Speaker Shootout: Paradigm Studio 20 vs Bowers and Wilkins CM5

January 20, 2013

Speaker Shootout: Paradigm Studio 20 vs B&W CM5


Suess Electronics sells both the Paradigm Studio 20 and the B&W CM5 bookshelf speakers.  These excellent speakers are towards the top of the range for both manufacturers and both sell for the exact same price.  Recently, we decided to do a shoot out to directly compare both models.


The system used to perform the shootout was based on Rotel:

Rotel RCD1520 CD player

Rotel RC1550 preamplifier

Rotel RB-1582 200 watt per channel power amplifier


A sound pressure meter to compensate for subtle differences between sensitivity between the Paradigms and the B&Ws.


Music: ‘Tin Pan Alley’ by Stevie Ray Vaughn (1984 Couldn’t Stand the Weather, Epic Records)


The Paradigm Studio 20s were first up.  Our notes indicate excellent low frequency bass, lively accurate midrange and excellent detail with the high frequencies.  Subtly audible with this recording is what sounds like original Master Tape hiss, barely revealing itself as a barely raised noise floor.  Although having excellent reproduction of tape hiss isn’t the goal of any system, it lends itself as a reference point when analytically listening to a system.  Loss of high frequency detail in a speaker presents itself with no audible tape hiss in this particular recording (revealing loss of high frequency detail with music too), improperly performing high frequency in a speaker reveals itself as a ‘frying egg’ sound with the tape hiss.  The Studio 20s tape hiss ‘measuring stick’ revealed it being subtly audible and sounding like normal tape hiss.  The rest of the listening session went well with a accurate sound stage and very musical response from the speakers.


Next up: the B&W CM5.  Upon cuing up Stevie Ray we noted a HUGE broad sound stage, noticeably higher and wider than the Paradigm Studio 20s.  High frequency detail was excellent (with accurate tape hiss-no frying egg sound here!)  Bass was detailed and layered…but perhaps not quite the physical presence that the Studio 20 bass was.  The music was engaging, lively and accurate.  The midrange was spot-on without the ‘fruitiness’ that some bookshelf speakers produce.


So which speaker won?  If you love accurate, deep bass and excellent sound staging the Paradigm’s won-great speakers for entertaining-truly room filling.  If you love a wide, tall, deep sound stage, accurate musical reproduction with the goal of simulating being present in the recording studio with the musician-the B&W win in spades.  Both are so close: yet the shootout reveals subtle differences in presentation.


We can’t decide!  Consider stopping by: sitting down for a listening session and help us decide which is best!


George Webster, Suess Electronics

Suess Electronics