The soundtrack from the DVD of last year's King Arthur offers up barbarous sonic attacks and thrilling surround effects. The latest speaker release from Paradigm, the Cinema 110 Compact Theater, delivers some pretty exciting surround effects as well. But could this value-priced system produce truly civilized sound from King Arthur's medieval mayhem?
Out of the box, the Cinema 110 CT resembles many systems in its $800 price range. There are three baguette-size front speakers shaped from a silver-gray polymer, a pair of wedge-shaped surrounds about half the size of the front trio, and an average-size compact subwoofer. All come with silver fabric grilles. (The system is also available in black.) The handsome, understated styling will let you place the speakers unobtrusively in most rooms.
But the Cinema 110 CT isn't standard fare. Its Adapted Dipole (ADP) surrounds are a relatively uncommon feature in this price range, and you may find them a key benefit. Initially advocated by THX, dipoles typically radiate sound from the left and right sides of the cabinet rather than the front. You point the front at your listening position, so most of what you hear is reflected sound. The drivers themselves are wired out of phase from one another to enhance the effect. Proponents say dipoles provide a more diffuse, and thus more theaterlike, surround sound field.
SETUP I placed the Cinema ADP surrounds as suggested in the manual, radiating toward the front and back of the room from high shelves on the side walls. The Cinema 110 L/R speakers went on knee-high stands about 6 inches to either side of my 40-inch widescreen rear-projection TV and even with the screen. The Cinema 110 C center speaker went atop the TV.
The curved design of the satellites makes it difficult for the front left/right speakers to stand on their own without applying the supplied rubber feet. Unfortunately, some of the feet lost their adhesive when separated from the protective paper, a minor inconvenience I hope Paradigm will correct. Paradigm also supplies wall-mounting brackets, or you can place the speakers on stands (shown in photo) from its sister company, Premier. (Paradigm recommends the 37-inch-tall LS-20 stand for the front left and right speakers and the LS-30, which is a bit taller, for the surrounds. Each is $119 a pair.)
In its impressive 14-page manual, Paradigm tells you to place the 10-inch front-firing subwoofer close to a wall, though because of its dual rear ports you need an inch or two of space behind it. I placed it just to the right and rear of my TV.
Unlike most subs in this class, this one has no speaker inputs, just line-level inputs for the subwoofer/LFE output from your receiver. There are the usual controls, including a continuously variable crossover (50 to 200 Hz) for flexibility in blending the sub with the satellites, though most people will use their receiver's crossover.
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