PBC's SVSound SB13-Ultra User Review!

Discussion in 'Subwoofers' started by pbc, Sep 5, 2012.

  1. pbc Audioholic

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  2. pbc Audioholic

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    [​IMG]
    About SVSound

    SVS has been around since 1998, founded by a group of DIY enthusiasts who wanted to offer performance loaded subs at values significantly better than what could be found at Brick and Mortar stores. From their original “cylinder” designed subwoofers to a full variety of box and cylinder subwoofers, and as of the past several years, full speaker systems, SVS has been doing just that.

    SVS’s “Ultra” lineup of subwoofers represents their top of the line models. Their SB13-Ultra (SB standing for “Sealed Box”) is the subject of this review. Some have questioned why the SB13-Plus was discontinued and it appears that SVS simply changed the box aesthetic and renamed it an “Ultra”. I asked Ed Mullen, Director – Technology and Customer Relations for SVSound, and he responded ”While the SB13-Ultra hardware is indeed similar to the SB13-Plus, we have made a several key revisions which are noteworthy and improve the overall performance, functionality, and value of the SB13-Ultra, making it a worthy successor and a better product in every way than the SB13-Plus:
    • The driver soft parts have been revised to improve the T/S parameters. We are not releasing specifics on this though - the changes are proprietary.
      [*] The DSP flash file (EQ and limiter/compressor algorithms) was revised for even more linearity, accuracy and better behavior at the limits.
      [*] The cabinet volume is slightly higher due to the removal of the side panels, and this contributes to improved deep bass efficiency and deeper extension (quasi-anechoic F6 is now a legitimate 20 Hz).
      [*] The grille retention system was improved to a pin/cup arrangement. This works better than the previous version, which was prone to slipping at high playback levels.
      [*] The finish is now a premium 6-sided piano gloss or black oak veneer to match the PB13-Ultra.”


    Given that they also have not really increased the price of the SB13-Ultra, this sounds good to me.

    As for what SVSound has in store for the balance of 2012: ”We are very excited about launching our new line of Ultra loudspeakers this fall - a full family with a tower, bookshelf, center, and bipole/dipole/monopole (3 configurations) surround. Like any forward-looking company, SVS is always working on developing future generations of its products, so stay tuned and watch our website and Facebook page.”
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2012
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  3. pbc Audioholic

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    Packaging and Design

    The SB13-Ultra arrived in the standard fair SVS packaging. That is to say, it was exceptionally well protected. Dual cardboard box; protective covers for the subwoofer as well as the grille; and lots of high grade Styrofoam protecting the impeccable black gloss finish version that I was sent. This is a good thing, given the Fedex driver more or less tossed it out of his truck onto his trolley quite roughly. Probably where that little indentation on the box came from below. Thankfully no harm was done to the enclosure!

    [​IMG]

    Inside the box was the enclosure, metal grille, 18 gauge power cord and Quick Start guide.

    Enclosure

    The subwoofer weighs 87.5 lbs (91.5 lbs with grille), which is quite hefty for a 17.4” cubed box! The reason for this is the choice to use 1” MDF panels, a double front baffle (0.7” each panel), and their impressively beefy 13.5” driver (more on the driver later). The gloss finish itself is impeccable, albeit extremely prone to finger prints. Comparing the gloss finish of the SVS to the black gloss finish of my Paradigm Signature speakers, the finish on the SB13-Ultra was very, very good. If anything, I did notice “slightly” more light swirl marks under the gloss finish compared to the Paradigm's, but from more than one foot away it looked just as good.

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    As you can see from the inside of the box itself, it is well padded and extensively braced with the bracing supporting the motor of the Ultra driver I chose to remove the amp versus removing the driver, didn't want to risk damaging the enclosure, or my fingers for that matter!

    [​IMG]

    The perforated metal grille is also a nice touch, though I miss the option of a fabric grille as I’m sure some people will find the metal grille a bit too cold/industrial looking. Personally, I switched to the metal grille after my first child was born, as it protects the driver from probing little hands or ... well ... Iron Man, Captain America or Hulk figurines thrown at high velocities!The grille attaches to the enclosure via high quality pegs, which was a bit of a surprise to me as I've become accustomed to magnets holding the grille in place on higher end ID subwoofers. To me the baffle looks much cleaner when the grille is removed without the inserts, hence why I'd prefer magnets and I think this is a bit of a step backwards from the SB13-Plus which had this feature. Though Ed mentioned above that the pegs prevented any potential for the grille to slip at high playback levels which was an issue with the SB13-Plus.

