Defiance X Series Subwoofer Overview
Ultimate, Uncompromising Bass.
$999 - $1,499
THE HIGH NOTES
- Fast, Deep, Clean Bass
- Loaded with Technology
- Handcrafted in Canada
Company & Product Overview
Paradigm may have started out with some humble beginnings, but from 1982, when they introduced their first two speakers, they have grown to become one of the most respected speaker companies in the world. Anthem develops all of the home theater electronics and amplifier technology, while Paradigm is responsible for speakers that defy convention for sound/value. These two companies both believe in using the scientific method to develop higher performing products and we could not agree more with this philosophy.
For years they have partnered with the NRC (National Research Council) of Canada to design and test new ideas in speaker, amplifier, and room correction technology. We have seen this partnership result in some amazing new technology that pushes forward that search for ever improving sound quality.
Audio Advice has a great relationship with the teams at Paradigm and Anthem. When we first heard about Anthem’s new ARC or Anthem Room Correction, we brought in their home theater receivers and amplifiers. They quickly became our favorite brand of home theater receivers. We later added the Paradigm speaker models to our line up which have proven to be a great value for the money. Anthem and Paradigm actually named Audio Advice as their Dealer of the Year in 2019.
Today’s review is on a line of powered subwoofers from Paradigm in their Defiance series. The X series is the upper end of their Defiance line, but in this case, upper end does not mean prices in the stratosphere. These new X series subs are very reasonably priced and offer tremendous bass impact and pretty cool technology for their price point.
Normally when we do a line up comparison, we will talk about what technology the products share, and then go over the differences as you move up in the line up. In the case of the Defiance X subwoofer series, Paradigm has packed them all with the exact same tech.
As you move up, you get larger cabinets and subwoofer drivers coupled with more powerful amplification. The top end Defiance X15 adds a balanced audio input, but other than that, they all share the same technology. But make no mistake, as you move up, you do get much more impactful bass output. The X15, or a pair of them, can really fill up even a large home theater room with some pretty incredible bass. You’ll just need some room, as these guys are quite large!
So for the purpose of this overview, we’ll talk more about the common tech, then briefly go over the differences in driver size, cabinet size and weight, and output capability.
Tech and Features the Defiance Models Share
When you have a 225,000 square foot facility in Canada with the largest anechoic chamber in North America, you definitely have some tools at your disposal for coming up with new ways to do things. Add that to the fact that when you come up with a cool idea, you can take it over to your countries national research lab for testing, you have a formula for turning out some groundbreaking designs.
Speaker drivers, especially woofers, obviously have to move a good distance to produce sound. For decades, the actual speaker driver, that looks sort of like a bowl, has been made of a stiff material that is glued to a flexible material. The bowl shaped part of the driver is called the speaker cone and the flexible material is called the surround.
Where these bond together has always been a place where unwanted distortion could creep in due to the way those two materials interact with each other. Paradigm worked on a way to remove the bond limitations and improve the interaction of the materials. What they figured out was if you could take the woofer cone material and overmold it to the surround using an injection-molded thermoplastic elastomer, you could eliminate the bond issues thus greatly reducing distortion, while at the same time increasing output.
They call this their patented Active Ridge Technology, or ART for short. Once Paradigm had the final prototypes built, they tested them and found the driver with ART surround had a 50% reduction in distortion and 3db more in gain compared to their non ART drivers.
A few years ago, the Anthem engineers developed in coordination with the NRC a great room correction software called, funny enough, Anthem Room Correction or ARC for short. This was a huge breakthrough in reducing the negative effects a room plays on the sound. Every room has different dimensions and the ratio of the dimensions cause some sounds to be louder than they should be and others to be reduced. The biggest changes occur in the lower frequencies.
Anthem used their proprietary digital signal processing to reduce these dips and peaks. What is cool about ARC, is it makes this fix without adding any negative effects on the sound. Many correction systems of the past did not have good enough digital signal processing software, often causing them to do more harm than good.
ARC is actually ideal for subwoofer use and all of the X series subs come with ARC on board. They even come with a specially calibrated microphone to use when setting up ARC. You can also use your phone if you have an iPhone.
With ARC, every note coming out of the subwoofer will be clean and tight. By eliminating the dips and peaks in a room, the bass tones sound much more like they do in real life with no overhang. For both music and home theater, the difference is immediately obvious.
Paradigm includes the Subwoofer Control App with every X series sub. When you look at the back of an X series sub, it seems pretty slim compared to what you might be used to. This is because the controls have moved over to the app. This new app will quickly connect via Bluetooth to your sub and offer up a wealth of ways to customize your sound.
