Early Review: SVS CS Ultra

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Tim_S, Jul 14, 2001.

  1. Tim_S

    Tim_S Stunt Coordinator

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    Looks like I get to be the first to post a review of the new SVS CS Ultra. Woohoo!
    The beast arrived on Wednesday and their new packing cartons seem very nice. I didn't see what SVS' used to come in, but the molded foam container seemed very sturdy. The sub came through UPS' torture test with not a scratch on it. I tried to hook it up immediately but as I posted before, got bit by the stupid ground loop hum when I hooked up the accompanying Samson 1000 amp. That is all fixed now.
    Before I proceed to talk about how it sounds I will preface this with a note from our legal division: I took no scientific measurements during this review nor do I have the equipment or interest in doing so. I used an SPL meter for calibration but that was it. If anyone gets the urge to post and tell me anything written below was the result of a placebo effect and not legitimate unless scientific justification is presented, I kindly request that you refrain (or look on the SVS website for their response curves). The following is purely subjective and my opinion only.
    So on to how it sounds. I previously used a Velodyne CT100 which was fine as I had been living in apartments and didn't want to annoy my neighbors too much. I just moved into a house with a 24'x18' living room and so the Vel was on his way out. I used it for about a week before the SVS came so I could have a frame of reference for comparison. Not surprisingly, the poor little Vel was hopelessly outmatched, but then again it also cost about 1/3 of the SVS, so not a fair comparison.
    My first listening experiences with the SVS was with it being driven by a channel from my Anthem MCA5 amp before I fixed the ground loop hum with the Samson. In some initial listenings, I was already very impressed. The accuracy and extension of the SVS far exceeded the Vel. Once I hooked up the Samson, true Nirvana was reached!
    So far I have listened to it mostly with music. One of the first tracks I tried was the first track off of Paula Cole's "This Fire" album. It has this very low bass riff that I can barely hear in my car or other such system and with my Vel I could pick up that it was there, but it still sounded muffled (although adding the Anthem to my Denon helped clear it up some). Now, this track threatens to dismantle my walls! It is a very low funky riff that seems really hard for speakers and subwoofers to reproduce. I now actually know what it is supposed to sound like. Wow!
    Another test disc I like is Nine Inch Nails' "Pretty Hate Machine." This thing is filled with all sorts of bizarre sounds and intricate imaging. I didn't hear much that was new but the precision was amazing. On the third track it starts with something of a "bass bomb" that hits and then kind of radiates for a while. Usually this is an unfocused boom, but the SVS really captures this with amazing sonic ambience, is about the best I can describe it. Many other tracks will have some very low bass thumps that are very quick and fast, the SVS added significant clarity to these as well.
    I could go on and on, but to keep this from getting overly long, I'll limit myself to only one more music note. Moby's "Play" is another one with a lot of interesting things going on. On many of the tracks, he will have some very low and subtle bass riffs layered underneath the rest of the song. Some I knew were there but could never make out precisely and some I didn't know were even there but can now hear cleanly. Amazing.
    Movies? Well, to be honest I haven't run that many through yet, but the results are as expected. I watched a few scenes from JP and The Haunting. Both are downright dangerous to the structure of my house now. Previously I could get a little bit of rattling from the Haunting, but now when the spirit slams those doors, it feels like someone kicked me in the chest! I also watched Unbreakable last night and the train scene was, as many others have pointed out, very strong.
    I should point out that although I've made a lot of comments on the quantity of bass being produced, this might not quite convey the quality as well. The thing that has shocked me most is that eventhough the quantity is significantly increased, it never sounded out of proportion to the rest of the audio range (at least after calibration). I focussed on music so much above because my expectations upon purchase were that it would shake the house when watching The Haunting, but for music, it wouldn't help much and might even leave it off to keep it from overpowering everything. The first expectation was dead on, but the second was very far off bass (sorry, couldn't resist [​IMG] ). The improved extension and accuracy not only helps with movies but brings a new dimension to much of the music that I've been playing (a mix of stuff like mentioned above as well as a bit of jazz and classical).
    Is there anything wrong with it? Ok, one minor gripe about the amp (I had to find something). The amp has a little level indicator that flashes right and left depending on how strong the amp is pushing. I find this very annoying and will probably cover it later on. Otherwise, I haven't found much not to like. It is a little big though.
    Oh, last thing to mention. I've been able to hear the vast improvement mentioned above but I'm still not sure I've even found the optimal placement yet. I wanted to get some intial impressions up quickly and my house is being recarpeted next week so I haven't had time to do a huge amount of comparative testing with placement yet. Point is, it will only get better. Scary.
    Tim
     
