SVSOUND SB-13 PLUS SUBWOOFER REVIEW
By Dr. Dennis Doan
Ever since I heard my first real subwoofer, I have had a great desire for good bass in my home theater. SVSound has been my choice for most of the last 12 years, although, I have had Paradigm, Sylvania, Klipsch, BIC, and a few other subs during that time. My HT room has been graced with at least 4 SVSound subs. The largest was the PB12-Plus/2, an elephant sized ported dual 12” sub. It served me well for several years. Recently SVS sent me a 5.1 set of the new SBS-02's (tower fronts, center, dipole surrounds, bookshelf rears), and their new SB-12 NSD subwoofer. I reviewed that set here at Home Theater Shack. I was also got a pair of the MBS-02 bookshelf speakers, which resulted in another review here. I ultimately bought the MTS-02 towers, MCS-02 center, kept the SSS-02 surrounds, and the SBS-02 rear bookshelf speakers. Since I knew that I would be using the SB-13 Plus for review, I held off on buying any subs. Well, the updated SB-13 Plus has arrived. I have purposely refrained from reading others' reviews on this sub, so as to not parrot their impressions. What follows is my ears and eyes telling me why I love this sub!
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/images/SB13_PlusBOSIDEWEB.jpg[/img]Putting a subwoofer in a box then trying to make it look good is quite a feat. SVSound has managed to do exactly that. It is clear this sub was meant to look good as well as sound good. Instead of forming a square corner, the SB13-Plus cabinet has rounded side edges so that it blends smoothly into the rest of the sub. The contrast of the beautiful wood sides and the black finish on the other surfaces makes for a decorator's dream – it isn't “just a box”.
Gone too are the days of fabric grill covers. SVS has designed a metal grill with magnetic fasteners that enhances the designer look of the speaker. It is black and beautiful. Leaving it off would reveal the cool speaker cone and SVSound logo, but, leaving it on says “class” to those entering your HT room. The gorgeous metal grill has the uncanny ability to seat itself exactly where it is supposed to when you get it close to the cabinet. The metal is hefty, and smooth, very nicely rounded. It is curved outward from the box and presents a very cool look. I think you will get wife approval here.
The sub is only minimally larger than its 13” driver, measuring in at 17-3/8" Deep x17-3/8 Wide x17-7/8" High (w/o grill) Depth with grill 20". It weighs a hefty 95 pounds.
Don't tell anyone, but, I peeked behind the new Sledge™ amp to look at the rear of the driver and the internal bracing. I won't reveal any secrets, but, I can tell you “flimsy” is not in this subwoofer's vocabulary. SVS has managed to use a very clever way to brace both the woofer and the cabinet. Good job guys.
The amp has a nifty single knob control. It is easy to navigate, and allows you to control the sub’s configuration and integration into virtually any home theater or music system. Since I have the SVSound's Audyssey EQ-01 Sub equalizer, I didn't test the controls, other than the volume. The display glows with a neat backlight, and is easy to read. It should be simple enough for even a novice to set it up properly.
Brute Force vs Clarity
Until now, one either opted for brute force-bone breaking sub sonic bass, or clear, articulate, clean bass. I have struggled with this for many years. It is like having a shotgun, and a target pistol. Both will hit the target, but one will do it with approximation, the other with precision (but not much impact). Subs used to be like that… many still are. What is always vital in any sub is its ability to compromise between clarity and power. Those days are over! SVSound's SB-13 Plus has both, and in spades.
One of my initial impressions was the sub’s ability to seamlessly integrate with my main speakers. When playing the frequency sweep available on any THX DVD, the sound goes smoothly from higher frequencies to the lower without any hint of when the mains release the bass to the sub. To date, this is the most coherent bass I have heard in my HT. The overall sound stage presentation when watching movies is a unique experience.
Previously in this room it was generally apparent when the sub was working, and when not. Now it is difficult to note any transition at all, only smooth liquid sound whether high or low frequencies. Don't get me wrong, the low sounds are certainly there, but, in the same texture as the mains present them. Perhaps this is due to me owning SVSound speakers, but, I have had other SVS subs in the same configuration that didn't do as well with this aspect.
Having played the trumpet for many years, I can distinguish between two different trumpet players quite easily. This is because each player, and trumpet, although playing the same tones, will have slight variations in pitch, intonation, timbre, etc. A good subwoofer should have the ability to produce distinct timbre, intonation, and pitch sounds. The SB-13 Plus does exactly that. As I will reveal in the movie tests, being able to hear distinct sounds at low frequencies is very addicting. But, doing it with gobs of power without distortion, is even more addicting.
As I went through the usual test DVD's and Blu-Ray’s, I immediately realized there is a host of information in the low frequency range I have been missing. Even my full-bodied PB12-Plus/2 tended to muddy the extreme low frequencies. Surprisingly, the SB-13 Plus is every bit as detailed as the smaller SB-12 NSD I tested.
Watching GODZILLA revealed much more detail than I had heard previously. I hadn't realized that movie makers include so much low bass detail. Other movies (Star Wars Series, Independence Day, Twister, Lord of the Rings, etc), opened up with a plethora of pitch differentiations. I was like a kid at the circus-taking in all the different sounds. Part of the sub's performance must be due to its ability to suppress distortion. I know there is an electronic limiter incorporated in the Sledge™ amp. SVS has also achieved a remarkable way to prevent distortion, and over driving of the speaker. I tried on several occasions to determine when it was limiting, but, I couldn't discern it at all. All I can say is: this Sledge™ amp, DSP, cabinet, and woofer, are integrated with supreme accuracy, and distortion-less power. When Shrek roars (“hear the roar”- said the toe headed boy), in Shrek Ever After, there is some super-powerful bass that was awesome. My theater room heard, and felt the roar!
Every bass heavy movie I tried displayed the sub's ability to produce not only pitch, but nuanced timbre-defining every note to perfection. This is the thing I have been missing in my room. It is one thing to have the raw power of low bass, but, as I am finding out, the definition of individual notes completes the real theater experience.
Many subs in this price range can produce either clean bass, or chest pounding bass. The SB-13 Plus does both. In a smaller room, you will feel the lowest frequencies with the greatest impact, while catching every detail of the source. In a larger room, two of these Cadillac (with a Kia's price) subs will satisfy the most demanding of audiophiles. You can truly “have your cake, and eat it too”.
I am not a big music listening buff, so I didn't do as much testing in that regard. What I did absolutely confirmed what I have heard with movies. String Bass, Electric Bass, Acoustic, Steel, and Electric Guitars presented a clarity that seemed to put one in front row center. Toccata and Fugue in D minor by J S Bach (on pipe organ) turned my theater room into a European Cathedral! I could feel the low pipes pumping air into a 64' tube, producing that distinctive pipe organ sound unequaled among instruments. Coupled with my SVSound M-Series speaker system, this rig satisfied my craving for sound perfection. If your desire is for music, this sub will provide both extreme impact while preserving musical clarity.
SVSound has been supplying me with superior products, and service since the late 90's. Although, I have had quite a few other brands in my ht rooms. I keep coming back to the over-the-top bang-for-the-buck SVSound. This new SB-13 Plus subwoofer is certainty one of the great deals in today's home audio market. The beautiful looks, the metal grill, the single knob control, the multiple hook-ups, the Sledge™ amp with digital signal processing, make for a killer package.
But, the reason you buy subwoofers is to reproduce the movie theater and recorded studio sound accurately. If you want to save yourself lots of hassles, and money, believe those of us who have heard this sub. This is the one to put on the top of your “A” list. , I didn't put it “one” on my list because I purchased two of them!