“Let our rigorous testing and reviews be your guidelines to A/V equipment – not marketing slogans”
Facebook Youtube Twitter instagram pinterest

Paradigm Defiance X12 and V12 Subwoofers Review

by January 12, 2019
Paradigm Defiance X12 & V12 Subwoofers

Paradigm Defiance X12 & V12 Subwoofers

  • Product Name: Defiance X12, Defiance V12
  • Manufacturer: Paradigm
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStar
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStarhalf-star
  • Review Date: January 12, 2019 00:00
  • MSRP: $ 1,299 - Defiance X12, $699 - Defiance V12

Features common on the Defiance X12 and Defiance V12:

  • Software:

    Sub Control App: iOS and Android

    Anthem Room Correction: iOS, Android, and PC

  • Controls (Backplate):

    Level: Min–Max

    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

 Defiance X12:

  • Frequency Response: 20–230 Hz ±3 dB

  • Low-Frequency Driver:

    12” (25.4cm) cone

    Inverted surround

    Dedicated LFE input

    Carbon-loaded polypropylene

    ART Surround

  • Amplifier: 650 Watts RMS (1300 dynamic peak)

  • Weight: 62 lbs. (28.1 kg)

  • Dimensions (HxWxD), Down-Firing: 18" × 19.5” × 18.75"

Defiance V12:

  • Frequency Response: 23–200 Hz ±3 dB

  •  Low-Frequency Transducer:

    12” diameter

    inverted surround

    Carbon-loaded polypropylene


  • 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


Paradigm Defiance coneDefiance X12 & V12 Subwoofers Introduction

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.

X12 V12 grilles 4.jpg  X12 V12 pair3.jpg

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.

V12 3.jpg     X12 angle.jpg

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.

X12 V12 pair6.jpg

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.

Design Analysis

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. 

Paradigm app connecting.jpg Paradigm app mode options2.jpg

Since much Paradigm app tone sweep.jpgof 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.

Paradigm app arc intro.jpgAs 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.

Paradigm wireless transmitter.jpgWe 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.

  V12 amp.jpg   X12 amp.jpg

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.

V12 amp interior.jpg   X12 amp interior.jpg

Paradigm Defiance V12 amplifier (left) and X12 amplifier (right)

V12 cabinet interior.jpg   X12 cabinet interior.jpg

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.

X12 driver A upright.jpg  X12 driver side.jpg

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.

Listening Sessions

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.

Music Listening

I normally start listening Kundun.jpgto 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.

When the kick drums hit, I could feel it impact my entire sofa.

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 Wanamaker Organ Conte.jpghave 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 listeneArcturus.jpgd 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 oppoDynamis.jpgsite 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.

Movie Listening

One movie that I had decided to watch Ready_Player_One.jpgusing 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 relIncredibles 2.jpgease 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.

Paradigm Defiance X12 and V12 Subwoofer Measurements and Analysis

Defiance outdoor testing.jpg 

The Paradigm Defiance V12 and X12 were tested using ground plane measurements with the microphone at a 2-meter distance in an open setting with well over 100 feet from the nearest large structure. The subs were tested with woofer facing the microphone. Since the woofer and port are not on the same side of the cabinet, different orientations were tested to see what would yield the highest SPL measurements and which would be the fairest representation of the sub’s abilities. Experimentation with different orientations revealed that simply having the woofer facing microphone and port facing the ground induced the most SPL during testing, likely because the ground helped to load port output. That orientation is how these subwoofers are intended to be used, so this measurement technique is relevant to the actual use conditions of these subs. The subwoofer’s gain was set to maximum, phase was set to 0, and the low pass filter was left off. The weather was recorded at 72°F and 50% humidity.

V12 responses.jpg    X12 responses.jpg

Frequency responses for the modes of the Defiance V12 (left) and X12 (right) subwoofers

The above graphs depict the frequency responses for the Defiance V12 and X12 subwoofers for their available modes. ‘Music’ mode yields the flattest response, where ‘Movie’ mode allowed a bit more lower bass oomph. Listeners who prefer more accuracy should go with ‘Music’ mode, although ‘Movie’ mode looks like it would be more fun on movie night with an action movie playing. Both subs have a similar range, with the low-end knee at about 25 Hz with the high-end stretching to 200 Hz. These aren’t the absolute deepest digging subs, but 25 Hz is enough to capture about 99.5% of low-frequency musical content and perhaps 90% of low-frequency movie content. In order to be tuned deeper, a much larger enclosure would be needed to achieve the same output capability, or output capability would have to be sacrificed to use the same sized enclosure, so a 25 Hz tuning is a sensible tuning frequency that catches much of the deep bass but without needing huge cabinets. High-end extension to 200 Hz is always a welcome feature because there are a variety of situations where users could feasibly take advantage of higher crossover points. That is something I always look for, and I think that its importance can often be understated.

