Notes from auditioning speakers

KEW

KEW

Audioholic Warlord
Ratings
5,429 22 9
#61
Paradigm Studio20 vs RBH 61-lse

Well the RBH's I bought through Audiogon showed up so I pitted them against the Paradigm's. The Totem shop is closed for vacation this week - so that is next weekend.
First, I should point out that the RBH 61-lse was only available for a limited period and was discontinued something like 6 years ago. The closest model currently available is the 61-SE/R.
Second, I should state that I brought the Studio 20's home. The dealer offered me a pretty good discount, so I won't get too beat up if I sell them. This allows me to do the audition in my home and at my leisure and to carry the Studio's to other shops.
I spent quite a bit of time getting the sound levels equal with the Radio Shack analog meter. I set the meter to C weighted and fast response. I did this by playing a passage with a sustained note (I would guess close to middle C) at the start of a cd track repeatedly while switching between speakers until I had them balanced.
I spent a total of 4 hours on this audition (I was enjoying hearing my favorite music on these two speakers)!

My findings for these speakers relative to each other are:
Paradigm pros:
1) The highs of a cymbal or triangle had more presence - I interpret this as the very highest frequencies staying strong on the Paradigm while rolling off a touch on the RBH. I spent several years playing in jazz bands and pit orchestras (for musicals) and I don't feel the Paradigm's highs are exaggerated.
2) I have thus far ignored lower bass because I intend to use these speakers in a 2.1 system. However, with these two speakers, the extra depth of the Paradigm kept attracting my attention. I think this is because both speakers sound very good in so many respects that the bass difference simply becomes the most pronounced distinction. The bass seemed to be accurate on both, but the Paradigm did a better job of catching the note of a tympani. The RBH was okay on the hit, but didn't capture the resonating note nearly so well.
3) Fullness and warmth - there were places where the Paradigm sounded richer and fuller and the RBH seemed a little bit thin. Some of this could be from the fuller bass.

RBH pros:
1) Wide sound stage - these are the first speakers I have heard which distinctly placed a voice farther to the sides than either speaker was located! I'm not sure this is a good thing, but it impressed me. In contrast, the Paradigm seemed to crowd all voices in between the speakers.
2) Clarity - while the Paradigm produced the highest frequencies of a cymbal tap with excellent presence, the RBH compensated with a truly outstanding rendition of the balanced harmonics of a cymbal.
3) Openness - I guess this is partly a rehash of #1, but with the voices spread out, the music was simply less crowded. Voices were more distinct, and it seemed like the music was quieter in between notes, if that makes any sense. Although I give the Paradigm some credit for fullness and warmth, I liked this openness more.

The Acid Test - Since I had these at home, I called my 11 year old daughter into the room to utilize her young ears and see what she said (she enjoys it when I ask her opinion especially on colors and I guess sound is similar). I had Clapton, which she likes, on the RBH's. She walked into the room, sat in my chair and said "okay, switch it". I did and she immediately got up and said "the first ones are better". Crap!:eek: I spent a lot of time just making sure of what I was hearing and that it was consistent across music types, etc and she has no doubts at all after 30 seconds in the room. "Wait, what is it you like about them?". "They are clearer, these sound dull!"
I think it can't be that obvious. She doesn't understand the subtle interactions at play. So I bump the volume on the Paradigm's up 1dB to give them the sound level advantage. (Ha! Old age and treachery beats youth and enthusiasm any day!:D) I told her I made some adjustments and call her back in. She doesn't miss a beat. She has no way to know which is which, other than the sound, I switch to the second pair and she immediately says "this one is still clearer". This one is the RBH at a lower volume level than the Paradigm.
There it is - a completely unbiased opinion!

Overall, the RBH's take the prize. I thought they might win - after all, the 61-SE/R which is the modern version with a crossover that is not supposed to be as good as the 61-LSE costs ~$2600. However, I liked the sound of the Paradigm so much that I wasn't expecting the RBH to be this conclusively better.
If I did not plan to have a sub in the room, I would have to give the nod to the Paradigm; it really does put out impressively honest and deep bass for a bookshelf unit. But for a 2.1 system, and to my (and my daughter's) ear, the used RBH is definitely a better way to go.

Cheers,
Kurt
 
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KEW

KEW

Audioholic Warlord
Ratings
5,429 22 9
#62
There is an outside chance you may be surprised. It also depends on whether your 3a is still in decent shape, especially the crossovers. I have not found too many modern speakers that I like better than the little AR7 that I had when I was a student.
How could I determine what condition my crossover is in? I have a volt ohm meter if that helps.
 
