Paradigm Cinema 110 Compact Theater Speaker System Page 2

MOVIE PERFORMANCE Hollywood 's latest iteration of the tale of King Arthur, by the director Antoine Fuqua, mainly ignores the romanticized legend of Camelot in favor of a continuous blur of blood and guts and clashing metal. But the THX-certified DVD had plenty of other sound effects to test the mettle of the Cinema 110 CT system. For example, great doors in Hadrian's Wall grinding open and slamming shut with authority, wagon wheels rumbling on sod and ice as the ice starts to fracture, feet crunching on snow, and arrows finding their mark with a heart-piercing thud rather than a "thfft." This Paradigm system sounded as smooth as the Saxon warriors were coarse. The creaking of a bow as the string was drawn seemed to carry the tension of the bowstring itself. And even a blacksmith would be convinced by the cold steel clashing of swords.

king arthur

Hans Zimmer's score for King Arthur sounds as sharp as Excalibur on the Cinema 110 CT system.

Even more impressive was Hans Zimmer's musical score, which envelops you in a continuous sea of music and probably descends to lower frequencies than most of the sound effects, telegraphing the action with its growling low notes. The score flowed out of the Cinema 110 sub like a deep ocean current. Though it didn't rattle the room and lacked the visceral quality of a larger subwoofer, it got the job done.

Beyond the music, the soundtrack reserves surround effects mainly for crowd scenes and a few of the battles. The Cinema ADP surrounds put me right in the action, spreading the roar of the combatants around the sides and back of the room. When the arrows flew, I almost ducked. The system as a whole created a wide, deep, and enveloping sound field, with the dialogue rock solid front and center.

Happily, I heard no obvious distortion even at substantial volumes. There was no sizzle, sibilance, or crackle at the high end and little or no boominess at the low end. On the other hand, the midrange was mildly muddy, with music and effects occasionally obscuring dialogue.

MUSIC PERFORMANCE For a taste of multichannel, I spun the Super Audio CD of Herbie Mann's Caminho de Casa. Producer David Chesky and engineer Bob Katz mainly send subtle ambience through the surrounds, which the Cinema ADPs conveyed. Mann's flute sounded smooth and mellow, though not as defined as I've heard. Romero Lubambo's fingers on his guitar strings in "Gabriela's Song" might have benefited from a tad more articulation.

PLUS Smooth sound. Superb wraparound sound field. Handsome and unobtrusive styling. Good value.

MINUS Left/right satellites most stable on stands or wall mounted. Slight lack of midrange articulation.

Staying south of the border, the Cinema 110 CT system proved more satisfying on the multichannel DVD-Audio mix of Steely Dan's Gaucho, which really rocked. The tight, clean thwack of Bernard Purdie's drums and Crusher Bennett's crisp rhythm section hit the mark in "Babylon Sisters." Donald Fagen's honeyed vocals, with a sprinkle of sand, came through emphatically, and the horns and backing vocals sprang from the surrounds with ideal intensity and presence.

For plain vanilla two-channel stereo, I returned to an old favorite, Dire Straits' Making Movies. Imaging - the illusion of a real soundstage - was good but not outstanding, with the sound pretty much confined to the space between the left and right speakers. The system played impressively loud, and the music swelled effortlessly. Once again, I appreciated the solid, tight sound of the drums.

BOTTOM LINE In a highly competitive category, the Paradigm Cinema 110 Compact Theater is a bargain. It reproduces full-bodied sound without calling attention to itself, and if it errs, it does so toward the mellow side rather than with the blistering highs or pompous lows that spoil so many "budget" systems. These speakers are as smooth as Excalibur is sharp, and they can really attack when the fierce swordplay begins. They stand as a civilizing influence in the battlefield of affordable home theater.

PDF: Fast Facts PDF: In the Lab

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