As soon as we'd unboxed the ADP-170s, we knew that Paradigm takes surround design seriously. The Canadian-made speaker is a bipole radiator: its fore and aft drivers send sound out to the sides, creating a wonderfully wide-open surround effect. The ADP-170s run $449 per pair.
This two-way design employs a pair of 5.5-inch metallescent-polymer woofers and a pair of 0.75-inch dome tweeters made of a ceramic-and-metal composite. You can get your ADP-170s in vinyl-wrapped black graphite or white laminate. Measuring a scant 10.75 inches high and 9.5 inches wide, each wedge-shaped unit is fairly compact but weighs a healthy 12 pounds. The speaker is well constructed, with beefy, gold-plated binding posts.
The ADP-170s will do their best directly lined up to the sides of the main listening position. We mated them with the other members of Paradigm's Performance line: twofront-channel speakers, a center, and a subwoofer.
Note that for listening to multichannel SACDs or DVD-Audio discs, you might prefer to replace the ADP-170s with a second pair of Atoms. Why? Well, with a lot of multichannel music discs, the surround channels handle instruments and/or voices, which bipole radiation can't localize as distinct sound sources. For example, when we auditioned Neil Young's Harvest DVD-A on our ADP-170s, the sound was pleasant enough but somewhat murky.
Most films, on the other hand, rely on the surround speakers to create atmosphere, which is the ADP-170's stock-in-trade. Our DVD movies sounded positively huge. The newly released Led Zeppelin, for example, uses the surround channels for ambience and applause, and we loved how the ADP-170s' sound field wrapped around the back of our room and reached forward to the front three Paradigms, re-creating the mammoth space of Madison Square Garden. The speakers maintained that excellent performance on even older material, such as the wedding scene in The Godfather, Part II.
In the final analysis, music fans with a growing library of multichannel SACD and DVD-Audio titles will want to pass on the ADP-170s. But DVD-movie lovers looking to fill out their Paradigm-equipped home theater will find these speakers a worthwhile addition to the mix.