PB12-NSD (2011 version) is on the way; Review, Video - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

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post #1 of 35 Old 09-22-11, 03:37 PM Thread Starter
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PB12-NSD (2011 version) is on the way; Review, Video

I just got my tracking number. Subscribe to this thread for video and reviews as I get it set up.

Update 10/3/2011: It arrived Thursday, but I was out of town all weekend, so other then a quick position, calibration, and a little bit of playing, I haven't quite put it through the paces yet. Unboxing vid up in the next day or two...even with the measurements, it was bigger than I imagined (and the grill added a couple inches).
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post #2 of 35 Old 09-22-11, 03:37 PM Thread Starter
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Re: PB12-NSD (2011 version) is on the way; Review, Video

Unboxing Video:
Republished from the Real HT Info Blog: http://realht.info/post/11192699859/...ubwoofer-vital

SVS PB12-NSD Subwoofer (2011)

Vital Specs
Price: $769 shipped, Charcoal Black
Size: 17” x 21” x 22” (25” with grill)
Stated Frequency Response: +/- 3dB 18-200hz
Available at: SVSound.com

Fronts: JBL Studio 310ii
Center: JBL Studio 38ii
Side Surrounds: JBL Studio 26ii
Room: 14x13 family room attached to a 19x14 kitchen with sloped ceilings of 9-14’, 5000+ cubic feet
Treatment: 2” panels on front wall and first reflection points, no bass trapping
AVR: Onkyo TX-SR706
Cables: Monoprice
Source: Home Built Windows HTPC via HDMI, Lossless Audio via VLC and Blu-ray via WinDVD 2010

Initial impressions:

The first thing that I noticed was the size. The SVS PB12-NSD should probably be moved by 2 people, but at 80+lbs in the box and 66lbs for the sub itself, I am able to move it myself. It arrived double boxed and well-padded. Though UPS seems to have been kind to my new addition, I have no fear that the packaging could have taken some abuse while leaving the contents unharmed.

My previous subwoofer, the small but mighty Aperion Bravus 8D, clocked in at 13.5 x 12 x 12”. By contrast, I had done my best to approximate the size of my new SVS sub prior to its arrival by wrapping a square end-table in plastic, giving me a big, black box as a subwoofer stand-in. Using this stunt double, I made my case to the household for why the SVS wouldn’t be “Too Big” and won. Still, when the 17 x 21 x 22 (25” with the grill) PB12-NSD finally found it’s new home next to my formally “big” JBL speakers, it looked Big.

The SVS was not as big as the JBL 4642A (30 x 48 x 24 with dual 18” drivers) that I installed in a 100 seat theater, and not even as big as the Elemental Designs A7 - 350 (20 x 28 x 24”) that I saw being constructed in ED’s Newton, Iowa factory, but this was the first “Big” subwoofer I had introduced into my home. I think my other components were a little intimidated. It’s also worth noting that the depth of the SVS enclosure was on par with those “Bigger” subwoofers, so if you don’t have several feet of depth (you’ll need a few extra inches for the amp controls, cables), you can get equivalent performance for less money in a smaller footprint with SVS’s PC series of cylinder subwoofers.

Beyond the size, the SVS was nicely finished, though it is not likely to turn heads with it’s understated style (perhaps by design). There is currently only one finish option available: a charcoal black vinyl (polymer laminate) finish that will look equally at home with black ash/oak or a glossy piano black finish, or simply disappear into a dark corner without drawing a lot of attention to itself. Even with the cherry and oak finishes available on SVS’s more advanced models, I probably would have still opted for the charcoal for it’s durability, cost savings, and in a futile attempt to camouflage the elephant.

