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Paradigm Cinema 100 Review (home theater speakers)

nathan

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No, but you can market a package deal to people that don’t want speakers bigger than a shoebox in their living room but want surround sound. The exaggerated highs will make it sound ‘detailed’ to some and for the price of a subwoofer many will have a setup they are plenty happy with. Besides audioholics says no matter how big your front speakers are you should always set them as small in your AVR

It's not just audioholics. Reading through Harman's research from Welti and Olive, summarized by Toole, or looking at Geddes work, and many others, such an approach to bass management (term coined by Grimani and a concept still used by him in more than a thousand rooms he has worked on) makes lots of sense not just in theory but in practice, when measured in rooms.

That being said, the SINGLE sub in this package is problematic -- and not just because the high crossover these speakers need means a single sub would have issues with localization but also because a single sub can't fulfill the Welti, et al approach to bass.

And 200hz is really an unfortunate -3 db zone. 150hz begins to be far more manageable, especially in a multi sub setup.

But at this price point, who is running multiple subs (especially multiple subs correctly)? And then you get into discussions of similarly okay measuring speakers that can play down lower, for similar money, and the value prop recedes.

----

And yet if a relative asked about this system versus a sound bar in the same price category, I'd probably choose this every day of the week.

Glad to see the measurements, to understand this area of the market!
 

Tks

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Hey Amir, just a quick question. Is it possible for the THD graphs to not only terminate at 5% distortion? Can we have something like 50% or 100% for the higher SPL's at least?
 

Francis Vaughan

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These are pretty clearly lifestyle speakers. The Infinity web page for them depicts a modern apartment of very limited space (sofa backs onto the dining table which backs onto the kitchen.) The picture only shows the subwoofer next to the sofa. No other speakers are visible. I think it is fair to say that the speakers were designed to meet a size from the outset, and that was the non-negotiable defining requirement.
The mid-bass driver is 3.5 inches. That is silly small. There is only so much you can do with limitations like that.
These are speakers that a company either makes as good a job of as they can, and makes some money selling them, or they decide they can't make a viable system within those constraints, and makes no money. It isn't a hard call. They are selling into a market that prizes the style and size over performance. There is a ready market, so who are we to tell Paradigm they shouldn't make some money out of it? But no, these are way too compromised for any serious use. Maybe as surrounds, with a bit of tweaking of the design. But as mains? No chance.
 
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JohnBooty

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Look at it this way- a system like this is not competing with high-end speakers. A setup like this is competing with SOUND BARS.
Of course, I have not heard these. But... it feels like a "worst of all worlds" solution.

The performance of a sound bar... the price and inconvenience of separates!

In a super space constrained environment I would rather just have a nice 2- or 3-channel setup. Or even a soundbar if it was just for TV.
 

respice finem

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...That is silly small. ...Maybe as surrounds, with a bit of tweaking of the design. But as mains? No chance.
Right - and yet, some will (knowingly) buy them, for budget surround systems, because the space for bigger main LS is not available (or no WAF), or buy "by company". I can imagine some engineers (and even more so, cost controllers) thinking "we don't need a decent FR, room correction will do it". Theoretically, small studio monitors could be an alternative, but a) the looks, b) the label, and c) the expensive AV preamp to "feed" them. It's a big wide market out there, esp. at the low end, with sometimes strange use cases...
 

Putter

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One virtue of this system (Cynics might say the only one) is that all 5 speakers including the center are the same and the size means the center can be set up vertically so it will have the the same frequency response as the the other speakers.

I'd also point out that this system is almost 10 years old which unfortunately IMO shows the lack of popularity of multichannel home theater systems vs. soundbars. My feeling has always been that while this size speaker is OK for a starter system, the first thing would be to upgrade the fronts to a larger speaker, at least with a 5 inch woofer. It's also an indication that a sealed system is a bad idea with this sized speaker.

Another thought is that these would be suitable for a personal 5.1 system for gaming or cinema with the sub underneath a desk where localization is less of an issue.

Finally as MRB showed, these and similar systems are available on the used market for considerably less that list price.
 

Sancus

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what’s next- a spinorama of a ceiling speaker?

Ceiling speakers are supposed to be normal speakers aimed at the listening position, btw. The ones that aren't are poor designs! The gold standard for ceiling speakers, used in mastering most Atmos soundtracks, is the Revel C763L which is basically a normal aimable speaker in a package that can be shoved into a ceiling. And here are its anechoic measurements, not bad(other than the 1-3khz dip) considering the serious design challenge.
 

Robbo99999

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Of course, I have not heard these. But... it feels like a "worst of all worlds" solution.

The performance of a sound bar... the price and inconvenience of separates!

