Paradigm DSP-3400 14-inch Powered Subwoofer - Product Review

Paradigm DSP-3400 Powered Subwoofer
Paradigm DSP-3400 Powered Subwoofer. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Original Publish Date: 05/27/2008

Introduction To The Paradigm DSP-3400

The Paradigm DSP-3400 Powered Subwoofer delivers powerful, clear, tight, and undistorted deep bass response from the combination of its large front facing 14-inch driver, dual front ports, and 300 watts of continuous power from its built-in amplifier. In addition, the DSP-3400 offers an array of controls that allow the user to tweak the performance parameters to specific room environments and listening tastes.

To find out whether this subwoofer is right for your system, keep on reading...

Features and Specifications

1. Design: bass-reflex, built-in amplifier, dual high-velocity low-turbulence resistive ports, 14-inch diameter single driver.

2. Amplifier Output: 300 watts RMS Sustained/900 watts Dynamic Peak.

3. The Amplifier Design Features Automatic On/Off function - when you turn rest of system on, the subwoofer is active

4. Low-Frequency Extension down to 19 Hz. Subwoofer Cutoff Frequency Variable 35 Hz - 150 Hz; Bypass option.

5. Bass Driver (14 inches) CAP™ Carbon/Aramid-Fiber Polypropylene Cone, ceramic/ferrite magnet, 4-layer voice-coil.

6. Input Connections: Low-Level Input (RCA Line Input) - This subwoofer features a stereo low-level input. However, if you only have a single subwoofer line output on your receiver (which is the most common), you can simply use an RCA Y-adapter to connect the single line to the DSP-3400.

7. The included controls are as follows:

Subwoofer Level Control - This allows you to set the subwoofer volume output. This is also commonly referred to as a Gain Control.

Subwoofer Cut-Off Frequency Control (Crossover) - This control sets the point at which you want the subwoofer to produce low-frequency sounds, against the ability of the satellite speakers to reproduce low-frequency sounds.

This control is also commonly referred to as a Crossover Control. This control is defeatable if using the subwoofer crossover control on a Receiver.

Phase Control - This control matches the in/out subwoofer driver motion to the satellite speakers. This control is continuously variable from 0 to 180 degrees.

8. Dimensions: Height 22-1/4 in (56.5 cm), Width 15-3/4 in (40 cm), Depth 20-15/16 in (53.2 cm), Weight: 64.8lb (29.40kg).

9. Finishes Available: Cherry, Rosenut, Black Ash

10. Suggested Price: $899

Set-up and Installation

For this review, I opted for the common subwoofer pre-out connection available from several Home Theater Receivers (see Hardware section of this review) that is used in the majority of home theater setups.

Also, I placed the subwoofer in the front of the room, just to the right of the front right channel speaker in each of the home theater systems used.

The DSP-3400 was tested in two rooms with the following dimensions: 20ft x 15ft, and 12ft x 12ft.

The next step was to hear how the subwoofer sounded in its "straight-out-of-box" default settings. Although I was getting powerful and deep bass response, it was apparent that further adjustment was needed.

LFE Performance

The Paradigm DSP-3400 is a large, heavy unit with a large 14-inch driver, complemented by dual-front facing ports, and powerful built-in low-frequency amplifier.

The connections and controls are on the rear panel.

The DSP-3400 has several adjustments, including Phase (which matches the in/out subwoofer driver motion to the satellite speakers), Gain (volume level), and Crossover (sets the point at which you want the subwoofer to produce low-frequency sounds, against the ability of the satellite speakers to reproduce low-frequency sounds).

The controls allow matching to a variety of satellite speaker types. One downside: The controls are on the back of the subwoofer panel, and there is no remote control that allows adjustments to be made from your listening position.

The DSP-3400 produced excellent, deep, tight bass. Although it is very large, it was able to produce excellent bass even at low volume levels. The DSP-3400 subwoofer proved to be a very good sonic match for the rest of the speakers. Blu-ray soundtracks with LFE effects, such as Master and Commander, Alien vs Predator: Requiem, The Golden Compass, and Cloverfield, and notable standard DVD soundtracks from U571 and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy really showed off the power of the DSP-3400. On these tracks, the DSP-3400 showed no strain, fatigue, or drop-off at the lowest frequencies, producing LFE effects at full impact.

As a music subwoofer, the DSP-3400 reproduced clean bass response on several notable bass-notable cuts, such as the famous sliding bass riff on Heart's Magic Man, the Eric Kunzel/Telarc recording of the 1812 Overture, and Pink Floyd's SACD multi-channel mix on Dark Side of the Moon.

One of the things that stood out for me was how forceful and clean, but not exaggerated, the bass response was even at low volume levels. This was especially brought out listening to Spyro Gyra's Collection CD at low volume while I was typing this review.

I found that in terms of real world listening, that the DSP-3400 exhibited very little, if any, unnatural low-frequency drop off at any volume level, and excellent recovery time between dynamic bass peaks.