    The enclosure itself is available in a high grade black oak veneer or high gloss black. SVS opted to remove the Rosenut/Rosewood and American Cherry finishes of the past and is no longer offering them in any of their subwoofer lines. I spoke to Ed about this as I was quite disappointed, and his reply was that the black oak and black gloss finishes “represent about 95% of our sales, and carrying a large inventory (we have MOQs to consider) of slow-selling finishes just doesn't make sense financially” . While this makes sense, I still wish a Rosewood or Rosenut like finish was offered as I feel not having an alternative to black limits the market to which these subs will be targeted, plus it would further differentiate their “Ultra” line from their other lines. Having said that, reviewing the sites of ID competitors for subwoofers I felt were “competitive” in terms of box size and pricing, and it appears two choices is quite typical, usually black and gloss black or satin black and one other veneer colour.

    Driver

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    The 13.5” driver in the SB13-Ultra is a variant of the 13.5” driver in the PB13, and a treat to behold. I asked Ed about whether the driver was the same as the PB13, and his response was that “Both are 'Ultra' drivers, and each is optimized for its specific application. The SB13-Ultra driver has the following features which optimize it for a sealed application:
    • Revised motor geometry (overhung) with a very high force factor (BL^2/Re). Extensive modeling and acoustic testing indicated that this is the preferred motor alignment for a sealed application in this size cabinet.
      [*] Unique voice coil (bifilar wound, 3" diameter, aluminum, and with a longer winding height) optimized for a sealed application, resulting in higher power handling and excellent thermal management and heat dissipation.
      [*] Unique gap extension plate (nested in the top plate) for a more symmetrical force/displacement profile, resulting in lower distortion and increased linear stroke.”


    Dual 9” spiders, 3” aluminum voice coil, pole vent, copper shorting sleeve, composite pulp/fibreglass cone, etc. ... this is about as good as it gets for driver technology. Especially for ~$1,500 in a finished product.

    Amplifier

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    If you’re the type that enjoys tweaking everything they can to get as flat a response as possible in-room, than this subwoofer will make you smile! The Ultra Sledge STA-1000D amplifier used with the SB13-Ultra has a huge number of signal shaping options including:

    • Volume (dB), -100 dB to 0 dB in 1 dB increments
    • High pass filter adjustment (disable/enable, frequency, and slope). If enabled, frequency choices include 31, 40, 50, 63, 80, 100, and 125Hz with either a 12 dB or 24 dB per octave (2nd or 4th order) selectable slope
    • Low pass filter adjustment (disable/enable, frequency, and slope). If enabled, frequency choices include 31, 40, 50, 63, 80, 100, and 125Hz with either a 12dB or 24dB per octave selectable slope.
    • Phase setting (degrees) from 0 to 180 degree in 15 degrees increments
    • High pass delay (0 to 10 milliseconds). Pretty cool function that allows the sound from the main speakers to be delayed if you have no ability to time align your speakers via your AVR (most will).
    • Room compensation (disable/enable, frequency, and slope), available frequencies are 40Hz (small size rooms), 31Hz (medium size rooms), 25Hz (large size rooms) or Disabled (no compensation), and slope of either 6 dB per octave (first order) or 12 dB per octave (second order) roll off from the selected corner frequency.
    • Parametric EQ (PEQ) 1 and PEQ 2 (frequency, level and Q for each). Available center frequencies are 31, 35, 40, 46, 50, 56, 63, 70, 80, 90, 100, 112, or 125Hz with +3dB to -12dB trim level and Q of 2.0-14.4.
    This is an incredible array of options for a subwoofer amplifier. :cool:

    In terms of connections, the STA-1000D has both low/line level RCA inputs, as well as balanced XLR inputs. You can also use a handy switch to select either consumer audio (normal) or pro audio (hi-level) voltage levels depending on the source device. The input signals can have a high pass filter applied and delay applied independent of the high pass filter to add delay to the left and right main speakers to accommodate preamps with no digital capability. Typically most AVRs and processors would be connected from the subwoofer preout on the AVR via an RCA cable to either the low level left or right input. The power mode switch on the amp allows the unit to be on all the time, off, or “standby” mode which turns the subwoofer on automatically when it detects a signal.

    The STA-1000D is spec'd to deliver 1000 watts RMS and 3200 watts "peak" power. That's a lot of watts!
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2012
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  4. pbc Audioholic

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    Subwoofer Setup and In-Room Response

    I placed the subwoofer in the front right corner of my room, with one of my Paradigm Signature S2 bookshelf speakers on top of it (placed on an Auralex MoPad). Connected the subwoofer using the RCA subwoofer preout from my Marantz AV7005 into the RCA low level input on the Ultra Sledge STA-1000D amplifier.

    I then left the subwoofer in its default state, used the test tone of my Marantz AV7005 to adjust the gain on the IFC control until I got around 75dB on my Galaxy CM-140 SPL meter (-16dB “volume” on the IFC readout) at the listening position (LP), and ran Audyssey. Many people question why their gain with their Sledge Amps are much higher or lower than someone else's settings, or higher or lower than what they were used to on a non-digital amp with a traditional potentiometer gain control. I asked Ed to comment back when I originally switched to a Sledge amp on my PB13. He indicated “this is due to two things: a different input sensitivity (which is defined as the amount of input voltage required to drive the amp to full power at various gain settings) and also a different control scale. It is perfectly normal for the Sledge to require a gain setting of somewhere in the -15 to -5 range to achieve the desired calibration level in a given size room. The input sensitivity and the relative gain setting required to achieve the desired calibration level really have zero bearing on the amp power rating - it's still a 1000W amp.” So in layman’s terms, don’t worry too much where you end up with on the “volume” control for the IFC knob, it has no bearing on the “watts” the amp delivers.

