SVS SB13-Ultra Subwoofer Review
For a good portion of the last few years, the home theater subwoofer market has remained fairly static in terms of the players and their offerings. Some companies have come and gone, while others have endured and continued to innovate. One of the companies that routinely inspire customers to brag about their offerings is SVS. Enthusiasts seeking plentiful bass in an attractive package almost always had SVS on their list of finalists, and for those seeking something truly extraordinary, SVS created the Ultra series and their critically acclaimed PB13-Ultra subwoofer.
Many of you may not know that SVS and Home Theater Forum go back a long way, to the origins of a small company that wanted to build a better subwoofer, and do it in the USA. Members on our site began to post about their early products and HTF became a nexus of sorts for discussion of SVS products with the folks who worked there. Over a decade later, SVS is highly a respected name in the home theater industry.
As a result of increased demand from their customers, SVS has recently come to market with a series of compact sealed subwoofers that offer the same performance we’ve come to expect from SVS in a smaller package. When I reached out to SVS to review some product for HTF they were eager to ship me the new SB13-Ultra.
SVS SB13-Ultra Subwoofer Review
Description and Specifications
Shipping with a 13” driver and a 1000W RMS amplifier (3600 peak) in a wood veneer or piano black enclosure – aesthetically speaking the SB13-Ultra is a dream come true for those who want to avoid offending their significant other. SVS redesigned the 13” driver used in the PB13-Ultra by revising the motor geometry, adding a gap extension plate and a new unique voice coil. The overall result of all these changes was increased thermal power handling, lower distortion and increased excursion. These design choices allowed SVS to attain performance they consider worthy of the "Ultra" moniker in a sealed cabinet measuring only 17.4 inches in all dimensions and weighing in at 92 pounds.
- Cabinet Dims: 17.4" (H) x 17.4" (W) x 17.4"(D)
- Overall Dims: 17.9" (H) x 17.4" (W) x 20.4"(D)(includes feet, grille, amplifier)
- Weight: 92 pounds
- Rigid and braced MDF cabinet
- Piano gloss black and real black oak veneer finish options
- Front-firing driver
- Protective non-resonant steel mesh grille
- SVS 13.5” high-performance Ultra driver optimized for sealed applications
- SVS custom-tooled die-cast aluminum basket
- Flat-wire, 3” diameter, high-power, high-temp, 8-layer, aluminum voice coil - unique to SB13-Ultra
- 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 enhances force/displacement symmetry, lower distortion and increases linear stroke
- 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
- STA-1000D Sledge with 1000 watts RMS continuous power (3600 watts peak dynamic power)
- 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
Packaging, Fit & Finish
The SB13-Ultra arrived double boxed and clad in closed cell foam on all sides. The box includes an instruction manual, a power cord and of course, the sub itself.
In terms of the overall finish, the craftsmanship of the SB13-Ultra is excellent. The model I reviewed came in piano black. I looked the unit over from top to bottom and couldn’t find a single defect in the finish. The included grill is a curved piece of metal that really enhances the overall appearance of the unit while still managing to protect it from passing animals, children and clumsy adults like yours truly.
Gareth Emery & Ashley Wallbridge – Mansion (Mix Cut)
In the fast moving world of EDM this track is already ancient. All that aside, I’m a huge fan of the pulsating mid bass in this tune and use it as a benchmark for mid bass reproduction when reviewing a subwoofer. The SB13-Ultra was extremely tight with great impact and articulation. Each hit was visceral with a nice fast decay and no hint of bloat or muddiness.
Bassotronics – Bass I Love You
How low can you go? That’s the question this track does a wonderful job of answering. In the case of the SB13-Ultra the specs say that it can play as low as 20Hz but I was able to get 17Hz without any real loss in SPL thanks to room gain. The ultra-low frequency content here wasn’t as noticeable as with some outrageous subs I have reviewed, but considering the form factor and price – the SB13-Ultra was a monster in its own right. My walls were shaking and I was able to locate a few new sources of vibration to fix up during the course of my playing this track back a few times.
Acoustic Alchemy – Playing for Time
Some instruments that are found in live performances are extremely difficult to reproduce with a subwoofer. Whether due to its particularly delicate sound or just overall integration an issue with the mains – my choice for pointing out the flaws in a subwoofer is a well recorded string bass. Playing for Time features a lovely string bass line in the background that I have heard on literally hundreds of speaker systems. It never fails to find the systems that have poor integration, issues with articulation or lack musicality. The SB13-Ultra did a fantastic job here, accurately conveying the sound of the string bass while remaining highly musical and not overpowering the remainder of the melody.
Mickey Hart – Global Drum Project
This album is a hidden gem. Very unique in its composition, it features drums of all sorts from around the world integrated with melodic elements of world music. While perhaps not your average easy listening fare it does make a fantastic workout for any full range speaker or subwoofer. I listened to this whole album start to finish and came away very impressed. The ability of the SB13-Ultra to remain composed and sound musical shocked me, as I rarely if ever noticed which sound was coming from the sub vs. the mains.
This may be the era of films set in a dystopian future – but I’m not complaining. For some reason, films of this ilk tend to have outstanding levels of LFE activity and aggressive surround mixes. Dredd does exactly this - and it does it in a totally bombastic manner that will impress even the most selective bass head. I watched this film with my wife and a group of friends shortly before completing my review of the SB13-Ultra. During the film I heard several approving comments from the guys about the “awesome bass” and to be fair, I was thoroughly impressed myself. When I consider just how unobtrusively sized this subwoofer is, it is hard not to be impressed. I have reviewed many subwoofers that are significantly larger and don’t have nearly the same amount of clean output the SB13-Ultra has.
Due to a very hectic schedule and being on vacation when it first arrived, my time with the SB13-Ultra was somewhat shortened. I can assure you that it made no difference to my ability to evaluate this sub and decide what I thought about it; even so, it was a slight disappointment to send it on to Sam Chandler for his SVS Ultra speaker review without having just a little bit more bonding time.
During our brief relationship, the SB13-Ultra and I became the best of friends. We watched films together, re-arranged my theater in pursuit of better bass, and perhaps most telling of all, we spent dozens of hours listening to music together. I was sad to see the SB13-Ultra go because it was the kind of audio friend we enthusiasts don’t like to give up. It was a great value, my wife loved it, and best of all, I didn’t have to sacrifice performance or fidelity to achieve these results. This is without question the most articulate and tight bass I have experienced in a subwoofer costing less than $2500.
If you’re in the market for a new (or second) subwoofer, and are concerned about floor space, your significant other’s approval or just want a compelling product in a great package - the SB13-Ultra is an excellent choice. The SB13-Ultra is not going to fully match the immense output or low end extension of its big brother (the PB13-Ultra), but it will come very close in a package that’s significantly smaller. No matter how you plan to use your sub, it’s hard to imagine going wrong with the excellent SB13-Ultra. Highly Recommended.
Reviewed By: Dave Upton
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