The vinyl wrap’s only seam is at the bottom of the subwoofer, and the curved corners of the enclosure add a little style to the typical boxy subwoofer form. The SVS’s most defining feature, the powder-coated metal grill, is also curved, and attaches via sturdy steel posts. It offers substantial protection against pets, children, and carelessness, but didn’t do a lot for me aesthetically. The metal still appeared “hard” amongst the cloth and wood in my home theater, and the shape of the drivers could still be seen through the perforations. I’m typically a function over form guy, but in this case, an optional cloth grill (or cloth-covered metal grill) might have been more aesthetically pleasing for those who are careful around their equipment.

Stubby synthetic rubber spikes suitable for carpet or some hard surfaces came installed at the sub’s corners, though are threaded and can be removed. Hard wood floor owners will still likely want to get some broad rubber feet or a pad to protect their surface, but the included feet are the best compromise for all surfaces.

Other than the sub, the box contained only the power cord (suitably thick with no markings, but I’m guessing 14 AWG), a printed quick start guide, and a disc presumably containing an electronic version of the user’s manual (I had downloaded mine directly from the SVS site in anticipation of its arrival).


One thing I absolutely loathed about the Aperion, which they have remedied in their newest generation, was the digital “no knobs” interface. This made features of dubious usefulness like multiple gain and EQ settings possible, but made more common tasks like level, phase, and crossover selection cumbersome and unintuitive. SVS has adopted a similar one-knob approach with their more advanced subs, but fortunately, the PB12-NSD still has good old-fashioned knobs controlling the digital amp underneath making setup a breeze. For anyone needing High Pass delay or Room Gain Compensation, you’ll need to look at SVS’s Plus or Ultra series.

The back of the SVS PB12-NSD reveals 3 familiar knobs (Gain, Low Pass Crossover, and Phase). There is a power on/auto switch, plus a hard power on/off switch. You also have indicator lights for “power” and “limiter”. A set of unbalanced, RCA jacks handle input duties, and you have a choice of stereo line outs for chaining a series of subwoofers, and stereo hi-pass outs for using the sub’s internal crossover to bass manage a 2 channel system. There are no hi-level input/outputs, though most potential buyers of a subwoofer of this caliber have a modern AVR and will not miss them.

The quick start guide was more than adequate for a typical setup, suggesting a 10-12 o’clock position for the gain (I chose 12 o’clock, or half power), a 0 degree phase setting, and the crossover set to bypass. A quick nit-pick here: a center detent on the variable phase control would be a nice assurance that the sub was set at 0 degrees. As it was, I dialed it in as accurately as I could and figured my Audyssey calibration would take care of the rest. For folks with dual subs looking to set both at the same physical distance and phase settings, and then EQ as one sub, knowing with certainty that you’ve hit 0 degrees would be nice. This would be an argument in favor of the digital controls, I guess.

I positioned my sub in between my main speakers on my front wall without too much placement fuss. I’ll spend more time dialing in placement once I get Room EQ Wizard up and running on my HTPC. Using the recommended settings, I ran a quick, 6-position Audyssey MultEQ to set phase and level. Even with the sub’s gain at half power, my AVR cut the sub -6.5dB to hit it’s targeted 75dB output. Even in my large, open room, there seems to be plenty of horsepower under the hood.

Initial Listening Impressions - Movies:

There is nothing subtle about Transformers: Dark of the Moon, especially not its audio effects. So, I suffered through the banality of Michael Bay’s latest thumbed-nose towards meaningful storytelling just to see what the SVS could do. While I questioned the random and meaningless 20Hz sweeps, over-ripe helicopter fly-overs, and physics-defying destruction, the SVS didn’t. It just reproduced them in a way that could only be described as “effortless”, even at reference volumes in my open space. While my ears gave me the impression that the lowest frequencies (around 20HZ and lower) were being attenuated slightly, there was never any sense of strain or distortion from the driver. Where my smaller subwoofers had succumbed to the unrealistic expectations I placed upon them in a less dignified way, when the SVS met the 1% of sound cues it couldn’t reproduce, it bowed out gracefully without drawing attention to itself.

