HOME THEATER & SOUND -- www.hometheatersound.com



October
2001

Reviewed by
Roger Kanno
REVIEWERS' CHOICE 2001




Paradigm
Cinema 70
Home-Theater
Speaker System


Features SnapShot!

Description

Model: Cinema 70 speakers (front and surround)
Price: $149 USD per pair
Dimensions: 7.125"H x 4.5"W x 6"D
Weight: 3.3 pounds per pair

Model: Cinema CC center-channel speaker
Price: $119 USD
Dimensions: 4.5"H x 12.25"W x 6"D
Weight: 5.3 pounds

Model: PDR-8 subwoofer
Price: $299 USD
Dimensions: 13.25"H x 9.75"W x 15"D
Weight: 25 pounds

System Price: $716 USD


Description (cont'd)

Warranty: Five years parts and labor (Cinema 70 and CC speakers), three years parts and labor (PDR-8 subwoofer)

Features

  • Magnetically shielded (Cinema 70 and CC)
  • Injection-molded, mineral-filled polymer enclosure (Cinema 70 and CC)
  • Acoustic-suspension design (Cinema 70 and CC)
  • 3.5" polypropylene bass/midrange drivers (Cinema 70 and CC)
  • Polymer-dome tweeters (Cinema 70 and CC)
  • 90W amplifier (PDR-8)
  • 8" carbon-fiber reinforced cone (PDR-8)
  • Variable crossover (50Hz to 150Hz)
  • Ported enclosure (PDR-8)
  • High-level and mono line-level inputs (PDR-8)
  • Black, white, or silver finish

Paradigm is known for offering an extensive selection of high-value speakers and subwoofers for both two-channel and home-theater applications. From excellent bookshelf speakers starting at less than $200 per pair to the top-of-the-line Reference series -- which are still priced reasonably by high-end standards -- nearly all of the company's models offer exceptional value and a level of performance that is not uncommon in speakers costing much more.

The Cinema 70 speakers take Paradigm in a new direction. They are a micro-sized, "lifestyle" design that features very small, two-way satellites and a slightly larger Cinema CC center-channel speaker. I was provided with two pairs of Cinema 70s to use as mains and surrounds and a Cinema CC. Paradigm also sent along one of their smallest subwoofers, the PDR-8. This combination makes up what Paradigm refers to as the Cinema 70 home-theater speaker system. The cost of the entire system, including the subwoofer, is $716.

Description

The Cinema 70s and Cinema CC are straightforward, two-way acoustic-suspension designs. They consist of an injection-molded plastic enclosure with a polymer-dome tweeter coupled with either one (Cinema 70) or two (Cinema CC) polypropylene-cone bass/midrange drivers. Speaker connections are five-way binding posts of adequate quality and there are removable fabric-covered plastic grilles. The Cinema CC is similar to the Cinema 70 except that it has two bass/midrange drivers flanking the tweeter, is slightly larger, and is arrayed horizontally (like most center-channel speakers). The PDR-8 is one of Paradigm’s smallest and least expensive subwoofers and is, therefore, logically paired with this system. It has a reported in-room response down to 29Hz, which is quite deep by most standards.

Because the Paradigms are so tiny, they can be placed almost anywhere. I toed the left and right front speakers slightly inward as well as angling the surrounds towards the listening position from the sides. I placed the surrounds about two feet above ear level, but not directly pointed at the listener. The PDR-8 sub blended fairly well with the Cinema 70s, so I did not have to experiment much with placement, and settled on a position along the side wall next to the left-front speaker.

The sound

Even though the Paradigm Cinema 70 system is one of the least expensive lifestyle home-theater speaker systems that I have heard, it is also one of the best-sounding, and is even comparable to some larger and more expensive systems I am familiar with. Micro systems, almost by definition, exhibit certain common limitations: limited ability to integrate minuscule speakers with the subwoofer, limited dynamic range, and an inability to fill larger rooms with high volume levels. But large rooms aren't what these systems are intended for. Set up properly in an appropriately sized room, the Paradigm Cinema 70 system accomplished much more than I thought possible. The system never grew tiresome, as many budget systems do once the initial "wow" factor wears off.

Movies

With the Paradigm Cinema 70 system, I never felt that I was missing anything when listening to movie soundtracks. The speakers always provided enough sonic information to convey what I thought was the intent of the recording engineers and sound designers. For instance, in chapter 6 of The Mummy, "The City of the Dead," while the tambourine did not image quite as precisely as it could have, the bongos were nicely set back and off to the right of the soundstage, and the orchestral score sounded broad and majestic. In Gladiator, the sound was sweeping and well defined in scenes such as "Home Again," and the opening credits threw up a large soundstage, while the mournful vocals, wind, and other effects swirling all around gave me goose bumps! The moody percussive score of American Beauty imaged solidly across the front soundstage with good deep bass, as in chapter 9, "I Love Root Beer." Although the sound design of American Beauty can be quite subtle, the Paradigms were able to muster enough detail and finesse to bring out the nuances of this and other soundtracks.