    If you don’t have a SPL meter, no need to fret. Here is a simple method to set up the subwoofer using an Audyssey equipped processor:

    1. Ensure the Phase is set to 0 (this is the default level), room compensation is off.
    2. Run the AVR’s internal test tone and with the subwoofer level trim at 0 set the gain on the subwoofer to where you think the pink noise is approximately the same volume as say your left/right speaker (whichever is closest).
    3. Run Audyssey with the mic at the Listening position, and only that position
    4. Check what the trim level for the subwoofer is set to in the AVR's channel level control. If it is say -4 dB to 0 dB, you’re good to go. If it’s below -4 dB, turn the gain up a few dB on the subwoofer, if it’s above 0 dB, turn the gain down a few dB.
    5. Run Audyssey again and check your subwoofer trim level
    6. Repeat step 4/5 until you get it in the range
    7. Remember to go back and turn off Dynamic EQ, Dynamic Volume, and set your speakers to small with say an 80Hz cross over after you’re done in case your AVR set them to large (or whatever cross over your speakers are capable of or that you want, 80Hz is most common, I prefer 120Hz with my bookshelves)
    While all the adjustments available are great to be able to really tweak your system, I would imagine the vast majority of people will be somewhat intimidated by this or simply not have the time and measuring equipment to take full advantage of it. For my purposes, I left all the EQ functions off, and decided to simply use Audyssey to see how well the sub integrated into my system without needing to fine tune the built in EQ. After running Audyssey I made sure to turn off Dynamic Volume and Dynamic EQ, set the speakers back to small and used a cross-over of 120Hz on the Marantz AV7005. Below is the FR I achieved with this method and the one I used for my listening tests:

    [​IMG]

    As you can see, just like any subwoofer, you can set up the SB13-Ultra simply by using Audyssey and avoid all the “advanced settings” if you desire. Flat to approximately 15Hz. Not bad for a 17” cube! :cool: If you do have the ability to measure your frequency response, after running your EQ program (Audyssey in my case) you can then use the PEQ's and other subwoofer tweaks to try and flatten the response at the LP a bit more if desired.

    The above graph also shows why subwoofer positioning is very important in-room, and/or having multiple subwoofers to even out the response is even better. My room has an exceptionally large modal peak at 38Hz (you can see this in my room gain estimation graph near the end of this review), followed by repeating peaks/nulls beyond 50Hz. I moved the subwoofer to the other side (left side or blue curve in the above graph) of the equipment rack and it reduced the depth of the nulls by about half from 50-85Hz or so but created more issues from 90Hz up to the crossover of 120Hz, plus it was at the expense of the 4-5dB of additional room gain provided by the side wall (there is no wall on the left side as it opens up to a doorway). I tried different x-overs and phase and distance settings, but they generally just made things worse or simply changed where the issues were.

    Below is what I've achieved with multiple subwoofers in my room by way of comparison. As you can see, the results are much flatter. If you can, multiples (and acoustic room treatments, if possible) is the best way to a flat response as EQ can only do so much.

    [​IMG]
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2012
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  5. pbc Audioholic

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    Listening Tests

    I have a “subwoofer” DVD that I’ve been using for demo scenes since about 2007. While many of the scenes are getting long in the tooth, I prefer to use the same ones as I’m very familiar with them and have heard numerous subwoofers over the years play these scenes. That’s not to say I have audio memory that is so good that I recall each subwoofers sonic signature (which is impossible!), of course. I just prefer to demo subwoofers with scenes that I know, and it’s much easier to switch between scenes on a single DVD then switching out discs and finding scenes manually. All scenes were viewed at the LP which is about 13-14 feet from the main speakers and sub. Further, I had volume at -5dB to reference unless otherwise noted.

    Movie Clips

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    Pulse - Computer Lab Scene
    This scene has loads of deep stuff centered at 16-18Hz or thereabouts, so at close to reference levels presents a real test for many subwoofers. The little SB13-Ultra really surprised me here. At -5 dB I really couldn't hear any stress coming from the unit at all, and it passed this test with flying colors as my whole room felt like it was shaking with each pulse. I had to turn the volume up to 0 dB to get the subwoofer to stress a bit, with a slight fluttering sound coming from it (limiter maybe?). Nothing offensive to be honest and I don't think I would have noticed it had I not heard this scene on my reference system, and had I not had my ear a foot from the driver! I again checked with Ed, and he confirmed that what I was hearing up close was in fact the compressor/limiter kicking in. The SB13-Ultra's driver seemed to be having lots of fun with this puppy (see short video of the driver below!).



