Product Review - Paradigm CC-350 Center Channel Loudspeaker - August, 1998 Brian Florian

Paradigm CC-350 Speaker Front View (4383 bytes) Paradigm CC-350 Center Channel Speaker; Rear Ported; Magnetically Shielded

Two 6 1/2" Polymer Mid/Bass Drivers; One 1" Titanium Dome Tweeter; 4th Order Crossover @ 1.8 kHz

Manufacturer's FR Specs: 70 Hz - 20 kHz 2 dB

Nominal Impedance: 8 Ohms

Sensitivity: 87 dB/w/m

Size: 7 1/2" H x 22 3/4" W x 9 3/4" D

Weight: 25 Pounds

Price: $350 Canadian


Paradigm Electronics, 101 Hanlan Road, Woodridge, Ontario, CANADA L4L 3P5; Phone 905-850-2889; Fax 905-850-2960; E-Mail [email protected];  Web

A lot of my friends and colleagues laugh when they see the sort of high end audio magazines I read, particularly when their eyes zero in on the prices: Speakers at $3,000 a pair, surround sound processors for the same. I often have to explain that one can have good, respectable sound at realistic prices.

Paradigm - a Canadian Company - has been a key player in the "bang for your buck loudspeaker" field since 1982, and they continue to generate good press with a recurring theme: Value. As you will see, their key center channel speaker, the CC-350, keeps the faith well. Why review a center channel speaker by itself? Because the center channel gets most of the audio signal, so it is VERY important!

The CC-350 gets its drivers from the continually evolving Paradigm Monitor series. The exact same Titanium tweeter and a size variant of the mid/bass unit can be found in no less than seven different Monitor models, one dipolar surround model, and of course the LCR-350, the CC-350's upright mates. Paradigm CC-350 Speaker Angle (2815 bytes)This makes the CC-350 an extremely versatile recommendation for Paradigm to combine with any of its main line speakers. Replacing the CC-300 as Paradigm's staple center, the 350 did more than just update the driver technology. It benefits from better looks by abandoning the "square box" appearance for the sculpted edges and seemingly continuous grille cloth, giving it a slightly more at-home look when on top of the TV. The translucent driver material is also very mesmerizing, and it permits you to witness the diecast frame, an all too rare feature in this price range. Few can blindly detect the ringing artifact of a stamped steel frame (I confess I am not among these chosen), but the pleasure of knowing it is in check goes a long way. It should go without saying that this speaker, like its LCR counterparts, is magnetically shielded.

Quality, sturdy, plated binding posts are provided for hookup, accepting most terminators from bare wire to bananas. Paradigm CC-350 Speaker Rear (3563 bytes)Its 25 pound weight is attributed both to large magnets and solid cabinet construction. The rear port is flared to reduce air turbulence but does cause one to think twice before placing it in an enclosed space such as inside an entertainment center compartment. 120 watt rms power rating means this unit is ready to go the distance, even in "wide" Pro Logic mode, or with those DD action movies. During a less formal evaluation of the CC-350, I had the opportunity to hear it driven by a respectable five-channel B&K power amp with some brand new Paradigm 70Ps. The goal of that session was actually to drive the amp to clipping. Despite the average sensitivity of the speakers, we found that the volume became very, very loud before we reached our goal, yet clarity remained. We abandoned the task. Good thing for all involved, ears and speakers included.

Keeping with this affordable theme, I tested the CC-350 primarily with a pair of Paradigm Mini-Monitors up front and a pair of their respected Titans for the rear channel, all of which were supported by one of the company's PS-1000 Subs. A Yamaha RX-V592 provided the signal for the majority of the evaluation. AudioStream AC-50 Speaker Cable and UltraLink Discovery interconnects were used throughout. Source components were numerous.

I found the 350 to be tight, fast, and above all, neutral. It never jumped out and called attention to itself (a good speaker shouldn't). The 350 does not add its own character to the sound, whether it be dialogue, music, effects, or all of these at once. Its response drops noticeably below 70 Hz, but that is typical for a center channel speaker that fits on top of a TV, and a center is always accompanied by mains and usually a subwooferl. For those who like the "wide" mode on their processor, feel free. The two 6.5" drivers will accept the signal without distress, even though it does not voice the deepest frequencies that the amplifier may be sending to it.

The opening to "Terminator 2" has become a choice cut for me when wanting to evaluate a "full-on" movie experience. There is a lot of stuff going on: music, vehicle/aircraft noise, the crack of automatic firearms, explosions, etc., and it is all very well recorded. The CC-350 successfully raised my pulse from the moment it resolved the "crunch" of the skull being stepped on (is it lunchtime yet?) Even when pushing the Yamaha to its built-in amp's limit, the 350 did not complain or lose its neutrality. Plus, the modest Yamaha receiver was sufficient to give me what I wanted, without needing an outboard amplifier.

The titanium tweeter in the CC-350 did its deed in a particularly smooth and crisp way. Fast, I would say, and almost too revealing. More often than not, movie dialogue is laid down less than perfect and the 350 will let you know about it, passing along every imperfection of the track (or weak link between the track and itself). During many movie soundtracks, I picked up a brightness to the dialogue that would likely be absent if routed through THX processing. Conversely though, upon listening to a wide variety of CD material through Pro Logic, the 350 proves to be a true contributor to the front soundstage. To be fair, the Yamaha receiver does have its limits when trying to make the curtains sway in the breeze.

The CC-350 imaging is pinpoint, and there is resolution to spare. The depth of the soundstage is not only obvious but very palpable, something I rarely perceive in this price range. Female vocals in particular come across very nicely without any boominess, whether spoken or sung (the exception being some soprano choral work that felt stressed in the top end). Then again, I have not been pleased with these sorts of tracks on many systems.

In summary, the CC-350 is an excellent sounding speaker. When you look at the price, it sounds even better. I highly recommend an audition to anyone shopping for a center, whether it be in your price range or used as a reference for value when shopping above or below its price point.

Brian Florian

1998 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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