In a super space constrained environment I would rather just have a nice 2- or 3-channel setup. Or even a soundbar if it was just for TV.
That's an interesting comparison to make, I have a 2-channel setup for my TV/movies with my JBL 308's and the bonus is that they do music playing duty too......but would be interesting to draw a subjective enjoyment comparison for movies of a quality 2 channel system (mine for instance) vs a relatively poor 5.1 surround sound system (eg this one in the review). My parents have an old (from 2010) 5.1 Onkyo AVR system (bought as one package), and this year I had enough knowledge & equipment to time align and level adjust each of their speakers to the listening position (which is possible through the AVR menus & me using my UMIK with my laptop & REW).....I have to say movie watching was an amazing experience on that system after I'd calibrated it, I'd never experienced properly configured surround sound in a home environment before, it was very impressive for the sound localisations combined with the power from the subwoofer.......I wasn't able to frequency adjust the frequency response through the AVR but I did do a frequency sweep measured at listening position with REW and it was generally following a nice downward sloping trajectory with significant response down to just below 30Hz (psychoacoustic smoothing applied to following graph as no opportunity to apply EQ to this system):
Parents Onkyo Psychoacoustic smoothing.jpg
I think I'd have to admit that my parents old 5.1 system is probably better for movies than my "very good" 2 channel system, but for listening to music my system is miles ahead of theirs (I played my benchmark tracks on their system). My intuition based on my experience outlined here is that most 5.1/7.1 (etc) systems are gonna be better than great 2 channel systems when it comes to movie watching.
 
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moonlight rainbow dream

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One virtue of this system (Cynics might say the only one) is that all 5 speakers including the center are the same and the size means the center can be set up vertically so it will have the the same frequency response as the the other speakers.

I'd also point out that this system is almost 10 years old which unfortunately IMO shows the lack of popularity of multichannel home theater systems vs. soundbars. My feeling has always been that while this size speaker is OK for a starter system, the first thing would be to upgrade the fronts to a larger speaker, at least with a 5 inch woofer. It's also an indication that a sealed system is a bad idea with this sized speaker.

Another thought is that these would be suitable for a personal 5.1 system for gaming or cinema with the sub underneath a desk where localization is less of an issue.

Finally as MRB showed, these and similar systems are available on the used market for considerably less that list price.
I actually purchased them new from an online retailer up here in Canada called Gibby's.
 

krabapple

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Paradigm Cinema 100 CT HT speaker. It is the mains (left and right) of a 5.1 package which was kindly sent to me by a member and costs US $1099 (for all six speaker).

Small clarification: the $1099 Cinema 100 5.1 system actually consists of 5 of these, identical, plus an 8" subwoofer. I.e., There is no difference between mains, center, surround, though the center speaker is typically shown lying horizontally (a different stand is provided for that use), which would surely impact its performance in-room.

This speaker is also sold in a 2.0 package, and the sub is also available separately.

I'm presently using these in a 5.2 configuration (Monoprice 10" subs), all channels crossed over at 125Hz, with Audyssey XT32 full spectrum reference curve correction. The system doubles as TV/movie and music-only playback (virtually all 5.1 mixed, or upmixed from stereo). I'll try to remember to check the Audyssey graphs later to see if it detected and damped down the designed-in treble boost.

FWIW, I paid nowhere remotely near retail price, for a used set. If anyone needs an 8" Paradigm sub, let me know. ;>
 
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krabapple

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The frequency response starts to fall off at 200 Hz. Doesn’t that seem kind of high?

The -3dB point appears closer to 125 Hz. (I have a hard time visually determining 'in between' frequencies on log graph)

Do most AVR’s have variable crossovers for their bass management? A crossover at 80Hz for the subwoofer would leave you with a pretty big hole. Unless you have a built in crossover in the matching sub that you are supposed to use?

An 80 Hz crossover to a sub is clearly not a good idea here. Paradigm makes no explicit recommendation. Its range of cut off settings on its own included Cinema subwoofer goes from 50 to 150 Hz -- but it only calls the 80 to 150 region 'normal'. Notably too, Paradigm reports the on-axis frequency response of the 100 CT to be ±2 dB from 125 Hz – 20 kHz (30 degrees off-axis: ±2 dB from 125 Hz – 15 kHz ), indicating a need for a much higher crossover setting to a sub than 80 Hz, to those who know how to interpret

The only way to get 'bass' from these alone would be to set them up close to a wall. Paradigm reports a 'bass extension' to 85 Hz in its specs, presumably from such use.




.
 
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krabapple

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The bass doesn't matter for this purpose, well at least if you have 2 proper fronts for music. I'd be perfectly happy with surround speakers that don't go below 200hz for surround purposes because I don't have that much room. But the brightness is what kills these.

That's what per channel EQ is for.
 

krabapple

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I really don’t see the point of this measurement/review.

its a mischaracterisation of the speaker package, which comes WITH a subwoofer.


It's actually also offered without one by Paradigm, in stereo.

