Paradigm’s Culture of Brand Independence
Q: Paradigm is a Canadian-based speaker and electronics brand that has a legacy of many years in the business – and you’ve managed to build out beyond just the Paradigm speaker label to include under the corporate umbrella the Anthem and MartinLogan brands – this, while many other audio companies’ businesses are struggling to reinvent themselves. Talk a bit about the advantages in design, engineering, and manufacturing you can leverage as a Canadian company.
Paul Grove: Paradigm, Anthem, and MartinLogan are sister companies owned by the same private equity firm. The reason we are successful as a group is that we don’t homogenize our brands—we let them have their own positioning, and we let them each have their own unique direction. We know how to address the market accordingly based on the identity of each brand.
The companies operate independently of one another, apart from some high-level administrative and executive functions. All of the companies maintain their own dedicated engineering and design teams—Paradigm and Anthem in Canada, and MartinLogan in the U.S. MartinLogan and Paradigm and Anthem also have their own dedicated sales teams.
Occasional collaboration between engineering teams occurs when specific shared resources are able to benefit all the brands. For example, Anthem Room Correction technology is now found in products from all three brands, and the Anthem ARC computer software and mobile app operate with compatible models from all three brands.
Another important thing to note is the people. Paradigm has advanced manufacturing, design and engineering practices, but the people and the culture are what make Paradigm special. From manufacturing support, to research and development, everyone at Paradigm is passionate about what they do on an ongoing basis. We’re never satisfied and always look for ways to make improvements. We are a very data- and goal-oriented organization with ongoing initiatives for continuous improvement and root cause-effect analysis. Issues are recognized and addressed through best practices in an ongoing effort to be recognized as a world-class organization.
There is a unique NRC government research program run by the National Research Council (NRC) that has studied the relationship between how speakers sound and how they are measured. How has Paradigm’s participation in this research been leveraged in the premium speakers you make? And in other product areas?
Grove: Paradigm’s primary objective is to build high-performance loudspeakers based on science, not speculation, by utilizing research (compiled by the National Research Council and the University of Ottawa), which correlates listening to measurements. This research study was fashioned to not just understand sound, but what constitutes great sound and why. For over 20 years, the NRC in Ottawa, Canada, researched the nature of the relationship between how speakers sound and their measurable characteristics. In hundreds of scientifically controlled double-blind listening tests with all different types of music, both novice and experienced listeners were asked to grade speakers on their sound. Speakers were then grouped by listener preference and measured. NRC researchers analyzed the results and concluded that there was a direct correlation between good sound and good measurements in three principle areas— listeners clearly favor (in order of priority) a flat midrange, smooth total energy response, and low distortion. Even today, Paradigm leverages these scientific findings to ensure all products align with the core criteria of “great” sound.
You are also one of the few companies that not only designs its products where the company is based, but you also manufacture your in-wall and in-ceiling architectural products in Canada. Talk about how that follow-through enables you to keep a handle on quality control, and able to keep the premium level of your products.
Grove: The majority of our product portfolio is manufactured in Canada. Paradigm’s dedication to better design and superior quality control is clearly audible in every speaker brought to market. To ensure superior sonic uniformity, Paradigm matches every speaker to within 1/2 dB of its production reference. This is accomplished by ensuring a high level of precision at every stage of production. Here are just a few examples:
- Paradigm winds voice coils to +/- 0 turns so impedance cannot vary and cause response inconsistencies. +/- 1 turn is the typical industry standard.
- The magnetic gaps in Paradigm’s magnet structures have tolerances of +/- 0.025 mm (+/- 0.001 in) to ensure high unit-to-unit consistency.
- Cone material is batch-purchased to eliminate run-to-run variations.
- Paradigm film capacitors are +/- 5 percent tolerance.
- Paradigm uses precision components in amplifiers to ensure consistency and reliability and all amplifier circuit boards are made to military specifications (FR4-rated).
- Inductors are wound to +/- 1/2 turn. The industry standard is typically +/- 3 turns.
- Every circuit board is pre-tested (with software designed and coded by Paradigm) on a contact system that simultaneously tests multiple connection points to ensure that each board precisely meets specifications.
- Every amplifier is operated with a test load before it leaves the factory to ensure reliability.
How can dealers and integrators communicate the advantages of vertical integration that you offer in your architectural speaker's line to the consumer? These products from brand to brand are mostly visually hard to differentiate, so the quality story must be messaged to custom integration clients. How are you helping integrators to tell that story?