F

FirstReflection

AV Rant Co-Host
Ratings
893
#63
Very nice write up, KEW!

I must say that I am both surprised and not surprised.

I am not surprised that the RBH 61-LSE were ultimately chosen as the better speakers. They are remarkably free of distortion. Only the Status Acoustics Decimo are better (out of all the speakers I have ever heard) with their even more inert cabinets (but same drivers and cross-over).

I am surprised though that you (and your daughter) were able to so clearly hear the difference in your room. I was honestly expecting your acoustic environment to limit much of the audible difference.

So I feel both great and bad. Great from knowing that you were able to bring such high quality sound into your home and truly enjoy its benefits! But bad from knowing that I misjudged your acoustic environment and therefore gave you incorrect advice :eek:

In my own defence, the 61-LSE (or 61-SE/R) were definitely out of your original price range at their retail prices - so considering and recommending the Studio 20 and 61-SE were not way off the mark in that sense. But that does not excuse my misjudgement of your acoustic environment.

In considering my own thought process, it occurs to me that I was likely placing too much emphasis on the comparative tweeters. I know that I tend to focus largely on tweeter quality and room interactions as they relate to the higher frequencies because virtually all of the harmonic detail (which essentially determines so much of the "character" of each sound) comes from the tweeter. In your room, I expected much of the extremely fine nuance to be lost - and I might still be correct about that.

But I likely overlooked some of the importance of the fundamental and first harmonic frequencies that come from the mid-range driver. It seems almost absurd to do so, but I think that part of what happens when you critically listen to speakers the way I do is that you start to focus your attention on the nuance and much quieter/finer details and almost take the fundamental notes for granted :eek:

Simply put, the RBH Signature Reference mid-range driver is THE best mid-range driver that I have ever heard. And I do not mind making that an unequivocal statement because it is honestly that good. Your write up here has reminded me never to overlook that mid-range fundamental again. And for that, I thank you greatly!

To be honest, I had grown tired of reading so many reviews where the reviewer spends so many words describing the mid-range while giving fewer details about treble quality. This was due to my own listening habit of seeking out nuance and minute detail. I guess after having listened to the same test tracks SO many times, I had really grown accustomed to listening for the smallest differences in minute details. Essentially, my desire to hear EVERY detail probably led me to start missing the forest for the trees!

So I thank you again because this has been an important reminder to me not to lose sight of the bigger picture and to look at things from a different perspective. Rather than thinking about what details will be lost or "covered up" by the environment, I ought to think more in terms of what might be gained in going from one speaker to another.

As I described in our conversations, much of my thought process revolved around "the limiting factor" and thinking more in terms of what would be the "cap" on performance and therefore recommending products that would work best under that expected "cap". You've reminded me to "think big", as it were, and consider what might expand performance quality rather than what will limit it :)

ALL of that said - I DID tell you to buy those 61-LSE, didn't I? ;)
 
Lordoftherings

Lordoftherings

Banned
Ratings
782
#64
That's because they are highly modified and the enclosures are different...hence a different sound signature. Totem has their own sound, unique to their speaker line and they are well worth considering. As a Totem owner I am also following this thread closely to see what the final outcome is.

John
And as a Paradigm owner, I'm also following this thread with great interest. ;):):D

Bob
 
Lordoftherings

Lordoftherings

Banned
Ratings
782
#65
Awesome!

Well the RBH's I bought through Audiogon showed up so I pitted them against the Paradigm's. The Totem shop is closed for vacation this week - so that is next weekend.
First, I should point out that the RBH 61-lse was only available for a limited period and was discontinued something like 6 years ago. The closest model currently available is the 61-SE/R.
Second, I should state that I brought the Studio 20's home. The dealer offered me a pretty good discount, so I won't get too beat up if I sell them. This allows me to do the audition in my home and at my leisure and to carry the Studio's to other shops.
I spent quite a bit of time getting the sound levels equal with the Radio Shack analog meter. I set the meter to C weighted and fast response. I did this by playing a passage with a sustained note (I would guess close to middle C) at the start of a cd track repeatedly while switching between speakers until I had them balanced.
I spent a total of 4 hours on this audition (I was enjoying hearing my favorite music on these two speakers)!

