Paradigm Defiance X12 and V12 Subwoofers Review
Features common on the Defiance X12 and Defiance V12:
Sub Control App: iOS and Android
Anthem Room Correction: iOS, Android, and PC
Setting Control: Local, App
Power Mode: On, Trigger, Auto
Controls (via Bluetooth):
Level: -40 to 12dB
Low-Pass Filter (Frequency): 35–120Hz
Low-Pass Filter (Order): Bypass, Third, Fourth
Phase: 0–180° (1° Increments)
Phase (Polarity): Normal, Inverted
Preset Listening Modes: Music, Night, Movie
20–30Hz Level: ±10dB
Anthem Room Correction (ARC): On, Off
Tone Sweep (20–120Hz): On, Off, Pause (Frequency)
Inputs (Audio, Wireless): Defiance WT Wireless Receiver & Transmitter (sold separately)
Line Level Inputs: Left, Right/LFE (RCA)
Speaker Level Inputs: Left & Right (Banana Plus Inserts)
Finish: Satin Black
Frequency Response: 20–230 Hz ±3 dB
12” (25.4cm) cone
Dedicated LFE input
Amplifier: 650 Watts RMS (1300 dynamic peak)
Weight: 62 lbs. (28.1 kg)
Dimensions (HxWxD), Down-Firing: 18" × 19.5” × 18.75"
Frequency Response: 23–200 Hz ±3 dB
Amplifier: 120 Watts RMS (240 dynamic peak)
Weight: 42 lbs. (19.1 kg)
Dimensions (HxWxD), Front-Firing: 16.5" × 18” × 17.10"
- Neutral frequency response
- Convenient and extensive app control
- Low distortion
- High spouse approval factor: not overly large or ugly
- Defiance X12 is an SPL beast
- Both subs are solidly protected against being overdriven
- Defiance V12 is a bit underpowered
- Neither digs quite as deep as larger subwoofers
Among the larger home audio loudspeaker manufacturers, Paradigm has developed a reputation for taking their subwoofer products seriously. Many of the larger and more well-known home audio speaker brands don’t seem to put as much effort into their subwoofers as they do their other loudspeakers. For many brands, subwoofers are usually just treated as an accessory to some product line, almost as a ‘necessary evil’ for customers who want to complete a surround sound system. These ‘accessory subwoofers’ are usually small, underpowered, and over-priced for the kind of performance they offer. However, where subwoofers were often considered an afterthought for many loudspeaker manufacturers, Paradigm has long understood their importance to the overall sound and has treated them with due seriousness by designing some classic hard-hitting subwoofers. Acclaimed performers such as the Sub 15 Reference, the Prestige 2000SW, the Studio SUB 15, the DSP-3400, and the Signature Sub 2 all prove Paradigm’s commitment to making truly high-performance subwoofers that are more than just a home theater formality. This may be the reason why we often see Paradigm subs in otherwise non-Paradigm systems.
Paradigm Defiance Series Subwoofer Overview
Today we will see if Paradigm can continue this trend with their new Defiance line of subwoofers. The Defiance line is divided between two levels of performance: The Defiance V series and the more powerful and more expensive Defiance X series. For this review we have a subwoofer from both tiers: The Defiance X12 and Defiance V12. Both of these subwoofers are ported designs that use 12” drivers. The V12 is the big dog of the V line that consists of an 8”, 10” and 12”, whereas the X12 is the middle child of the X line that consists of a 10”, 12”, and a 15.” All of these subwoofers use front-firing woofers and down-firing ports in a cube-shaped cabinet. One major feature of the Defiance subwoofers is the emphasis on wireless control; they use an app to control the sub’s function, an app to run automated room correction equalization, and can accommodate a feature that allows an onboard wireless signal receiver that does not need a power cord. If that sounds familiar to regular readers of Audioholic’s subwoofer reviews, we will explain why a bit later. But first, let’s take a first look at the units under review, the Defiance V12 and X12.
The Defiance subs arrived in a very robust cardboard box and were sandwiched between thick foam pieces that gave the subs a good amount of clearance from the box sides and sufficient shock protection for a bumpy ride. Normally packing is a bigger deal for products that are available only directly from the manufacturer, but since audio business is increasingly being done through e-commerce, more products like these will be received by shipped home delivery, so packing still matters for these subwoofers. The Defiance subs were well-packed, and I would expect them to be able to withstand rough shipping.