One thing to note is that the ‘Night’ mode was not measured on the same SPL level as the other modes. This is because the ‘Night’ mode would not permit the subwoofer to reach the same SPL levels, so the ‘Night’ mode curve that you see there isn’t just a measure of its bass response, it's a measure of the maximum output levels of that mode. This mode is intended to be the ‘considerate’ mode when listening to content at night but not wanting to bother other people within the same household. The ‘Night’ mode response shape makes sense because deep bass is what travels through walls and obstacles most easily and is what will be heard most readily in any nearby rooms. Something else we can note from comparing these graphs is that the ‘Night’ mode on the X12 permits much more output than the ‘Night’ mode on the V12. This would suggest that ‘Night’ mode is set for relative output capability rather than absolute SPL for the Defiance subwoofers.

 V12 CEA-2010 table.jpg  X12 CEA-2010 table.jpg

Paradigm Defiance V12 (left) and X12 (right) CEA 2010 Measured Data - 2 meter (RMS)

The above CEA-2010 measurements are short-term bursts that show the subwoofer’s clean peak SPL before heavy distortion sets in. Our measurements have been referenced to 2-meter RMS, which is 9 dB down from the standard requirement for the measurements to be shown at 1-meter peak. However most publicly available CEA-2010 measurements are shown at 2-meter RMS, so we followed that convention. Rows with N/A and no data values means that the subwoofer was not able to produce passing results.

Viewing the V12 data, we can see that it isn’t tremendously happy in deep bass. It can dig down to 25 Hz, but at 31 Hz and below, it certainly has its limits in that region. At 40 Hz and above it is performing at a much higher level and manages to exceed 109 dB at 50 to 63 Hz, which is impressive when its enclosure size and modest amplifier is considered. The V12 is not an output monster, but this level of performance will be sufficient for most people’s needs- the kind of people who need a nice-looking, discrete subwoofer that is unobtrusive. It will certainly give some gusto to the bass in music and movies, but it isn’t going to be knocking the walls down.

The 12" X12 produced the kinds of SPL #'s you'd expect from a decent 15" subwoofer.

The X12 sports a very different level of performance. It is well over twice as powerful across the board, averaging roughly an 8 dB output advantage overall, which is nearly three times as powerful. Its 20 to 25 Hz performance is respectable, and its 31 Hz measurement is very good, but at 40 Hz and above it is an absolute powerhouse considering that it is using a 12” driver in a medium-sized enclosure. In fact, in that range, those are the kind of numbers I would expect to see from a decent 15” subwoofer, not a 12” sub. While the V12 performed at a level that I expected, the X12 surprised me and very much exceeded my expectations for what it could do. It is a subwoofer that does deep bass well, but its mid-bass performance is excellent. 117 dB+ is a prodigious amount of headroom. Distortion is kept in check as well; while the X12 isn’t totally distortion free at the limits of its performance envelope, it doesn’t exceed 17% THD at 20 Hz and above, and any distortion would be inaudible for any real-world content. The story between these subs is that if you can handle the somewhat larger enclosure of the X12 and the doubling of the price, you will be rewarded with very powerful bass that can be felt as well as heard.

V12 long term output.jpg    X12 long term output.jpg

Paradigm Defiance V12 (left) and X12 (right) long-term output compression

Testing for long-term output compression was done by first conducting a 20-second sweep tone where 50 Hz hit 90 dB with the subwoofer 2 meters from the microphone. We then conduct further 20-second sweeps by raising the gain by 5 dB until no more output could be wrung out of the subwoofer. These tests show us the long-term continuous headroom that these subwoofers are capable of. In the graph for the V12, we see significant port compression above the 100 dB sweep where mid-bass output continues to increase but not deep bass output. A larger enclosure and port might have allowed more port output. However, a larger subwoofer would defeat the point of this sub where its size makes it more practical than those giant subwoofers. Its 40 Hz to 100 Hz headroom averages around 105 dB which is certainly not shabby for a subwoofer of its size and specs.

