SVS SBS-01 & PB12-NSD review - (English version) - Home Theater Forum and Systems -

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post #1 of 2 Old 05-28-07, 02:46 PM Thread Starter
L-Sound Rep
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Norway
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SVS SBS-01 & PB12-NSD review - (English version)

By Arve Åheim, March 2007.

Two heavy packages arrived at my doorstep, both so heavy that they should be handled by two men to get them safely inside. The larger of the two crates contained four identical speakers and a bigger center speaker. In the heaviest package there was a sub that you should be ready to spend a lot of time with.

Luckily the packaging has now been changed so that the speakers come as pairs, and the center speaker in a box of its own. This makes the task of handling them much easier. The speakers have the most humble finish imaginable – a lackluster black with rounded corners. There is no sign of any real wood veneers or piano gloss (though they are available in other finishes for those concerned about the aesthetics). On the other hand the finish is maintenance free and very easy to dust off, in comparison to piano gloss that can be a tough job to keep free from dust and fingerprints. All in all this is a functional and adept finish for a home cinema, but visually maybe not too impressive? Even though I was not able to open the speakers, they are heavy and well build. Judging from photos that I have seen it is clear that the money have been spent on a solid enclosure, quality drivers, a well constructed crossover and little else that would not affect the sound quality. The subwoofer sports the same finish as the speakers, a built in amplifier modestly rated at 325 watt RMS, and an impressive control panel. That this is not a sealed sub did not worry me the least bit. In the last few years I have seen so many examples of good ported constructions that I no longer feel that a sealed enclosure is a must for quality bass.

When it comes to wall mounts, the speakers are well equipped. First, there is a threaded hole for Omnimounts, and there is also a keyhole for hanging them directly onto the wall. I did not try out any of those alternatives, in my opinion only rarely will main speakers be able to deliver a satisfactory sound quality while wall mounted. I soon discovered that all speakers should be mounted just below ear height, and preferably with some distance to the wall (except the surrounds that are not sensitive to this). The center speaker got placed just below the screen, about 60 cm above the floor. This is a bit lower than what I would prefer for critical music listening, but more than adequate for cinema. The big and heavy PB12-NSD was placed a bit to the left, and all adjustments were left to the automatic setup routines in the Pioneer and the Harman Kardon receivers that were used for this review. I then left the speakers playing music on repeat for four days before I started listening to them. I began with classical SACD multi channel recordings. These incredible recordings will almost always sound splendid, but they are also capable of revealing several aspects with regard to sound quality that easily can be missed when watching movies.

What immediately caught my attention was that the perspective was a lot more distinct than what I was used to. My reasonably priced reference speakers from Mirage are designed to be wall mounted, and a proper placement of the SVS speakers makes it clear that the Omnisats sound stage are more a result of the design principle than the recording itself. I tried moving the SVS speakers so that they would be less in the way of my every day life, but the result was a deteriorated sound quality. Compared to the Omnisats the SVS speakers are critical with regard to placement.

The next thing I noticed was just how little the subs frequency area got emphasized, but still there was no doubt that it added a solid fundament. At first all settings were left to the receiver’s automatic procedures, but later when I tried to do some manual adjustments of the subwoofer I discovered just how much of the three dimensionality that was due to it. Any wrong adjustment affected the sound quality more than what I’m used to with equipment in this price range.

I then moved onto movies. SVS does really blow some price/performance expectations out of the water when it comes to this discipline. The sub was particularly impressive; whatever I served it delivered with great ease, but also with authority, extreme precision and detail. The sub just kept on impressing me more and more, this sub is able to do EVERYTHING! Fearsome dynamics from movies like Pearl Harbor were delivered just as impressively has I had dared to hope for, but it was even more fun to listen to multi channel music. So when I switched from surround to stereo it was with great expectations. Sadly the only stereo amp I had at hand was without pre out connections. For the tests sake I had to get the sub set up in my stereo system one way or another. I ended up using the emergency solution that many subwoofers are equipped with. Connect the speaker terminals on the amp to the subwoofer, and then pass on the signal minus the bass onto the speakers. This solution has NEVER worked satisfactory for me before, but the crossover in the SVS subwoofer managed to do the job with so little loss of sound quality that it is barely worth mentioning. This is a unique subwoofer, both with regard to flexibility and pure sound quality in the form of frequency range, dynamic contrast and SPL without at any time losing grip or control

I tried provoking the sub, but had to give up. Neither Kraftwerk, the 1812 overture nor Yello could make it do anything but what it was supposed to do. The best subwoofers I have ever tested have all been servo-based systems. Both Mirage’s top model and Velodyne’s top of the range models from the mid 90s made a deep impact in the sub bass region where you more feel than hear the sound. Those subs have real slugger qualities but the SVS has total control. It is one of the best subwoofers I have ever tested, even without regard to the price. We are then talking about “best” in the context that implies that the sub plays correctly, and not with a boasting dramatic effect. This is a high-end sub, and the price Lsound is asking for it borders on insanity. All other manufacturers should keep a close eye on what SVS are doing, because this is a new standard for subwoofers.