Paradigm Defiance V12 (left subs) and X12 (right subs)
Unpacking the Defiance subs revealed two stylistically minimalist subwoofers that are reminiscent of two recently reviewed subwoofers, the MartinLogan Dynamo 600X and 1600X. The Defiance subwoofers are starkly cube-shaped and devoid of any other particular features outside of their flush-mounted, front-firing woofers. The edge lines are clean and very angular. These enclosures embrace their cube shape rather than trying to soften them by rounding off edges or going for rectangular dimensions. The subwoofers have a satin black finish that is more like a very finely textured black rather than a smooth finish. The front baffle almost looks like a painted aluminum, so it appears to be a bit higher-end than it really is. The drivers for both subwoofers use inverted surrounds, but the X12 surround has a ribbed shape that makes it a bit more visually interesting. Both cones use inverted dustcaps so the woofer appearance is that much cleaner.
The Defiance subs come with grilles, and the grilles simply hide the drivers and make the sub look more cubish, almost like an abstract building block. If you hate the sight of woofers, these grilles do a great job of masking them. With grilles on, the subwoofers become very simple objects, visually speaking. They become dark cubes with only a small Paradigm ‘P’ insignia at the lower front as their only distinguishing feature. For those who want perfectly flat, featureless surfaces, that insignia looks like it could be easily removed. As always, I prefer the appearance without grilles; these are some nice-looking woofers, in my opinion. Since the appearance of these subwoofers is so simple, they could fit in a wide variety of décors, from traditional to modern. They will not clash with many interior design schemes, and their low-key finish would make them fade into most rooms if tucked somewhere out of the way.
The Defiance subwoofers are stylish without being conspicuous or flamboyant. They are clean-looking and inoffensive, but not uninteresting. Personally, I like the way they look, and I don’t think many people would object to their austere aesthetic.
The Defiance V12 and Defiance X12 have a lot in common that might hide their very significant differences. Before we discuss their differences, let’s talk about their commonalities. As was mentioned before, they are both use front-mounted 12” drivers with down-firing ports. They both use the same app control software and can accommodate the same wireless receiver/transmitter. The app control and general ‘cord-cutting’ is a major feature of these subwoofers. We have mentioned their likeness to the new MartinLogan Dynamo subwoofers, and this is no coincidence; the software and electrical subsystems were made by the same design team. This is no surprise considering MartinLogan and Paradigm are in the same corporate family as Anthem, so they used Anthem’s design team to tackle that part of the subwoofer (Paradigm, Anthem, and MartinLogan are owned by a private equity firm called Shoreview Industries). The app to control the Defiance subwoofers is nearly identical to the MartinLogan Subwoofer Control App. The only differences are matters of graphic design for the GUI. Of course, the Paradigm Defiance subwoofers also use the Anthem ARC Mobile App too, and the wireless transmitter/receiver accessory, called the Defiance WT, looks identical to the MartinLogan SWT-X receiver/transmitter system.
It is sensible for Paradigm Electronics to use these technologies on the Defiance subs; after all, the corporate group under that umbrella might as well leverage as much of the substantial cost of the research and development of these systems as possible. Furthermore, we see the aforementioned stylistic similarities between the MartinLogan subs, since both lines are essentially cube enclosures. However, that seems to be a coincidence since the Dynamos had different industrial designers than the Defiance subs. We also see similar cones: polypropylene with inverted surrounds. They share similar backplates as well. The Defiance subs are taking some different routes when it comes to overall design, however; all of the Defiance subwoofers use front-firing drivers and down-firing tube ports, whereas most of the Dynamo subs are sealed, and the ones that are ported are using down-firing slot ports and down-firing drivers.
