Paradigm Defiance V12 Subwoofer Review

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Paradigm Defiance V12 Subwoofer Review
SRP: £599.00

What is the Paradigm Defiance V12?

The Paradigm Defiance V12 is a ported subwoofer that forms part of the company's more affordable Defiance range. This is composed of the better-spec'd X Series and the entry-level V Series, with the V12's 12-inch driver making it the biggest sub of the latter.

The Defiance range combines classic subwoofer design with a Bluetooth remote app, Anthem Room Correction (ARC) and more competitive pricing. Room correction is unusual in subs at this price range, and all the models include this feature (with the exception of the V8).

The inclusion of ARC is specifically of benefit to a subwoofer, because it's at the lower frequencies where a room has the most impact. So if you can mitigate any negative aspects, you can better integrate the sub's bass with both the room and the rest of the system.

Despite sporting a 12-inch driver, 120W RMS (250W dynamic peak) of digital amplification, Bluetooth app control, high-velocity low-turbulence ported design, and room correction, the V12 is competitively priced at £599 as at the time of writing (January 2021).

Design

The Paradigm Defiance V12 might be fairly sophisticated on the inside, but the outside definitely isn't going to win any design awards. It's basically a black cube, with a forward-firing driver, and a cabinet that's unashamedly old-school, thanks to clean lines and sharp corners.


Paradigm Defiance V12
Paradigm Defiance V12 side view grille on

However, the attention to detail is nice with a finely textured satin black finish and a black fabric grille that attaches with studs and covers the entire front baffle. The cabinet sits on sturdy feet that, not only provide support, but enough clearance for the downward-firing bass port.

Paradigm Defiance V12
Paradigm Defiance V12 front view grille off

The Canadian engineering is excellent considering the price point, and the footprint is pleasingly small. Paradigm has managed to fit the 12-inch driver into a compact and relatively lightweight package. The V12 measures 419 x 456 x 454mm (WxHxD), and weighs in at 19.1kg.

Connections and Control

The Paradigm Defiance V12 extends this minimalist approach to the rear panel, where you'll find line-level phono inputs for left and right/LFE, along with matching speaker level inputs. There's also a slot for the optional wireless transmitter.

There’s a surprising lack of physical controls, with only an auto power selection switch and a volume knob. The reason for this seeming lack of setup flexibility is that Paradigm expects you to use its excellent Paradigm Subwoofer Control App (iOS and Android) for detailed configuration settings.

Paradigm Defiance V12
Paradigm Defiance V12 rear connections and controls

There’s a switch at the back for choosing between the app or local control, although selecting the latter will restrict setup to just adjusting the volume knob, which seems a bit pointless.

 

The connections and controls at the rear are limited, but this is mitigated by the excellent Bluetooth remote app

The Bluetooth app on the other hand boasts a well-designed and intuitive user interface, with an extensive array of effective control options. To kick things off there's a 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.

Paradigm Defiance V12
Paradigm control app

This latter feature is unique, as far as I’m aware, and really useful because it allows users to pause at any frequency in the 20-120Hz range, and identify annoying in-room rattles and vibrations. I usually find that when you discover a nuisance rattle, a bit of tape or a lump of Blu-tack will sort it out.

There are also low-pass filters, a continuously variable phase control, and a low-frequency boost that adjusts the 20-30Hz region by ±10dB. While a remote app isn't unique, what’s particularly unusual at this price is the inclusion of ARC, which I'll discuss in more detail in the next section.

Features and Specs

The Paradigm Defiance V12 retains the same straightforward approach applied to its design and connections when it comes to the internal components. The 12-inch driver uses a carbon-loaded polypropylene cone that sits in an inverted surround and has an inverted dust cap in the centre.

The more the driver can freely move, the deeper the bass it can generate, so Paradigm developed its Active Ridge Technology (ART). This uses durable driver surrounds to allow the farthest possible throw without distortion or destruction. Paradigm claims the greater excursion results in a measured 3dB gain in output, with a 50% reduction in audible distortion compared to similar-sized drivers.

The forward-firing driver is enhanced by a downward-firing port to add bass extension. Paradigm claims a frequency response that goes from 23Hz to 200Hz (+/-3dB), and the V12 is powered by a Class D amplifier with a claimed (and relatively modest) 120W RMS (250W peak) of digital power.