After a while my confidence in the sub grew so much that I felt like trying it out in my more expensive 2 channel setup. This proved to be a more cumbersome task, the crossover frequency was set as low as possible; 40 Hz. Since my Eros loudspeakers frequency response extends well below 30 Hz the subwoofer was relatively unnecessary. Sure, the sound got some more fundament when playing CDs with information in the subsonic frequencies, but I gave up the fine tuning because the sub proved to be needless with 99% of the music I played on both my CD and my record player. On the other hand, if you have a more normal pair of speakers which frequency response drops off in the 30-50 Hz range I do believe that this sub could be an interesting proposition in a 2 channel setup.

Front Speakers

I also tried the SBS speakers as a stereo pair without aid from the subwoofer. L-Sound told me that the speakers are designed to be used with a subwoofer, so this was an experiment outside of the speakers intended use. The speakers roll off in the 65-70 Hz range, and as a result the sound was lacking in the bass range. All in all they still sounded good, but in no discipline as good as my reference; Epos CLS 3. Even tough the Epos’ are more expensive; costing about 40% more then a pair of SBS-01 we are still talking about inexpensive speakers. It seemed like a good idea to experiment with a combination of the PB12-NSD subwoofer and the CLS3 speakers, but right away I was not able to get them as well integrated as the SVS speakers. Though, the potential has to be there, and I will give it another go at a later time.

Amplifier selection

In the first part of the review, I used the Pioneer VSX2116AV for amplification. Its MCACC automated setup adjusted all parameters with lightning speed, and had the system set up in no time. It did a fine job as an amplifier, and I was under the impression that it was a good match for the speakers. Later in my stereo setup a Luxman A737 did the amplification and it proved to be an excellent match with the speakers even though the subwoofer had to be fed directly from the speaker terminals. This went surprisingly smooth, and rarely before have I achieved such a good integration with a subwoofer in a stereo system. Finding a place in the room that worked for the sub went incredibly easy, and I could adjust the crossover frequency freely as long as I kept it between 60-90 Hz. A bit into the test period I received a Harman Kardon 445, and it made wonders for my total impression of the system. With a crossover frequency of 80 Hz and sound pressures, a bit too loud this was a splendid multi channel setup rivaling other systems at more than twice the price.


Even though the reasonably priced Pioneer does a splendid job, the SVS set has the qualities necessary to justify an investment in more expensive electronics. The jump from the VSX 2116 to the Harman Kardon AVR445 at twice the price proved that the SVS set deserves the best electronics that you can afford. The set is able to play loud and even then without any invasive coloration of the sound. In my ears, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to get significantly better bass then what this system can reproduce. You can probably achieve a bit more with better front speakers, but then you will have to be prepared to spend a lot more money. When it comes to the subwoofer most of you can forget to find anything better without having to both emptying your wallet and taking up a huge loan. The only negative aspects I can find with the sub are that it takes a bit of adjustment to integrate it, and its relatively large enclosure occupies a bit space. For those who worry about size SVS also have a smaller and 1300NOK cheaper model the PB10-NSD based on a 10” driver. With the SBS system, SVS have produced a multi channel system that should make other manufacturers concerned. The sub is good enough to best expensive servo based models, and still the asking price is incredibly low. The only real negative worth noting is its measurements of 45x52x62 cm (HxWxD) and therefore it will fill up your room with more than just bass.

Now on to a couple of alternative systems: A set consisting of two speakers and a subwoofer will cost you about 9000NOK. Very simple to set up and adjust, and without any competitors when it comes to bass. If you can hide away the subwoofer under a tablecloth you will have a minute hard rock playing system, and you will not need the most powerful amplifier in the world because the subwoofer will be doing most of the hard work. For acoustic recordings with many small details and three-dimensionality, you can probably do a bit better with another setup, but for music with lots of bass, muscle and loud volume, this system was made for it! If you are considering a system for movies or multi channel music, it is very hard to find any real competitors for the complete 5.1 SVS system. An important part of a surround speaker setup is a good centre channel, and the voice matching between the centre and the rest of the speakers. The SBS system delivers both and has a fundament of bass that no similarly priced system can compete with. Invest in some good speaker stands and the best amplifier that you can afford (considering how much you save on the speakers you should be able to get a good one). If you are looking for a subwoofer only there are many alternatives in this price range, but when compared to the PB12-NSD all I have tried are small and weak. If this subwoofer cannot satisfy your needs then I do not know which one can. Maybe one of SVS’ a bit more expensive models, (I will test the SB12-Plus as soon as I have the capacity) or spend 20-30000NOK instead of 6500NOK? The only negative worth noting is that if you are buying a 2.0 set and is planning to immerse yourself in details and perspective from classical or acoustic recordings, and you neither have any plans of adding a sub. You should then rather consider a pair of Epos ELS3, 300NOK more expensive than a pair of SBS-01’s, and worth it.

Worth mentioning is the importer L-Sounds offer for those who are interested in listening to the gear in the comfort of their own home. You get your order delivered at your doorstep, and you are not satisfied you are then free to return it within 45 days, no questions asked. A confident offer that I now know why L-sound can take the chance on extending to its customers.

Click here for the full and original review!

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post #2 of 2 Old 05-28-07, 02:53 PM
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Re: SVS SBS-01 & PB12-NSD review - (English version)

Nice review. Thanks, Dennis

L Dennis Doan, DC
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