HTS Moderator , Reviewer
SVS PB1000 and SB1000 Subwoofer
The subject of this review is the SVS PB1000 and SB1000. No, that's not a typo - this review will encompass two different models. However, it won't be a "shoot out" between them, it's more like a detailed analysis of what each can and can't do on an individual basis. The reason being is that SVS targets these subwoofer at two different users, so a head-to-head comparison is akin to likening apples and oranges; it would prove nothing. So why bother having a dual (as opposed to duel) review then? I'm glad you asked...
When SVS released the PB1000 and SB1000 recently I contacted Ed Mullen, the Director of Technology and Customer Relations, and asked for a PB1000 to review. My assumption was that model would be the one they sold the most of, seeing as how it was measured down to an incredible 19Hz. After mentioning I had a PB1000 on several forums I started getting people asking me about the SB1000 as well, which I had never even seen. After answering that same inquiry perhaps a half dozen times a thought occurred to me; "what if I reviewed both of them at the same time?", so I contacted Ed again and asked what he thought of the idea. Not too many people are aware of this but Ed Mullen used to review subwoofers himself, so he understands how this works from both sides. He seemed quite enthused with my proposal, so an SB1000 was on it's way to me less than a week later. Now that I had both units I needed to figure out exactly how I was going to pull this off.
I knew right away I was going to try my hardest to prevent this from becoming a face-off between them, but that still left me in the position of having to determine what the best approach was going to be. Thankfully it wasn't too long before I realized the answer was staring me in the face; while breaking them in it became apparent they weren't aimed at the same target audience, because of their different personalities, so I decided to use the identical material and test sequences but to consider each in relation to their respective market segment. While some comparison is inevitable what follows are mostly independent assessments contained within a single review.
All references from here on out will always be PB first then SB second (alphabetical order). I did find a lot of shared platform between the two units -- which should be no surprise really -- so where PB and SB is not specifically mentioned it means that item applies to both. Let's start with the particulars and go from there...
The PB1000 is a bass reflex subwoofer which measures in at a rather large 18.75"x15"x19.25 (HWD, including grill and feet), yet weighs a mere 44 pounds. The 10" driver is front firing, as is the over-sized 3.5" port. The Class D amp is rated at 300 watts RMS, 720 watts peak. The quoted frequency response is 19Hz-270Hz at +/-3dB, measured at 2 meters ground plane. For a single 10" driver those are simply remarkable numbers. SVS is generally known for being truthful with their measurements too, so it's quite possible that is what the PB1000 is actually capable of.
The SB1000 is the antithesis of the PB1000; it's an acoustic suspension subwoofer that measures just 13.5"x13"x14" (HWD, including grill and feet) and weighs only 27 pounds. To say the SB1000 is tiny would be an understatement - you truly have to see it to believe that someone can make a legitimate subwoofer this small. The 12" driver is forward firing and almost completely covers the entire front panel. The same Class D amp is used on both units so it's also rated at 300 watts RMS, 720 watts peak. The quoted frequency response is 24Hz-270Hz at +/-3dB, measured at 2 meters ground plane.
Both subwoofers are $499, which includes domestic US ground shipping. SVS, being an Internet Direct (ID) company, sells most of their products from the company's website. They also have a huge global presence, something very few other American based ID companies have. Currently, the countries SVS has established distribution channels in are Australia, Austria, Benelux, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Korea, Macau, Malaysia, Norway, Philippines, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, and the United Kingdom. That's an impressive list.
The warranty is 5 years, which isn't uncommon for a driver but it is quite generous on an amp. That's just the beginning of it though because there are a number of additional benefits which the company calls the SVS Bill Of Rights. These are designed to not only differentiate SVS in the crowded ID marketplace, but to also mollify any fears someone might have about buying expensive products sight unseen. The Bill Of Rights contains the following:
- 45 day return policy
- 90 day defective exchange
- 1 year "no lemon" guarantee
- 1 year performance guarantee
- 60 day guarantee pricing
- 1 year trade up policy
SVS appears determined to ensure your subwoofer arrives unmolested, in spite of the fact most delivery companies seem intent that the contrary occur. Not only were these double boxed -- which I expect at this point -- but the outer box was twice the thickness of a standard shipping carton. The subwoofers were protected by styrofoam blocks tucked into all 4 corners of the top and bottom, which were in turn attached to a sheet of cardboard. Each unit was wrapped in a clear plastic bag. The only accessories are the owners manual and an IEC style power cord.
