Paradigm Defiance X12 Subwoofer Review
By Stephen Hornbrook on
Full disclosure: I’ve been a fan of Paradigm subs for quite some time. Their Signature SUB 2 was groundbreaking and I have been personally using a Prestige 1000SW in my home theater for several years now. Paradigm has released a new line of subwoofers known as the Defiance X series. It comes in a trio of sizes starting at the 10” X10 ($999) model and ending at the 15” X15 ($1499). I opted for the middle of the pack, the $1299 X12 with a 12” driver. The Defiance X series is a mid-tier subwoofer product packing a solid punch and some great features. It will easily rumble an averaged sized room to its best ability using the built-in Anthem Room Correction (ARC) software.
The Defiance X12 Subwoofer features a 650-watt power amplifier with a dynamic peak of 1300 watts for quick bursts of bass punch. Underneath is a bottom firing port and on the back are the standard inputs, a volume knob and an area for the optional wireless kit (sold separately for $199).
Setting up a Defiance Subwoofer
The first thing to determine after getting a subwoofer is where to place it in the room. You can toss it in the corner for optimal output, or, for the smoothest response, next to one of the front speakers or, as in my case, I went with the middle of a side wall. Just hook up an RCA cable into the LFE input and give it some power and the X12 is ready to go. Paradigm does offer an optional wireless solution, sold separately if running a long RCA cable is not an option.
There are a couple of apps to download to your iPhone or Android device in order to take full advantage of the Defiance subs. The Paradigm subwoofer control app allows full control of the sub settings such as volume, phase, and EQ mode, while the Anthem ARC app is needed to run the room correction software.
Running ARC with the app was the quickest and easiest room correction I’ve ever run. There are a few options for running the software. By far the easiest is by using the built-in microphone on a smartphone. To get better results, a higher quality calibrated microphone is included with the subwoofer. This microphone connects via a 3.5” connector, so a dongle might be needed if your phone doesn’t have a headphone connector. For the best results, the Anthem Room Correction software can be run on a Windows PC along with the microphone. Given I no longer have a working Windows laptop, I went ahead and used my iPhone with the external microphone. The app guides you along each step, measuring frequency response from several positions in the room. The whole process takes less than 5 minutes and could not be easier.
The Subwoofer Control App is one handy-dandy piece of software. It’s never been easier to control a subwoofer from your couch. Within the app, there is the ability to adjust all the sub settings – volume, low pass filter, phase, listening mode (movie, music, night), deep bass level, and room correction. The app is straightforward and easy to use and it connects automatically to the sub via Bluetooth. Every subwoofer should have this feature!
All The Bass
A favorite room shaking scene of mine is the train crash in Super 8. I listened to the scene a couple times before running ARC, only making adjustments to the volume level. It sounded good with plenty of output, but some of the explosions had too much upper octave bass and not enough low end, subsonic rumble. Given the X12 uses only a 12” driver, I wasn’t expecting excessive subsonic low end, but after running room correction, the train crash sounds much better. There is more low octave impact and cleaner, more textured explosions.
The beginning low-frequency notes on Edge of Tomorrow are presented with good energy and decent subsonic extension for a 12” sub. Unfortunately, you will hear some port chuffing from the bottom port. During the initial trooper deploy, the Defiance X12 delivers all the punch and rumble necessary to feel the impact of this futuristic war.
The Defiance X12 performs well on the classic light cycle scene in Tron: Legacy. Although, missing were the bone-crushing thuds as the light cycles slam down on the track. Cranking out the deep bass with authority requires a lot of power and control over the driver in order to move enough air to create those long soundwaves. I only mention this because I am not aware of any subs under $1500 with room correction that can really pump out the subsonic bass notes. Get over the $2000 mark and I expect a sub to start exposing low-end texture and details. The bottom line is, if you want really good bass that not only sounds great but also feels great, it will cost a pretty penny.
With music, I tend to prefer a little less subwoofer in the mix, if any at all since my mains are a pair of full-range Revel F208 speakers. Dialing back the Defiance X12 could not be easier. Just pull up the app and knock it down a few notches. On “Weight of Love” by The Black Keys the X12 adds a nice bottom octave thump to the kick drum and the bass line is smooth, blending well with the main speakers. The X12 performed well with several tracks by CHVRCHES as well. Taking it out of the mix left the room feeling empty. Especially on tracks like “Glow” and “Do Not Disturb” by Drake. Anything with a strong bass line is more enjoyable with the Defiance X12. A subwoofer like this has a way of keeping things grounded, yet never getting in the way of the music. This sub won’t distract you with muddy, headache-inducing bass when listening to music.
The Defiance X12 is good with acoustic bass lines but could be a little quicker and tighter on some Duke Ellington tracks I listened to. Turning it down a bit allowed it to just fill in a bit, giving the bass lines some added body.
Compared to the Prestige 1000SW
It’s easy to look at prices and wonder, why is this subwoofer twice as much? Is it twice as good? Of course, it is never that simple. The final decision comes down to budget more than anything. The Paradigm Prestige 1000SW is clearly a better subwoofer capable of higher output and much quicker response. It is a sealed enclosure so there’s no port noise even at high output levels. Bass lines are tighter, explosions more detailed and stomping dinosaurs more impactful.
Paradigm Defiance X12 Conclusions
At half the cost, the Defiance X12 offers a lot of bang for the buck. The remote app control is fantastic, allowing easy control and tweaking from the optimal seating position. The ARC room correction is quick and easy to use and results in an audible improvement. At $1299 the Paradigm Defiance X12 makes for an easy subwoofer recommendation.
Easy setup, remote app control. Good output and bass quality.
Some port chuffing at higher output at lower frequencies. Pretty big cabinet for 12” driver.
A lot of technology packed in at this price with solid performance to boot.