Paradigm PW Amp review: This DTS Play-Fi amplifier will bring out the best from your speakers

This powerful amplifier with ARC room correction will fix your room's acoustic problems while streaming hi-res music.

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There’s no need to mince words. Hands down the total performance of the PW Amp has to be heard to be believed. The PW Amp with ARC is nothing short of magical and brought peak performance out of each setup I used it in. 

My bedroom setup is one of those real-world installations where I needed to conform both to the physical constraints of the room as well as aesthetics. I had to install the in-wall speakers below the chair rail; locate them in the corners of the room; set them about 12 feet apart—all of these are a recipe for sonic disaster. Even with a top notch preamplifier and dedicated power amplifiers, the poor speaker placement consistently yielded loose, bloated, and boomy sound. 

A mere two minutes after connecting the Paradigm PW Amp, running ARC, the boomy sound disappeared, bass snapped into control, and vocals solidified. Without ARC, for example, Adele’s “Hello” from her album 25 sounded thick and veiled; percussion on “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” came across like hollow thuds with some nasty room resonances being excited; and the piano in “Remedy” sounded dull and syrupy. Almost all of those glaring problems disappeared after calibrating the system with ARC. The bedroom system has never sounded this good.

Playing lossless files was flawless Theo Nicolakis

I had no problem playing AAC-encoded lossy and a variety of lossless music file formats including the DSD version of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Getting high-res music file album covers to show up was a whole different story.

I had the same experience in the kitchen and family room setups, too. Listening to Lorde’s “Royals” from her album Pure Heroine through the family room’s 2.1-channel system without ARC was like listening to bass reverberation three cars away from that guy who’s cranking his stereo system. It was a bloated, muddy mess.

Engaging ARC tightened and sharpened everything so that the speakers performed closer to their full potential. One of the additional byproducts of using the PW Amp with ARC is that my music sounded better and more natural outside the room I was in. If you’re designing a whole-home music system, this is an oft-overlooked feature. ARC helps make your music sound natural and balanced throughout your home. And in case you’re wondering DTS Play-Fi had no problem with any DSD, ALAC, or FLAC lossless files that I fed it via DNLA over ethernet.

Now ARC won’t make your $200 speakers sound like $2000 speakers. It simply brings out the best performance from your speaker and room interaction. I’m confident that your speakers will sound better after ARC than they did before it.

An amp I can’t live without

Paradigm’s PW Amp does something that the competition just can’t: deliver hi-res audio streaming to your speaker setup that compensates for the anomalies produced by your room-speaker interactions. Whether it’s a standalone system or a whole-home audio solution with multiple zones, you’ll be hard pressed to find a solution that makes your setup achieve its full potential. In fact, I liked the PW Amp so much that it’s going to find a permanent place in my home setup. I can’t think of a better recommendation than that.

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At a Glance
  • Paradigm’s PW Amp can stream high-res audio while correcting your speakers’ and room’s acoustic shortcomings.


    • Can be used as a traditional analog amp or a DTS Play-Fi streaming node
    • Streams hi-res music files up to 24-bit/192kHz
    • ARC room correction is astonishing


    • DTS Play-Fi app user interface continues to trail the competition
    • No direct support for iTunes music libraries
    • Won’t play Apple Music files (AAC, ALAC)
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