Since I was in the somewhat unique position of having both models available to me I ended up with a perspective few other customers ever will; being able to see the PB1000 and SB1000 together, which lent itself to a few moments of levity. When placed next to each other these two take on the subwoofer equivalent of comparing a poodle and rottweiler, which presents quite a stark contrast. Ironically the larger subwoofer has the smaller driver and vice-a-versa, making for a unique appearance when the grills are removed and they're facing you.
The SB1000 appears to have no historical rival at SVS, so it doesn't have any reputation to live up to. The PB1000, on the other hand, has some very big shoes to fill. At one time in their history SVS sold two similarly configured and highly regarded models -- the vaunted PB10-ISD and PB10-NSD -- exceptional values that to this day are spoken about with reverence. Those two cast a long shadow so without question the PB1000 has a more difficult row to hoe, but it seems SVS came pretty close to replicating those earlier models and has created what most would probably consider a worthy successor.
One manual covers both units, and thankfully it's a good one. Shaped like a small booklet, and printed on thick stock, it contains just about every piece of information you might need. Even those unfamiliar with setting up a subwoofer should have no problem finding details regarding hook up, placement options and a description of every single control. The font chosen is very legible, but perhaps a touch on the small side in a few spots.
There is only one cabinet finish, a black ash vinyl wrap which is pretty typical of budget-oriented subwoofers. The corners have large radiused edges, giving a nice overall appearance. The PB1000 sounds rather hollow when given the proverbial knuckle rap test, while the SB1000 is a little more solid. Since its cabinet is pretty much filled to the brim by the amp and driver that didn't come as a shock to me.
The front panel of both is 1" MDF, while the other panels are .75" MDF. The cabinets are lined with 2" sheets of damping material, stapled in place; on the SB it's attached to the left and right sides, along with the top and bottom. The PB is the same with the exception that there's no damping on the top panel. The PB has a shelf brace about 2/3rds of the way up from the bottom panel, which is also used to hold the 3.5" port. The round port is a full 21" long and curves up toward the back of the driver. It's flared on both ends to help minimize noise.
The grills are stout pieces, made from what appears to be a .75" plastic-like material. They fit tightly and never once vibrated. There's a discrete SVS logo centered along the bottom edge. The material used is very transparent and was applied perfectly. I was unable to find any noticeable imperfections on the grills or cabinets of either unit.
The LED to indicate power is in the upper left corner of the front panel, under the grill. Usually I like that better than when it's hidden away on the back where it can't be seen, but in this case I'm not so sure of that. When in standby mode the LED is red and when active it's blue -- which is OK so far -- but it's somewhat piercing, which isn't alright. I don't happen to be one of those people who watch in a dark room, yet even I found it a bit distracting. If you do tend to watch TV in a darker environment you might find it necessary to cover it with a piece of electrical tape or something.
The drivers are a long throw design utilizing what appears to be a polypropylene cone, along with a huge half-roll rubber surround. They're only held in place by wood screws though. There are dual ferrite magnets, a vented pole piece with a bump-out and an FEA (Finite Element Analysis) optimized motor. The frame is stamped steel, with the overall feel and appearance being of a light duty design. Based upon some of the photos I found of the previous generation PB10-ISD/NSD drivers this one doesn't appear to be as robust. One curiosity I noted was there are two sets of wires going to both the positive and negative terminals from the amp. I'm not sure what the purpose of that was.
The STA-300D amp is a variation of the renowned Sledge design SVS has been using for a few years. They've gained a very favorable reputation for their performance and reliability, so you can rightly expect this one to follow suit. It has all the expected dials and switches; volume, phase, 50Hz-160Hz LPF knob, auto/standby, power, etc. There's also a 12v trigger, which isn't typical on a budget subwoofer. Inputs are the standard LFE and a pair of line level (RCA cable), along with 5 way high level (speaker wire). There's also a pair of line level outs but no XLR.
