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SVS PB2-Ultra Test & Review (1 Viewer)

Edward J M

Senior HTF Member
Sep 22, 2002
SVS PB2-Ultra Test & Review

By Ed Mullen


I had been lusting after the PB2-Ultra even before SVS formally introduced it. The idea of a furniture grade enclosure in American Antique (three other finishes currently available), two of the famed TV-12 Ultra drivers, and an upgraded amplifier feature set with an on-board PEQ was an irresistible combination.

The PB2-Plus (with its indestructible black textured finish) was a good idea when Ruger my black Labrador was a young puppy. With the teething phase a distant bad memory, I felt comfortable purchasing the PB2-Ultra. I am happy to report, aside from a few curious sniffs, Ruger has largely ignored this beautiful wooden box sitting prominently in the front stage of the HT room.

The PB2-Ultra was shipped via freight (BAX Global), and weighed 205 pounds including packing materials and the pallet. I tipped the delivery man $20 to wheel it into the HT room - money well spent. The packaging solution was amazingly protective and well engineered; it probably could have taken a direct mortar hit and the sub would have survived unscathed. Even uncrated, the PB2-Ultra weighs nearly 200 pounds, so two people are recommended to move it into place.

SVS is located in Liberty, Ohio. The PB2-Ultra was designed, engineered, and built in the United States, and all of its components are sourced within North America. For more information on SVS, go to www.svsubwoofers.com.

Abbreviations Used In This Review:

BM = bass management
CV= continuously variable
EQ = equalization
HPF = high pass filter
LPF = low pass filter
Mic = microphone
PEQ = parametric equalizer
VC = voice coil
1st Order = a 6 dB/octave filter slope
2nd Order = a 12 dB/octave filter slope
4th Order = a 24 dB/octave filter slope
6th Order = a 36 dB/octave filter slope

Equipment Used In This Review:

Polk Audio LSi and RTi (2 channel and 7.1 loudspeakers)
Denon AVR-3803 (pre/pro)
Denon DVD-2900 (universal player)
Outlaw M200 (monoblock amplifiers)
Signal Cable, Better Cables, Monster Cable (interconnects)

Test Rig:
Behringer ECM 8000 measurement microphone (calibrated by Kim Girardin)
Behringer UB1002 phantom power (calibrated by Kim Girardin)
TrueRTA Level 4 v3.3 high resolution spectrum analyzer
Intel Pentium 4 processor 2.0 GHz, 512 MB DDR SDRAM
Creative Technology Audigy 2 ZS sound card 24 bit DACs, 108 dB S/N
Bruel & Kjaer Model 4230 Sound Level Calibrator
Bruel & Kjaer Model 2205 Sound Level Meter

TrueRTA accepts correction factors for the mic and preamp, and also corrects for frequency response anomalies in the PC sound card. The overall corrected frequency response of the test rig is 10-25,000 Hz +/- 1 dB or better.

Size, Appearance, Fit & Finish:

The PB2-Ultra's external dimensions are roughly 19" wide, 26" tall, and 29" deep, including the integral baseplate. Six low-profile feet come mounted under the baseplate, and a set of optional 3M compliant rubber cup feet are included to keep the sub from wandering on smooth surfaces.

After uncrating the PB2-Ultra, I could smell the freshly finished hard maple as I ran my hands over the sub. The workmanship, corner and edge detail, select grade veneers, and the lustrous finish totally exceeded my expectations. This is very high grade construction; all the corners are solid machined maple, and the overall impression is heirloom quality.

Despite its size, the PB2-Ultra has modern design cues and the overall visual impression is understated and elegant. The American Antique finish perfectly matches my distressed pine flooring, and the PB2-Ultra simply looks fabulous in the HT system - a low resolution (to conserve bandwidth) photo is included below.

Amplifier Feature Set:

The rear flush-mounted Indigo BASH amp is rated at 1,000 continuous watts, and the drivers are wired in series. Standard amp features include:

- Auto-On
- Low Level L/R Inputs
- High Level L/R Inputs (with a fixed 100 Hz 1st order HPF)
- CV Phase Control (0-180 degrees)
- CV LPF (40-120 Hz 2nd order with a defeat switch)
- Single Band PEQ (20-80 Hz cut only)
- 4 Position Tune Switch (25 Hz, 20 Hz, 16 Hz, Bypass)
- Replaceable Fuse
- Detachable Power Cord

The CV 0-180 phase control is a trademark of all powered SV subwoofers, and allows precise phase integration between the speakers and the subwoofer. SVS owners often report the best results with the phase control set somewhere between 0 and 180 degrees. The CV phase control is also very useful for successfully integrating dual subwoofers into a room.