As with the burst measurements, the X12 proves to be much more powerful. We see similar output deltas between these subs that we saw in burst testing: two to three times as much output capability across the board with even larger differences above 80 Hz. From 40 Hz to 100 Hz, the X12 averages around 115 dB. This is the range of the vast majority of music recordings and here the X12 hits hard. If you like your music loud, the X12 will oblige you. As with the V12, we do see significant port compression at the low end that starts at the 100 dB sweep. I would love to see what this driver and amp could do in a larger cabinet with larger ports, but one of the charms of this subwoofer is the outstanding performance that can be had from such a modest size.

V12 THD.jpg     X12 THD.jpg

Paradigm Defiance V12 and X12 Total Harmonic Distortion per output level

The above graphs show the corresponding total harmonic distortion to the long-term output graphs. Essentially, they depict how linear the subwoofer remains for the corresponding drive level seen in the long-term sweeps. The quantity being measured is how much of the subwoofer’s output is distortion and is shown here as a percentage. Examining the V12’s measurements, we see that it nicely keeps harmonic distortion under 10% THD at 20 Hz and above, no matter how hard it is pushed in these tests. That is a very good result, but it is curious that it does seem to run contrary to the burst measurement data which shows 25% THD and noise at 25 Hz and 28% THD and noise at 31.5 Hz. In other words, the V12 is much better behaved in long-term testing than burst testing. One possible reason for this is that the V12 can be pushed harder for just a moment, and that is enough time to drive it much further past its linear operating range. When I take a close look at the burst testing data to try to explain this discrepancy, I see that the major component of the distortion comes from the 2nd harmonic. Port compression can often result in even-order harmonic distortion, so it may be that the port is able to be more easily overloaded in bursts than in continuous tones. Either way, low distortion operation, even if only for a certain type of signal, is not an unwelcome feature.

The X12’s THD profile is a lot more what one would expect from comparing its burst test measurements. It is allowed to be pushed to slightly greater distortion quantities than the V12, but that may be because the V12 simply doesn’t have the amplifier power to push its driver into distortion above very low-frequencies. The X12’s amplifier is more than five times as powerful as the V12 amplifier, so it has way more force on tap, and it is not surprising that, even as beefy as the X12 driver is, it is being pushed a bit harder by its amp than the V12 is able to push its driver. Something that has to be kept in mind when comparing the V12’s THD measurements to the X12’s THD measurements is that while the X12 can be driven into greater quantities of distortion, it is still a much cleaner subwoofer than the V12. The reason is that the X12 stays cleaner for the same drive level, and it will reach far greater output levels than the V12. Decibel for decibel, the X12 is the higher-fidelity subwoofer. However, both put up a very good showing overall; neither sub rises above 5% THD above 30 Hz at a 95 dB sweep, and the X12 pretty much stays below 5% THD at the 100 dB sweep for that same frequency range. That is well-controlled and highly-linear behavior.

 V12 distortion components.jpg   X12 Distortion components.jpg

Component Harmonics of the Defiance V12 (left) and X12 (right)

The above graphs depict measurements of the constituent harmonics from the long-term output sweeps and are what the total harmonic distortion measurements are composed of for the 2nd and 3rd harmonics. These individual harmonics can give us a clue as to what might be the cause of some quirk or non-linearity. We are only showing the 2nd and 3rd here because they more or less reflect the higher even-order and odd-order behaviors, although higher-order harmonics will likely not be as abundant in quantity as the 2nd and 3rd harmonics.

The distortion profile of both subs is ultimately quite good..they can't be easily pushed to make bad noises.

One attribute that the measurement sets for both the V12 and X12 have in common is that the major contributing distortion component is the 2nd harmonic. Given its broadband range and steady rise with increasing output levels, I would guess it is a product of induction. Induction in loudspeaker drivers is when the changing magnetic field from the movement of the voice coil next to the stationary permanent magnet causes a counter-current that can interfere with the initial current thereby inhibiting linear motion that is faithful to the source signal. Fortunately, even order harmonics are not as audibly easy to detect because their relationship with the fundamental often makes them sound like a natural part of the timbre of the recorded object. Of course, in large enough quantities they will begin to sound unnatural, but the Defiance subs do not run into distortion that heavy. Even at its absolute highest drive level, the Defiance doesn’t run into enough distortion that it would be audible or concerning, and at every level outside of the highest drive level, distortion quantities are minute. The distortion profile of both the V12 and X12 is ultimately quite good. These subs can’t easily be pushed into making an incorrect noise.