Paradigm Defiance V12
Anthem Room Correction app

The V12's big selling point is the inclusion of Anthem Room Correction, and the ARC Mobile app is a game changer at this price. It brings a more sophisticated solution to subwoofer placement, bass integration and correcting any in-room issues, and sets Paradigm’s subs apart from similarly-priced competition. All the X and V Series subs offer this feature (with the exception of the V8).

ARC Mobile uses your smart device’s built-in microphone, although you can also buy an optional and more precise ARC universal microphone (this is included free with the X Series). The app is intuitive to use, only takes a few minutes and guides you through the entire process, as you take measurements from five locations around the sweet spot.

 

The inclusion of Anthem Room Correction (ARC) is a major boost, giving this sub an edge over the competition

These measurements record the in-room frequency response, before ARC’s DSP algorithm calculates a correction curve which is then loaded into the subwoofer. This is a really useful feature, because it’s at the lower frequencies where a room's acoustics have the most influence. This simple correction process should result in a more balanced and neutral response, by helping to eliminate troublesome room modes.

Paradigm Defiance V12
Paradigm Defiance wireless module

For all models aside from the V8, Paradigm also offers its optional WT Wireless Module, which simply slides into the dedicated slot at the rear. This feature allows for tidier installation, without the need for cabling. It has a range of 50ft, and uses 2.4GHz dynamic frequency selection to ensure instant error correction, thus retaining speed and performance.

Setup and Operation

The Paradigm Defiance V12 is extremely easy to set up, thanks to its simplified back panel. In terms of connections, you simply run an LFE cable out to the sub, unless you're planning to use the optional wireless transmitter.

While the V12 does include ARC, the better you position the sub the less there is for the room correction to do. Positioning any sub is often a case of trial and error, but it really helps if you know your room, and can avoid major issues. One handy trick is to place the sub at the sweet spot, play a low frequency test tone and move around the room listening for the spot where the bass sounds the most balanced. The fact there's a tone sweep feature in the remote app makes this relatively easy to do with the Paradigm subs.

The Paradigm Subwoofer Control App is a joy to use, and not only provides detailed setup, but also allows you to do everything while sat at the sweet spot (no fiddling around at the back of the sub). The home screen allows you to select from the three listening modes (Movie, Music or Night), as well as adjust the volume, turn the frequency sweep on, and apply the ARC curve.

Paradigm Defiance V12
Paradigm Defiance V12 side view grille off

From the home page you can also access the setting page, where you'll find individual icons for volume, low pass filter, phase/polarity, listening modes, deep bass level, room correction, passcode, rename, factory reset and information. If you're using the V12 with an AV receiver or processor you simply set the volume as recommended, set the low pass filter to bypass, and select the phase/polarity as necessary.

The listening modes are fairly self-explanatory: Movie uses an aggressive setting that maximises the sub's output with films; Music is the default setting and is the most balanced, and is designed for the most accurate audio playback; and Night reduces bass output for more discreet playback. Personally, I preferred using the default Music setting, which resulted in deep, balanced and controlled bass. But if you like thumping bass you can choose the Movie mode, or muck about with the deep bass level controls.

As mentioned, running ARC Mobile is a piece of cake. The first page explains what ARC Mobile is, offers you the option to run it and the option to turn it on or off (you can do the latter from within the remote app as well). Assuming you're using your smart device, rather than the optional universal microphone, you simply hold it at ear level with its microphone pointing towards the subwoofer. You then take five measurements, starting at the sweet spot and followed by four additional points around it that are at least two feet apart. Once you finished taking the measurements the app calculates a correction curve and loads it into the sub. You can then turn the ARC curve on or off at your leisure.

Performance

The Paradigm Defiance V12 might not be a beast when it comes to its claimed power and bass extension, but that 12-inch driver and port help it sound bigger. As a result, it produces deep but controlled bass, with a nuanced and nimble delivery. A good example is the ‘Rewrite the Stars’ musical number in The Greatest Showman, which offers the sub a chance to prove its musicality. The arrangement uses bass in a creative way, particularly when trapeze counterweights hit the floor of the big top. The V12 delivers these moments with a satisfying and precisely-timed thump!

