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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:

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.

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gene posts on January 14, 2019 01:55
shadyJ posts on January 12, 2019 04:31
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.

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
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