Grove: At Paradigm, we make special efforts to train out dealers, working closely with them through online certification, weekly webinars, field training and factory tours. We teach our dealers to identify each of Paradigm’s key defining attributes and the importance they provide towards performance. Additionally, we continually emphasize the demo. After product knowledge, the most powerful tool integrators have at their disposal is the demo. As with any performance audio story, it is critical for integrators to take time to demo and show the differences of a quality audio experience. Selling performance audio has and will always involve creating amazing audio experiences.
Paradigm is one of the most vertically integrated manufacturers in consumer electronics today. Vertical integration allows us to own every aspect of the design, development, and manufacturing process. This allows us to push the envelope and reinvent ourselves through innovation. Several homegrown technologies (ART/Active Ridge Technology, RED/Reduced Edge Diffraction, and PPA/Perforated Phase-Aligning, etc.) and industry-leading manufacturing procedures provide real-world value and performance benefits unavailable to the competitive landscape. Paradigm deploys a host of in-house capabilities from cabinet construction, tweeter and woofer manufacturing, CNC and plastic injection molding, rapid prototyping and PCB and crossover assembly, to name a few. We’ve invested significantly in to our manufacturing capabilities, efficiency and technical bench strength over the years.
Your recently introduced Persona 9H flagship tower speaker, the result of years of development, embodies differentiating technologies. Can you talk about the materials and design that help to distinguish it from other companies’ tower speakers?
Grove: Persona is a showcase of vanguard materials and Paradigm’s most advanced audio technologies, all entirely crafted in Canada. One of the keys to Persona’s performance is the use of Beryllium that is specially formulated to be exponentially stiffer and significantly lighter than other premium diaphragm materials. This allows for superior transient response and transparency, with vanishingly low audible coloration. Paradigm’s Persona is the only loudspeaker in its class using Beryllium material for both midrange and tweeter drivers.
Can you speak, in general, about what is on the developmental docket for the Paradigm, Anthem, and MartinLogan brands as we move into the latter part of 2017 – and as CEDIA approaches this fall? In what categories can we expect introductions?
Grove: 2016 was a huge year for Paradigm, Anthem, and MartinLogan. Paradigm released an entire suite of new flagship products (Persona Series) as well as several powered wireless products. Anthem launched an entire new generation of MRX receivers and the AVM 60 processor, as well as a new line of multi-channel amplifiers (MCA Series). MartinLogan also launched a new generation of flagship products, releasing eight new electrostatic floor standing and center-channel speakers, in addition to a suite of wireless products.
Things won’t be slowing down in 2017 for Paradigm, Anthem, or MartinLogan. A few upcoming highlights include Anthem’s new STR integrated amplifier, Paradigm, and MartinLogan launching new 70-volt outdoor speakers and wireless streaming audio solutions, Paradigm’s new line of premium LCR in-wall solutions, and new on-wall solutions from MartinLogan.
While I can’t discuss a product that hasn't officially been announced, I can say that our engineering and design teams are constantly working to advance the performance of current products, as well as create new solutions not currently offered. Many new products from all three brands will be announced in the months leading up to CEDIA and CES.
What is Paradigm’s view about the future market viability of the traditional audio industry? As a company that has adapted to changing consumer needs as regards audio, what’s your advice as to how can dealers and integrators make the best appeal in attracting Millennials to buy the type of premium audio products that Paradigm makes?
Grove: Paradigm’s views on the future market viability are that the equipment used to translate audio formats will continue to evolve, but speakers will remain the standard for consuming music. Discerning consumers will always aspire to own the best performance, and this trend will continue as consumers are exposed to better-quality sound recordings. We believe that performance is critical to all demographics, and this includes Millennials.
E-commerce will continue to grow, but nothing replaces visiting a physical store as it allows customers to see, touch and experience performance. AV specialists who focus on maintaining a strong online presence, while also providing better products, services, and knowledge, will continue to have plenty of opportunities to reach people of all ages. Appealing to Millennials involves creating authentic, compelling online presences that enhance the shopping experience.
Millennials have a thirst for knowledge through information, reviews, and in some cases online interaction (live chat). Dealers need to control their online content and influence consumers to experience performance at their experience centers (showrooms). Customers aspire to own performance audio, although many just don’t know it yet because they haven’t been exposed to a quality demo. It’s the dealers’ job to do compelling audio demos every opportunity that they have.