Since much of the software feature set of the Defiance subwoofers is almost exactly the same as the MartinLogan Dynamo subs, I will just copy what I wrote in that review to describe the wireless aspects of the Defiance subs, only changing the brand names of these products: The plate amp for the V12 and X12 have only a volume knob as a physical means of control. Paradigm has allocated all other controls of the Defiance subwoofers to a smartphone app that is compatible with iOS and Android devices. The ‘Paradigm Subwoofer Control App’ has all of the conventional control functionality of regular panel controls and a few neat features that are well outside the ability of typical subwoofers. The Paradigm Subwoofer Control App can control the volume, low-pass filters, phase, low-frequency boost (that can adjust the 20-30 Hz region by ±10 dB) and can access preset listening modes. One unique and useful feature of the Paradigm Subwoofer Control App is the ability to run a tone sweep from 20 Hz to 120 Hz that allows the user to pause and hold the tone at any frequency in this range. This feature allows the user to identify points of audible in-room rattling and vibrations. The Paradigm Subwoofer Control App can control a multitude of subs independently. The App also has helpful explanations for every control, so the user isn’t forced to refer back to the manual to understand every aspect that can be changed.
As was mentioned above, the Defiance subs also use Anthem’s ARC Mobile App. Audioholics previewed the Anthem ARC Mobile App with good results. ARC is the highly-regarded room correction equalization software developed by the audio electronics manufacturer Anthem, and the ARC Mobile App brings that equalization functionality to Android and iOS devices. For ARC-enabled speakers such as Paradigm’s new Defiance subwoofers, ARC Mobile uses the microphone of the iOS or Android device to record the in-room frequency response of the subwoofer. ARC’s algorithm then forms a correction curve which is sent to the subwoofer for a more linear and smoother sound at the listening position. Since low-frequencies are the band that is most dramatically affected by room acoustics, this can be particularly helpful in achieving an even, neutral response. The ARC Mobile App makes it simple to EQ troublesome room modes that are the plague of subwoofer frequency bands, and no wired components are needed to use it. One major advantage that the Defiance X12 has over the V12 for ARC control is that the X12 comes with an ARC microphone which is sure to offer a more precise response than a smartphone microphone.
We should also talk a bit more about the Defiance wireless signal system. The Defiance WT Wireless Module is sold separately and does away with the need for a physical wire for the signal. Omitting the signal cable can greatly increase the availability of potential placements for the sub, and since the placement of the subwoofer is so critical in getting good sound, this can be a very significant assist in sound quality. The Defiance WT Wireless System uses 2.4 GHz dynamic frequency selection and error correction. The receiver end of the Defiance WT system is powered by the subwoofer itself and so does not need to be plugged into a power outlet. The Defiance WT Wireless Subwoofer System has a 50-foot range, so it should be able to handle any conventional domestic room size without a problem.
Paradigm Defiance V12 backpanel (left pic) X12 backpanel (right pic)
Let’s now discuss the more traditional nuts-and-bolts design aspects of the Defiance subwoofers. We will begin by talking about the amplifier. Both the V12 and X12 plate amps have left/right line-level RCA and speaker level inputs, although the X12 also has as a dedicated LFE input, whereas the LFE input is shared on the right RCA input on the V12. The X12 also has a dedicated 3.5mm trigger input which allows for a dedicated power-on signal from the receiver or preamplifier. The X12 amplifier is a lot more powerful than the V12 amplifier: 650 watts RMS vs. 120 watts RMS respectively. If all other things were equal, that extra power would translate into an approximately 7.3 dB increase in headroom alone, but, as we shall see, all other things are not equal.
Paradigm Defiance V12 amplifier (left) and X12 amplifier (right)
Paradigm Defiance V12 cabinet interior (left) and X12 cabinet interior (right)
One unequal point between the X12 and V12 is the cabinet size; the X12 has a significantly larger cabinet at 3.8 cubic feet vs the V12’s 2.9 cubic feet. This difference matters. Larger cabinets make for more efficient systems and lower resonant frequencies, and these are always good things for subwoofers. The larger enclosure can accommodate a larger port, and that means more low-frequency output for the same amount of wattage. The X12 takes advantage of the larger enclosure to use a larger 4” diameter, 14” long port versus the V12’s 3” diameter, 12” long port. The X12’s port is heavily flared at both ends too, which should help to reduce turbulence noise (“port chuffing”). The X12 has more internal stuffing, and it also has a windowpane brace. The V12 does not have any internal bracing, but it will not need bracing nearly as much, because it is using a smaller cabinet and a less powerful amplifier and driver, so the enclosure paneling will not be subject to nearly as much internal pressure.