What I Liked About The Paradigm DSP-3400

There was a lot to like about the DSP-3400 including:

1. Excellent deep bass response - tight and clear.

2. Impressive Power Output. The DSP-3400 can handle the most dynamic low-frequency sound passages without exhibiting fatigue or drop-off.

3. Excellent low-frequency response at any volume level.

4. Front Firing Sealed Design - Dual Front ports provided for bass extension.

5. Good Price Point for this class of subwoofer.

What I Didn't Like About The Paradigm DSP-3400

1. No on-board provisions for connecting a second subwoofer.

2. No wireless remote control capability - this would make adjustment easier from listening position.

3. To get the best tweaking result, you need two people to make the best adjustments; one at the sub and one at the listening position with a sound meter.

4. No way to save separate settings for Music and Movie use.

5. Very large and very heavy. Do not lift - use a hand truck or dolly.

More Info

The Paradigm DSP-3400 Powered Subwoofer delivers power, clarity, tightness, and undistorted deep bass response from the combination of its large front facing 14-inch driver, dual front ports, and 300 watts of continuous power from its built-in amplifier. In addition, the DSP-3400 offers an array of controls on the rear panel that allow the user to tweak the performance parameters to specific room environments and listening tastes.

One misgiving I have on more expensive subwoofers, such as this one, is that it would be desirable to have remote control capability for the control settings. This would allow the listener to adjust the subwoofer from the actual listening position.

In addition, it would be nice to be able to save separate settings for either movie or music listening use. This would give added flexibility.

Overall, I was impressed with the DSP-3400. It easily outperformed the comparison subs used in this review. Its bass response is excellent at both loud and soft volume levels and is priced right.

At $899, this definitely is not a subwoofer for the bargain hunter ​but is a great value for the higher-end user that is looking for a subwoofer that can really pump out clear and tight deep bass in any size room without spending a fortune.

However, although this subwoofer sounds great in small, medium, and large sized rooms, it is physically very large, which will definitely dominate a small room environment. Also, if you need to move it around, use a hand truck or a dolly as it weighs about 65 pounds.

Taking all into consideration, I give the Paradigm DSP-3400 at rating of 4.5 out of 5 Stars.

For a close-up look at the physical characteristics, features, and controls of the DSP-3400, check out my Paradigm DSP-3400 Photo Gallery.

NOTE: The DSP-3400 is no longer offered by Paradigm, but may be available on the secondary market. For a look at Paradigm's current subwoofer offerings, check out their Official Subwoofer Page. Also, for more subwoofer brand and model suggestions, refer to my periodically updated Subwoofer Listings Page.

Additional Components Used In This Review

Home Theater Receivers: the Onkyo TX-SR705 7.1 Receiver (used in 5.1 channel mode), Harman Kardon AVR147 (5.1 channels).

DVD players: OPPO Digital DV-983H and OPPO Digital DV-980HD Upscaling DVD players with DVD-Audio/SACD playback capability.

Blu-ray Disc/HD-DVD Players: Toshiba HD-XA1 HD-DVD player, Sony BDP-S1 Blu-ray Player, and LG BH100 Blu-ray/HD-DVD Combo player.

Loudspeaker Systems Used With The DSP-3400:

System #1: Klipsch F2s, 2 Klipsch B-3s, Klipsch C-2 Center .

System #2: 2 JBL Balboa 30's, JBL Balboa Center Channel, 2 JBL Venue Series 5-inch Monitor speakers.

Additional Subwoofers used for Comparison: Klipsch Synergy Sub10 Powered Subwoofer , Polk Audio PSW10 Powered Subwoofer.

TV/Monitors: A Westinghouse Digital LVM-37w3 1080p LCD Monitor, Syntax LT-32HV 32-inch LCD TV.

Level checks for speaker setups were done using a Radio Shack Sound Level Meter

Software Used

Blu-ray Discs Alien vs Predator: Requiem, Across The Universe, Chronicles of Narnia - The Lion, The Witch, and Wardrobe, Cloverfield, Crank, I Robot, Master and Commander, Ratatouille, and Shakira - Oral Fixation Tour.

HD-DVDs 300, Batman Begins, Beowulf, Bourne Ultimatum, Serenity, and Transformers.

Standard DVDs House of the Flying Daggers, The Cave, Kill Bill - Vol 1/2, V For Vendetta, U571, Lord of Rings Trilogy, and Master and Commander

CDs: The Beatles - LOVE, Blue Man Group - The Complex, Eric Kunzel - 1812 Overture, HEART - Dreamboat Annie, Joshua Bell - Bernstein - West Side Story Suite, Lisa Loeb - Firecracker, Nora Jones - Come Away With Me, and Spyro Gyra- Collection.

DVD-Audio discs: Queen - Night At The Opera/The Game, Eagles - Hotel California, and Medeski, Martin, and Wood - Uninvisible, Sheila Nicholls - Wake.

SACD discs: Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon, Steely Dan - Gaucho, The Who - Tommy.