The Sledge amp has an advanced DSP signal processor, a fact SVS is rightly proud of. For a subwoofer that costs $499 I would tend to agree that it is an uncommon feature to have, especially when each model had its respective curve tuned specifically to take advantage of its individual strengths and limitations. An excerpt from something Ed Mullen posted on a forum explains it in a more eloquent fashion:
"What makes this interesting is that many competitive subwoofer manufactures do not use DSP's; they attempt to implement filters and limiters in an analog system, which significantly reduces their precision in adjustment, limiting the quality of their EQ system. This also means that the limiting filters can be 'beat' by transients in source material which leads to artifacts, or even damage to the subwoofer. Even worse, some subwoofers don’t have any EQ systems. With a non-linear driver, those kinds of subwoofers are just loud boom boxes."
Two things I thought warranted special mention were the amazingly low power consumption when the amp is in standby mode -- a mere 0.5 watts -- and the action of the dials. As it turns out the control knobs are really digital actuators which made for solid and noise-free adjustment. They have a precision feel to their movements and even small detents that make precise adjustments a breeze.
My living room is 13x17x8 (1768 CF), so it's not terribly large. The main seating position is approximately 11 feet from the subwoofer. All testing was done after the unit had been broken in for at least 15 hours.
SVS has a reputation for building subwoofers that often get described using words like 'poised' and 'unflappable' and these two are, for the most part, no exception. I was able to make the PB1000 stumble a few times -- which was a little surprising -- but only once did the SB1000 lose its composure. Given how hard I was pushing that's perhaps more of an accomplishment than it might seem; I deliberately set out to test SVS's reputation of infallible DSP programming, so the fact that I was barely able to upset either of them is pretty remarkable.
There's no question the PB1000 has more presence, depth and output than the SB1000 does. The PB is actually capable of producing some "feel", not an insignificant feat given the small driver it utilizes. The SB wasn't able to do that, but it came close on a few occasions. The SB amp gain had to be set at 3 o'clock in order for it to keep up with my mains, while the PB accomplished the same task set at 2 o'clock. I preferred the overall texture and richness of the PB over that of the SB. Is any of this a surprise to you thus far? Probably not, because small subwoofers will always struggle, but don't take that to mean I didn't like the SB1000.
Truth be told, it took me a while to warm up to the SB -- partially due to the fact it seemed to require a longer break in period -- but once it started to bloom I found myself falling for this dinky overachiever. More to the point, the SVS SB1000 is amazing for its size. When you look at this thing you almost can't help but laugh and think "That's a subwoofer? Are you kidding me?". Put in a blu-ray with a pounding soundtrack though and the laughter will stop, because it's probably going to leave you amazed. It does not look like it would be able to produce any perceptible amount of bass, yet it proved to me that it absolutely could. The fact that it's virtually imperturbable is simply icing on the cake.
Neither unit is difficult to live with on a day-to-day basis, but part of that is my own proclivities. I have always tended toward detail and clarity over bombast, even as a teen. When my friends and I were getting our first cars one of the things you often spend the most money on is the stereo system. However, while they were all buying rubbish like Jensen I opted for names such as Alpine, Infinity, Blaupunkt, et al. They frequently deride me for paying twice as much, yet only getting half the volume capability. I would simply smile, comfortable in the knowledge that I had levels of precision and accuracy they could never comprehend. To this very day I'm the exact same; I will gladly give up some measure of total output for definition, which is why I love the fact that companies like SVS have the same ethos.
I run each test scene twice; once while seated in my normal listening position, and then a second time while sitting a few feet from the subwoofer. This allows me to hear it as I normally would, yet also affords me the opportunity to determine if the subwoofer is straining even the slightest bit. Both tests are run at the same volume level, which is slightly above what I would normally use.
Lord Of The Rings (blu-ray)
- PB - The Mount Doom volcanic rumble in the first scene was powerful, with a pretty realistic tone. The various impacts during the battle portion -- marching troops, sword fights, etc. -- had nice authority. The bass sweep when Isildur cuts off Saurons hand and the ring falls to the ground was good, but not as potent as I thought it would be. Same for when Isildur picks up the ring; the bass sweep was evident but not particularly deep. When the rumble occurs as the Balrog first starts to make its presence known in The Bridge Of Khazad Doom scene the PB was more powerful then the SB, but the latter was cleaner and more precise. As the staircases start to crumble and fall into the depths the PB was potent and realistic. When the Balrog jumps out of the cavern behind the Fellowship he landed with good impact.