Paradigm Defiance X12 driver (image courtesy of Paradigm)
Speaking of the drivers, the X12 driver looks to be much more formidable than the V12. That isn’t to say that the V12 driver looks bad but rather both drivers are commensurate with their price points. The V12 driver uses a stamped steel frame and a single 5” diameter, 1” thick magnet with a 1.5” voice coil whereas the X12 driver uses a cast aluminum basket and two 1” thick magnets with a larger 6” diameter and 2” voice coil. Given the much more powerful amp in the X12, it is safe to assume that it will have a more massive voice coil as well. While the V12 driver looks adequate for the task, the X12 driver appears to be a real powerhouse.
The X12 driver has a ribbed shaping in the surround that Paradigm calls the ‘ART’ surround. ART is the name Paradigm has given to their patented surround design that uses a pleated ‘ribbing’ over the length of the surround; it is an acronym which stands for Active Ridge Surround. Supposedly, ART allows for more headroom than conventional half-roll designs. When typical surrounds are stretched at high excursions, particularly in the inward-stroke, deformations can occur from the high tension, and these deformations can cause distortion or even tears in the surround. This ridged surround design by Paradigm supposedly reduces these deformations by directing material stress to points that can better cope with it due to the shape of the surround. Paradigm claims that ART allows 1.5 times the excursion for the same surround roll that results in a 3 dB increase in headroom.
One slight oddity that we see is the V12 driver has a bucking magnet applied on the back of its motor. Bucking magnets were used to control stray magnetic fields from interfering with exterior objects such as CRT displays and cards with magnetic strips, but they are not often seen used much anymore. When I asked Paradigm about the inclusion of the bucking magnet, they said that they can be used as a cost-effective way of adding more magnetic flux to the motor.
The best placement for a single sub in my room gives me a relatively flat response for an un-EQ’d single subwoofer, with a window of +/- 4 dB from 25 Hz to 100 Hz with no broad dips in important ranges. This location trades low-end room gain for a relatively flat response, a worthwhile trade for my tastes. The receiver used was a Pioneer Elite SC-55 and the crossover was used mostly at 80 Hz. I set the Defiance subwoofers up in a manner where I could easily switch back and forth between them, and also in placements right next to each other to minimize the difference of the acoustic effects of the room between them.
As always, I will note here that since room acoustics have a huge effect on low frequencies, the way these subwoofers sound in my room at my listening position is not necessarily going to be the way they sound anywhere else for anyone else, so readers would do well to keep that in mind, and not just for this subwoofer in this review, but for any subwoofer in any review.
I normally start listening to speakers and subwoofers with acoustical recordings since they have a natural, known sound, so any eccentricity of the speaker/subwoofer is more quickly made clear. One album I used for this purpose was the soundtrack for the 1997 film ‘Kundun’ which was composed by Philip Glass. ‘Kundun’ is a biopic about the Dalai Lama and mixes traditional western instruments with Tibetan instruments and choral singing from Buddhist monks. It is an orchestral score that uses subwoofer-frequency bass abundantly from instruments such as bass trombones, contrabassoons, and bass drums, among other low-frequency producing instruments. I started out listening to the recording using the V12 and switched to the X12 about midway through. Even though I had level matched them, the X12 still seemed to have more ‘oomph’ than the V12. However, they both played ‘Kundun’ with authority and both sounded lifelike and true to the recording. While the Kundun original soundtrack isn’t extremely challenging in terms of dynamic range, both Paradigm subwoofers were more than capable of realizing the range of bass sound in this album. Bass drums had a nice tactile thump, and low-pitched string and woodwind instruments droned with a physically palpable buzzing sensation. I did feel that the X12 was a bit more animated than the V12 and did a bit more to capture the peaks in the sound mix, but the difference wasn’t enormous, at least for the volume levels at which I listened to this album.
Outside of low-frequency effects sound for film and supplying the heavy bass often used in electronic music, one of the major incentives for people adding subwoofers to their systems is for the reproduction of pipe organ music. For this reason, I typically try to include some experience I have had using the subwoofer under review with a pipe organ recording. The recording I choose for the Defiance subwoofers was ‘The Wanamaker Legacy/Conte’ which uses a selection of compositions that are associated with the famous Wanamaker Organ, which the liner notes claim is “arguably the greatest symphonic organ ever built,” partly on account of being the largest fully functioning pipe organ in the world.
