After toying with the crossover settings, I chose to cross over the satellites and subwoofer at 135Hz, which to my ears was the right setting. I personally prefer to overlap, especially with satellites, so they don't have to do much work with the low-end frequency. The Cinema Sub is quite capable in handling the bass. There were times when I could detect the subwoofer crossing over with satellites, but for the vast majority of my listening, the sound was full bodied and plush and the crossover was undetectable. The Cinema 100 satellites never sounded restricted or insignificant and the dialogue and vocals were vivid and lifelike. The soundstage provided was accurate and expansive. The Cinema 100 satellites have a fantastic midrange and really shine there.
After getting these set up, I decided to do some two-channel listening with Mark Knopfler's Sailing to Philadelphia (Warner). I love two-channel audio so, when given the chance, I like to test out how speakers sound in that realm. In this case, the guitar was clear and realistic and the imaging was spot on, not bad for two little satellites and a subwoofer. I ended my listening session with the Allman Brothers Band's A Decade of Hits 1969 - 1979 (Polygram Records Inc). The Paradigm Cinema 100 CT has a smooth midrange, accurate and quite fluid in its sound, allowing you to really hear and locate all of the instruments, without highlighting speaker locations. The Cinema Sub 100 is a fast subwoofer and did a wonderful job of keeping up with music.
After listening in two-channel sound, I decided to watch Gladiator (Paramount) in Blu-ray, for it comes with a beautifully mastered DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Also, this movie has a ton of action scenes that will push and test any home theater system. The Paradigm Cinema 100 CT did not disappoint, handling the loud and bass-heavy coliseum scenes with aplomb. My partner really enjoyed the soundstage placement, which puts you right in the middle of the action. During the scenes in the coliseum, where chained tigers surround Russell Crowe and his adversary, you can pinpoint the location of the animals behind our hero, allowing you to hear their metal restraints moving in the background.
Up next on Blu-ray, I watched the highly acclaimed television series Battlestar Galactica (SyFy), which I absolutely love. I decided to watch the pilot episode because of the explosion-heavy scenes and initial fights for survival when the Cylons attack. Also, this series has lots of dialogue, so it's a good test of how voices sound. The sound of the Vipers fighting off the Cylon Raiders in outer space made me feel like I was out there with them. The dialogue was crisp and clear. The little satellites and subwoofer showed off their prowess in my media room by shaking the place with forceful low-end sound, creating a dynamic soundstage in 5.1 audio.
After the Paradigms did such a great job with Battlestar Galactica, I decided to watch The Dark Knight (Warner) on Blu-ray. Instantly, I was submerged in a soundtrack that was brought to life vividly by the Paradigm Cinema 100 CT, with Batman dispatching villains and Rottweilers. Later on, the Joker, played by Heath Ledger, has many scenes with great dialogue/monologues, allowing you to hear him accurately with a quite natural-sounding voice. The Dark Knight is a movie filled with quick-moving fight scenes and some pretty radical vehicular chases that are great for testing a home theater system. The Cinema Sub handled the explosions with ease and I really enjoyed the deep bass. The Cinema Sub didn't overdo it or drown out the Cinema 100 satellites, for the Cinema Sub is a perfect match and compliment to the other elements in the sound system. The Paradigm Cinema 100 CT was never bloated or excessive in its presentation.
I was having so much fun with the surround sound experience provided by Paradigm that I decided to watch another Blu-ray movie. This time, it was Avatar (20th Century Fox), which is a visual treat on my 58-inch Samsung plasma. The Paradigm Cinema 100 CT system was able to show off its ability to reproduce little details in sound that added to the immersion and experience, such as the Viperwolves off in the distance. As soon as you land on Pandora, the jungle comes alive in your living room and you feel like one of the Na'vi natives of the planet. You can hear the arrows flying by your head, while the sound of the Great Leonopteryx's wings flapping creates a surround sound whoosh-whoosh that is terrifyingly real and engulfing, almost like it is right above you. The last fight features all the animals native to Pandora stampeding, which can create some problems with a garbling of sound, but the Paradigm Cinema 100 CT accurately reproduced the hoof beats, while the audio trampling of trees and branches was lifelike.
After indulging in music and cinema, I decided to pop in a video game, Gears of War 3 (Microsoft Studios/Epic Games), for Xbox 360. Once again, the Paradigm Cinema 100 CT satellites really shone through with the imaging, for I could easily pick out the direction of the bullets whizzing by. I could also make out the direction of enemies in the game. What a great gaming experience the Cinema 100 and Cinema Sub provided. The bass was deep, tight and had great low-end extension. The Cinema Sub really shook the room and provided a lot of weight for an eight-inch driver. Keep in mind that the subwoofer did not overwhelm the satellites or dialogue. The performance of the sub opposed its size and the Cinema Sub retained great low-end definition.
The Paradigm Cinema 100 CT system excelled by creating an expansive and multi-dimensional experience that would not relent in home theater or music duty.
The satellite sound was clean, clear and crisp, with a great soundstage. As hard as I pushed the satellites and subwoofer, I didn't get any distortion or low-end roll-off. The Paradigm Cinema 100 CT has managed to provide almost a full-range experience.
Honestly, I feel bad nitpicking, since reviewing the Paradigm Cinema 100 CT was such a treat. Although the Cinema Sub whooped some serious audio butt in my home setup, some of you bass-heads may want a bigger subwoofer for a larger room. Don't fret, for Paradigm has several subwoofer options in their stable, such as the Studio Series Sub 12, 15 and the Millenia if you want to make the earth move a wee bit more.
Although the Cinema 100 satellites do a good job of blending in with their surroundings, it would be nice to have more finish options available.
Lastly, the binding posts really require 14- to 16-gauge bare speaker cable or pin connectors, due to the angle at which you must insert the speaker cable. Thankfully, either speaker cable option won't break the bank, as you can purchase spools of the stuff at your local hardware store for pennies a foot.
Competition and Comparison
There is some stiff competition in the 5.1 small satellite and subwoofer genre, such as the Orb Audio Mod1 Home Theater Speaker System at $798, which is the closest in price to the Paradigm, but the speakers are smaller overall, with only a single three-inch driver, as opposed to the two that are found in the Cinema 100 satellites. After that, the prices start to go up, with the likes of Definitive Technology ProCinema 1000 system at $1,595 and the Polk RM95-DSW Pro 400 at $1,225.
Some other competitors out there are Cambridge Audio Minx S325 5.1 Surround Sound Speaker System at $1,399, but it's a smaller speaker and Focal's Dome 5.1 Surround Sound Speaker System, which at $2,595 is two-and-a-half times the cost, albeit for a larger overall system.
For more on these speaker systems and others like them, please visit Home Theater Review's Bookshelf Speaker Review page.
The Paradigm Cinema 100 CT system is a wonderful-sounding achievement that also looks good and is friendly on your wallet at just under $1,000. You are going to have to spend significantly more to best them if you're shopping for a complete 5.1 speaker system package. The Cinema 100 is more than capable in small to medium rooms, but what sets it apart is how comfortable the system is with music. Don't discount movies and gaming, though, for the Cinema 100 is exceptional in those arenas, too. Furthermore, the Paradigm Cinema 100 CT is extremely forgiving of sources and source material, which means it doesn't need the highest level of separates to perform at its best. All of these factors make the Cinema CT a well-balanced 5.1 system for any occasion.