We think the most useful feature of the app is its three preset listening modes for music, movies, and night. Music is flat response, movies boosts the low end a bit, while night cuts back dynamics and the deepest passages to keep the bass from waking the neighbors.
If you like to fiddle around to get your sub perfectly blended you can adjust both its level, phase, and crossover frequency on the fly right on your smartphone! You can even change from 3rd order to 4th order crossovers. We should note, if you are using your subwoofer in a home theater configuration, you should do the crossover and level part of this in the home theater receiver and put the subs app in bypass mode. But the app does make it really easy to then find tune levels and phase instantly from your seat and you can dive a little deeper and only adjust the very deep bass levels which is pretty neat.
For those of you new to subwoofers, adjusting phase can come in really handy when your subwoofer is not in the same physical plane as your main speakers. You can make adjustments right from your chair until the bass sounds the most natural.
You can also defeat ARC from the app to hear what it's doing, however, you should understand that when ARC is on, its knocking out a lot of peaks so ARC off usually sounds louder. Don’t be fooled by that to think its better left turned off, instead adjust the levels for a better comparison.
Finally, you get a feature our installers love. When you put a powerful subwoofer in a room, it can make things rattle. This could be a light fixture, glass door, or whatever. These rattles are really hard to track down. Paradigm gives you a way to play bass sweeps through the sub to excite those rattles so you can get rid of them. Nothing is worse than a buzzing trim ring on a recessed can fixture. Find the can, put a little blue tack on it and viola, buzzing gone!
As far as connections on the rear of the X subs, you’ll get a stereo left and right RCA and an RCA LFE connection. For audio systems with no sub out, you get speaker level inputs. The X15 also has a single LFE balanced audio connector. LFE is what you typically connect up from the subwoofer out on your home theater receiver.
Paradigm borrowed Anthem’s amplifier technology to power these guys. They all use a powerful Class D amplifier that can double its output on peaks. You’ll also have the option of setting the sub to automatically turn on which will conserve a little power.
Made in Canada
Everyone of the X series subs is made in Paradigms 225,000 sq ft factory in Canada to assure the highest possible build quality.
All of the X series subwoofers can be used with Paradigms optional wireless module. In our testing we have found this system works very well, but we still recommend hard wiring when you can.
The X15 is a whopper! It is basically a 2 ft cube that weighs over 90 pounds. It’s 15” bass driver is supported by an amp capable of 900 watts of RMS power that can do 1800 watts on peaks. It’s 3db down point is an astonishing 18 Hz. Let’s just say two of these will fill up even a very large room.
As you may have guessed, the X12 has a 12” driver. It is smaller and lighter than the X15, but is still almost an 19” cube that weighs over 60 pounds. The amp in the X12 can do 650 watts RMS and 1300 watts on peaks. It reaches down almost as low as the X15 with a 3db down point of 20 Hz. However, the impact the X15 provides over the X12 is really easy to hear, so our advice is spend a little more and get the X15, that is if you have the physical space.
And finally, the X10 has a 10” driver in a roughly 16” cube. One person can manage this one as it weighs 42 pounds and includes a 300 watt RMS amp capable of 600 watts on peak demand. The X10 will not hit the extreme low frequencies of the other two being 3 db down at 29 Hz. However, this is the sweet one for music. When you have the ARC set up and use two of these, you would not believe how fast and effortless the bass sounds. In a small to moderate sized room, one or better yet two of these make for a great combination for both the music lover and home theater enthusiast.
These new X series subs offer a great combination of high tech and value. They do cost more than the V series models, but have much better drivers, cabinets, and power amps. If you want to feel the deepest tones, yet be able to hear the tonal harmonics of an upright bass, these do both quite well. Are there better subwoofers on the market, of course, but none better for the money!
HIGH NOTES UNPACKED:
The ART driver coupled with the powerful amp and Anthem room correction give us a subwoofer that can fill the role of an audiophile sub matched to fast mini monitors or provide room filling bass for home theater use.
ARC On Board
Anthem Room Correction, ART drivers, powerful amps, and stoutly built cabinets combine to give us far more tech than you normally see in subwoofers in this price category. The Anthem Room Correction (ARC) will work wonders in most rooms.
Made in Canada
The Defiance X Series is engineered, prototyped, and fully manufactured at Paradigm's 225,000 square foot facility in Canada. The attention to detail and craftsmanship really shines through on the Defiance X models.