It’s always good to get a debut reviewing assignment for something you are truly excited about. I was thrilled when The Boss had exactly the product in hand that I was interested in. Lucky for me – and, now lucky for all of you. We have a gem in our midst with the beautiful and versatile Paradigm PW Amp. Color me contagiously happy with this tasty little Mila Kunis-like beauty. It might be small – but it’s sexy and oh-so-right in all the important places.
So why am I so happy about this product? I see products like these (but specifically this exact offering) as a way for a newer generation of music lovers to discover the joys of a full-tilt boogie Hi-Fi System and what that can bring to the quality of their daily lives. This is a no-slip stepping-stone to introducing Class D Amps; uber-cool Room Correction with an amazing array of streaming connected services, all from their intimate attachment to their iPhones and Android Devices (or if you must… your Windows Computer). Bravo Paradigm and an equally big Multi-Encore Bravo to DTS for their marvelous Play-Fi ecosystem which companies like Paradigm have chosen to be the “navigator”- connecting you to your music and beyond.
The PW Amp was a snap to set up. Instructions were superb and easy to grasp. Follow the blinking lights and you’ll be running in a few minutes. I selected a Wired Connection only because my Comcast Router was just a few feet away. From there, I had my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge as well as my iPhone S all seamlessly connected in scant minutes and then my Lenovo Ideapad Y700 joined the party. Each of these was very easy to set up. The DTS Play-Fi system was easy to download and execute – regardless of device. I say this with one caveat though – you must make sure that your home Wi-Fi Network is not designated as “Public”. You must join a Network that’s “Private” or else nothing connects correctly. Short of this one caveat (mainly induced by my own miscue) you’ll find connecting the dots to be easy and pain-free.
I listened to a number of tracks on my small-scale reference 2-channel rig at home. Immediately I found the PW Amp to be better than capable and bordering on “extremely good”, replacing my Class D mono-blocks from Channel Islands Audio. I was impressed – I mean really impressed as I threw an assortment of tracks and musical genre at the little PW Amp. Here are a few :
John Gorka – A Gypsy Life (AIX 85043) from the amazing AIX Records
Gorka’s earthy play with his bandmates was extraordinary on every track. I especially enjoyed “Mean Streak” – great recording and positively a keeper for my reference collection. The organic sense of this recording and the space came alive on every track. The PW Amp was crisp and clean and easily delivered the drive this band delivers.
I also enjoyed several cuts from the incredible CD by Kari Bremness titled Løsrivelse… this is a wonderful collection of music and style. Each track is better than the next, but I really love “Aske” and “Angst”. The interplay and movement are easily defined and wonderfully expressed with the PW Amp. I love Norway having spent many memorable days in Oslo and this music brought me back to a beautiful place and time. The estimable Svein Erik Børja of the NRK mentored me and I visited him several times early in my career. Norway and Kari – you are in my heart and soul.
I then trekked over to Spotify to playback several tracks but was so caught up with Johannes Moser’s repartee with Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra with Fabrice Bollon conducting the “Cello Concerto No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 119: III” (Allegro non troppo by Camille Saint-Saëns). I sat transfixed and I ended up listening to the entire work TWICE. I forgot about Streaming, I forgot about “High Res” and I just melted into the music. It was musically and emotionally so satisfying I’m really not sure how to describe it all to you except to say I really forgot about the gear and just enjoyed every nuance of the performance. My wife Lynn (aka Missy 2 Shoes) told me she came in twice and I totally ignored her. One might say – Mission Accomplished.
I did manage to snap out of it long enough to get down with Trombone Shorty on Zhu’s Genesis (infectious, rebellious and downright fun) with multiple plays of “Hold Up Wait a Minute”. I saw myself dancing and then stopped before embarrassing myself… but the point was made. I was again having fun and just imagining myself watching this live. Maybe even better than Grandma Marantz’s fresh Chopped Liver (did I just say that – man I love her liver, but my rig at home was rockin’ and I could not wipe the smile off my face).
Day-to-Day life with the PW Amp was all I could hope for. There is a connection for a sub and you can even make use of a nice Turntable with a good Phono Stage via the single set of Analog Inputs. What could be better? I love the ease and versatility and I admire the “Tech” contained within our little gem here. This can be the cornerstone of your audio world for a long time to come. Just add speakers – and maybe even a sub should you chose to “woof-woof”. I hope to be able to try some of the powered and wireless speakers Paradigm offers in this Premium Wireless Series. They’ve thought it out for you – and it would be awfully hard to make a mistake within this eco-system. Paradigm is after all… a World Class Company.
I’m not really ready to conclude – but I guess I had better. This is amazing product that offers a very complete solution for modern-day music lovers, including some remarkable DSP Tech. Paradigm serves this all wrapped up in a package that’s approachable and positively yummy in every way. Looks great, sounds incredible… and offers all you could possibly hope for in a package that’s HALF of the kilo-buck you could be paying for this. At $499 this is simply a cannot miss – no mistake product for newly minted audiophiles or seasoned audio veterans.