McGary Audio

Monday, March 4, 2019

Home Theater Review!
Paradigm Defiance X12 Subwoofer
“15-inch Driver Performance
From A 12-inch Subwoofer”

Price: $1,299
Likes: impact of a 15, ARC
Dislikes: ain’t no way
Wow Factor: I want to buy two
More info: Paradigm X12

by John Gatski
  Subwoofer technology has progressed to the point that smaller subwoofers are now big performers — in terms of clean output level and frequency extension — even from modestly sized enclosures.
  Case in point is the fantastic Paradigm Defiance subwoofer, a 12-inch sub that would put many 15-inch subs to shame a few years ago.
  Take the X12 Defiance reviewed here. This star-performer of a subwoofer offers nearly flat 20 Hz performance at 95 dB plus  level with ultra clean punch, in a box that is not that big, offers Anthem Room Correction (ARC) tuning via PC and smart phone app. — all for $1,299. Dang! For $199 bucks more, it can be run wirelessly.

  The Defiance X12 contains a 12-inch (305 mm), long-drive driver with ART Surround (carbon-loaded polypropylene cone), 650W RMS (1,300W dynamic Peak) Class-D amplifier, control app via smartphone, and Anthem Room Correction (ARC) with Windows PC or smart phone app are included as well. Anthem Room Correction automatically equalizes the bass to tailor the sub’s response to the room. It is one of the best room correction mic/test/adjust apps for speaker applications.

X12 sports full array of connection options

  The key to the performance is the tuned, bottom port cabinet combined with Paradigm’s patented driver that moves much more air than typical 12-inch woofers. Top it off with a powerful, X12 amplifier that sports auto-on/off and improved soft-clipping circuitry, which enables huge dynamic peaks without audible harshness.
  The X12‘s on-axis frequency responseis listed at ±3 dB from 20Hz – 230Hz, which is amazing performance from a box that is under 20-inches deep and wide. The extended, low-frequency measurement is 15 Hz (DIN), though level is reduced at that frequency. Still audible level at 15 Hz is quite impressive in a single-12 inch subwoofer enclosure.

 As a subwoofer, the Defiance X12‘s performance defies its $1,299 retail price. The powered sub's nearly ideal performance/value ratio, for both music and movie watching, makes this subwoofer an instant Everything Audio Network Stellar Sound Award winner!

  The subwoofer comes in a satin black finish and measures 18" × 19.5 × 18.75" (45.7cm × 49.5 × 47.7cm). The crossover is adjustable from 30 Hz - 120 Hz; the unit and downloadable app contains the phase control: variable 0° - 180.°
  The X12 comes with three RCA (Left, Right, and LFE) for left/right line-out and/or sub-out from receiver/processor or other line-level source, two speaker-level (Left and Right) for input from amplifier or other speaker level source. I still run some  audiophile system speaker/subwoofer setups with speaker level connection, and I applaud Paradigm for still including that feature on some subwoofers.

X12 looks good — with or without grill

  The subwoofer is equipped with one Micro USB port for the ARC™ room correction via Windows computer, as well as firmware updates.The Defiance WT Wireless Kit (sold separately) is $199. It allows you to send the signal from a pre-pro or receiver or smart device without any wires.
  The Defiance Series features six models: from 8-inches to 15-inches: V8 (no ARC) V10, V12, X10, X12, X15) The 8-inch and the 10-inch do not have the ARC, but are also fine performers in small rooms. The 12-inch and 15-inch are perfect for larger rooms where low-bass extension and level are paramount.

The set up
  I placed the Defiance X12 in my typical sub position, left front of the room near the side wall, about four feet from the main speakers, which are the very accurate Westlake Audio Tower 5, Westlake Audio LC 6.25 center channel and NHT One dipole rear surrounds.
  For the electronics, I fired up the Audio Control Maestro M9 pre/pro, AudioControl Savoy multi-channel amp, an Oppo BDP-203 BD player, and a Sony XBR 60-inch LED. All components were plugged in Wireworld with Essential Sound Products Essence II power cords and power strip.

Optimizing the bass via ARC app is a snap

 I set up the Defiance X12, using the ARC app and my Dell Latitude Windows computer. I placed the measurement mic at the listener position, programmed the app and let the software measure and set the bass.
  The ARC does a great job dialing in the accurate bass response. After the ARC sessions, I noted only a 2 dB variance from 30 Hz to 140 Hz in the room, as independently confirmed by my AudioControl analyzer and calibrated microphone.