- SB - The rumble from Mount Doom sounded realistic enough, but the battle lacked sufficient depth to really bring it to life for me. The bass sweeps when the ring hits the ground and when Isildur picks it up were barely more than audible, without much discernible tactility. The initial Balrog rumble was clear and very precise, but when he lands behind the Fellowship there was no sensation of impact beyond the sound. Interestingly the SB1000 never seemed out of control, even when I pushed the volume to 0dB. It just kept plugging along, which is nothing short of astonishing.
War Of The Worlds (blu-ray)
- PB - The lightning strikes from In The Storm had nice authority. The Machine Emerges is the scene everyone knows though, and the one where your subwoofer starts to get pushed. The PB1000 was sending a few ripples into my chair, more than you would expect from a 10" driver. It wasn't quite able to create the whole "world is falling apart" effect, but it came pretty close. The Heat Ray had sufficient kick to make it believable, with the house explosion at the end of that scene being even better. The bridge destruction during The Escape was very believable; it exploded with force. The pre-crash rumble during At The Window was good, but the plane crash was even better with a loud and almost palpable amount of bass. At the beginning of the Hudson Ferry scene the Tripod's bellow was powerful, with some bass waves sent into my chair. The motors from the ferry had a solid growl, emulating what it must have felt like to be standing on that dock behind them. The dull thud from the blasts in the background at the onset of The Battle Begins droned a little, but had a nice discharge effect. The bazooka and canon rounds had a good kick to them, hitting you in the chest. The PB definitely had percussion subtleties the SB wasn't able to muster during this movie.
- SB - The lightning strikes had virtually nothing of substance, with very good sound but little in the way of discernible impact. During The Machine Emerges the cacophony of rumbles, pavement buckling and building collapses had more clarity with the SB than the PB, but there was virtually no feel. Without that aspect the realism becomes a bit challenged. The Heat Ray took on a nice tone, with a deep pulse whenever the Tripod fired it. The house explosion at the end of the scene was solid, with a nice layering of sounds. When the bridge is demolished during The Escape I found myself a bit surprised with just how much the little SB was able to produce, seeing how that's probably the loudest passage of the entire movie. The At The Window pre-crash rumble was only passable, from a depth standpoint, as was the explosion when it finally crashes into the ground. The Tripod's bellow at the beginning of the Hudson Ferry scene had a wonderful sound and even sent a little vibration into my chair. The background reports from The Battle Begins were pretty solid, with a nice texture. The bazooka and canon rounds could have used more of a punch to make them believable, but the dynamics were very good nonetheless.
- PB - The first explosion you hear in Scene 5 had solid feel with a good secondary rumble. When the Statute Of Liberty's head is tossed onto the street and slides past our doomed group of partiers it hits with a nice shockwave. Just about that time you catch a glimpse of the beast, and his footsteps hit the group with a strong jolt that the PB handled perfectly. When the Empire State Building gets destroyed I felt a few ripples of bass, but I also heard the PB1000 starting to protest a little. Nothing dramatic, but it did sound as though it was straining to produce some of what it was being asked to. The helicopters hovering overhead -- just before the Brooklyn Bridge gets cut in two by the creature -- had good authority, with the rotor blades producing a convincing whump, whump, whump sound.
- SB - That initial explosion in Scene 5 lacked sufficient power to make it seem like a real explosion. When the Statue Of Liberty's head came crashing down in front of all the revelers it didn't strike fear in me, which it really should have done. The beast's first footsteps did have some pretty decent impact, but unlike the PB the SB wasn't fazed by the destruction of the Empire State Building. It didn't have the depth either, so the sword cuts both ways in this case. The rotor blades had a cleaner sound than I heard from the PB, but the realism suffered a little due to the lack of depth.
Underworld: Awakening (blu-ray)
- PB - Scene 9 opens with the hybrid child Eve cutting her arm with a scalpel, thoroughly amazed by the fact that she instantly heals. There's a subtle music score playing in the background that had wonderful detail. When the underground lair of the Vampire clan is about to be invaded there are huge impacts from the encroaching Lycans which cause subterranean vibrations that, while lacking a bit of definition, had a very strong presence. The gunshots as the battle ensues had a solid kick to them, with a good sense of directness. Once the attack had subsided the huge Lycan makes its existence known by the massive reverberations from its footsteps. The PB1000 produced them with tremendous impact for a 10" driver. There was some minor port noise observed, but that probably would not have been noticeable if you weren't specifically listening for it as I was.
