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Paradigm Cinema 330 LCR Speakers, Cinema ADP Surround Speakers, and UltraCube 10 Subwoofer

Part II

April, 2007

Jared Rachwalski

 

With Movies

Let's start with some movies, seeing how this is, after all, a home theater package. By using three identical front speakers one can obtain an ideal front sound stage, having all three speakers positioned vertical with the tweeters at the exact same height. This is great if you have an acoustically transparent screen. In my case I had to run the center channel horizontal to fit under my flat panel display.

Because these speakers are thin, you need to put them on a stand or on the wall (again, they are designed for having a small footprint in your room decor). The integrated keyhole mounting brackets make it much easier to mount directly to the wall, and if you have a slim wall mounted display it would be ideal.

When my room layout allowed me to have the rear speakers close (within 8') of the couch, so I was able to balance the system nicely. All the speakers merged, soundwise, quite well. When I moved things around (no choice), the speakers were at 10 feet on the left and 6 feet on the right. This imbalance was noticeable, and the left side of the room fell to pieces. No matter what I did, I was unable to bring back the cohesive sound of the smaller balanced setup. So, I tried the larger Cinema ADP 170s as surrounds, and the gap was filled. Therefore, if you have a large room where you need to have unequal distances between the front left and front right speakers, you should opt for the ADP 170 speakers as surrounds.

The center channel presented dialogue and center action well, and I could hear no obvious differences between having the speaker horizontal and vertical. One thing I did find was that the speaker produced more natural male voices when placed closer to the wall. This is due to the wall reinforcing the speaker's bass as the baffle does not extend much beyond the side edges of the drivers.

My reference movie has been Kung Fu Hustle since it was released on DVD last year. Stephen Chow created a movie that excels both in visual and auditory beauty. There are many scenes that test the system's acoustic balance with flying axes, swift punches, and deep bass. There is plenty here to tell you if the speakers are cut out for movie duty. An abundance of immersive special effects and slow motion fight scenes put you right in the middle of the story . . . that is if the speaker system is capable of allowing the movie to do so. I did find this speaker set a tad lacking in overall sound quality and balance. The bass was non-existent without the sub and the surrounds could not keep up with the 330's in a larger room.

The Ultracube 10 added much to the experience and was effortlessly able to reach down to bring out all but the deepest of bass. The scene featuring the Lions Roar was powerful. Every time the bell was hit I could feel it in my chest at a distance of 8 feet. The sub was placed within 3 feet of my couch, and I could feel the impact of the bass through the cushions. This is an impressive feat for such a tiny box.

So, as long as you can place the center channel speaker on a proper stand and you can put the surround speakers on a wall directly to the sides of your display, these speakers will work well with movies. Keep the surrounds close to the seating area, and if possible, wall-mount the front stage for best results. Don't worry about the bass department, as the sub performs nicely throughout the room (but put some effort into finding the best spot).

With Music

It is much easier for a speaker to sound good when you are immersed in the sights on screen as well as the sounds. One easily misses even obvious flaws in the sound, and your brain doesn't have to work very hard to paint a pretty picture. With music, a decent setup will paint a glorious picture of the instruments, the singer, and if you are lucky, even the atmosphere of the recording hall. Some speakers pull you into the song, everything is clear, and it all comes together. After a few discs with these speakers it was obvious that while they are definitely Paradigms, they just barely let you into the music. Probably because they are a relatively small, thin profile design, with the purpose of blending with the decor and not taking up much space. There is a price for that.

To get a true idea of how well the Paradigm Cinema 330's performed with music, I hooked them up without the UltraCube subwoofer and in my two channel system. They were powered by a Luxman M-113 amplifier with a conservatively rated 50 watts per side, routed through a Holman Preamp. The source was my killer budget Onix XCD-88 CD player.

First up was Tom Waits who has a deliciously twisted catalog of music. I find Mule Variations to be the most enjoyable from a critical listening seat. Constantly new sounds emerge from within the disc every time I play it. The softer sentimental side of Waits was very clean and without obvious fault. The grittier seedy-bar type songs have a tad too much grit. Not unlike when you clean your sunglasses with the wrong cloth.

Now, with the more open and acoustically detailed music from Norah Jones, the Cinema speakers were very light and clear. Norah's voice was less forward than with most budget speakers I have tested. The cleaner sound of the instruments record on this disc was evenly presented. No heavy emotion though, just neutral sound.

On to the really fun stuff: the heavy and decidedly non-audiophile type of music the Melvins make. The Paradigms were able to throw forward a clean sound, until pushed hard. The problem was worse when the UltraCube was removed from the chain, as the 330s do not put out anything below 100 Hz. Obviously, these speakers must have a subwoofer, and the UltraCube is fine for that purpose.

With critical music listening it was clear why Paradigm put these in the Cinema Line. The speakers would not be enough just as a two channel setup, so 2.1 is a must. The lack of bass was more than compensated for with the fantastic UltraCube 10. The sub added the missing octaves and put a much needed fullness back into all the music I listened to. With lighter music, such as Norah Jones and the sappier Tom Wait's songs, the sound was very enjoyable. With the heavier, gritty music such as Melvins and Clutch, the speakers just couldn't handle the thicker top end especially at loud volumes.

Conclusions

The major weak point of the system is the pairing of the 330s with the Cinema ADP in a large room. Granted, their sound matches well with the 330s when kept close to the listening area, but once the ADPs are placed at a greater distance, the sound becomes thin.

Used in a smaller enclosed room (not open to other areas), the sound from the whole system would be sufficient. But, if you have a larger room, or the home theater room is open to an adjacent room, use larger surround speakers. The 330s, on the other hand, were consistently able to fill my large open living room with full sound, but you really do need a good subwoofer to go with them.

Probably the most surprising component to this package is the Ultracube 10, with its seemingly endless amounts of bass in a tiny enclosure. In fact, this was the most output I have ever had from a 10" sub in my open and large living room.


- Jared Rachwalski -

Associated Equipment:

Marantz SR5300 Receiver
Luxman M-113 Stereo Amplifier
Panasonic RV32 DVD Player
APT Homan Preamplifier
Rotel RB-1092 Stereo Amplifier
Onix X88 CD Player

Copyright 2007 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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