The audition
  I auditioned the Defiance  X12 mostly as a home cinema subwoofer, and I was quite impressed with how clean and loud this subwoofer reproduced the low end. With test tones, I was getting a shade under 95 dB level at 22 Hz and it was flat at 26 Hz in my room with the ARC tuning. Turning off the ARC, I still got flat, clean and loud response down to 25 Hz.
  An example of the thunderous, yet clean extension of the Defiance X12, was the U571 submarine movie from the early 2000‘s. The depth-charge explosions segment is relentless and a capable sub relays sub-audible, stomach churning room vibrations.

  When the dirty nuke bomb goes off in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan yarn, “Sum Of All Fears,” my roof vent buzzed and rattled. I was astonished that this 12-inch subwoofer could produce this physical boundary effect two floors away.

  My eight-year old Paradigm Sub15 subwoofer from a few years ago set the reference for my room for 22 Hz and deeper, loud bass from that movie. That was from a 15-inch driver and a larger box. The Defiance X12 equaled the loudness and extension of the old 15. When the dirty nuke bomb goes off in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan yarn, “Sum Of All Fears,” my roof vent buzzed and rattled, just like it did with the Sub15 and the Paradigm Prestige 15-inch subwoofer I reviewed a few years ago. I was astonished that this 12-inch subwoofer could produce this physical boundary effect two floors away.

The proprietary XWoofer can move some air

  I also used the Defiance as the primary low bass for two audiophile set ups. Using it in conjunction with my Lipinski L505 stand speakers and Westlake Lc8.1 stand speakers, I drove the main speakers with a Pass Labs X350.8 amp, Benchmark HPA-4  preamp line stage and a Mytek Manhattan DAC.
  With level matching and crossover set between 60 and 80 Hz, depending on speakers, the Defiance X12 created a perfect blend with the stand speakers, allowing the Hi-Res music to go way down in bass to present a full-frequency audio signal with plenty of slam.
  With Classical music organ performances from several Bach SACDs, symphonic kettle drum tympani as well as synthetic bass-heavy Pop and Rock, the overall balance was much more fleshed out using the Defiance.

X Series Stack Attack: Paradigm X10, X12 and X15

  The cannon shots on the thirtieth-anniversary Telarc Eric Kunzel and The Cincinnati Pops 1812 overture were downright subsonic and simultaneous thundering with windows vibrating and in your chest pressure while the midrange and treble were soaring in decibels. I really like this 12-inch sub!!
  I even used the Defiance X12 in my home recording studio, running it speaker level with a Bryston 14B SST-II amp, which was  fed via a Mackie-USA mixer. Perfect balance speaker/sub sound for the mixing of a basic bass, drums and electric guitar combo recording that I was doing a bit of mastering on.
 The sub does not have XLR pro connections, but it was ultra clean, quiet and extended and loud in my set up by using the speaker level conduits. Most pro subwoofers don’t have this level of performance at this price. The X12 is tight, fast, and extended. You have to spend a lot more in the pro world to get this level of performance.

The verdict
  I had zero problems with the Defiance X12. For 90 percent of home theater owners in typical rooms, one of these is all you would ever need. It kicks out loud 25 Hz bass and under in spades, nets you an optional smart phone control app when operating in a wireless configuration, comes with the excellent ARC set up software and is not that large at less than 20 inches squared.

  The Class D amp, the extended motion woofer and tuned box give you a sub whose performance in this size was unheard of 10 years ago. Two of these would be perfect for home cinema or music.
  As a subwoofer, the Defiance X12‘s performance defies its modest price. Its nearly ideal performance/value ratio for both music and movie watching, makes this subwoofer an instant Everything Audio Network Stellar Sound Award winner and an automatic nominee for Subwoofer of the Year 2019. Yes, it is that good.

    John Gatski has been evaluating consumer, audiophile, home cinema and professional audio gear since 1988. In 1995, he created Pro Audio Review, and he has written for SoundOnSound, Audio, Laserviews, Enjoy The Music, The Audiophile Voice, High Performance Review, Radio World and TV Technology. Everything Audio Network is based in Kensington, Md. Articles on this site are the copyright of the ©Everything Audio Network. Any unauthorized use, via print or Internet, without written permission is prohibited. John Gatski can be reached via email:

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