- SB - The musical score that played while Eve was cutting her arm had less punch than it did with the PB, but the definition was better. Same with the impacts prior to the Lycans descending upon the underground lair; I like the accuracy of the SB better than the PB, but the latter had a more percussive effect. The gunshots during the battle sequence had excellent precision and clarity. The huge Lycan's footsteps were not sufficiently intimidating, but they were still very solid with a nice "thump" to them.
After all the testing had concluded I checked the amp on each unit to see how hot it had gotten, but they weren't much more than a little warm. Considering how hard I was pushing that's rather impressive. No wonder SVS backs their amps for 5 years.
I used a combination of lossy and lossless material -- MP3, WAV and CD's for the most part -- to judge how musical the SVS subwoofers were.
Jonny Lang - Lie To Me (CD)
- PB - The kick drum has a lot of the focus on this recording and the PB1000 produced it with wonderful clout - during parts of this song I could actually feel it in my chest. The bass guitar and drums were both clear and distinct.
- SB - There was a wonderful tone from the kick drum, but not quite enough punch for my tastes. The definition between the bass and drums was really good, with virtually everything sounding smooth and clean. It was easy to discern the various elements.
Jonny Lang - Hit The Ground Running (CD)
- PB - Rob Stupka's opening kick drum hit hard and fast, just the way it should have. The funky bass line had good balance and detail. The PB1000 kept up with the odd time signature of this song very well.
- SB - Similar to Lie To Me, the opening kick drum of this song was very detailed but lacked the impact I'm looking for. The aforementioned odd time signature of the rhythm section didn't faze the SB1000 one iota; it kept right up with the changes, even when I cranked it to -10dB.
MSG (McAuley/Schenker Group) - Eve (CD)
One of the many bands Michael Schenker was in, including the pioneering rock groups UFO and the Scorpions. He went a little 'hair metal' for a while, but thankfully he still kept most of his edge during that time period. The M.S.G. album was the last from the group, and it was the best in my opinion. The song Eve has a rather simple yet traditional rock beat, so it's not terribly difficult for a subwoofer. I chose it because the mix is quite good for such an old recording (1992), with strong emphasis on the rhythm section. Turning up this song is not optional.
- PB - Eve exploded out of the gate on the PB1000; right away it was pounding out the bass, even at -15dB. I have nothing but nice things to say here; this song came across as raucous, outrageous and over the top, just like it was meant to be.
- SB - James Kottak's kick drum showed solid dynamics -- especially the triplets toward the very end -- while the bass guitar had nice detail, although it could have used a bit more heft. Clarity was spot on throughout, and like most every thing else I listened to on the SB1000, volume didn't seem to fluster it.
Joe Bonamassa - Bird On A Wire (CD)
By this point I was really starting to crank up the volume, so it was time for a little blues. This is one of my new favorite bass heavy test songs, which figured to give these two subwoofers a workout. The opening minute or so is beginning to wear on me though -- because it's a little too bizarre for my tastes -- but the middle and end has some wonderfully deep, rich bass guitar.
- PB - This one let the PB1000 shine; it was pumping out the bass, almost taking on a bit of live/concert feel due to the elevated volume level I was listening at (-10dB). The song itself is not terribly complex, so there isn't a lot of intricate work for a subwoofer here, but I sure did like the way it sounded.
- SB - The SB deftly navigated the slow, heavy blues riff with tremendous detail, but the depth just wasn't there in sufficient quantity to make me feel fully engaged. I liked the clarity better than the PB though - there was a little more separation between the various instruments.
Motley Crue - Kick Start My Heart (CD)
Since I was already pushing the volume limits why not just cut to the chase and break out some Crue? And what better song to use then Kick Start My Heart? As with most Motley songs Tommy Lee's drums are recorded hotter than Nikki Sixx's bass guitar, so I primarily focused my attention on the former.
