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Not so long ago, subwoofers had it easy. All they had to do was dish out down-low muscle for home theaters. But nowadays, they're also called on to provide tight and musical bass accompaniment for SACDs and DVD-Audio discs. Paradigm's $349 sub, the ambidextrous PDR-10, can do it all.
Cosmetically, the PDR-10 is nothing special. The midsize cabinet measures 14.25 inches high, 13.5 inches wide, and 16 inches deep, and it's finished in vinyl-wrapped light cherry, rosenut, or black ash--all pretty standard fare for a budget sub. However, the unit's 33-pound heft tells you that Paradigm spent the money where it counts.
While most subwoofer manufacturers make do with generic, off-the-shelf amplifiers, the Canada-based Paradigm designs and builds its own fully discrete, high-power, and high-current amps; the PDR-10's delivers 100 watts. The company also crafts this sub's 10-inch woofer and cabinet. In a $349 model, all of this is a really big deal. By eliminating subcontractors' margins, Paradigm keeps the quality up and the prices down.
Flanking the rear-mounted port are the onboard amplifier's finned heat sink and a no-frills connectivity contingent that includes a single line-level RCA input and a pair of wire-clip speaker-level ins. Surprisingly, Paradigm left out a phase-reversal switch, but you can work around that omission by manually swapping the satellites' positive and negative speaker leads. Keeping your sub and your sats in phase is simple enough and vital to their synchronization. Another nitpick: The PDR-10's grille is nonremovable.
A subwoofer's performance isn't all about bass prowess--a sub stands or falls on its ability to blend with satellites. We evaluated the PDR-10 with a bunch of small speakers: Energy's little Take 5.2s, NHT's SB-1s, and Paradigm's very own Atoms.
On our test jazz CDs, we really heard the stand-up basses--instruments, not just booming sounds. Pitch definition was excellent; bass textures and "air" came across well. And boy oh boy, at the opening of Led Zeppelin's "Since I've Been Loving You," the rolling thunder of John Paul Jones's bass line fully exercised the PDR-10's woofer. As for full-tilt home-theater bombast, the Saving Private Ryan DVD shook our listening room with a vengeance. In other words, this sub is equally adept with music and home-theater hijinks.