Good morning, Doug,
Let me begin by saying that I greatly enjoy your in-depth loudspeaker reviews for SoundStage! Hi-Fi.
I am now wrestling with my purchase decision for a new pair of speakers in the $5k ballpark. Having auditioned several speakers, the current front-runners are the Paradigm Founder Series 100F and the Focal Aria 936. I really loved both of these speakers.
I enjoyed and appreciated your review of the Paradigm. My question is this: Of these two choices, which do you prefer, and which one is better designed and constructed?
It is somewhat frustrating that there are so few professional reviews available for the Paradigm. Your valued input on the pros and cons of these two loudspeakers would be most appreciated.
Thank you in advance.
I’m glad to hear that my reviews have helped. To answer your questions, I’ll start by saying that I haven’t reviewed or even heard the Focal Aria 936, but we published my review of the Aria K2 936 in May 2021, so I definitely know about that one. The K2 is basically a special-edition version of the Aria 936, the main difference being its use of Focal’s K2 material instead of flax for the midrange and woofer cones. I thought that the Aria K2 936 was a very good loudspeaker.
As you mentioned, I reviewed the Founder 100F recently. I think the reason that you don’t see many 100F reviews is because Paradigm doesn’t really need them; the company is already selling enough units based on the limited number of reviews so far. The speaker is that good.
But even though I have product experience that can help, the fact that you said you “really loved” both of these speakers says to me that it will do no good to tell you which one I prefer. That’s because you’re the one who must live with the decision, so it’s you who must make it.
I can give you some reassurances about product quality, however. I know both companies design and build very good loudspeakers—not just the models I’ve reviewed, but the others they make, too. I can state this with confidence because I’ve heard many of their speakers over the years. I’ve also been to Paradigm more times than I can remember, and, as you might’ve already seen on this site, I recently visited Focal and came away impressed. All told, both speakers you’ve chosen are well built by reputable companies that I’m confident will stand behind their products. I’d have no hesitation buying from either company.
Finally, the good news with this situation is that there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to making a purchasing decision. You’ve narrowed down the selection to two speaker models you like. Both would be worthwhile purchases. My advice to you is to go and compare both models again, then pull the trigger on which one you like the most. Use your gut feel if you have to. Once you’ve made the purchase, take the speakers home and don’t second-guess your decision—simply enjoy them.