A large pipe organ will naturally have serious capability in bass frequencies, and the organist Peter Conte is not shy about using the low-frequency extension that is available. Of course, the album doesn’t thunder with low frequencies all the time, but when it does, the Defiance subwoofers had no trouble articulating those deep pitches and bringing them to life with zeal. This album had a wide dynamic range that could be gentle at times but also be resounding and epic at other moments. The Defiance subwoofers had no problem with either end of this spectrum; they could do subtlety as well as bombast, and they sounded perfectly natural at those extremes and everywhere in between. I started listening to this album using the X12 but finished using the V12, and both provided a similar listening experience which was that these subwoofers were powerful when they needed to be but without being boomy or bloated. I can say, after listening to ‘The Wanamaker Legacy/Conte’ that those looking for a subwoofer for pipe organ recordings have a great option in the Paradigm Defiance subwoofers. The only caveat might be for those very rare recordings that use a 64’ stop to produce a very low 16 Hz C. These subs are not tuned quite that low. But that kind of content exists only in a handful of recordings and requires a subwoofer much larger than these.
One album that I listened to using the Defiance subwoofers that gives them some bass to chew on was the 2005 electronic music album ‘Arcturus’ by the duo named ARC (electronic music wizards Ian Boddy and Mark Shreeve). This is music in an old school vein that resembles electronic music produced in the ’70s and early ’80s from artists such as Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze, which are different from traditional song composition. The structure of this music is more like clouds of swirling sounds that gradually fade in and out to form a pattern of surges and contractions. The low-frequency content in this album consists of pulsating bass rhythms, electronic organ melodies, and low-pitched whirring that suggests a sense of spaciousness, among other cosmic sounds. This album keeps subwoofers busy with a variety of different sounds but doesn’t press them to their limits. Both of the Defiance subwoofers handled all sound in this album with ease. The Defiance subs gave a solid and clear foundation to the music in ‘Arcturus,’ and they did so without drawing attention to themselves. They blended in seamlessly with the main speakers to create a singular sonic landscape that was mapped out by this otherworldly music. As I had heard on many other recordings, the Defiance subwoofers were able to distinctly convey different bass sounds and instruments even when they were played simultaneously. There was no confusion amidst the multitude of bass sounds as to which harmonic belonged to what fundamental. The Defiance subwoofers’ reproduction of ‘Arcturus’ left nothing to be desired for the loudness levels that I listened to. I am sure any fan of old-school electronic music would be quite pleased with these subs, although those who like spirited listening levels would be happier with the X12 since it does have a much wider dynamic range than the V12.
Going in a totally opposite direction, an album that I listened to that eschewed subtle bass in favor of in-your-face bass was ‘Dynamis,’ a heavy-duty 2016 release by the lauded dubstep artist known as Distance. This kind of dubstep needs to be differentiated from what became known, perhaps pejoratively, as ‘bro-step’ which is the kind of dubstep that pop-culture ended up characterizing as the sound of dubstep. Without denigrating anyone’s notion of dubstep music, and without getting too deep into parsing out subgenres of dubstep, I will simply say that the kind of dubstep in ‘Dynamis’ takes greater advantage of subwoofers. It presses into deeper bass, less distorted bass, and louder bass. This album is like candy for a good subwoofer because a good sub eats this stuff up. Most supposedly ‘full-range’ speakers would not be able to do justice to the music on ‘Dynamis’ because of either lack of extension or lack of dynamic range or both. I listened to this album twice; once with the X12 and again with the V12. I didn’t listen to it twice to specifically evaluate these subs’ respective performance on this album, although it is a good album to get a sense of how they perform differently. I just enjoyed the experience so much that I decided to give it another go with the other sub.
