a few minutes to get the amp up and running with full network accessibility. This was a much better experience than my first Play-Fi experience, and it should serve companies like Paradigm in offering dealers competitive solutions. The only glitch I ran into was an error code while trying to access Pandora. The app kept telling me, “Error: This device is not Pandora Certified and cannot be connected as a primary device.” Otherwise I felt navigation for the zones, and the selection of content and sources was easy to disseminate (Please note that between the time this review was written and posted on the CE Pro website Paradigm has issued an update to its Wireless series of products that adds Pandora compatibility).
I started my listening by pulling content directly off my phone. Listening artists such as the Foo Fighters, Adele and Velvet Revolver, I was surprised at how rich the amp’s mid-bass was, and how well the amp controlled the Prestige speakers. Breaking the increasingly old stereotype that digital amps are cold sounding, I thought the PW amp with the Prestige 75fs sounded warm and extended with no hint of coloration.
During subsequent listening sessions with the combination of the PW Amp and Prestige 75fs I also felt the Paradigm equipment imaged really well, and that power shouldn’t be an issue for listeners. Pushing the amp and speakers I blasted the combination to produce SPL levels as high as 95dB at a listening position 9 feet way with plenty of headroom. I heard no signs of the amp compressing because it was running out of gas or distortion from me pushing the amp into clipping.
Throwing a tougher load at the amp I substituted the Prestige 75fs for a pair of 4-ohm, 88dB sensitive Monitor Audio PL-100 loudspeakers. The amp was also able to effectively drive these speakers to loud SPL levels. Listening to content like high-resolution audio from a Meridian Sooloos system, as well as Apple Lossless files from my network showed how the Monitor speakers driven by the Paradigm amp could deliver and audiophile experience no matter what type of content it was powering.
After living with the amp through multiple pairs of speakers and several content sources I am confident in saying the PW Amp represents everything a modern music listener would want from an amp. It offers plenty of clean power and lots of audiophile traits, as well as a reasonable price tag and the ability to work with legacy analog devices through its RCA inputs. Further augmenting its user attractiveness, its wireless whole-house audio capabilities with streaming and networked audio help to elevate it to a level that few products can compete. In my view I think when you add it all up and the PW Amp it’s a compelling package for dealers to present to their clients looking for a modern single-zone or wireless whole-house audio amplifier solution at a reasonable cost.
CE Pro Verdict:
- Competitive price point and small footprint make it attractive to a variety of homeowners.
- Plenty of power to easily drive 4- and 8-ohm speakers without experiencing compression and distortion.
- The PW AMP sounds good with other companies’ speakers, but it sounds great with Paradigm speakers.
- I would like more input options to allow the amp to serve as the center of a modern A/V system.
- The Play-Fi platform has vastly improved its performance over the past year, but user navigation improvements are still needed.