Paradigm Seismic 110 Subwoofer Review

Compact, trouser troubling fun

by AVForums
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Best Buy
Paradigm Seismic 110 Subwoofer Review
SRP: £1,250.00

Introduction

In a way it’s cute, but the way it squats with it’s stumpy little legs, four square, at each corner gives a vague sense you should keep a sturdy stick nearby, just in case it decides to go for you ankles. The Paradigm Seismic 110 subwoofer looks like a small canine thug and any of the nicknames it’s picking up – bulldog, pit bull, etc - would be fair and Paradigm even refer to it as the “alpha dog of compact industrial design”.

Technical

And it is tiny, or at least it looks it because, although it takes up pretty much the same space on the carpet as a traditional cubic subwoofer, the ‘barrel on its side’ form factor means it carries its already diminutive stature in an even more svelte manner. The shape and construction thereof, extends far beyond merely looking small. As far as shape as a function of form, there is little on the market that integrates the individual elements (driver, cabinet & amplifier) into a monocoque the way Seismic 110 does. Fundamentally, the driver and the amplifier are cast as the ends of the barrel with only the central section being devoid of mechanical or electrical function, it's sole purpose being rigidity, which a tube is well suited to and to give the large supporting feet a home.

The rear of the cabinet is formed by the Class D amplifier, for which 850W RMS (1700W peak) is claimed, and also houses the on-board equalisation which you connect via mini USB to Paradigms PBK Room Perfect equalisation system. The PBK kit itself (comprising microphone, mic stand, USB cables and PC based software) is a £299 extra. You can either opt to buy this outright, or I have seen dealers who will use their PBK to install the subwoofer for a one off fee. The latter would suit less inveterate fiddlers than I but, if you are likely to upgrade in the future, it is exactly the same kit as used with the stunning Reference Sub 1 (previously reviewed) and a few more Paradigm subs besides. Beyond the USB port, all controls on the rear panel are normal comprising gain, variable phase and variable crossover. There is a small heat-sink at the bass of the rear panel, but as the whole body of the sub is alloy, there’s no shortage of effective radiating area. Combined with the efficient Class D amplification, I never raised the sub’s rear panel warmth to more than skin temperature under normal circumstances.

Paradigm Seismic 110 Subwoofer

Although clever in terms of industrial design this is all actually fairly standard stuff so far, but turning to the end that barks (sorry!) we meet the driver and as seems to be the norm with Paradigm, this is a unique in-house custom construction. As mentioned, the driver’s cast alloy frame/basket forms the entire front end of the Seismic 110 - but it doesn’t end there. Again, we see the ribbed roll surround trickling down from the Reference Series Sub 1, but this time it is a far larger inverted affair, not only because of the much larger nominal 250mm driver, but because it has to cope with a full 50mm of one way travel - that’s a potential 100mm of travel peak to peak! The 'cone', that the surround supports, is anything but. It is a flat piston backed by a radial arrangement of composite ‘I’ beam ribs that connect to the voice coil former, thus keeping the cone assembly very shallow. It needs to because the motor structure is massive and extremely deep.

Indeed, the 'cone', whilst novel, isn't in fact the most notable feature of the driver's construction; the motor is. To a degree, you're going to have to relate what I say to the pictures, but fundamentally, the triple stacked magnet acts upon a dual 38mm diameter, 60mm long voice coils - the two voice coils are wound on the same former, in opposite directions, in tandem one behind, rather than over the other. This is claimed to be the subwoofer driver equivalent of balanced connections used at line level – feeding a pair of inverted signals through a pair of inverted coils results in self cancellation of non-linearity. Maybe it does, but the interesting stuff is that the tandem arrangement means, that as one voice coil moves out of the magnet gap, the other is moving in, so as to aid linearity at extreme excursions. Heat dissipation is also aided by doubling the area of voice coil exposed to fresh air. The over-long voice coil former passes out the rear of the triple stacked magnet motor to meet another suspension spider – there are two spiders both above and below the motor with yet further extensions to the motor chassis to provide both heat sinking and to support the pole piece. Like I say, look closely at the pictures because this is an extraordinary piece of motor design optimized for maximizing linearity at high excursions and high excursions are what the Seismic 110 will need to deliver - When you only have a 10” cone to provide audible output, the only option left to deliver high SPLs and/or deep bass is to move the cone a very long way and fast.