    [​IMG]

    War of the Worlds – Pods Emerging Scene
    Another scene with impressive output down to 10Hz and below. Even though the sub was only reaching down to 15Hz or so, this scene was still quite impressive in my room. At the beginning where the street starts to crack apart, my whole room seemed to be shaking with it, and I had that familiar feeling in my head that told me the sub was putting out some decent bass below 20Hz. The “feeling” seemed to start a tad later than my reference setup, I'm guessing because of the fact that my reference setup reaches closer to 9Hz or thereabouts, but we really are splitting hairs here and it could just be a figment of my imagination.

    [​IMG]

    Flight of the Phoenix – Sandstorm Scene
    I don't know why, but this is one of my favorite scenes to show off my HT with. I'm not sure how much really low stuff it has, but the bass it does have is just plain fun. The SB13-Ultra again handled itself like a 17” cubed sub had no business doing. It felt like I was in the plane experiencing the G-Force first hand as it spun around in the sand storm. The driver again had a real work out here.

    [​IMG]

    Minority Report – Factory Gun Pulse Scene
    I need to watch this scene a lot more. The pulses coming from the guns are quick and enveloping. The very first pulse actually knocked down a picture frame that was sitting on my mantle. Then when Tom Cruise is on the assembly machine and just ducks away from the metal electronic arm that slams down where he was lying is a treat.

    [​IMG]

    Full Movies: Tron, Wrath of the Titans
    While listening to scene after familiar scene allowed me to gauge how the SB13-Ultra performed, I was itching just to sit back and watch some bass-filled movies. Wrath of the Titans (“WOTT”) and Tron: Legacy seemed like wonderful choices given that both are known to have loads of deep, loud bass! I'm sounding like a broken record, but the SB13-Ultra continuously impressed me with how it performed in my room. From the depths of hell in Wrath of the Titans to the futuristic world of Tron: Legacy, I was completely immersed in each film. WOTT is one of the best “bass” movies of all time in my opinion, and many of the scenes are just plain insane with bass, yet the SB13-Ultra didn't falter and just kept on hitting. There is a scene in WOTT where Perseus visits Hephaestus that is just intense at times. The SB13-Ultra reproduced the scene admirably, again, without making a bad noise despite bass that drops well below 10Hz in that scene. This tells me that the limiting circuitry in the SB13-Ultra is doing its job incredibly well as the huge bass notes below 15Hz in this scene were filtered out without causing the woofer to make a stressful noise and without the user realizing a limiter was kicking in.

    Tron also has loads of prodigious bass output it seems in every scene. Heck, even the sound track alone is loaded with it. Watching it again with the SB13-Ultra reminded me how much I enjoyed the movie. I did reduce the volume closer to -10 dB at times as it seemed to be hitting its limiter closer to -5 dB as I noticed that fluttering sound kicking in again from close range (tough to tell when everything else is so loud ... this bluray always seems “louder” than others to me even at the same volumes on my AVR). But for the most part it kept itself incredibly composed during just about every scene. At times I seemed to recall having a bit more pressurization and dynamics with my reference setup, but I really can't sit back and say I wouldn't be extremely pleased if I just had the single SB13-Ultra in my room. I know my wife certainly would be “more” pleased just having the one, much smaller subwoofer in the family room versus 3 large ones!

    Music

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    Roy Orbison – Pretty Woman – 5.1 DTS Demonstration DVD #4
    After seeing what the SB13-Ultra could do with movies, I had little doubt it would perform just as well for music. Playing Pretty Woman from Roy Orbison's Black and white Night DVD was a treat. There was no localization at all with the SB13-Ultra, and the bass notes were simply quick, clean and issue free. The SB13-Ultra blended in perfectly with my front stage as if I was running a full range setup.

    [​IMG]

    Eagles – Hotel California – 5.1 DTS Demonstration DVD
    Another crowd pleaser, the Eagle's live rendition of Hotel California is just an incredible performance and sonic delight. The kick drums at the opening start and stopped on a dime, and the sound quality from the Ultra driver was great on this classic track.

    [​IMG]

    Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication
    I listened to several songs on this RHCP album. “Otherside” has some great guitar and drum notes that showed how well the SB13 could handle the subtleties of music flawlessly. “Porcelain” starts off with some great drum kicks which sounded almost live and the bass guitar notes were presented with no overhang. “I Like Dirt”, “Purple Stain” and “Road Trippin” are other great songs on this album with lots of very fast bass guitar and drum notes that presented no issues for the SB13-Ultra. Flea and Chad Smith would be proud.
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  6. pbc Audioholic

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    REW Frequency Response Measurements

    Using my Dayton EMM-6 microphone (calibrated to 5Hz by Cross Spectrum Labs), my M-Audio MobilePre USB sound card and laptop, I went about measuring the SB13-Ultra using Room EQ Wizard (REW) which is a great free software tool. I had already performed many of these tests for a previous review of the PB13 which uses the same amp so some of the wording I took from that review.

