four long years of extensive research and development, Paradigm unveiled their
new Seismic 12 Subwoofer under their Rererence Products. The new design
comprises of a downward firing 12-inch high-excursion polypropylene bass driver
fitted within a high-pressure die-cast aluminum chassis. The company uses a special
cooling system to dissipate the heat generated by the bass driver. The highly
efficient Ultra-Class-D(tm) amplifier design is capable of delivering 1200 Watts
RMS (FTC rated) and 4500 Watts of peak power. We've seen a lot of subwoofers over
the years, but few designs have impressed us to the degree of this new product.
The entire subwoofer is contained within a relatively small 14-inch cube. It's
quite deceiving because this subwoofer produces an enormous amount of bass and
is claimed to have a low-frequency extension down to 17 Hz at -3dB. Subwoofers
this size are usually fairly easy to pick up, but not this one, as it weighs almost
70 pounds. The magnet structure of the bass driver alone weighs 29 pounds.
exterior of the Seismic 12 is rather attractive looking despite the two
fully exposed 10" passive radiators located on opposite sides of the cabinet.
The unit is actually small enough to fit under a table with an internal volume
of only 1.1 cubic feet. If you're concerned about easily damaging the exposed
radiators, don't worry. They are made from some tough material that doesn't appear
to be easily damaged. Not to say that anyone should poke at them. The subwoofer
cabinet is covered with a black ash finish and is complemented with an attractive
gloss black top. The bottom facing driver has a metal grill covering the speaker
cone to protect it from potential damage.
design of the bass driver is truly impressive with a peak-to-peak cone excursion
of over 2 inches, enabling the Seismic 12 to move large volumes of air,
which translates into tremendous bass output. The long excursion is accomplished
by using a dual travel suspension (one progressive and one linear). The proprietary
voice coil wire guide allows for unrestricted cone movement that prevents the
cone from bottoming out. The large 29 pound magnet structure generates an enormous
magnetic flux for the motor assembly. Both sides of the mineral-filled co-polymer
polypropylene cone are ribbed to increase stiffness when driven hard. The high-pressure
die-cast aluminum chassis minimizes flexing of the structure. The enormous amount
of power that can be produced by the amplifier must be properly dissipated from
the voice coil to prevent damage. Paradigm accomplishes this by using their proprietary
AVS (Airflow Ventilation Cooling System) in conjunction with a large heatsink.
Heat is transferred to the cooling fins by force when the cone is being driven
hard or by convection under less demanding times. Temperature sensors provide
feedback to the amplifier to prevent overheating of the driver's voice coil.
12 produces an enormous amount of power (1200 watts RMS, 4500 watts peak) to the
massive bass driver. This quantity of power is only possible with the highly efficient
(90%) switching design of the Ultra-Class-D amplifier. Rather than dissipating
an enormous amount of heat from a conventional linear power amplifier, the Seismic
12 leverages from high efficiency switching amplifier technology. The design uses
an adaptive PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) power processor that is said to minimize
distortion and maximize efficiency. No power is wasted using a power transformer
with large heatsinks for the output devices, but instead the amplifier's output
stage is directly connected to line power through the switching circuits. This
amplifier also senses the voice coil temperature to prevent overheating by reducing
the output that could potentially damage the driver. In the event the voice coil
does short, the protection circuits react within 10 microseconds to prevent frying
the internal electronics.
rear panel of the Seismic 12 offers the user a wide variety of options for
optimal setup. Powering the subwoofer can be automatic, based on the audio signal
sensing circuit or it can be triggered remotely by a receiver or preamplifier.
For those who prefer to keep the unit always powered for sonic reasons, that option
also exists. Both balanced (XLR) and unbalanced (RCA) inputs are provided and
selected with a simple toggle switch. There are four adjustable controls for Level,
Upper-Frequency-Cutoff, Phase-Alignment and Bass Contour.
The Level control offers additional flexibility to the level adjustment
found in most receivers and preamplifiers. The Upper-Frequency-Cutoff control
is basically a variable low-pass filter ranging from 35 Hz to 150 Hz. In our setup,
we used the highest frequency and let our THX controller and bass management unit
take care of the crossover frequencies. There is no bypass for the Upper-Frequency-Cutoff
control, so when using an outboard crossover, there will be some interaction with
the built-in low-pass filtering. This subwoofer does not have a crossover circuit
for your main speakers, so you'll have to use an outboard crossover or rely on
your receiver or preamplifier. The Phase-Alignment control adjusts the
phase of the subwoofer signal between 0º and 180º to help eliminate
low frequency cancellations and modes that sometimes occur in installations due
to phasing problems with real-world room acoustics. Finally, the Bass Contour
control provides a variable boost of up to a 6 dB at 60 Hz to increase the effective
bass impact, particularly in movies. We set this to the minimal position since
much of our listening included music. We liked the detachable IEC power plug on
the unit as it made it easier to maneuver the heavy subwoofer without tripping
over the power cord.