My findings for these speakers relative to each other are:
Paradigm pros:
1) The highs of a cymbal or triangle had more presence - I interpret this as the very highest frequencies staying strong on the Paradigm while rolling off a touch on the RBH. I spent several years playing in jazz bands and pit orchestras (for musicals) and I don't feel the Paradigm's highs are exaggerated.
2) I have thus far ignored lower bass because I intend to use these speakers in a 2.1 system. However, with these two speakers, the extra depth of the Paradigm kept attracting my attention. I think this is because both speakers sound very good in so many respects that the bass difference simply becomes the most pronounced distinction. The bass seemed to be accurate on both, but the Paradigm did a better job of catching the note of a tympani. The RBH was okay on the hit, but didn't capture the resonating note nearly so well.
3) Fullness and warmth - there were places where the Paradigm sounded richer and fuller and the RBH seemed a little bit thin. Some of this could be from the fuller bass.

RBH pros:
1) Wide sound stage - these are the first speakers I have heard which distinctly placed a voice farther to the sides than either speaker was located! I'm not sure this is a good thing, but it impressed me. In contrast, the Paradigm seemed to crowd all voices in between the speakers.
2) Clarity - while the Paradigm produced the highest frequencies of a cymbal tap with excellent presence, the RBH compensated with a truly outstanding rendition of the balanced harmonics of a cymbal.
3) Openness - I guess this is partly a rehash of #1, but with the voices spread out, the music was simply less crowded. Voices were more distinct, and it seemed like the music was quieter in between notes, if that makes any sense. Although I give the Paradigm some credit for fullness and warmth, I liked this openness more.

The Acid Test - Since I had these at home, I called my 11 year old daughter into the room to utilize her young ears and see what she said (she enjoys it when I ask her opinion especially on colors and I guess sound is similar). I had Clapton, which she likes, on the RBH's. She walked into the room, sat in my chair and said "okay, switch it". I did and she immediately got up and said "the first ones are better". Crap!:eek: I spent a lot of time just making sure of what I was hearing and that it was consistent across music types, etc and she has no doubts at all after 30 seconds in the room. "Wait, what is it you like about them?". "They are clearer, these sound dull!"
I think it can't be that obvious. She doesn't understand the subtle interactions at play. So I bump the volume on the Paradigm's up 1dB to give them the sound level advantage. (Ha! Old age and treachery beats youth and enthusiasm any day!:D) I told her I made some adjustments and call her back in. She doesn't miss a beat. She has no way to know which is which, other than the sound, I switch to the second pair and she immediately says "this one is still clearer". This one is the RBH at a lower volume level than the Paradigm.
There it is - a completely unbiased opinion!

Overall, the RBH's take the prize. I thought they might win - after all, the 61-SE/R which is the modern version with a crossover that is not supposed to be as good as the 61-LSE costs ~$2600. However, I liked the sound of the Paradigm so much that I wasn't expecting the RBH to be this conclusively better.
If I did not plan to have a sub in the room, I would have to give the nod to the Paradigm; it really does put out impressively honest and deep bass for a bookshelf unit. But for a 2.1 system, and to my (and my daughter's) ear, the used RBH is definitely a better way to go.

Cheers,
Kurt
This is an excellent post Kurt. :) Thank you very much for sharing with us.

* This is one of the most enjoyable thread around, and I truly mean it. :)

Cheers,
Bob
 
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F

fredk

Audioholic General
Ratings
283
#67
Thanks for another excellent post KEW!

Considering the price difference, the 20s held up very well. When I listened to the Studio 20s and 40s, I found that the 20s sounded small. I wonder how the 40s (whith even more bass) would compare to those RBH.

You could spend a lifetime comparing speakers...
 
P

PENG

Audioholic Overlord
Ratings
5,703 9 1
#68
I did and she immediately got up and said "the first ones are better". Crap!:eek: I spent a lot of time just making sure of what I was hearing and that it was consistent across music types, etc and she has no doubts at all after 30 seconds in the room.
Most people don't have much problem telling speakers apart even in a level matched comparison but everyone may pick their own favourites as difference does not mean better. It would have been an even better acid test if the young person with perfect hearing also has experience playing in a jazz band and in pit orchestras like you do.

By the way, can you ask your daughter to do the same but compare a so called "warm" and "bright" receivers with similar specs?.....just kidding.

This is a great post, really enjoyable to read so far, thanks!
 