    Frequency Response
    For frequency response, I measured the sub close-mic’d by placing the subwoofer into the middle of my room and the mic on a tripod at a 90 degree angle with the tip of the mic ~0.5” from the center of the driver. Below is the frequency response graph I measured using this technique.

    [​IMG]

    The response implies a +/- 3 dB measurement of approximately 21-300 Hz according to my close-mic graph. Clearly this sub can be crossed way up high if/when needed, for example, for smaller satellite and/or bookshelf speakers. Below is SVS's 2M GP measurement which shows a response of 20-460 Hz +/- 3 dB.

    [​IMG]

    I asked Ed to comment on the close-mic vs 2M GP measurement and the differences, and he simply indicated that ”close-mic sealed is a good approximation of GP, but not identical.” Looking at the two graphs, they are almost identical from 10Hz through to about 125Hz (with mine not quite as flat in the 30-100Hz range but within 1-2 dB), and start to diverge much more above 150Hz with the 2M GP graph remaining flat well beyond 300Hz. Ed also sent over his own close-mic measurement graph of the SB13, and I overlaid it above my own and they were pretty much identical from 10Hz through to around 300Hz, +/- 1dB.

    I also ran a few sweeps to give people an idea of what kind of room gain profile my room provides, keeping the drive level on the subwoofer amplifier the same and the trim and volume levels in the AVR the same for these sweeps, then overlaid the graphs and matched them from the crossover down. I smoothed these graphs to 1/3 Octave to line them up easier.

    [​IMG]

    As you can see, my room has pretty good gain below 25Hz or so (ignore the large modal peak from around 29Hz to 50Hz and peaking at 38Hz), allowing a sealed sub like the SB13-Ultra with its shallow roll-off to extend quite low and be quite flat in my room. Another reason I love sealed subs for my application. Unfortunately as you can also see, and previously mentioned, pre-EQ my room is a mess!

    Room Compensation Controls
    One issue people can run into with subs in general (more so for ported subs that are tuned quite low) is that in rooms where you have substantial room gain below 30Hz or so (such as mine), you can actually end up with a rising in-room response down low (i.e., the FR rises substantially and creates a hump down low), making certain scenes or music seem boomy or muddy. The Ultra Sledge STA-1000D has a handy little “Room Compensation” adjustment whereby you can select what appears to be a high pass filter that can be set at 25Hz for “large rooms”, 31Hz for “medium sized rooms” and 41Hz for small rooms, and then you can also select whether you want the sub to roll off at 6 dB per octave or 12 dB for a more aggressive slope. Here are a few of the different modes and their effect on the FR:

    [​IMG]

    Low Pass Controls
    Though most will use the low pass functionality inherent in their processor or AVR and leave this function off, you can also low pass the sub itself at 31, 40, 50, 63, 80, 100, and 125Hz with either a 12 dB or 24 dB per octave selectable slope. Below you can see a few of these options and the impact on the Frequency Response:

    [​IMG]

    PEQ Controls
    The last adjustment I measured was the PEQ controls. The Ultra Sledge STA-1000D amp came with 2 PEQ adjustments, with available center frequencies of 31, 35, 40, 46, 50, 56, 63, 70, 80, 90, 100, 112, or 125Hz with +3 dB to -12 dB trim level, and Q range from 2 to 14.4.

    Below are a few examples of what can be done with the PEQs (there are tons, but I only graphed a couple).

    [​IMG]

    Combining all of the various possible tweaks above allows for an incredible amount of shaping of the final frequency response to assist getting as flat a response as possible, or a house curve if desired, etc.

    Waterfall and Group Delay
    Although best measured outdoors, below are the Waterfall and Group Delay charts that I measured with the sub in the middle of the room.

    [​IMG]

    The waterfall remains clean throughout the sweep and group delay seems to show that the SB13-Ultra remains composed with little delay throughout the range, remaining below 1 cycle for the entire sweep. There seemed to be some anomalies with GD spiking at 13Hz and dipping at 15Hz. Again, not sure how accurate these graphs are using close-mic measurements so will be interesting to see how the compare to Josh's tests.

    CEA-2010 Estimation
    While I had no ability to measure CEA-2010 results as I don't have the necessary equipment/software, nor the ability to take the subwoofer outdoors and do a proper test, Ed Mullen did say that the SB13-Ultra would have approximately 6dB of additional headroom on top of the SB12-NSD at all test frequencies. So taking Josh Ricci's CEA-2010 results for the SB12NSD, here is what you should get for the SB13-Ultra.

    [​IMG]

    I would have expected the PB13-Ultra to have had slightly higher deep bass measurements (below 25Hz) than the SB13-Ultra given the same amplification, similar drivers, but much, much larger box. Again, we'll see how close these are once Josh puts the SB13-Ultra through his battery of tests.
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2012
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  7. pbc Audioholic

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    Comparisons

    Many people purchasing a sealed subwoofer in the SVS lineup will inevitably have to decide if they wish to purchase the SB12-NSD, the little brother of the SB13-Ultra, recently reviewed by Josh Ricci at AH - SVS SB12-NSD Subwoofer Review, or opt for the more costly SB13-Ultra.