But certainly any review of an acoustically 'small' speaker should be considered in light of what a subwoofer -- or two, or three, or... -- would add to overall system performance.
 
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krabapple

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It's not just audioholics. Reading through Harman's research from Welti and Olive, summarized by Toole, or looking at Geddes work, and many others, such an approach to bass management (term coined by Grimani and a concept still used by him in more than a thousand rooms he has worked on) makes lots of sense not just in theory but in practice, when measured in rooms.

That being said, the SINGLE sub in this package is problematic -- and not just because the high crossover these speakers need means a single sub would have issues with localization but also because a single sub can't fulfill the Welti, et al approach to bass.

And 200hz is really an unfortunate -3 db zone. 150hz begins to be far more manageable, especially in a multi sub setup.

But at this price point, who is running multiple subs (especially multiple subs correctly)? And then you get into discussions of similarly okay measuring speakers that can play down lower, for similar money, and the value prop recedes.

----

And yet if a relative asked about this system versus a sound bar in the same price category, I'd probably choose this every day of the week.

Glad to see the measurements, to understand this area of the market!

Allow me to answer your question:

Imagine that the 5.0 speakers must be as small as possible for design/decor/WAF reasons, and should look good, and perform decently well within those constraints. They have to serve for A/V use *and* purely music use. You don't want to mix and match speakers, and you don't want to spend a mint (luckily a vast used/new market called ebay exists...check it out, folks!). You are fortunately free to add a couple of subwoofers, upon which plants, art, tchotchkes, fabrics can be placed (i.e, doubling as furniture), or one or both can be hidden. You even have freedom in exact placement of the 5.0 speakers around the 65" flatscreen and the listening couch. Your AVR has competent room correction software (as shown by Amir, even), can correct 2 subwoofers, and has a nice range of crossover options.

Speakers that 'play down lower' and measure similarly, for similar money would be awesome...if they are similarly small and looked good. And these puppies are *small* and cool looking. Any smaller and you're in Bose Cube territory (not cool).

Can you imagine now who is running* multiple subs at this price point?




*Are they 'correctly' running? My ears are pleased enough, though I haven't gone full audioholic on it).
 
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krabapple

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That's an interesting comparison to make, I have a 2-channel setup for my TV/movies with my JBL 308's and the bonus is that they do music playing duty too......but would be interesting to draw a subjective enjoyment comparison for movies of a quality 2 channel system (mine for instance) vs a relatively poor 5.1 surround sound system (eg this one in the review).

Well, Amir didn't measure or review a 5.1 sound system here. You have no idea how 'quality' or 'poor' one consisting of these is.

I think I'd have to admit that my parents old 5.1 system is probably better for movies than my "very good" 2 channel system, but for listening to music my system is miles ahead of theirs (I played my benchmark tracks on their system). My intuition based on my experience outlined here is that most 5.1/7.1 (etc) systems are gonna be better than great 2 channel systems when it comes to movie watching.

My experience is that they're better for music listening, too. It's why I upmix everything 2.0 to 5.1. (In that preference, I'm in decent company....Floyd Toole's, for example). I own tons of 5.1 music remixes as well.
 

sarumbear

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This is from the user manual of the Paradigm Cinema 100 CT System. I don't think Paradigm has ever considered this product to be reviewed or discussed in ASR:

--------------
Use the following set-up tips to fine-tune subwoofer bass in your listening room:
  1. Turn the Subwoofer Cut-Off Frequency Control to the middle of the “Normal” range.
  2. Slowly rotate the Subwoofer Level Control until you match the subwoofer output level with the level of your speakers. Bass should be clearly audible but not intrusive.
  3. If the sound is too “thin”set the Subwoofer Cut-Off Frequency Control higher than the “Normal” range; if the sound becomes“boomy” set the Subwoofer Cut-Off Frequency Control lower than the normal range.
  4. If the bass sounds weak or“dislocated” you may have a phase alignment problem. Your Cinema™ Sub has a Phase Switch which is normally set to the 0° position. Switch it to the 180° position—this will switch the phase of the subwoofer by 180° relative to your speakers. Listen to determine if you hear more bass. If you don’t hear more bass, return the Phase Switch to its original position and then experiment with subwoofer placement to find an area of the room where there is less bass cancellation.
 

krabapple

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It would have been amazing indeed if they had considered the product for ASR-type review, a decade ago when it was introduced.

But I have no doubt Paradigm expected the Cinema system to be reviewed in the usual audio publications/websites and fashion back then. I first took serious note when Wirecutter cited it as best in class, about 6 years ago. I tucked that memory away for future use. (Currently the site says, "For a future update, we hope to find a compact, all-in-one 5.1 system (including subwoofer) that can replace our previous compact 5.1 pick, the Paradigm Cinema 100 CT")
 
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