 V12 and X12 Group Delay.jpg

Paradigm Defiance V12 and X12 group delay

Group delay is the measurement of how much time it takes for individual frequency bands of an input signal to be produced by the speaker. It can indicate that some frequency components are developing slower than others or are taking longer to decay. It is generally thought that 1.5 sound cycles are needed for group delay to be audible at bass frequencies, although there is an argument that group delay should remain under 20 ms to be completely unnoticeable, but that is likely meant for mid and upper bass frequencies. The Defiance V12 and X12 both show excellent measurements in the time domain. For most of the frequency band, they are well under durations that are conservatively thought to be even close to audibility. Group Delay does rise sharply at 30 Hz and below, much of which would be due to the port output single cycle lag, and there is also evidence of a high-pass filter in order to protect the subwoofer from overdriving below port-tuning frequencies. This all occurs at frequencies so deep that it would be inaudible. In the frequency bands that matter, there is nothing to worry about. In fact, in the frequency bands that matter, these are some of the lowest latencies I have measured from any subwoofer.

 V12 Deep Bass Level Differences.jpg   X12 Deep Bass Level Differences.jpg

Effects of the ‘Deep Bass Level’ Control settings on the Defiance V12 (left) and X12 (right)

One of the controls on the Defiance’s subwoofer control app is a control called the ‘Deep Bass Level.’ As its name implies, it adjusts the level of deep bass output on the Defiance subwoofers. This can be handy for toning down bass in rooms that get a lot of room gain and can consequently end up with a bloated sound from too much deep bass gain. It can also be handy for this who want to spruce up the low-frequency effects sounds on movie night or just like the sound and feel of heavier deep bass. Each graph exhibits the effect of a +5, +10, -5, and -10 dB adjustment on the ‘Deep Bass Level’ control with the center curve being zero, i.e., no adjustment. The region most affected by this control seems to be the 30 to 40 Hz band.


Before we bring this review to a close, let’s go over a fewX12 V12 pair8.jpg of the strengths and shortcomings of these Defiance subwoofers. We will begin by discussing their shortcomings since they don’t have many. One disadvantage that the Defiance subwoofers have is that deeper digging subwoofers can be had for the same price. However, the caveat to that criticism is you can’t really get a deeper digging subwoofer for the same cabinet size. As we mentioned before, more extension would start to balloon the enclosure size. Paradigm wanted to make a subwoofer that a lot of users could accommodate, and the monsters that dig into infrasonic regions are difficult to fit into most living situations. Paradigm has brought subwoofers to market that do dig fairly deep but can also find a place in most people’s family rooms without sacrificing much floor space. Those who want truly subterranean, bowel-churning deep bass will have to make room for the elephant-sized subs that can do that.

Another point of criticism is that the V12 isn’t really an output beast considering its cost. I feel that it is being held back by its amplifier. It is impressive for what it can do with the amplifier it has, but I think that the V12 driver is capable of a bit more output, but the amplifier is just running out of steam. In my opinion, a subwoofer at its price point should have something beefier than a 120-watt amplifier. The flipside of this criticism is that the V12 isn’t able to be pushed into any real distortion at all since the amplifier seemingly doesn’t have the muscle to push the driver past its comfort limits. A more powerful amplifier would produce more distortion from the driver certainly, but the V12 is operating at such low levels of distortion that I believe a somewhat higher level of distortion isn’t going to be an audible disadvantage while a couple more decibels of headroom would be an audible advantage. To Paradigm’s credit, they could have fudged the amp power rating to be higher as many other manufacturers do, but they gave it to us straight.

X12 V12 pair2.jpg

Those are the only two shortcomings that I think deserve to be noted, and the first point about being unable to dig below 20 Hz is not so much of a complaint as it is a recognition of the reality of sensible enclosure sizes versus low-frequency extension. That, of course, leads us into the discussion of the various strengths of the Defiance subwoofers, one of which is the sensible enclosure size. To reiterate what was said above, they do dig deep for their size; they both hit 25 Hz anechoically, and room gain may net an additional few hertz deeper extension. That is not bad at all, and, as was mentioned before, does capture a great majority the bass even in modern action film sound mixes. They are a great choice for those who need some deep bass but cannot handle a large sub.

As well as being reasonably-sized, the Defiance subs also look reasonably classy. They are not drop dead gorgeous, but they definitely will not draw any negative attention either. They look sharp and contemporary. Since they are not very idiosyncratically styled, they can fit in with a wide range of interior decors. When considering their size and appearance, they are subwoofers nearly anyone could get along with. Their ability to accommodate a wireless transmitter furthers their minimalist aesthetic by doing away with the need for a signal cable.