    I overlaid Josh's measurement of the SB12-NSD (black line) over my close-mic measurements of the PB13 in sealed tune (grey line) as well as the SB13-Ultra (green line). Excuse the quality of the graph, it was the best I could do!

    [​IMG]

    As you can see, the knee of the SB13-Ultra starts a bit lower than the SB12, and the roll off past the knee is also considerably more shallow implying that the SB12-NSD uses a significantly more conservative high-pass filter to protect the driver below 20Hz. The SB13-Ultra is also in a much larger enclosure and adds an extra 600 watts in amplifier power which should allow for much more headroom and better take advantage of room gain. Per Ed, ”you are correct that the SB13-Ultra has a shallower roll-off profile than the SB12-NSD and will take better advantage of available room gain. In terms of maximum output capability, the SB13-Ultra is roughly worth dual SB12-NSD across the pass band (i.e., about 6 dB higher at all test frequencies). ” The SB12-NSD also uses SVS's “lower end” STA-400D, which lacks any form of signal shaping compared to the much more feature rich STA-1000D. So you'll need to take all of this into consideration in determining whether the additional cost of the SB13-Ultra is “worth it” to you as the end user.

    Some people have also asked whether they should get the PB13 or the SB13. I always find this an odd comparison, as the PB13-Ultra is primarily designed to be a ported subwoofer with a 4th order roll off at tune, and is considerably larger and made for much larger rooms. In terms of its sealed response, it appears to track fairly close to the SB13-Ultra, with a slightly more shallow roll-off down low, likely given its much larger box volume. I guess someone could purchase it for its sealed performance, which is also exceptional but in my opinion the size difference makes them very incomparable ...

    [​IMG]

    Enough said! Out of curiousity, I did move the PB13 into the same spot and reran some of the scenes and music I played above. I can't say I noticed much, well, any, sonic differences between the PB13-Ultra in sealed mode and the SB13-Ultra. Plus, given the size of my room, if the PB13 did have any headroom advantage it is not something I noticed.

    In terms of offerings from other companies, there are numerous that in my opinion would be comparable. The HSU Research ULS-15, Rythmik F15HP, Epik Empire, Paradigm SUB 12 and SUB 15 as well as the JL Audio F112 and F113 subwoofers all come to mind at both lower and higher price points. Each of these have their own strengths and weaknesses, and the SB13-Ultra should be able to compete well with its own feature set.

    Conclusion

    I have to say that I enjoyed the time I had with the SB13-Ultra immensely. I haven’t had a subwoofer that small in my room since the Mirage OM-200, and this subwoofer puts it to shame. I seriously kept “wanting” it to make a bad noise, to hope it wouldn't fill my room with the amount of clean bass that it did so I could come and write about how one little sub just wouldn't do my room justice and therefore justify the amount of overkill I currently have in my reference system. But it didn't. While I'm certain as I started to push the volume closer to reference levels, the SB13-Ultra wasn't offering the same amount of clean output as my reference setup and the limiters were kicking in somewhat, the reality is for any sane person, the SB13-Ultra is all one could ask for in an under 2000 cubic foot room. Well, okay, maybe two SB13-Ultra’s is what I’d ask for ... or three! :D

    In terms of “value”, the SB13-Ultra is in a difficult price bracket. There are other Internet Direct subwoofers readily available that would likely rival the clean output of the SB13. Including the likes of the HSU ULS-15, Epik Empire, Rythmik Audio F15HP Direct Servo subwoofer, all at lower price points. Having said that, most of these subwoofers are larger than the SB13-Ultra (the Rythmik some 30-40% more volume and the HSU much closer at about 15% more volume after taking into account the wall thickness), and simply do not offer the same amount of signal shaping, amp power, and in some cases fit and finish that the SB13-Ultra does. Further, in the case the Epik Empire (and possibly other comparable sealed subs), we have seen that the frequency response of these sealed subwoofers have been modified and have a much steeper roll-off than the SB13-Ultra, almost like a ported subwoofer. At the end of the day, what you need for your own room and listening habits is really going to dictate which subwoofer is best suited for your particular application. In my opinion, once your room starts to get larger than 1,900-2,000 cubes, if you want reference level bass at 15-20Hz, either look at larger ported systems, or multiples of the smaller sealed variety.

    In closing, I did want to thank Audioholics for setting up this incredible and fun contest, and SVSound for allowing us “regular Joe's” a chance to review their subwoofer! Most of all, I have to thank Ed Mullen for his patience in answering all of my questions, I had lots as you can see from the above!