- PB - Tommy's kick drums did just that, kicked. I was being pounded every time he stepped on that pedal now that I had the volume pushed all the way up to 0dB. If you've ever been to a Crue concert this is what it's like - grand excess and magniloquence.
- SB - The SB1000 did a yeoman's job with both the volume and intensity, especially toward the end when the kick drum goes crazy. While not as turgid as the PB1000 it absolutely ate up the volume, never once complaining.
Bass Mekanik - Bass Mekanik (WAV)
The original subwoofer test CD, one that still has plenty to offer when you're trying to push something to the limit. In particular the eponymous title track has some brutally low bass sweeps, so that's where I started.
- PB - There was deep, powerful bass on this song, but you could tell the limiter had kicked in at the beginning because something seemed amiss. The PB1000 did much better on the sweeps then the SB was able to but there was a noticeable droning a few times, a lack of definition if you will. The song Bass Station sounded almost like a club at some points, with powerful depth and impact. The PB1000 handled its sweeps down to "feel it" level, but wasn't quite as perspicuous as it probably should have been.
- SB - For the most part the tiny SB1000 played right along. You could tell where it was cutting off even more so than with the PB, because a few of the deeper sweeps abruptly stopped, but the SB can hold its head high; there is nothing to prepare you for how much bass this little thing can put out when pushed. Bass Station was similar to Bass Mekanik with regards to the sweeps, but there's a bit more of a rhythm in this song. The SB1000 again held its own, and revealed itself to have a surprising degree of polish while being pummeled at -15dB. Not once did it sound like I had pushed it over the edge.
The HTS user Dub King makes some punishing electronic music that will wreak havoc on a subwoofer, so what better material to use than that? I generally select at least two different songs, but one of them is almost always Halloweener because some of the staccato bass blasts are downright sadistic. Thank you Mark.
- PB - Unfortunately the PB1000 did not like this song; the port made chuffing sounds and the driver voiced a few complaints of its own. A few parts of this song are pretty cruel on a subwoofer but I had expected the SVS limiter to kick in and prevent any unpleasantness, which in this case didn't happen. During other parts of this song the bass was potent and rich, but when those pulsating ripples hit the PB1000 threw in the towel.
- SB - The SB1000 was only slightly less happy with this song than the PB1000 was, but the protection mechanism worked better and made it less objectionable. There were a few instances where I detected the only audible sounds of protest I heard from the SB the entire time I had it, but they were mostly subdued. The deep bass wasn't quite there, but it didn't struggle as much either so that was a good thing.
Dub Kingdom Come (WAV)
- PB - The main rhythm portion of this track has a pounding bass line that the PB1000 did great with. There were times that I felt the bass in my chair. It seemed to be at ease with this one, and had a very clean presentation to boot.
- SB - I felt some bass sensation in my chair during various portions of this one, which was one of the few times that happened. It wasn't much mind you, but when the majority of instruments were playing the main melody there was a slight ripple being transmitted to my chair. Even played at -10dB the SB held its composure, which is a considerable achievement for such a modest subwoofer.
A little over a year ago I had contacted SVS and told them I thought they needed an offering in the $500 range, something that had SVS quality but was a bit easier on the wallet than their current offerings were. The response was rather tepid, so I let it go. Apparently someone at SVS must have been thinking along the same lines because they ultimately released not one but two models priced under $500, the PB1000 and SB1000. After spending time with both I understand why; they're targeted at two different customers, and they fill those niches perfectly. The PB1000 will probably end up being the bigger seller, because it has the depth and output most home theater fans crave. Don't completely dismiss the SB1000 though, because it fills a need like few other subwoofers can. It's tiny, but that's not how it sounds or performs. The bottom line is that SVS has created a pair of entries in the budget subwoofer category that have their signature sound, but at an affordable price.
PB1000 and SB1000
These measurements were taken using XTZ Room Analyzer II Pro. The unit was indoors, physically positioned in the center of my listening room with the microphone just a few inches from the center of the driver's dust cap (cyan line). Additional measurements were taken with the tip of the microphone pointed at the center of the port (yellow line). The combined response is the green line.
These measurements were taken using XTZ Room Analyzer II Pro. The unit was indoors, physically positioned in the center of my listening room with the microphone just a few inches from the center of the driver's dust cap.