The sub's ability to feel bigger and deeper than the specs suggest is also ably demonstrated at the beginning of the film. The soundtrack kicks off with the circus crowd chanting and stamping its feet in time to the title song. There’s a powerfully deep undercurrent of bass that makes the bleachers the crowd are sat on rumble in time to the music. The soundstage doesn’t have quite the same scale as larger and more powerful models, but the V12 retains a nice sense of cohesion, never losing its ability to articulate specific low-frequency effects.

Paradigm Defiance V12
Paradigm Defiance V12 subwoofer

This sense of balance and cohesion is perfectly demonstrated during the climactic shootout in Wind River, where the gunfire is under-pinned by very precise bass that gives each shot added impact. The Paradigm shows remarkable speed and dexterity, adding a perfectly timed thud to each gunshot. In addition, the application of bass in the sound design is subtly different, depending on whether it's a handgun, larger shotguns, or a powerful 50-calibre sniper rifle. The latter in particular enjoys a wonderfully visceral bass boost!

 

The bass is deeper than the specs might suggest, and ARC ensures a tight and controlled performance

While the V12 is a perfectly capable and accomplished subwoofer in its own right, the inclusion of ARC is a definite bonus. The correction applied by the software ensures the delivery is tighter and better defined. Switching between the ARC on and off setting doesn't reveal a huge difference, but the bass just feels that bit more integrated with the rest of the system. The result is a low frequency foundation that retains a balanced neutrality, combined with responsiveness and control.

Those latter two characteristics are expertly demonstrated during the first challenge in Ready Player One. This sequence features plenty of big bass moments, including a wrecking ball, a T-Rex and even King Kong! The V12 handles all them with skill, combining seismic kicks with split-second timing. The soundtrack is complex, with a frenetic mix of sound effects all competing for attention. The sub differentiates between each LFE effect, ensuring they don't get lost and retain impact.

Paradigm Defiance V12
Paradigm Defiance V12

When it comes to subterranean bass Terminator: Dark Fate delivers the goods, with a sound design that hits like a sledgehammer. This kind of mix could overpower less capable subwoofers, but the V12 does an excellent job of retaining its composure. It might not have the crushing depths of larger drivers, or the overwhelming power of bigger amplifiers, but it still manages to handle the numerous low frequency beats, ensuring they retain the necessary effect.

A good example is the sequence where one cargo plane deliberately crashes into another, before a parachuting Humvee tumbles through the air, crashes into a dam and is eventually immersed in the river below. This is a non-stop barrage of LFE, and the V12 handles the waves of bass without losing definition or focus. This sub might lack the ability to go below 20Hz, but it's more than enough for the average system, and it delivers bass with skill and speed.

Verdict

Pros

  • Well-made subwoofer
  • Decent bass extension
  • Anthem Room Correction
  • Remote control app
  • Great price

Cons

  • Could use more power
  • Limited connections

Paradigm Defiance V12 Subwoofer Review

Should I buy one?

The Paradigm Defiance V12 is a genuinely excellent and competitively priced subwoofer that produces bass with depth and composure. It manages to retain the speed and control of a sealed unit, while also benefiting from the extension of a ported design. The result is bass that enjoys a nuanced and articulate delivery, while also creating some nice low-end impact.

The inclusion of a remote app and ARC room correction make for useful features you won’t find on competing subwoofers with more power and deeper frequency response. The design is simple, the build quality is excellent and the overall package is impressive. Paradigm is often associated with very high-end speakers, but in the case of the Defiance V12 sub it's a Best Buy.

What are my alternatives?

If you fancy more power or greater depth, but like the idea of a remote app and ARC room correction, then Paradigm's Defiance X12 and X15 are both worth considering.

For the same money as the V12 you could consider the Fyne Audio F3-12, which offers a 12-inch driver with more power but slightly less depth. It's fairly basic and lacks a remote app or room correction, but it's a capable subwoofer. Alternatively there's the REL HT/1205, which is £699 but delivers greater depth and more power. However, assuming you're not bothered about cutting-edge features like ARC or a remote app, then the BK P12-300SB-PR is the undisputed king. For just a £450 you can get a well-designed sub with 300W of amplification and the ability to go below 20Hz.

Best Buy

Scores

Sound Quality

.
9

Build Quality

.
9

Value For Money

10

Verdict

.
9
9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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