P

PENG

Audioholic Overlord
Ratings
5,703 9 1
#69
How could I determine what condition my crossover is in? I have a volt ohm meter if that helps.
It is difficult to do without taking it out, and with a volt ohm meter only it makes it almost impossible. I guess if it can hold its own against the RBH then the XO couldn't be in bad shape.:)
 
Swerd

Swerd

Audioholic Spartan
Ratings
5,163 11 6
#70
How could I determine what condition my crossover is in? I have a volt ohm meter if that helps.
Like Peng said, a volt ohm meter will not help. I wouldn't worry too much about aged crossover parts. It's those aged crossover designs that created greater problems :D. Far more important is that you know and like the sound of your old friends, the AR-3a. It will help as you make comparisons.

The only crossover parts that can change with age are capacitors, and that's only if they were non-polar electrolytic (NPE) of a certain type of construction. Some (not all) NPE caps have been known to dry out with age. Yes, they were originally made with a wet solution of electrolytic salts applied to many thin layers of insulation that then were tightly rolled up. Some of these were sealed on the outside with plastic or wax sealants that eventually leaked with time. If this happens, the capacitance value of the cap may have drifted from its original value. They usually don't fail outright. Its hard to know if this has happened unless you can measure the cap and can read the printed value on its side.

I enjoyed reading your RBH 61-lse vs. Paradigm Studio 20 comparison. You're getting pretty good at this. I liked where you describe cymbals and tympani sound.

This chart may help you pin down what frequency range these various types of instruments have. I've often found my assumptions were off by quite a bit. It's interactive - move your mouse around and you can read different specific info in the boxes on the right side. If you put your mouse on the Cymbals bar, the box reads:

Cymbals/Hi-hat
Clang: ~200 Hz
Presence: ~3 kHz
Shimmer: 7.5-12 kHz
 
KEW

KEW

Audioholic Warlord
Ratings
5,429 22 9
#71
So I feel both great and bad. Great from knowing that you were able to bring such high quality sound into your home and truly enjoy its benefits! But bad from knowing that I misjudged your acoustic environment and therefore gave you incorrect advice :eek:
>>>>>>For the benefit of readers, your "bad" advice was that I should consider spending over the cost of ~$1200 for speakers in a 2.1 system as reaching the point of diminishing returns. Based on what I had said about budget, etc. I still think this is valid. If I had to pay $2600 for the RBH's I would have never considered them as a candidate.<<<<<<<<<<<<<

In your room, I expected much of the extremely fine nuance to be lost - and I might still be correct about that.
>>> I wonder if sound level may play a factor in this. I was rechecking levels on the meter periodically - out of concern that one of the speakers might have a "bump" in frequency response at the pitch I initially used to balance them. The 60-70dB scale is the one I used. There were occasional spikes into the 70-80 range, but for the most part it was in the 60's. As long as background noise levels are low, this is the volume level I'll listen to most of the time. As we had discussed, all of my rooms are fairly live, furnished in essentially a mission style. Perhaps one reason I tend to listen at relatively low levels is to avoid "room distortion" from too many reflections at higher levels. What do you think? Would everything increase evenly as the level goes up, or would the room get cluttered/saturated with reflections?<<<<<<<<<

Your write up here has reminded me never to overlook that mid-range fundamental again. And for that, I thank you greatly!
>>>>>>>> I'm flattered to have helped!:)<<<<<<<<<

ALL of that said - I DID tell you to buy those 61-LSE, didn't I? ;)
See ">>>>>" notes above.

Definitely, you pointed me in the direction of RBH to start with. I was extremely lucky to have found this deal on these used speakers. Getting your feedback that they were as good of a deal as I thought was very reassuring. At this point, the RBH's are definitely keepers.
Thanks,
Kurt
 
KEW

KEW

Audioholic Warlord
Ratings
5,429 22 9
#72
As a Totem owner I am also following this thread closely to see what the final outcome is.

John

And as a Paradigm owner, I'm also following this thread with great interest. ;):):D

Bob
The Totem Paradigm match-up comes next weekend!

My audio plans have evolved over the last 4 weeks to a whole house plan. My current plan is to have 3 hi-fi stereo systems - in the bedroom (with zoned low-fi to the bathroom),the Living room (with zoned mid-fi to the deck and den),and my Man-Cave (with zoned mid-fi to the garage).
If I could buy two more pairs of used 61-lse's, my search for the three pairs of hi-fi speakers would likely be over. However, since they seem to be rare (or costly),I still have to determine the other two pairs.
Cheers,
Kurt
 
KEW

KEW

Audioholic Warlord
Ratings
5,429 22 9
#73
Thanks for another excellent post KEW!