  2. Brian Fellmeth

    Brian Fellmeth Supporting Actor

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    Thanks Tim.
    I was planning to use a channel of an Anthem MCA to power a DIY sub in a music only system. Would you say that at soft to moderate volume for music that it did an adequate job, or did the Sampson totally dust it under all conditions ?
     
  3. Ron Stimpson

    Ron Stimpson Stunt Coordinator

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    Tim,
    Thanks for the review! You focused squarely on something that can hardly be repeated too often...SVS is about powerful, robust SPL levels, clearly. But what's often forgotten is that we care even more about ACCURACY and realism in our subs. And in our experience, where so many commercial subs fall down is on the all important octave to octave balance... from the highest to the lowest frequencies, and at SPLs worth talking about.
    When you have as much power as Tom's new driver, and the time/skill needed to make sure you are tuning it right the results are as you found them. Loud, yes, deep, absolutely, but never out of synch with the rest of the soundtrack. Thats the key. Do justice to the upper ranges where most folks perceive "punch" but do not drop the lowest octaves where the seriously scary stuff is now popping up with great regularity (Toy Story 2, Fight Club and Unbreakable just a few examples).
    One other note. I know I calibrate much differently for music than I do for movies. I'm sure there are some psychoacoustical as well as sound engineering reasons for this, but the bottom line is (if your receiver offers different bass management settings for different sources as my decidedly non-state-of-the-art Denon receiver does) set your receiver's bass output as you like it for DVD, and then perhaps lower for a CD music source. (This might get's trickier if you are using your DVD player as your CD music player though).
    Just a tip for getting the best most balanced bass for music and movies.
    Ron
    [Edited last by Ron Stimpson on July 14, 2001 at 06:36 PM]
     
  4. PeteE

    PeteE Stunt Coordinator

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    I must pipe in with my early review also.
    A little FYI, I had 2 20-39's with the 300wpc Fidek amp (300wpc) before I got my Ultra.
    First I must say the new box is outstanding, much better than the old box. Thumbs up SVS.
    I too experienced the ground hum, but installed the 3 to 2 plug and no more hum.
    When I first hooked up the Ultra to my amp (remember, 300wpc) I really wasn't impressed. Actually I didn't get much bass at all. So a few emails with SVS was in order. After some suggestions, I bridged my amp to 600 watts and hooked up the sub again.
    DAMN, this thing rocks now. As I stated previously, I had 2 39's. Now, the Ultra is a little under what 2 39's can do with the mid bass (but not by much) it will stay with them below that. And I really haven't pushed it that hard , yet. But the Ultra is in the same leugue as 2 39's.
    I have noticed that the Ultra seems a little tighter than the CS's, this is my first impression anyway.
    Once I break the sub in a little I will give a better review, so this is very preliminary.
    I must say that if you don't have a leat 500 watts running to a Ultra you might be disappointed. So don't skimp on power and an Ultra will sing.
    These are my early impressions of the Ultra. After I tweak the calibration and get the perfect location I will post a full review.
    For those of you who are in doubt, all I can say is, stick with your current sub and leave the serious bass to us bass heads. This has to be the best sub I have ever had.
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    [​IMG]
     
  5. Steve Morgan

    Steve Morgan Second Unit

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    Say Pete will 300watts run a 20-39cs reasonably well?
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  6. JerryHatchett

