The year 2012 was Paradigm’s 30th anniversary as a loudspeaker manufacturer, and to mark the occasion the firm has chosen to build two very limited edition loudspeakers: a floorstander called the Tribute and a stand-mount monitor called the Inspiration, which is the subject of this review. Paradigm’s intent with these models was not necessarily to create statement-class products, but rather to build speakers that would represent the very essence of the company. What is that essence? In distilled form, I would say Paradigm combines one part meticulous design (leveraging design philosophies originating out of the loudspeaker research tradition pioneered at Canada’s National Research Council), one part advanced materials science, one part build-quality, and one part (one very big part) value for money.
In practice, this means that the Inspiration monitors combine a mix of technologies drawn from two of Paradigm’s Reference Series speaker lines: the top-tier Signature range and the next-to-the-top-of-the-range Studio range. The result is a speaker that merges the sonic identities of these two popular speaker families, yielding a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. What is more, the 30th Anniversary models are treated to one-of-a-kind finishes with walnut cabinets done up in a translucent garnet-red lacquer—a color that is an exceedingly deep, dark (so dark it at first seems jet black) red, polished to a lustrous shine and breathtaking to behold.
The Inspiration is a two-way, two-driver bass-reflex monitor that uses a 1" pure beryllium-dome tweeter (drawn from the Signature range) plus a 7" black-anodized pure aluminum mid/ bass driver (patterned after drivers used in the Studio range). The mid/bass driver, in particular, bristles with advanced technologies named, typically, with exotic-sounding three-letter acronyms. Thus, it features a patented (NLC) non-limiting corrugated (TPE) thermoplastic elastomer surround said to allow for smooth, precisely controlled, long-throw driver excursions. Further, both the tweeter and mid/bass are mounted to the speaker enclosure using Paradigm’s so-called “IMS/Shock-Mount” baffle-less technology. Paradigm describes this technology as “a butyl-rubber driver fastening system in which critically placed isolation inserts and gaskets decouple drivers from the speaker’s enclosure.” Paradigm makes no attempt to flush-mount the Inspiration drive units in the speaker’s front baffle, but rather allows the drivers’ substantial metal frames protrude somewhat from the face of the baffle plate. However, to combat potential diffraction problems, Paradigm provides low-profile speaker grilles that deliberately wrap around the driver frames to provide smooth, diffraction-reducing, almost waveguide-like surfaces, said to enable the speakers to deliver optimal sound when they are played with their grilles on.
Attention to detail is evident throughout the Inspiration. Ducted port openings, for example, are fitted with turbulence-reducing “high-velocity, low-noise aluminum” flanges, anodized in black to match the mid/bass driver cones. Crossover networks receive the royal treatment, too, using polypropylene capacitors, precision high-power ceramic resistors, and air-core and laminated steel-core inductors, with driver connections made via “heavy-gauge HPC high-purity copper wire.” Plainly, Paradigm’s aim with the Inspiration is to give customers a very serious high-end loudspeaker, but at something less than the customary high-end price.
For this review, I used the Inspirations with Paradigm’s matching 30" stands ($999/pair). The stands are beautiful to look at (they sport etched, “30th Anniversary Edition Paradigm Reference” logos on chrome-plated escutcheons), are very heavily built with provisions for bolting the Inspirations to their top plates, and—most importantly—position the monitors at just the right height for seated listeners. The only caveat is that to assemble the stands you’ll need both metric and English hex-head wrenches, plus a fair amount of good old-fashioned elbow grease. Once set up, however, the stands are sturdy and attractive.