Paradigm Reference Signature Sub 1 and Sub 2 Powered Subwoofers
All prices in US dollars.

It wasn’t that many years ago that Paradigm made only conventional-looking speakers and subwoofers in rectangular boxes at prices low enough that most people could afford them. For a very long time, they were known for products that provided great value but didn’t necessarily represent the state of the art.

Though still a leader on the budget side, in recent years Paradigm has gone upscale to challenge the best there is, and there’s no better evidence of that than their new Reference Signature Sub 2 (front left) and Reference Signature Sub 1 powered subwoofers. These aren’t like the Paradigms of yesteryear, and the company knows it. Their product literature boldly proclaims: "Our most ambitious subwoofer to date . . . loaded with cutting-edge technology!" A close look at these two products reveals little evidence to contradict that.

Both the Sub 1 and Sub 2 have hexagonal "vibration-canceling" cabinets and six drivers, with pairs mounted on three sides. The Sub 2, considerably larger than the Sub 1, is priced at $7499 and is the most expensive product Paradigm has ever made; the Sub 1 costs $3499. Both are available in cherry or high-gloss black.

The Sub 1’s six 8" drivers all feature Paradigm’s new Non-Limiting Corrugated (NLC) surround technology, which, they claim, gives the driver 50% more travel, which permits 100% more output (6dB). The same technology is also used throughout the Signature v.3 line of loudspeakers, which we featured in our September 10 coverage.

The Sub 2’s six drivers are all 10" units. Because of this drivers’ larger surround, its cone is already capable of enough travel, so there’s no need for the extra excursion that NLC would provide. Both subs will reach down to 20Hz, but the Sub 2 is said to play louder with less distortion than the Sub 1. Still, with those six 8" drivers working together, the Sub 1 should provide more than enough bass output for most listeners.

Each sub’s controls are conveniently located on one side, and digital signal processing (DSP) goes on inside. Both models use one of Paradigm’s proprietary Ultra-Class-D amplifiers. The Sub 1 is claimed to deliver 1700W continuously, and 3400W for dynamic peaks. The Sub 2 puts out 4500W continuously, and 9000W for dynamic peaks.

Paradigm says they’ve designed their new subwoofers to be "the best" in different ways. At $3499, the Reference Signature Sub 1 is designed to be the best for the price. At $7499, the Reference Signature Sub 2 is designed to be the best, period. Which will people buy? Obviously, price will be a consideration -- not everyone has $7500 to throw around. Then again, many do, and for those folks, size will also be a factor. Although the photos don’t show it well, the Sub 2 is about one-third larger than the Sub 1. In fact, when the two models are placed side by side, the Sub 1 looks almost petite -- which will allow it to fit less obtrusively in a room. Luckily, there’s still some time to decide -- the Sub 2 will begin shipping in October, the Sub 1 in November. []