Paradigm Soundscape review

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The Soundscape is a high-end soundbar that measures 127×1,067x140mm and weighs a massive 9.1kg, so it’s a big piece of kit. You’ll certainly need a fair amount of clearance space below your TV if you’re thinking of putting it on your TV shelf instead of mounting it to a wall. This could make installation tricky, but at least you won’t need to make room for an external subwoofer as the Soundscape doesn’t have one.

However, you can add a third-party subwoofer wirelessly using the bundled receiver or through the wired port on the back of the soundbar, but we don’t think a subwoofer is necessary. Instead, the Soundscape’s four 4in composite cone mid-range and bass woofers, and three 1in high-frequency aluminium tweeters do more than an admirable job of creating a rich and varied soundstage. Admittedly, we weren’t particularly impressed with the sound when we first turned it on, but after a few hours of breaking it in the Soundscape’s audio quality got better and better.

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There are only two modes to choose from, Music and Film, but both produced exceptionally warm, clear audio that sounded great regardless of volume level. Bass really comes to the fore in Film mode, and the whirring helicopters and clunking machines of Avatar sounded like they were truly thumping round the room. However, background noise did seem to take precedence over the dialogue at times and altering the treble did little to improve this. Lowering the treble made voices sound damp and muffled while raising it made them sound far too light and airy, as if the mid-range had been completely chopped out. Adjusting the bass produced much better results, making the sound feel much warmer and richer. Yet, for all the Soundscape’s excellent audio, we couldn’t hear a great deal of difference between the Soundscape and the considerably cheaper Samsung HW-H750 when we compared them side by side with scenes from Avatar.

Where the Soundscape really excels, though, is its Virtual Surround mode. Other soundbars we’ve tested have always struggled to fill our large, open test room with their virtual surround sound modes, the Samsung HW-H750 included, but the Soundscape really sounded like it was bouncing audio off the walls to create a much more all-encompassing soundtrack. It couldn’t manage to get the sound coming from behind us, but we could immediately hear sound coming in from the side of the room and it’s certainly far more effective than any other virtual surround sound mode we’ve heard.

Enabling the Soundscape’s Loudness option also helps in this regard. Rather than increase the volume, the Loudness feature widens the soundstage even further, adding even more bass than before. Film mode is a good fit for more general listening too, as the extra bass really benefits film and game soundtracks. However, the Music preset is predictably the one to go for if you’re listening to music via Bluetooth. Indeed, the Soundscape was much better than the Samsung HW-H750, as every genre we tried sounded richer and more vibrant, from Disney songs and mainstream rock to blues and folk singers such as George Ezra. Lang Lang’s rendition of Chopin’s Leibestraum No.3, for instance, sounded like he was there playing in the room, whereas the Samsung sounded a little hollow and artificial by comparison.

One thing the Soundscape lacks is any kind of HDMI connection, and this means the Soundscape isn’t as convenient as soundbars with audio-return channel (ARC)-compatible HDMI ports. The Soundscape’s only connection ports are two optical S/PDIF inputs, a digital coaxial input and left and right RCA jacks.

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The Paradigm Soundscape is a truly impressive soundbar, but our main concern is its price. It’s more expensive than some high-end TVs, and while the sound quality is the best we’ve ever heard from a soundbar, we don’t think it’s worth many hundreds of pounds more than the Samsung HW-H750. Its huge size also makes installing the Soundscape tricky, unless you have a lot of space. If money and space are no object then the Paradigm Soundscape is the soundbar for you, but otherwise we’d recommend the Samsung HW-H750.