Paradigm Seismic 110 Subwoofer

It should be noted, if the pictures don't make it clear, that there is no grill to cover the driver. Destruction testing is not within my remit, but no one has told that to my 20 month old bundle of thrill seeking joy, who likes things that vibrate. Unlike a traditional thin speaker cone, the driver's diaphragm is as hard as nails due to its supporting web structure and I would worry more about little fingers getting damaged by it, rather than the other way round.

Connections to the outside world are provided by a single balanced XLR socket, a pair of stereo RCA inputs one of which doubles a dedicated LFE input, and a 5-24V DC trigger. The power switch only allows for activation by the trigger, or signal sensing 'Auto On' position. There is no 'On' switch, as such but, during the course of its stay, the Seismic 110 switched on at the merest whiff of a signal and never turned itself off while any signal was present – even at very low late night levels. The usual gain, 0-180deg continuously sweepable phase and variable crossover knobs are present and do bear in mind that, whilst the PBK room equalisation will flatten the response, you will still need to use at least the gain and phase to integrate the sub with your main speakers in the traditional fashion. The only other point of note is an annoying blue LED to signal the powered up status. I should probably give up protesting about LEDs in bright, distracting colours on products likely to be used in darkened rooms, because clearly no-one is listening.

Set up

Aside from my usual system of Audiolab Processor, Cinepro power-amp and XTZ speakers, the Seismic 110 also spent time in pure music duties, underpinning some Tannoy Dimension DC8 speakers in a 'pure' stereo set-up. Unsurprisingly, it worked best where every sealed subwoofer has in my room, just in front and to the left of the left hand speaker. Although I suspected what the outcome may be from previous experience, I never-the-less executed multiple runs with the PBK EQ across both narrow and wide areas surrounding the listening position and it provided much the same EQ results as found with the Reference Sub 1. In other words, the PBK works superbly, tuning out room induced excess quickly and very effectively whether you decide to selfishly target your hot seat (like I do) for ultimate bliss, or let others in on the joy at the expense of the hot seat's accuracy. Even if you get your dealer to do the once over, when installing the sub, rather than buying the full PBK kit, the on-board EQ should not be underestimated in it's performance impact and therefore its value as part of the sub's price.

Listening

I wasn't too sure what to expect when first settling down for some serious listening, because expensive subs tend to be large, with the attendant expectations in terms of depth performance, whilst budget subs tend to be small with all the expected limitations that a smaller form factor implies. Here, we have a tiny subwoofer that you could hide under a coffee table and yet it's price puts it up against opposition that could replace the table upon which you could expect to rest a beverage. This was certainly going to be interesting.

As per usual, I threw a lot of music at the Seismic 110. Once EQ'd, it was extremely tight and tuneful and passed all of the usual tests with flying colours. The Tannoy DC8s enjoy high listening levels and the Seismic 110 proved equal to the task of providing the taught, nimble bass that was needed to match both the Tony Levin's stick bass on Peter Gabriel's 'So', Mark King's slap bass on Level 42's 'Best Of' or any other rhythmically bass driven track. Angélique Kidjo's strong and deep African bass and drum driven tracks were presented with exemplary punch and pitch definition.

Spinning up Rodrigo y Gabriella's debut offering, in order to expose any upper bass ‘nasties’, proved a fruitless exercise, with the attack of the deeper notes blending seamlessly with the output of the speakers, allowing the manic drive of 'Ixtapa' to rush along completely unrestrained. In fact, with real music (as opposed to extreme bass test tracks) at any level what-so-ever, it could not be tripped up in my room, with only church organ bass lacking in the very deepest notes. For something occupying a square foot of carpet, this was impressive and it's fair to say that the Seismic 110 will provide real 'kick in the chest' bass at levels up to and above those considered reasonable - those who like to feel their kick drums, as much as hear them, will find much to like and yet the Seismic 110 shows a deft touch at delivering the texture to bass that lets you know whether a string has been struck, or plucked and whether the decay of an instrument was natural or damped.

