The only area where I felt the S8s did not live up to their full potential was imaging. Specifically, I heard occasional small midrange and treble discontinuities that drew my attention to the faces of the speakers, temporarily disrupting their otherwise three-imensional sound. What caused these discontinuities? I speculate that they result from low-level interactions between the S8’s drivers and grilles—grilles Paradigm says should always be kept in place. Paradigm uses an unusual isolation mounting system for its drivers, one upshot of which is that thick metal driver-frames protrude about ¼" forward from the baffle surface. To compensate, Paradigm provides “anti-edge-diffraction” grille frames that fill the gaps between and around the drivers, presenting a gently curved front surface free of sharp edges that could cause diffraction. On paper the frames seem like a good idea, but I can’t help but wonder whether, in practice, they might be holding the S8s back from realizing even greater potential.
The Reference Signature S8s are beautifully made, big-hearted loudspeakers whose sophisticated, high-resolution sound makes
them unequivocal performance leaders in their class. More than that, the S8s are so good in so many different areas that they put significant pressure on many speakers in the $6k–10k/ pair price range. But most of all the S8s make listening to music a rich feast for both the heart and mind, which is precisely what fine high-end loudspeakers ought to do. TAS