A sustained sine-wave or frequency sweep will reveal some port noise around 20Hz, but even in a Michael Bay bombast, the SVS performed cleanly. Pipe organ aficionados will want to consider SVS’s Ultra series. I’m interested to play around with positioning a little more, including corner-loading, to see if the output in the lowest octave (15-30Hz) can be further reinforced in my setup.

Initial Listening Impressions - Music:

One thing I had always appreciated in the Aperion is that, in its range, it always sounded accurate and clean. Most recorded music may not dig into the deepest octave of audible sound, but it is far easier to note reproduction flaws in a 5-string bass, big drum beat, or booming vocal than in a car crash or explosion. My biggest fear in moving from a sealed sub to a ported sub was trading depth/range for accuracy. Fortunately, my fears were unfounded with the SVS.

I pulled out some of my standards. Kick drums and low bass runs on Feist’s The Reminder were weighty while remaining realistic. The bottom dwelling 5th string and resonant breakbeat drums of Soul Coughing’s El Oso filled my listening space without dominating the mix. The schizophrenic rhythms of Aphex Twin’s Richard D. James Album, despite being largely synthesized, retained an organic quality. Overall, the SVS proved that it was no unrefined BOOM-box, but instead, a deft and musical performer.

Up To This Point:

Initially, I am very pleased with the performance of the SVS, and look forward to spending more quality time with it as I complete my review. Stay tuned for Part 2 with more in-depth discussion of performance, and my conclusion. If you have specific questions about the SVS PB12-NSD that you would like answered, please leave them in the comments below.

Last edited by Dale Rasco; 10-10-11 at 01:20 PM.
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post #3 of 35 Old 09-22-11, 03:38 PM Thread Starter
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Re: PB12-NSD (2011 version) is on the way; Review, Video

Full Video Review:
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post #4 of 35 Old 09-22-11, 03:38 PM Thread Starter
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Re: PB12-NSD (2011 version) is on the way; Review, Video

Reserved for Update 3
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post #5 of 35 Old 10-07-11, 08:40 AM
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Re: PB12-NSD (2011 version) is on the way; Review, Video

I am thinking of getting 1 of these so i look foward to your review
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post #6 of 35 Old 10-07-11, 09:26 AM Thread Starter
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Re: PB12-NSD (2011 version) is on the way; Review, Video

Sorry for the delay; work's been keeping me busy. Haven't even watched a fullovie or listened to a full album on it yet. Unboxing video goes up tonight, and I'm working on the review this weekend.
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post #7 of 35 Old 10-08-11, 02:40 PM Thread Starter
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Re: PB12-NSD (2011 version) is on the way; Review, Video

First half of review and unboxing video posted above. Please leave any questions or comments in this thread, and I'll try to get them worked into the 2nd part of the review.
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post #8 of 35 Old 10-10-11, 07:12 PM
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Re: PB12-NSD (2011 version) is on the way; Review, Video

Very interesting! I wish I could see how it compares, size-wise, to the Emotiva.

And I would REALLY love to know how it performs compared to the Emo... or, perhaps better yet, how it compares to TWO Emotivas!
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post #9 of 35 Old 10-10-11, 07:19 PM Thread Starter
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Re: PB12-NSD (2011 version) is on the way; Review, Video

Well, the Emotiva is going to be about 3" larger in each dimension then the Aperion, so that shot towards the end will give you a visual. I would also agree that a performance shootout would be great. In theory, the SVS should still dig a little deeper, though overall output could be a close call.
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post #10 of 35 Old 10-12-11, 03:32 PM
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Re: PB12-NSD (2011 version) is on the way; Review, Video

Is there any hint of white noise when low pass control is disabled? I have this new PB12 and noise can be heard at least to 19.7 ft away. Like sub would play some low frequency. This occurs even only power cord plugged. Noise is smaller when low pass is at 30Hz. And does it give some bang/snap when main power is turned on? Does limiter light flashes one time when power is turned on and off?
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