    JerryHatchett Stunt Coordinator

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    I have a 16-46CS enroute and can't wait to hear it. I have a new Pyramid commercial DJ amp that I'm gonna power it with for now. Before you laugh at my Pyramid amp [​IMG], do know that the specs on it are almost identical to the Samson S700. It's not what I would've thought to go out and buy for the job, but it's brand new and I've had it in stock in my shop for about two years so I'll put it to use. Will post results next week.
    Mine is going in a 30' x 24' room, so I may wind up having to take Tom's recommendation and add a second 16-46CS a bit later. For now, I'm really curious to see how the SVS stacks up against the Sunfire True Sub MKII that it will be replacing.
    Congrats on the Ultra!
    Jerry
     
  7. rodneyH

    rodneyH Supporting Actor

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    I have a similar question to the one above, to power a 20-39 CS do I need lots of power?? or will 100-200 wpc be enough??
     
  8. Parker Clack

    Parker Clack Schizophrenic Man
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    Tim:
    Can you imagine having two of these in your system! [​IMG]
    Isn't it fun to be able to do damage to the structure of your house without even really trying? [​IMG]
    Parker
     
  9. John Morris

    John Morris Guest

    Steve and Rodney: Yes, 300 watts are plenty for a 20-39cs. Depending on your room and how loud you like to playback music and movies, 100-200 watts may be fine too. Ron or TV once reported using a single channel of an old receiver to drive a 20-39cs and it performed nicely.
    ------------------
    Take Care,
    merc
     
  10. Trey Jones

    Trey Jones Stunt Coordinator

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    I just received my 20-39cs on Friday (Thanks Ron and Tom!). I connected to my Alesis RA300 Amp, running 150 Watts per channel. At first I connected it unbridged, only 150 watts to the SVS. That was definately enough power for my area. I have a small 13x14 theater space in my house. I then decided to go up to 300 watts, hell I bought the amp, I'm using the power. Anyway, the added headroom definately was nice, and the sub did get tighter on the quick bass lines. For movies, it was still similar to the 150 watts, but for music, and movies like BLADE, the 300 watts was definately better.
     
  11. Ron Stimpson

    Ron Stimpson Stunt Coordinator

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    Steve, Rodney,
    John is absolutely right. 300 is more than enough (that is you will have the power to bottom the driver with that much power). 100-200 will do VERY well with the CS line, but will not have the headroom to max the sub out at all frequencies. The 300-350 range, with proper calibration, will allow you to fully exploit every dB the CS line is capable of is all.
    We know of folks that have gotten very good results with as little at 65-75 watts. Keep in mind that many commercial subs with hundreds of watts of advertised power actually provide little more than 50-75 watts of effective power to the woofer anyway. The rest is eaten up with massive power requirements levied by high levels of equalization ... needed to get any deep bass from the smallish boxes some folks seem to like.
    So if you have anything like 100-300 watts you are right in the sweet spot of power for what'll be the best sub you've heard, or your money back.
    Ron
     
  12. Tim_S

    Tim_S Stunt Coordinator

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    Brian,
    I did not spend too much time comparing the Anthem with the Samson. Also, part of the improvement I heard was likely due to location changes as well. When using the Anthem, it still sounded incredible and I was quite impressed with that. As PeteE mentioned and as I think Ron and Tom have said a couple of times, this particular driver really seems to like the extra power. If your driver isn't as power hungry my guess is that the Anthem would do just fine.
    Ron,
    Yes my Denon does let me set different levels for different modes and I have it turned down a little for Stereo mode. That's what I meant by it being less overpowering after calibration.
    Parker,
    The reason I went with the Ultra is that I figured I would need two of the other guys to fill the room and didn't want two enclosures. Two of the Ultra's? I was wondering what I was going to do with the extra channel on the Samson. Seems a shame to let it go to waste. . . .hmm. . . Well, it would be nice but I don't think my walls or my bank account would survive it. [​IMG]
    Tim
     
  13. Brian Bunge

    Brian Bunge Producer

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    Jerry,
    A word of caution about the Pyramid amp. Their specs are GROSSLY exaggerated! I'd be very surprised if you get even half the rated power out of that thing. Still, even if it only produces 100 watts or so, I imagine it will probably be plenty.
    Brian
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