Considering the price difference, the 20s held up very well. When I listened to the Studio 20s and 40s, I found that the 20s sounded small. I wonder how the 40s (with even more bass) would compare to those RBH.

You could spend a lifetime comparing speakers...
I wonder how the 20's with a subwoofer would compare to the 40's with subwoofer? I have to wonder how much of what you heard between the two would be out of play with bass management and a subwoofer, or did you have one when you were comparing?
 
KEW

KEW

Audioholic Warlord
Ratings
5,429 22 9
#74
Most people don't have much problem telling speakers apart even in a level matched comparison but everyone may pick their own favourites as difference does not mean better. It would have been an even better acid test if the young person with perfect hearing also has experience playing in a jazz band and in pit orchestras like you do.

By the way, can you ask your daughter to do the same but compare a so called "warm" and "bright" receivers with similar specs?.....just kidding.

This is a great post, really enjoyable to read so far, thanks!
Yeah, I was mostly having a little fun with the write-up involving my daughter. Certainly, I think she could be "tricked" by some coloration, etc (the things which I belabor in my auditions).
However, I wasn't expecting her to have such immediate resolve. Next time, I'll ask a few more analytical questions, such as "Is there anything you like better about the sound of these speakers (the Paradigms in this case)?".
If she had said the Paradigms sounded better, we would have had a much longer discussion to try to resolve the difference in opinions.
 
F

FirstReflection

AV Rant Co-Host
Ratings
893
#75
Raising the volume level can definitely impact what you hear in terms of treble detail. Sound energy decreases exponentially with distance. You can roughly think of room reflections as a "folded path". So, roughy speaking, the reflected sound is travelling further than the direct sound. Some of the reflected sound is also being scattered and absorbed. If the initial volume is relatively low, very little reflected sound will ever reach your ears. Increase the volmue significantly though, and the reflected sound can be much stronger and more audible.

Human hearing also plays a factor. The primary reason for 85 dB being chosen as "reference volume" is because that is the SPL at which human hearing is most "flat". At 85 dB, we perceive all audible frequencies as being roughly the same loudness. Below 85 dB, we hear mid-range frequencies much better than we hear treble or bass. So human hearing is non-linear. Said another way, if you hear a mid-range frequency and a treble or bass frequency - all played at 65 dB - to the human ear, the mid-range frequency will seem louder than either the treble or bass frequency, even though they all measure the same SPL.
 
F

fredk

Audioholic General
Ratings
283
#77
I wonder how the 20's with a subwoofer would compare to the 40's with subwoofer? I have to wonder how much of what you heard between the two would be out of play with bass management and a subwoofer, or did you have one when you were comparing?
Thats a good question. There was one other difference, a big one, that I wonder about. The speakers were oriented 90 degrees to each other. I wonder how much the setup played into the sound I heard. I really didn't know a lot about auditioning when I listened to these speakers.
 
J

just listening

Audioholic
Ratings
58
#78
By chance I had a few extra hours to kill yesterday while I'm in Portland on business. Stopped into a stereo shop checking out the used gear and to finally hear Gallo speakers out of curiosity. Well, it turns out they carry both Paradigm and Totem. It was a pretty quiet in the shop and they were very friendly. Got to compare the Studio 20v5's against the Rainmakers powered by Rotel gear. The sales guy knew pretty closely where to set the volume for each speaker to make it a fair comparison.

The difference is greater than I would have guessed to my ears as to which speaker is better overall. The speakers were set up 4 feet from the rear wall and about 8 feet apart. In fairness to KEW, I'm not going to say until he has had a chance to do his head to head.
 
KEW

KEW

Audioholic Warlord
Ratings
5,429 22 9
#79
By chance I had a few extra hours to kill yesterday while I'm in Portland on business. Stopped into a stereo shop checking out the used gear and to finally hear Gallo speakers out of curiosity. Well, it turns out they carry both Paradigm and Totem. It was a pretty quiet in the shop and they were very friendly. Got to compare the Studio 20v5's against the Rainmakers powered by Rotel gear. The sales guy knew pretty closely where to set the volume for each speaker to make it a fair comparison.

The difference is greater than I would have guessed to my ears as to which speaker is better overall. The speakers were set up 4 feet from the rear wall and about 8 feet apart. In fairness to KEW, I'm not going to say until he has had a chance to do his head to head.
Should be interesting to compare notes.
Thanks for waiting!
 
