CAF 2018: Paradigm, Anthem and Staying the Heck Out of the Way

At the 2018 Capital Audiofest, the gentleman in the Paradigm/Anthem room had it all figured out. He had the simplest of systems in his exhibit—the Anthem STR integrated amplifier ($4500) hooked up to a pair of Paradigm Persona 5F tower loudspeakers ($17,000/pair), streaming tunes via Qobuz. He could have packed it all in the smallest of cars—just move up the passenger seat for the 5F boxes, perhaps—and drove down to the Capital Audiofest without breaking a sweat.

Simpler Is Better

Here’s the thing: it sounded great. The Paradigm/Anthem room was full of people throughout most of the show for a few reasons. First of all, these Canadian brands have a huge following—I know because one of my old local dealers had “Anthem guys” coming in all day, asking about the new A/V receivers. Since the two brands are associated, most of these guys also use Paradigm. They love this gear and don’t care about fancy room exhibits.

Second, this simple system reflects what most people (aka non-audiophiles who still love music) are actually putting in their homes these days. They’re not interested in two double-wide racks full of little black mystery boxes, all wired up to a gigantic pair of loudspeakers that need to sit halfway into the room. No, they want a “control center” for their digital music sources, and a lovely and impressive-looking pair of tower speakers that can be pushed up against the wall, out of the way.

Up Close and Personal

From the doorway, this system looked pretty ordinary—black on black on black. Up close, however, and you’ll notice just how much quality goes into these two brands. The 5Fs were especially attractive with a quality piano gloss finish and Paradigm’s new dazzling Truextant Beryllium tweeter and midrange driver, which are exclusive to the Persona line and feature a lovely geometric pattern that will remind you of a high-tech Spirograph drawing.

The STR is yet another feature-heavy one box solution from Anthem with a built-in DAC, room correction and even a phono stage for both MM and MC. (I love how these modern A/V products aren’t forgetting about vinyl anymore.)

The sound was big and clear and impressive—Qobuz, by the way, is sensational—and the only thing I’d change was the speaker placement. Yep, I’d pull them out into the room. But that would defeat the purpose of components like these, designed to stay out of the way while they fill your life with your favorite music.