Take a look at Paradigm's new Defiance X15 subwoofer--at least with its grille on--and nothing special really catches your eye. It's a pretty standard-looking black box measuring roughly 24.6 inches tall and deep, and 23.2 inches wide. A big beasty, to be sure, but this is a 15-inch sub, after all. And that's certainly not out of proportion with comparable offerings from other manufacturers. It takes a peek behind the grille to start to get a sense of what makes the Defiance X15 a little different. Its beefy carbon-loaded polypropylene cone is the first clue, with its Paradigm-patented Active Ridge Technology surround. The latter gives the driver enhanced output thanks to its greater excursion, and a reported 50-percent reduction in audible distortion as compared with similar drivers mated to standard surrounds.
What makes this somewhat surprising is the Defiance X15's price. At just $1,499, it's a shockingly affordable sub in its class, especially when you consider its pedigree. Sure, that price is reflected in its cabinet materials, but it makes the sub a good match for Paradigm's Premier series and Monitor SE series speakers, both aesthetically and financially. For that price, you get a well-designed sub with a down-firing port and a built-in 900-Watt RMS (1800-Watt Dynamic Peak) Class-D amplifier, backed up by app control and a few other special goodies that you wouldn't necessarily expect to find at this price point.
A trip around back gives a few additional clues to the Defiance X15's distinctive features, especially the presence of its ARC input, a USB port designed for use with Anthem Room Correction. This, if you're not familiar with Paradigm/Anthem products in general, is a pretty big deal, because it gives the Defiance X15 access to one of the best room correction systems on the market, independent of the room correction system built into your receiver or preamp. True, room EQ via the X15 is limited to the frequencies covered by the sub itself, but that's really where digital room correction does its best work anyway, so it could well be the only room correction you need, especially if you're running a stereo or non-object-based surround sound setup. For more info on why, see our updated primer on the subject, Room Correction Revisited.
In addition to the aforementioned ARC port for room correction support, the Paradigm Defiance X15 also sports a number of other handy connections, including the expected unbalanced LFE in, but also stereo line-level inputs, balanced XLR LFE in, left and right speaker-level inputs (banana plugs only, with no corresponding outputs), and a port for the receiver end of Paradigm's optional Defiance WT wireless kit ($199).
The back panel also includes a 12v trigger input; a toggle switch to choose between Trigger, Auto, and On power modes; a level control knob; and another toggle switch that selects between Local settings (all of the aforementioned switches) and app control. Go with the latter, because the Paradigm Subwoofer Control app unlocks all sorts of other goodies that you'll want access to, including phase and low pass filter controls, listening modes (Movie, Music, Night), a frequency sweep generator with a neat pause function, and the ability to toggle ARC room correction on and off.
ARC is run by a separate mobile app, by the way, or you can go the old-school route and use your computer and the included microphone. Either way, it's an essential step, and for the duration of this review I used ARC via the X15 as my sole room correction, disabling Audyssey on my Marantz AV8805.
As I've mentioned elsewhere on this site in the past, I normally run no less than two subwoofers in my main media room, not for increased output, but rather to fill in some unavoidable dips at around 45Hz (with a sub on one side of my system) and 80Hz (with a sub on the other) caused by the geometry of my listening space. Given that I knew I would only be receiving one Defiance X15 for review, I disabled one of my reference subs beforehand and spent some time listening with only one sub, so as not to create an unfair comparison. In the end, I positioned the X15 on the left side of my system, if only due to the fact that it's too wide to fit in the subwoofer spot on the right side. It is, after all, nearly three inches wider than my reference SVS PB-4000, which is itself snug as a bug on that side of the room.
Despite the wealth of connectivity, the tried-and-true unbalanced LFE input worked for my purposes. I ran one of the subwoofer outs from the Marantz AV8805 to it, and ran ARC via the app. Other speakers in the system consisted of a pair of GoldenEar Triton One.R towers, a GoldenEar Reference center, and a pair of Triton Sevens as surrounds. Crossovers were set at 80Hz, except the Reference Center, for which the crossover point was set at 100Hz.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, Measurements, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...