My own threesome adventures of sub integration rely on a custom fixed/analog 40Hz Linkwitz-Riley filter with hi/lo-pass outputs built into my autoformer passive preamp. That's from the UK's Pál Nagy and called icOn 4Pro SE. With it our mains roll off very gently at 100Hz to be -6dB/40Hz, then plummet to -24dB/20Hz. The sub's filter does the inverse. This assures phase continuity at the handover. A review of KEF's KC62 was on the books. I eyed it as a potential addition for our smaller upstairs system with its 2 x 6.5" force-cancelling woofers, 1000 watts, motion feedback and DSP. For the bigger downstairs system, I wanted to investigate another seriously engineered contender of similar price, modest proportions and metal enclosure. What I didn't want were off-the-shelf drivers in MDF, passive radiators, ports, apps or Bluetooth. Since I'd use an external crossover, I didn't want a sub that spent a premium on its own filter; nor one that relied on a speaker-level connection. I checked into JL Audio, REL and Velodyne Acoustics as the usual suspects popular with music listeners. Then I zero'd in on Paradigm's Seismic 110 instead. Although it lacks the white option of a Canton, B&W or Dali which I'd prefer to black, all other specifications hit my target better. Here we let Paradigm's own product brochure do more talking.
What should be crystal from their photos and descriptions? The fancy woofers in your/our passive speakers don't stand a chance against Paradigm's specialty driver for the 20-60Hz bandwidth we're focused on today. Right tool for the job and all that moody Jazz.
Unlike in the movies, musical bandwidth doesn't breach 28Hz unless it's the rare synthesizer. A subwoofer doing a flat 25Hz at standard room levels covers all my needs. What standard room levels are is a different discussion. Our household considers 90dB peaks loud. For that, mega powerful but affordable class D, advanced DSP and purpose-engineered bass drivers can mean rather small 'lifestyle' enclosures if 105dB SPL at infrasonics aren't on the menu. Paradigm's Seismic 110 is already ten years old. It suggests that a problem solved perfectly once goes away for good. It won't wait on you the next morning or reappear a decade later.
My expectations viewed this machine's SPL capabilities as ideally matched to our bigger rig. With subs, approaching then crossing the 20Hz line by single cycles and at rising SPL gets ever costlier and bigger in a hurry. I didn't want expensive loudness I'd never use. 120dB specs leave me cold and deaf. Our downstairs music zone flows into an open floor plan of 100m² total and features vaulted ceilings above the speakers. If Paradigm's squat bulldog could hit 25Hz at a max 90dB in the chair from 4 meters away, I'd call it perfect extension/power. I also appreciated Paradigm's fully automated PBK or perfect bass kit option; the XLR input; and a size/price that left an open door for a second unit down the road. I'd rather have two petite subs than one enormous one.
Today's short feature wants to answer a few questions. In a music-only system run as described, can a Paradigm Seismic 110 tick off the boxes of speed/timing, clarity without overhang, audibility of faint spatial cues at standard even modest playback levels and not betray itself as an add-on? As you saw, more bass per se didn't make my list. Speakers good for -3dB/33Hz like ours don't miss much music bass in the first place. This is about superior quality, not quantity.
True, at times the sub will go lower to add raw quantity. That's particularly so with synth chicanery on ambient/electronica. It's simply a secondary benefit when loudspeakers already reach well into the first octave with appropriate power for the room. To me more important questions were, could precision filtering of main speakers to replace their first-octave coverage with a purpose-engineered bass solution be a musically significant upgrade? Could an extreme woofer act properly sophisticated for ambitious listeners? Should more audiophiles consider one despite well-groomed hangups about subs?
High-pedigree speaker houses Magico, Vandersteen, Wilson Audio, Wilson Benesch and YG Acoustics all have their own statement subs [18" carbon-fibre Torus by Wilson Benesch at left whose cylindrical enclosure and push/pull motor share some conceptual overlap with Paradigm]. Those flagship bandwidth extenders make for strong affirmatives at the cost-no-object level. Today is about what happened when a ~€1'500 small sub promoted more for lifestyle home theater than music added itself to ~€10K/pr music-only speakers. Was it 100% successful or not? If not, what were the issues?
… to be continued…
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