    Pros
    • Only 17.4” cubed. So, well, your significant other just may refer to it is as “cute”. :p
    • Awesome performance for the size.
    • Bullet proof driver and amplifier combo, in rooms under 2,000ish cubic feet, your ears will likely call mercy before this subwoofer will.
    • Exceptional compressor/limiters built into the amp – only from a foot or so from the subwoofer could I hear the protective circuitry kicking in, and even then it was just a slight, non-offensive, “fluttering” sound.
    • Signal shaping galore!
    • Excellent fit and finish
    Cons
    • In a very, very competitive price bracket with other vendors providing competitive products at lower prices.
    • While the signal shaping is great for people like me, the amount of tweaks available may scare off the less technically inclined. Having said that, you can setup the subwoofer like any other with Audyssey and other EQ systems for those who don’t want to mess with the various EQ settings.
    • The IFC knob, being on the back, can be quite a pain to get to once the subwoofer is in its place. Controls on the front, or a remote control, would have been awesome.
    • Limited to black oak or black gloss finish. If you don’t like black ... you’re out of luck.
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2012
    pbc,
  8. pbc Audioholic

    pbc
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    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 19, 2014
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  9. pbc Audioholic

    pbc
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    Manufacturer Specifications

    Subwoofer:
    • MSRP: $1,599 ($1,499 on pre-order) – includes shipping, no up-charge for gloss
    • Dimensions: 17.4"H (18.9" w/feet) x 17.4"W x 17.4"D (18.5” incl amp/driver, 20.4” with grille)
    • Weight: 91.5 pounds
    • Black gloss or full veneer black oak finish
    • Protective non-resonant steel mesh grille
    • 2M GP Frequency Response: 20-460 Hz, +/- 3 dB
    • Shipping Carton: 23”H x 22”W x 27”D (106.5 lbs shipping weight)

    Driver Specs:
    • SVS 13.5” extreme performance overhung Ultra woofer
    • SVS custom-tooled die-cast aluminum basket
    • Flat-wire, 3” diameter, high-power, high-temp, 8-layer, aluminum voice coil
    • Polyimide impregnated fiberglass former/bobbin
    • Dual 9", composite layered, linear roll, extreme excursion spiders
    • Integrated tinsel leads
    • Nickel-plated high-tension spring terminals
    • Proprietary injection molded gasket and parabolic SBR extreme-excursion surround
    • Composite pulp/fiberglass press layered cone with stitched surround
    • Low carbon 1008 steel components, electrophoresis black plating
    • FEA-optimized overhung motor structure with custom gap extension plate to maximize the force/displacement profile for a sealed alignment
    • Copper shorting sleeve reduces gap induction and distortion, and enhances thermal conductivity
    • Dual Genox 8H/Y-35 high grade ferrite magnets
    • Oversized pole vent for greater cooling and low noise

    Amplifier Specs:
    • STA-1000D Sledge with 1000 watts continuous into 6 ohms nominal (3200 watts peak)
    • High efficiency cool-running Class D switching topology
    • Detachable power cord with main power switch and ceramic fuse
    • RoHS compliant, lead-free construction and world-wide safety certifications
    • Auto-On / On switch with "green" standby mode
    • Stereo line-level RCA and balanced (XLR) I/O connections
    • Normal and Hi input voltage switch
    • Customized EQ and DSP limiter settings specifically for the SB13-Ultra
    • Fully adjustable (frequency and slope) phase-correct speaker/sub digital crossover
    • Intelligent Feature Control (IFC) with bright LCD display
    • Two (2) digital PEQs with adjustable frequency, cut/boost, and Q values
    • Room gain compensation control with adjustable frequency and slope
    • Adjustable digital delay on main speaker line-level outputs to time-align the speakers and subs
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2012
    pbc,
  10. pbc Audioholic

    pbc
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    Room Size and Equipment

    Equipment used for this review was follows:

    Video:
    Samsung 58A550 Plasma
    Sony BDP-570
    Speakers:
    Paradigm Signature S2 Bookshelves (sitting on top of Auralex Monitor isolation pads) - crossed at 120Hz
    Paradigm Signature C3 Centre Channel (also on top of Auralex Mopads) - crossed at 120Hz
    Mirage OMR2 Rears Speakers x 4 (not pictured) - crossed at 120Hz

    Electronics:
    Marantz AV7005 Preamp
    Sunfire Cinema Grand 200w x 7 amplifier

    Room
    The room itself is a family room on the main level of a 2 story (+ basement) home. The room is approximately 12x17x9 feet, or approximately 1,800 cubic feet as one of the rectangular walls is a bit shorter given it has two standard sized doorways on each end that are on an angle and they open up to the Kitchen on one end and to the hallway on the other. No acoustic treatments are used in the room.