The V12 replayed ‘Dynamis’ shockingly well considering its relatively modest 120-watt amplifier. I wouldn’t have guessed that it could have delivered as much punch as it did, but it brought some real power to the reproduction of ‘Dynamis.’ However, compared to the X12, there was a limit that the V12 was running up against, although it wasn’t obvious when listening to the V12 itself. The X12 was clearly capable of more, but that is no surprise. Cranking the volume on ‘Dynamis’ and running the bass hot on the X12 was an experience that provoked an utterly primal, ‘fight-or-flight’ reaction. This thing was scary for what is essentially an 18” cube, which is not a huge enclosure size for a ported sub. Its size absolutely belies its power. When the kick drums hit, I could feel it impact my entire sofa. In my notes I wrote, “How is a 12” doing this?!” While I had found that the Defiance subs could do delicate and subtle bass on previous albums, ‘Dynamis’ showed me that they could also be ferocious and violent when called upon. These subs might not be the refrigerator-sized monsters that can be had from some internet direct manufacturers, but for deep-digging, bass-heavy electronic music, they are no lightweights. The V12 proved to do good with this type of material, but the X12 was positively stellar.
One movie that I had decided to watch using the X12 was the recent big-budget science-fiction movie ‘Ready Player One,’ Steven Spielberg’s wild opus about virtual reality. ‘Ready Player One’ features many bass-heavy set pieces such as King Kong chasing the ‘Back to the Future’ Delorean through Manhattan, a giant naked lady attempting to kill the protagonists with an over-sized axe through the Overlook Hotel hedge maze from ‘The Shining,’ and a massive battle between the Iron Giant and Mechagodzilla in the movie’s frenetic finale. This was all set to Alan Silvestri’s energetic orchestral score and a plethora of pop music. At the relatively high volume at which I watched this movie, the Defiance X12 gave the film’s sound mix a convincing, realistic impression, even though most of it took place in a blatantly artificial environment. Thanks to the X12, I felt the thundering ground as cyber armies clashed and the titanic shudder of King Kong smashing a massive bridge. All of the various weapon blasts, explosions, and vehicular collisions were rendered with an appropriate amount of force but also composure. While the sound mix is filled with all kinds of low-frequency effects, the X12 did not turn the bass into an indistinct booming mess that I think a lesser subwoofer would have done. It could be powerful at one moment and faint at the next moment, so it responded equitably to the sound mixes’ dictates. Watching ‘Ready Player One’ with the Defiance X12 proved that it was as adept with movie sound mixes as it was with music mixes, and that is very much a positive attribute.
Another recent release that I watched with the Defiance sub was ‘The Incredibles 2.’ Pixar movies, such as the first ‘Incredibles’ movie, is almost always a great source for dynamic low-frequency sound mixes, so I had guessed that ‘The Incredibles 2’ would be no exception. Indeed, ‘The Incredibles 2’ did have a great deal of low-frequency content and gave the subwoofer a good workout. Two stand-out deep bass moments are when the Incredibles have to stop a giant mining drill from destroying a city and also when they have to stop a large cruise ship from destroying the city. I used the V12 for this film and cranked the system volume loud to see if I could reach its limits. The V12 performed admirably considering what I was putting it through. It doesn’t have the power of the X12, but I do think most people would be very pleased with its level of performance. The V12 lively reproduced all the thuds and thumps of the superheroes doing battle. All of the structural damage that occurred was given an appropriate subterranean rumble. When the giant mining drill destroyed an overpass, the V12 thundered and gave life to the mayhem and chaos. While the V12 won’t match the strength of larger subs with more powerful amps, the good news is more what it doesn’t do; it doesn’t devolve into a muddy blur of bass. It is a small, modestly spec’d sub, and while it is not a powerhouse, it does not lose articulation. A less precise subwoofer will make crashes, gunshots, explosions, and punches all sound the same, but the V12 differentiated all of the bass sounds, even in busy scenes. People with dedicated home theaters are going to want something with more power, but for living rooms, bedrooms, and similar domestic quarters, the V12 will have more than enough SPL capability for most people.
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Since Paradigm takes their subwoofers seriously, our interest is always piqued when they launch a new sub. Their new Defiance subwoofer series has had our attention ever since their announcement, and today we go over the Defiance V12 and X12 to see the spectrum of performance that can be had from the two tiers of Paradigm's new subwoofer line. Read our full review of the Defiance V12 and X12 to see what innovations Paradigm has made with their latest subwoofer design.
READ: Paradigm Defiance X12 and V12 Subwoofers Review