KEW

KEW

Audioholic Warlord
Ratings
5,429 22 9
#80
Totem Rainmaker vs Paradigm Studio 20

The Totem shop was back in business this weekend, so I wrapped the Paradigms in plush towels and put them in the trunk and headed out.

I spent about 1-1/2 hours at this shop to give plenty of time to listen to various types of music. I wish I could have set both of these speakers up at home so I could casually spend more time defining the nuances.

The lead guy at the shop (who is not the guy who waited on me) wanted to hook both speakers direct to an amplifier because he felt the switching gear would interfere. This would mean having to unplug one pair then plug in the other every time I switched between the speakers.
I believe that the switching equipment would equally detract from both speakers. I also think the ability to switch quickly back and forth is important for making a good comparison and stated as much. He was plenty pleasant about this, but I have to wonder, did he have a real point?

The shop could not set them up with the volume adjusted for the efficiency difference, but I experimented and felt that three clicks on the volume display was right and thus would adjust the volume as I switched between speakers.
The Paradigms and the Totems were placed on stands immediately adjacent to each other. The speaker grills were left off of the Totems (I'm not sure they have grills - if they do, this shop stashes them all in the back room)

My findings on these speakers regarding each other are as follows:

Totem:
The bottom line is I like the Rainmakers a lot, but I like the Studio20's better. To my ear, the Rainmakers have a nice, balanced, and very musical sound. If I did not have the Paradigms for immediate comparison, I'm not at all sure I could find fault with these speakers. I think the Rainmakers are best in their element with acoustic music where they have a very nice, open sound and think they actually held their own or maybe even bettered the Studio 20's on a flute duet I listened to.
Imaging was the one aspect where I would definitely give the nod to the Rainmakers. The same was true last week with the RBH's so I wonder if the Paradigms may be a little behind the curve on imaging.
These studio20's are black, and I have to say that, in comparison, the Rainmakers size, slender proportion, simple, clean drivers, and natural wood have a strong appeal. This is the first time I have commented on something other than sound, but it is also the first time I've been impressed by appearance.

Paradigm:
The Paradigms seem to have a pretty special tweeter for their price point. Cymbals sounded more open. The Totems had the highest highs, but maybe with a slight roll-off?
Listening to a recording of some very clean slow electric guitar, both speakers impressed me with detail. The Paradigm was better. at first I thought it might be transients, but when I listened again to the Rainmakers I felt that their transients were fine. However, when I closed my eyes, I had a better image of seeing the fingers on the frets with the Paradigms. If I had to venture an interpretation, I might guess that the Paradigms captured the transients a little better in the higher frequencies, while the Rainmakers were solid in the midrange, and good, but not quite as good in the upper range.
Okay, so far there hasn't been a lot to base a winner on. However, I have been keeping Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention's One Size Fits All in with my auditioning CD's for one main reason; Zappa frequently likes to go into a cacophonic hyperactive warp overdrive - it puts a lot of abrupt instruments and notes into play at once. This is where I heard a substantial difference between speakers. The Rainmakers seemed overwhelmed and lost some clarity of the instruments while the 20's kept up.
The other area where the 20's clearly bested the Rainmakers is bass. Just as I am beginning to believe that the 20's are a little behind the curve in imaging, I believe they are ahead of the curve with their low end. The Rainmakers have good bass for their size and I was impressed, but when I switched to the Paradigm, there was no question but that it was deeper.

For my own purposes of a 2.1 system, the low end of either of these speakers would do fine.
The Rainmaker impressed me as an overall competent and musical speaker until things got really busy. Their one advantage over the 20's was their imaging. However, I have to say that imaging has a pretty low weighting among my selection criteria. I'm not using these for a video system, and the difference between good and better imaging is just not that important for me. Still, I can listen for and evaluate it.
So, in the end the Paradigm's are the champion for me. However, if you listen mainly to acoustic (or music less busy than Zappa),value imaging, and/or appreciate an austere elegance; and with the price of $1200 for the 20's and $1000 for the Rainmakers, I feel it would be a mistake not to have a listen to the Rainmakers.
I must be honest - I have this image of the Rainmakers paired with unimposing, plain black, clean-faced electronics which is very appealing and I feel a pang of regret that the ability of the 20's ruled them out.

Cheers,
Kurt
 
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