Paradigm Defiance V12 subwoofer review

hcchighreccomendThe Canadian company's mid-level Defiance bassmaker gives Steve Withers a taste of 21st century subwoofery

It's fair to say that the humble subwoofer hasn't changed much over the years. Manufacturers have certainly experimented with lighter and stronger materials for the cones, while digital amplification has brought significantly more power to the party, but when all's said and done, a sub is basically a big wooden cube that moves air. However, even in the dark arts of bass making, scientific innovation is beginning to have an impact.

Paradigm's Defiance range of woofers seeks to bridge that technological gap, combining tried-and-tested designs with a smart device remote app and Anthem Room Correction (ARC, developed by sister brand Anthem) built-in. The range is split between the higher-end X Series and the entry-level V Series, but all models, apart from the entry-level V8, include the app and ARC. The Defiance V12, auditioned here, is top dog in the V Series, and one of the cheapest ways to access this cutting-edge tech, while still benefiting from a 12in driver.

The V12 might feature some interesting innovations on the inside, but outside it's unashamedly old-school – all clean lines and sharp edges. There's a finely textured satin black finish, and a black fabric grille that covers the front baffle. The build quality is excellent for the price point, and Paradigm has managed to fit a fairly large driver into a surprisingly compact and relatively lightweight package.

That driver is a 12in carbon-loaded polypropylene cone that sits in an 'overmoulded' surround – increasing excursion and lowering distortion, we're told – and has an inverted dustcap in the centre. The woofer is forward-firing and there's a down-firing port for added bass extension. Paradigm claims a frequency response that goes from 23Hz to 200Hz (+/-3dB), and the V12 is powered by a Class D amp with a relatively modest 120W RMS (250W peak) of digital grunt. By comparison, Paradigm's Signature SUB 2 packs a 4,500W RMS amp.

The no-nonsense approach also extends to the V12's rear panel, with line-level phono inputs for left and right/LFE, along with matching speaker-level inputs. There's a distinct lack of physical controls, with only an auto power selection switch and a volume knob. The reason for this apparent lack of control is Paradigm's excellent remote app, which uses a well designed interface to provide everything you need from the comfort of your sofa.

The sub does have a switch at the back for choosing between the app or local control, although why anyone would pick the latter is beyond me given the volume knob is literally the only setting available. The app, on the other hand, offers an excellent array of control options. For a start there's a very groovy home page, where you can set the volume, choose between movie, music or night modes, turn ARC on and off, and even run a tone sweep from 20Hz to 120Hz.

The latter feature is unique as far as I'm aware, and really useful because it allows users to pause at any frequency in the 20Hz-120Hz range, and identify annoying in-room rattles and vibrations. There are also low-pass filters, a continuously variable phase control, and a low-frequency boost that adjusts the 20Hz-30Hz region by +/-10dB.

A remote app is unusual at this price, but what's unheard of is the inclusion of room correction. Adding the ARC Mobile app is a game changer, bringing a scientific solution to in-room issues, and setting Paradigm's subs apart from the competition. It uses your smart device's built-in mic, although you can also buy an optional and more precise ARC universal mic (which is included free with the X Series). The app is a cinch to run, only taking a few minutes and guiding you through the process as you measure five locations around the sweet spot. These record the in-room frequency response, before ARC's algorithm calculates a correction curve which is then loaded into the V12. This is a fantastic feature, because it's the lower frequencies that are most dramatically affected by room acoustics. This simple correction process results in a more balanced and neutral response, tackling troublesome room modes. And all without going near the sub!

Subwoofer On Song
The V12 certainly isn't a powerhouse but that 12in driver and bass port dig deep, resulting in a wonderfully controlled and nuanced performance. Watching the Rewrite the Stars musical number in The Greatest Showman (don't judge but I love this 4K platter) proves its musicality. Bass weaves its way through the music, hitting beats with precision and providing a satisfying thud as trapeze counterweights land on the circus floor.

The same is true at the beginning of the film, where the circus crowd chants and stamps its feet in time to the title song. There's a thunderous undercurrent of deep bass. The soundstage doesn't have quite the scale it does with larger and more powerful models, but the V12 retains a sense of cohesion, never losing its ability to articulate specific low-frequency effects.