Paradigm Monitor SUB 10 Subwoofer
A home theater enthusiast might look at Paradigm’s 13-inch-high Monitor SUB 10 and ask, “Why would I buy that when I can get a 15-inch sub for the same price?” Well, you wouldn’t buy it. Paradigm builds the SUB 10 for design-oriented buyers who want decent bass but don’t want a subwoofer that takes up a lot of floor space. Although it does pack decent power — a Class D amp rated at 300 watts RMS and 900 watts peak — its 10-inch driver obviously can’t compete with the 12- and 15-inchers found in the other subs here.
Paradigm also builds the SUB 10 for those who value fine-tuned sound over high output. A mini USB input on the back makes the sub compatible with Paradigm’s $99 Perfect Bass Kit, which includes a USB microphone, a mike stand, and PC software. Load PBK on your computer, connect the mike and the sub, and the software automatically adjusts the sub’s response to compensate for the acoustics of your room. I’ve found Paradigm’s PBK among the best of the automatic bass EQ technologies, always delivering dead-flat frequency response in my listening seat. Adding PBK does push the combined package outside the $700-$900 price range of this test, but Geoff had a kit sitting around, so I decided to go ahead and use it.
Other than the USB connector for PBK, the SUB 10 offers a standard set of controls plus a stereo line input.
It was immediately obvious that the Monitor SUB 10 is a whole different kind of subwoofer than most of the others we tested. While Geoff, Will, and I all readily perceived the precision of the PBK-tweaked sound, it was impossible to ignore the missing deep notes.
Geoff began: “You can feel the subtleties with this one. The bass drum on the Pink Floyd tune sounded the most ‘real.’” The SUB 10 impressed me with its flawless melodic precision when I played Steely Dan’s “Aja,” but I found myself pining for the character and charm of the NHT B-12d, then getting into self-indulgent philosophical musings about whether or not a subwoofer should have a character of its own.
When I played my toughest deep-bass tests — the Organ Symphony and the opening of Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones — the SUB 10 gave me nothing at all. The little sub wisely didn’t even attempt to reproduce the lowest tones. If it had, I imagine its 10-inch driver would have suffered a quick death.
Note that while the SUB 10 delivered the deepest measured frequency response, at 19 Hz, that measurement is taken at a low level. Its 20-Hz max output is –3.2 dB less than that of the next-closest competitor here, and –19.3 dB less than that of the most powerful sub in this test.
Paradigm Monitor SUB 10 ($849)
Best for: Sonic perfectionists
Worst for: Bassheads
As Will put it, the Monitor SUB 10 “sounds like a woofer, not a subwoofer.”
19 to 215 Hz, ±3 dB
Low bass (40-63 Hz) average: 113.4 dB
Ultra-low bass (20-31.5 Hz) average: 100.4 dB