The app controls over mostX12 hero3.jpg of the subwoofer functions are nifty and handy features. They are a duplicate feature on the MartinLogan Dynamo subwoofers, but that doesn’t make them any less welcome on the Defiance subs. As I said about the Dynamo subs, the subwoofer apps make fine-tuning the sub easy. The user does not have to fiddle around with a bunch of cryptic knobs on the back panel to make adjustments to the subwoofer; it is all done from a smartphone app that has accessible explanations for each of the myriad of controls. What is nice about the app controls is that most of the setup is done from your sofa -where you can hear the results of setting changes in real time at your listening position- instead of hunched over the sub while trying to dial it in. That means it is that much easier to calibrate the sub to the user’s preferred sound instead of having to physically go back and forth from the subwoofer itself where the delay between hearing the sub at the listening position makes changes to the subwoofer controls more difficult to audibly discern.

Another high point of the Defiance sBassaholic Large.jpgubwoofers was the unexpectedly powerful performance of the X12. While I do have a minor gripe about the V12’s headroom, the opposite is true of the X12. The X12 hits harder than I would have guessed, even knowing its much beefier specifications. The X12 stuffs a lot of performance into a relatively modest package. The X12 is a beast, and two of them would make for a very formidable bass foundation for a home theater without taking up a lot of space. By our Bassaholic Room Rating Protocol, the V12 nets a ‘Medium’ room rating and the X12 achieves a ‘Large’ room rating. If you are looking for a subwoofer that is discrete in appearance but can still kick ass, the Defiance X12 fits that bill nicely. Paradigm might consider placing the X12 driver and amp in a larger enclosure with a deeper tuning frequency as a separate product. I think these components have a greater potential that could be fulfilled in a larger enclosure. Sure, it would be more of a niche product, but the driver and amplifier here are just too good to remain stuffed in the X12 cabinet. Perhaps the Defiance X components in larger enclosures with deeper tunings could comprise an additional Defiance series of subs that allows them to achieve their true potential. Give that idea some consideration, Paradigm- don’t let the internet direct manufacturers have all the extreme deep bass fun!

USS Defiant

Captain Sikso of the USS Defiant would proudly own an X12 Defiance Subwoofer if he were an audiophile.

Both the Defiance V12 and X12 are legitimately high-fidelity subwoofers.

While the X12 is an output monster and the V12 isn’t quite that, both subwoofers sport very good baseline performance. They both have a fairly neutral response (in music mode) and both keep to very low distortion levels. Their time-domain performance is exemplary; the group delay measurements for these subs should serve as a wake-up call to those who still think that ported subs suffer from overhang compared to sealed subwoofers. Both the Defiance V12 and X12 are legitimately high-fidelity subwoofers. They will accurately reproduce whatever signal that is sent to them. While typical room acoustics will inevitably degrade up their superb playback abilities, the user can be assured that any qualitative problems with the bass sound will not be due to the Defiance subwoofers themselves. The addition of the Anthem ARC Mobile App will help to alleviate some of the deformations that the room will have on the response as well. Another good aspect of their performance is that they are well-protected against being over-driven; you can’t run these subs so hard that they will bottom out or put the driver at risk for damage. The digital limiters work very well in keeping these subs from potentiallyV12 4.jpg harmful drive levels.

The question that I started this review with was would Paradigm continue their historical pattern of producing truly high-performance subs as opposed to the disinterested subwoofer designs that we many times see from other speaker manufacturers. The answer is an unequivocal yes. The Defiance V12 is a fine affordable subwoofer for modest systems, but the X12 is a beastmaster of a 12” subwoofer that defies its moderate cabinet size to produce powerful bass that can punch you in the lungs. Due to the performance shown by the X12, we are hoping to review its bigger brother (or maybe sister?), the X15, sometime next year to see if it can scale in performance similar to its size, because if so, that will be a force to be reckoned with.


The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor
Bass ExtensionStarStarStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStarStar
Build QualityStarStarStarStar
Ergonomics & UsabilityStarStarStarStarStar
Dynamic RangeStarStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStarStar
About the author:
author portrait

James Larson is Audioholics' primary loudspeaker and subwoofer reviewer on account of his deep knowledge of loudspeaker functioning and performance and also his overall enthusiasm toward moving the state of audio science forward.

View full profile