Our system consisted of a Parasound AVC-2500u processor and Parasound HCA-2205AT
five-channel THX-Ultra power amplifier. We connected the Seismic 12 to our
processor using a single unbalanced Ultralink interconnect. Our front channels
are M&K S-150THX speakers and the rear channels are M&K Surround-250 Tripole
speakers. We installed Ultralink's Audiophile-grade Platinum Series cables between
all components. Source material came from our Sony DVP-NS900V SACD/DVD player,
Kenwood DV-5900M DVD-Audio/Video changer and Marantz MV8300 D-Theater D-VHS VCR.
Audio was selected between our SACD (DVP-NS900V) and DVD-Audio (DV-5900M) source
material using a Zektor MAS3 Passive Switcher. The MAS3 switcher output was then
fed to our M&K BMC-mini for bass-management, which set the crossover frequency
to 80Hz. DTS and Dolby Digital movie soundtracks use the digital interface and
take advantage of the THX-Ultra processing in the Parasound AVC-2500u that also
sets the crossover point to 80 Hz for all channels. Since each satellite channel
is capable of reproducing audio below the crossover frequency, we didn't have
any problems using this setting with the Seismic 12.
were a few important aspects of this subwoofer we were particularly interested
in hearing. Low frequency capabilities, output level and accuracy were first on
our list. The low frequency extension noted in the documentation was impressive,
so we put it to the test with some of our favorite material. The second track
Fire, from DTS Entertainment's Studio
Voodoo disc fully exploits the capabilities of 5.1 audio by submersing
the listener in a surreal blend of sounds that include ethnic tribal vocals and
rhythms with crackling bonfires. The recording also includes synthesized sounds
with deep bass extension that pushes the capabilities of the subwoofer. We drove
the Seismic 12 fairly hard and it never seemed to run out of steam. The
cone excursion on the passive radiators were extensive at high volumes and yet
it never sounded fatigued, nor did we ever encounter problems such as cone slapping.
The deep bass extension was very apparent in our room (14' x 15' with a vaulted
ceiling) at surprisingly high volume levels.
speaking, the Seismic 12 sounds wonderfully full, blending seamlessly with
our M&K S-150THX satellites thanks to the M&K BMC Mini Bass Management
unit. We are certainly used to excellent bass extension with our reference system
that normally includes the M&K MX-350THX subwoofer, so it was refreshing to
hear the powerful capabilities of this smaller subwoofer in our system. We enjoyed
listening to tracks from James Taylor's Hourglass in the SACD 5.1 format
and the low frequency definition was superb with deep tight bass. Various tracks
from the Steel Pulse Earth Crisis CD also produced excellent bass extension
in our setup. It was amazing hear so much bass come from such a relatively small
subwoofer. Movies also benefited from this high output design.
started with the recently released X-Men2 from 20th Century Fox on the D-VHS D-Theater
format. This movie gave the Seismic 12 a good workout with high-impact action
and intense bass. These new 1080i high-definition tapes offer unsurpassed picture
quality and with the recent addition of the DTS Digital Surround audio bitstream
running at the full 1509 kbps (kilobits per second) on select movies, the DTS
5.1 audio unleashes reference quality surround sound. This and other D-Theater
movies we watched were played on our Marantz MV8300 D-Theater VCR using
the toslink output to our Parasound preamplifier, where the DTS and Dolby Digital
decoding took place. Other D-Theater movies we watched included The Mummy
(Dolby Digital) and The Fast and the Furious (Dolby Digital). The Seismic
12 had absolutely no problem keeping up with the aggressive low frequency material
found on these fast-paced action movies.
Normandy Beach invasion from the Saving Private Ryan DVD (DTS version)
is one of the best tests for surround and subwoofer performance and the Seismic
12 delivered the graphic and gripping scenes with an intense presentation, making
the horrors of war ever so real. Deep bass from explosions and heavy machinery
were very evident in our theater room using this subwoofer. Other samples that
we played on the system included a THX demo disc. This DVD had some great material
that included a scene from none other than The Phantom Menace.
The Paradigm Seismic 12 impressed us from day one with its exceptional build
quality, flexible controls and excellent sound quality. The compact design makes
it easy to integrate into practically any setting and the performance will impress
home theater enthusiasts and audiophiles alike. Even at relatively high volume
levels the Seismic 12 delivered deep clean bass with the authority one would
expect in a high performance subwoofer category. We had the unit installed in
our setup for almost three months and it never let us down. Achieving a high output
subwooofer from a seemingly small cabinet design makes you wonder why anyone would
put up with unsightly enclosures. The Seismic 12 is designed to impress
not only the audiophile and home theater nuts, but those who have to see it in
their living space as well.