Paradigm is one of Canada's premiere loudspeaker manufacturers, with one of the widest product ranges in the business. Knowing this, I was delighted to have the opportunity to review one of their newest offerings, the Cinema 100 CT (Compact Theater) Speaker System. Retailing for $999, the Paradigm Cinema 100 CT is aimed at the budget-conscious consumer and serves as a starting point for any budding home theater enthusiast. The Paradigm Cinema 100 CT comes with five matching Cinema 100 satellite speakers and one Cinema Sub subwoofer. The Cinema 100 CT system isn't the first of its kind to try to blend affordability with sound quality, but when it comes to Paradigm, the question is never can they pull it off, the question becomes how well they do it.
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The Cinema 100 speakers are heavy, and this really shows off the quality that Paradigm puts into even their budget-oriented speakers. The satellites can be wall-mounted with the included wall brackets (screws not provided) or as bookshelf speakers by using the included table stands. Paradigm does offer floor stands for the satellite speakers, but those are sold separately. The satellite speakers themselves are a little over eight inches high by close to five inches wide and almost seven inches deep. The Cinema 100 satellites weigh in at four pounds each, which is hefty given their compact construction. Their size and finish (gloss black) allows them to blend into the décor, which scores high with the wife acceptance factor. These satellite speakers really get out of the way of the décor and do not muddy up the house by looking too boxy or drab. Actually, the Paradigm Cinema 100 CT is very sleek and modern in its design. The grille covers are magnetic, making removal easy if you wish to show the silver drivers off to friends or prefer the sound of the satellites sans grilles. The Cinema 100 has a reported on-axis frequency of 125Hz to 20kHz and 30-degree off-axis from 125 Hz to 15 kHz. The Cinema 100 satellite is comprised of two drivers, two-way acoustic suspension, mineral-filled polymer enclosure and impedance compatible with eight ohms. The sensitivity for room/anechoic is 88dB/85dB and they can be driven by as little as 15 to 100 watts, with a maximum input power of 50 watts, so this will allow you to use just about any amplifier or receiver on the market.
The powered Cinema Sub has an eight-inch driver and comes with a dual ported design. The Cinema Sub has a reported cutoff frequency response of 35 Hz to 150 Hz and a bypass option with a low-frequency extension of 32 Hz. The subwoofer's amplifier output is 300 watts of dynamic peak power and 100 watts RMS sustained. The Cinema Sub also has a satellite/subwoofer variable phase switch of 0/180 degrees. The Cinema subwoofer has RCA line level inputs consisting of mono, stereo and low-frequency extension. The subwoofer weighs close to 21.5 pounds. The Cinema Sub measures nearly 14 inches high by almost 13 inches deep and wide. The Cinema Sub is finished in gloss black, like the matching satellite speakers, making for a complete ensemble when all six speakers are installed in the same room. A nice feature of the sub, thanks to its finish, is that it can be reconfigured so that its gloss black end caps rest on either the top or to the sides, depending on how you set it up. Either way, how you choose to configure the Cinema Sub shouldn't have a dramatic effect on its overall sound quality. The Cinema Sub is eco-friendly and consumes less than half a watt while in standby; Paradigm does this by allowing the internal amplifier to be left on full-time or set to power up when it senses an input signal, making this subwoofer a "green," low-frequency machine.
The system arrived in a slightly bruised and battered box from a traditional courier, but the contents survived their journey unharmed, which illustrates how well Paradigm packages their products. The Paradigm Cinema 100 satellite speakers are wrapped in soft, cloth-like material that keeps them safe and clean, not to mention improving the pride of ownership factor.
The speakers have push-through binding posts with Easy-Glide Channels that are equipped to handle pin connectors or bare speaker wire. Unfortunately, I was not able to use any of my cables, banana or spade-terminated, and the binding posts weren't able to handle the raw 12-gauge cable I had on hand, partly due to the angle at which the cable must be inserted in the binding posts. With some slight modifications, I ended up stripping some of the copper strands away in order to fit the raw speaker cable into the push-through binding posts. A word to the wise: if you are going to use bare speaker wire, using a higher-gauge speaker cable will make things much easier, provided you don't choose a cable too thick. You should also allow for maximum sound transmission, not to mention more controlled bass.
I set the Paradigm Cinema 100 CT system up in my medium-sized media room, using my Emotiva UMC-1 processor and Emotiva XPA-5 multi-channel amplifier. I used Blue Jeans Cable LC-1 for interconnects and speaker cable for my entire system. The sources used were my MacBook Pro, Sony PS3, XBOX 360 and DirecTV HDR. They remained the same during the entire review period. I let everything marinate for about a week before I did any critical listening.
The satellites sounded great and detailed, although they definitely need a subwoofer to get close to full-range sound. There were only a few times I had to increase the volume on the center channel speaker, because I just couldn't make out the dialogue as well as I normally could, though most of this issue was typically when watching normal television. Music was fairly rich, albeit not quite floor-standing full-range, when all the satellites and subwoofer were engaged. The Cinema 100 satellites' low-end frequency response only goes to 125Hz and the Cinema Sub goes up to 150Hz, which doesn't give you many crossover options.
Read more about the performance of the Paradigm Cinem 100 CT on Page 2.