Subwoofers

Paradigm SUB 1 Subwoofer

ARTICLE INDEX

The Paradigm SUB 1 In Use

Specs and numbers are nice, but performance is what matters. Tron Legacy might not be a wonderful film if you care about a coherent plot and enjoyable story, but it is certainly eye and ear candy for everyone to enjoy. Daft Punk created a tight, bass heavy soundtrack for the film that is almost better than the picture deserves. The SUB 1s let you feel every thunderous note as C.L.U. descends the staircase for the start of the light cycle race. In the room above my home theater people sitting on the couch would feel everything vibrate from the SUB 1s below, but in the room the bass was tight and solid, without the thumping you would get from a subwoofer that is loud, but lacks control over the woofers other than to push for maximum output at the expense of clarity.

Where I thought the SUB 1 was very unusual was with very low frequencies that you feel more than hear, which is a result of very low distortion. A classic example that people use is the "skadoosh" scene from Kung Fu Panda. When he pulls off the move, an explosion happens that sends out a sound wave that the SUB 1 let me feel in my body. These ultra low frequencies didn't faze the SUB 1 and I could push the volume until I wasn't comfortable long before the SUB 1 felt any discomfort. Perhaps the best demo disc from last year for audio, but the worst movie, is Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Full of action that completely envelops the viewer, both visually and aurally, Transformers will show anyone what your home theater can do. The best element of the soundtrack is that it doesn't rely on a splashy single effect to communicate its power, but instead just fully pulls the viewing into the film, and continually stresses your system. Scenes of buildings being destroyed, fighter jets crashing, and the crunching of metal had their full impact with the SUB 1.

The sub didn't seem to draw attention to itself, and it didn't put the bass right up in your face to make you pay attention to it. To see if I was missing something, I turned the subs off and went back to watching with just full range front speakers to handle the bass duty. At this point I realized what I was missing (distortion), and how the SUB 1s had drawn me in. Being used to less capable subs that had to create a lot of distortion to produce really powerful bass, I was expecting to hear that same distortion and error while listening to the SUB 1. Instead I was hearing the bass integrate perfectly in with the rest of the speakers, remaining tight and full, but not bloated or slow. Now it seems that anyone can go out and design a subwoofer that will punch you in the chest while watching a film, drawing all the attention to itself but at the expense of fitting into the system. The SUB 1 was subtler, adapting to the environment and staying hidden in the corners while making its presence felt but not distracting you from everything else.

The SUB 1 has no speaker level inputs so properly integrating it with music requires using either a processor or receiver with a subwoofer output, or an external crossover such as the Bryston 10B-Sub that was recently reviewed by John Johnson. I will often go back to listening to "One" off the …And Justice for All album from Metallica, with its continual drum and heavy guitars that dig out some pretty good bass. The opening guitar notes did a good job of floating in space around the speakers, but not anchored to them. The SUB 1 provided some very good weight to the notes, but without pulling your ear towards them or presenting any voicing issues that would let you realize you were hearing the same note from two speakers. Once the drum kicks in the SUB 1s had no trouble keeping up with the music from my Mythos STS fronts, which is an area I've seen other sub and speaker combinations fall behind in the past.

Moving onto the soundtrack from Titanic, the sinking of the ship is meant to pound you in the chest as a massive luxury liner snaps in half. Low notes from kettle drums would often come in and call you to attention and the room would begin to fill with energy as the ship began its gradual decline into the ocean. Many purists often think you should avoid a subwoofer with an audio system as CDs and records are just two channels, but a good subwoofer can really augment your system and bring greater depth to the music.

The one final thing that impressed me with the SUB 1 was something you really might not expect. I went to see The Decendants in the theater, and since it is from 20th Century Fox, we had the traditional fanfare at the opening of the movie with their logo and spotlights. There were a few seconds of low, room shaking bass that the SUB 1 was able to reproduce from that fanfare that I had never heard before in a commercial theater. The local Cineplex was truly outclassed by the SUB 1 in my basement and left me with no reason to go back to the theater anytime soon.