    [​IMG]
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2012
    pbc,
  11. pbc Audioholic

    pbc
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    Background on Me

    As this is my first review on Audioholics, thought I’d provide a bit of background on how I got into this hobby, and in particular, my love for deep bass. I’ve put this at the end since I didn’t think it needed to be part of the review as it was long enough as is!! I started into this hobby in 2002. I got married, bought a house, and received a Mirage FRx speaker system and Denon 2802 AVR from my brother and wedding party as a gift, so my first HT system was a pretty decent one. I was also looking for an HDTV at the time and really started getting into the online forums for research. My first subwoofer purchase was a Mirage OM-200. This was a dual opposed system with two 8” drivers, ported with a 200 watt amp. At the time, I thought it was amazing as it seemed to dig to around 30Hz or so, maybe a bit lower in my room with some authority. My wife, of course, thought it was huge at 18.6x16.25x17.5!

    Fast forward a few years later, I was itching to get my hands on either an SVS subwoofer (the TV12-Ultra had my eye at the time) or a HSU VTF-3 HO which was just released. I waited a few months and SVS released their PB13-Ultra. Rather than wait, I jumped on it as soon as it was available in Canada. When the box arrived, and it looked like a huge fridge, my wife pretty much yelled at me when she saw it in our hallway and actually hit me with her purse on her way in when she saw it. At that point, I was sold on large subs. :) When I first installed it and set it up, I thought “holy crap, this thing can pound!” But also recall thinking that it didn’t seem as loud at times as my OM-200, more and more online research later I discovered the difference between distortion and clean output. I was loving that PB13.

    Since then I’ve had that PB13 in “blind” and non-blind tests in my family room and other forum members houses to listen to it against the likes of dual HSU VTF-15Hs (awesome subs at that price!), JL Fathom F113 (still one of my favorites given the size and what it can do), Paradigm Servo 15v2, Velodyne DD-18 and the Axiom EP600.

    Another couple years went by and I was on my 3rd audio system. I really wanted to try a sealed sub system given what I had read about 2nd order roll offs and how deep a well-designed sealed sub could reach in-room. So I contacted Ed at SVS as I had heard about the SB13 and more importantly, SB16 subs (which never made it to production due to the increase in neodymium prices) coming out. But they were a ways away, and so I ended up going DIY even though I hadn’t built a box before in my life, let alone a working subwoofer. Built two dual opposed boxes with 2 Acoustic Elegance AV15H drivers in each box, a QSC RMX-5050 amp, a Behringer DCX2496 for EQing, and have been in bass nirvana ever since. Kept my PB13 in sealed mode nearfield to “fill in” some frequency response issues, but mainly because I couldn’t bring myself to part with the sub. I recently ended up trading in my BASH amplifier for a Sledge amp with another forum member who was looking to match his existing PB13 Bash unit with a second PB13-Ultra but had the Sledge amp in the newer one and wanted the same amp in both.

    I love listening to all subwoofers, big or small. So the chance to get my hands on the SB13-Ultra, the smallest subwoofer I’ve ever had in my room, and give it a spin was something I just couldn’t pass up! Hopefully you've enjoyed my review as much as I enjoyed writing it!

    Steve


    P.S. BTW, I had taken a ton of photos of the sub and put together a fun little clip of them all using Windows Movie Maker (was oddly very easy!). My son is a huge fan of Madagascar 2 and for some reason seeing the SB13 next to the PB13 reminded me of a certain song in that movie (it's the second song in the clip)! As for the unboxing and song I used for it ... well .. come on, tell me you've never thought of that analogy with some of the “unboxing” photos us speaker freaks have posted online! Subwoofers are so sexy. ;)

    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 19, 2014
    pbc,
  12. pbc Audioholic

    pbc
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    End of review
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2012
    pbc,
    • Like Like x 22
  13. its phillip Audioholic Ninja

    its phillip
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    Excellent review!
  14. Irvrobinson Audioholic Ninja

    Irvrobinson
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    Wow. Now that's a review. I'm glad I wasn't chosen to do this; I'm sure my review would have looked inadequate by comparison. Nicely done.
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  15. KEW Audioholic Ninja

    KEW
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    I agree, great review - You set the bar pretty damned high!
    KEW,
  16. Adam Audioholic Jedi

    Adam
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    At the risk of screwing myself :D, I agree - excellent review! Hats off, man. Well done.
    Adam,
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  17. pbc Audioholic

    pbc
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    Thanks guys. It was a TON of fun! Apologies for being so darn wordy!

    Steve
    pbc,
  18. TheWarrior Audioholic General

    TheWarrior
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    Excellent review! Your extra wordiness answered a question I just posted to Adam about the test equipment. Thanks!
  19. SnowmaNick Junior Audioholic

    SnowmaNick
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    Excellent review, I really enjoyed the additional comments from Ed and the graphs. Again, excellent.
  20. shadyJ Audioholic Ninja

    shadyJ
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    The sub I would like to see this compared to is the JL Audio F113. While it is interesting to see this compared to the PB13 and PC13, that just isn't the type of sub the SB13 is in competition with. It does look like this thing may be able to equal the performance of a F113,and at half the cost. A pair of these would make for a beautiful bass system that would no doubt walk all over a single f113. Anyway, very nice review, thanks.

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