Paradigm Seismic 110 Subwoofer

Reverting to multi-channel mode, it was time for some LFE. With movies it was clearly in its element, spitting out the concussive impacts of big guns going off in Children Of Men and punches being landed in Transformers with real leading edge clout. It delivers that instantaneous sealed box crunch with real conviction and then is gone again, never drawing attention to itself after the moment has passed. A fine example of this ability is a succession of concussive effects like a tank tracking along, an effect I use regularly to test this quality. The sound does not blend into a dull low bass rumble, each link in the track hitting the ground being described with it's own discrete impact, which in turn sounds, and feels, more textured and, therefore, realistic. It does much the same for the fine array of machine gunnery displayed throughout Iron Man, which has an LFE sound track that errs on the side of lots. It can sound a bit too much through lesser subs that just succumb to the sheer quantity of LFE bass being thrown at them over the top of an epic musical soundtrack. The Seismic separated it all out, letting you follow the bass of the music, even if all hell was breaking loose on screen which, in Iron Man, it does quite often and it did so comfortably at very high levels.

However, movies are nothing if not a great test of real bottom end extension and grunt and as one is asked to be hyper-critical, it’s here that the considerable limits of the Seismic 110 start to get pushed. On the biggest, deepest sustained effects such as my favoured ‘Skadoosh’ from the end of Kung-fu Panda, or the star ships entering warp in Star Trek, the Seismic would have a good stab at what was being asked, with impressive initial impact, but the sustain of these effects sounded just a touch strained and lacked the last few Hertz of extension the really big boys have. I must emphasize that these are über bass effects and this was still being done at very high levels for such a compact subwoofer. These are sustained, power sapping, voice coil torturing effects being deliberately used to search out limits. Nothing, but nothing I’ve used of remotely similar size has come close to attempting such feats never mind, near as damnit, managing it. The scale of these effects isn't even present in the reproduction, delivered by budget boxes, so the net affect is one that you’d only really be aware of if you’ve had plenty of exposure to much larger subs, with much bigger drivers. It is still very much an upgrade over the capabilities of its size related, budget peers.

Verdict

9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Pros

  • Excellent all round performance
  • Size – Meaning total lack of
  • Ease of use
  • Looks in a technophile sense
  • Value

Cons

  • Greater extension can be had for the money, but it probably won't fit.
  • No Grill
  • Looks – It's not going to pass as furniture

Paradigm Seismic 110 Subwoofer Review

So, the elephant in the forum chatter room is out. The Seismic 110 will not replace a large ported box that you could hitch up and go caravanning in. It will not wobble the room at frequencies sub 25Hz like the big boxes do, although it will make a better fist of trying to do so than it has any right to, for something of it's stature. It has been tuned to use its significant driver travel to maximum effect but, ultimately, there's only so much air you can shift effectively with a small driver and, in subwoofer terms, a 10” driver is a small driver.

Paradigm Seismic 110 Subwoofer

But that completely misses the point, because those looking for huge subs do not look at foot cubed boxes. On the other hand, those with size restrictions, imposed for whatever reason, do look for subwoofers that can deliver a performance a cut above the budget herd and it's safe to say they will find it here. Upgrading need no longer dictate a larger piece of furniture entering your life. Some may balk at the idea of paying £1300 for something that will nearly sit in the palm of two large hands, but I would argue that you could account for an easy £300 of that in the performance boost the on-board PBK EQ system delivers and it is worth every penny if you have a less than perfect room, like most people in fact do. Even if that weren't the case, the raw performance is a match for anything I've heard remotely close to the size and gives good cause for concern to some well established sealed boxes of similar price and even larger dimensions.
This is the second Paradigm sub I've had the pleasure of in recent months and, yet again, technological boundaries have been pushed to deliver an extremely effective solution in a very small space and, amongst its size restricted peer group, it is indeed without peer in my experience. What a brilliant little subwoofer.

Best Buy

Scores

Value For Money

.
9

Sound Quality

.
.
8

Build Quality

10

Verdict

.
9
9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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