One area in which the Paradigm system lacked some definition was the bass. Although the subwoofer blended quite well with the satellites, there was still a small dip in the upper bass. I increased the volume level of the PDR-8 sub slightly, which filled in the upper bass, but also had the effect of making the lower bass a bit boomy. Multichannel music such as the 5.1 Dolby Digital recording of James Taylor: Live at the Beacon Theater, which has prodigious amounts of bass, could become a bit loose. Movie soundtracks fared much better. Films like The Haunting and Titanic had plenty of subjectively deep bass, even if they did lack some pitch and definition. However, in my small- to medium-sized room, the Paradigm Cinema 70 system always sounded remarkably composed and refined, especially for such a small and inexpensive system. The midrange was clean as well, making dialogue easy to understand, and the frequency response seemed smooth throughout the entire range.

Music

Although I suspect that purchasers of the Paradigm Cinema 70 home-theater speaker system will use it primarily for listening to multichannel movie soundtracks, it does a very credible job on two-channel music. All of the attributes that made the system so listenable with film soundtracks translated into an equally satisfying experience with music. Acoustic tracks were well served, with closely miked vocals having a smooth sound. Instrumentation yielded a wide soundstage, which gave the impression that the sound was coming from a much larger speaker system. Like other small inexpensive sub/sat systems, the Paradigms did have some difficulties when playing back complex, full-range music like Robbie Robertson’s Music for the Native Americans [Capitol C2 724382829522]. The intricate ebbing and flowing rhythmic low frequencies of this recording revealed the limitations of the subwoofer in delineating individual bass notes. The result, however, had a relatively benign overall effect on the sound. In fairness to the Paradigms, some of this lack of bass control was probably caused by the Arcam receiver’s bass-management limitations, which necessitated that the PDR-8 subwoofer be connected via the high-level inputs. However, simpler pop tunes, such as the funky "Lady Marmalade" from the Moulin Rouge Soundtrack [Interscope B00005BJ2O], had punchy bass and clear vocals, even though this recording does suffer from compressed dynamics.

Comparison

Although the AAD E-Series speaker system ($929) that I recently reviewed possessed more pinpoint imaging, a bigger soundstage, and tighter, more accurate bass, I still preferred the sound of the Paradigm Cinema 70 system, particularly its cleaner midrange and smoother frequency response from top to bottom. The AAD E-8 subwoofer definitely bettered the Paradigm PDR-8 in both reach and output, but it did not integrate as well with the E-30 satellites, resulting in a thinner upper-bass presentation. The Paradigms possessed imaging that was a little more diffuse, but there was greater depth and a more coherent and three-dimensional sound. Additionally, the Paradigms had better microdynamics than the AADs, which allowed them to be played at lower volumes without losing too much detail.

To put things in perspective, I currently have another system in use, consisting of Focus Audio speakers, a Musical Fidelity multichannel amplifier, and a Sherwood Newcastle processor, with a total system price that is more than six times that of the Arcam/Paradigm setup. The more expensive system is better than the smaller system in every respect, but when switching back and forth between the two systems, there is no collapse in the sonic presentation nor is there a loss of the illusion of a virtual soundscape. Everything is still there -- there is just less of it. In that respect, the Paradigm Cinema 70 home-theater speaker system succeeds wonderfully by not giving up too much in any single aspect of the sound, striking a superb balance between performance and the compromises that are necessary when designing and manufacturing a budget system.

Wrap it up

Yes, there are better home-theater speaker systems than the Paradigm Cinema 70, but given the system’s low price, excellent performance, and minuscule size (and I know that there are those of you out there for whom small size is a determining factor in choosing speakers), you would be hard-pressed to find a better speaker system in its class. While $716 is still a lot of money, especially when compared to the price of some inexpensive home-theater-in-a-box speaker systems, I feel that the Paradigm Cinema 70 home-theater speaker system is one of the few budget sub/sat systems which provides the type of performance necessary to truly appreciate both home theater and music. Considering that, and the price, the Paradigm Cinema 70 system assembled here is definitely an outstanding bargain.

Review System
Receiver - Arcam DiVA AVR100
Source - Pioneer DV-626D DVD player
Cables - Nordost, Sonic Horizon, Straightwire, AudioQuest, Monster, ESP power cords and power distributor
Monitor - Toshiba CX32H60 direct-view monitor
 

Manufacturer contact information:

Paradigm Electronics, Inc.
101 Hanlan Road
Woodbridge, ON L4L 3P5 Canada
Phone: (905) 850-2889
Fax: (905) 850-2960

Website: www.paradigm.com

US Distributor
AudioStream
MPO Box 2410
Niagra Falls, NY 14302
Phone: (905) 632-0180
Fax: (905) 632-0183

 


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