The single band on-board PEQ features three continuously variable controls: Bandwidth (Q = 0.1-0.9), Frequency (20-80 Hz), and Level (0-12 dB attenuation). Essentially, this control can be used to tame a peak in the subwoofer's in-room frequency response. The well-written and helpful Owner's Manual provides an excellent in-depth description of how to operate the PEQ.

Tuning Options:

The PB2-Ultra is a bass reflex design, and venting is accomplished with three widely flared 4" rear discharge ports. The rated tune point with three ports open is 25 Hz, and lower states of tune can be achieved by plugging one port (20 Hz) or two ports (16 Hz), and adjusting the tune switch accordingly. Each tune switch setting activates a custom EQ curve and infrasonic HPF optimized for that port configuration. The Bypass setting disables both the EQ and HPF circuits. Two high-density foam port plugs are included with the PB2-Ultra.

Measurement Of Tune Points:

Before taking any FR measurements, I first verified the three tune points. With a vented subwoofer, cone excursion will be significantly damped at the tune point. I simply placed the mic on the base-plate directly below one of the woofers, and ran a TrueRTA Quick Sweep in each state of tune.

As advertised, the three tune points measured out to within 1 Hz of the manufacturer's rating. As noted below in the In-Room Frequency Response section, the useable in-room response of the subwoofer extends considerably below each tune point. Provided below is a TrueRTA screen shot of the three tune points, and the actual measured frequency.

Ground Plane Frequency Response Measurements:

In order to determine the true anechoic frequency response, the PB2-Ultra was placed outside away from any reflective structures and measured using ground plane techniques. The mic was placed at ground level, perpendicular to subwoofer, at distance of exactly 2 meters from the center point. Ground plane FR measurements were conducted with the low pass filter and PEQ disabled, and the phase control set to 0 degrees.

FR sweeps were conducted in the conventional 25, 20, and 16 Hz tunes, at progressively increasing sound pressure levels (5 dB intervals) until power compression was noted. All conventional subwoofers will eventually start to exhibit power compression, which is caused by a combination of thermal and mechanical driver limitations and port flow restriction. As noted on the FR curves, the PB2-Ultra does eventually exhibit power compression, but not until nearly 120 dB (ground plane 2 meters) in the 25 Hz tune, which is a phenomenal performance.

As expected, power compression occurs at lower sound pressures in the 20 Hz and 16 Hz tunes. But even in the 16 Hz tune, 114 dB outside at 2 meters is still an excellent performance by any standard. Also keep in mind that going from ground plane to indoors will typically add 10 dB just for boundary effects. And in most moderate size rooms, add another 5-8 dB below 30 Hz for room gain. This means in a typical listening room the PB2-Ultra will not begin to exhibit power compression until very loud levels, even in the 16 Hz tune.

Provided below is a TrueRTA screen shot of the 2 meter ground plane frequency response and power compression curves for each state of tune. Also provided is a photo of the PB2-Ultra being tested outside.

Ground Plane Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) Testing:

Harmonic distortion occurs when harmonics (multiples) the fundamental signal are produced due to nonlinear behavior of the electrical, magnetic, or mechanical mechanism of the driver.

THD at various frequencies and amplitudes is one of the most important benchmarks of subwoofer performance. A subwoofer with low THD at all frequencies within its normal operating range will sound clean and distinct, while high THD will sound muddy and unclear. At the lowest frequencies, a high THD reading means the listener will feel less of the true fundamental note, and hear more of the false harmonics. It can mean the difference between a clean, spine-tingling organ note which truly pressurizes the room, versus a blur of notes which lack true foundation.

Mic placement and subwoofer controls were unchanged for the ground plane THD measurements. THD was limited to 10%, since that represents the approximate clean limits of the drivers, where the suspension stiffness is about 4X that of resting, and the motor strength (BL product) has fallen to about 70% of maximum.

At certain test frequencies, the amplifier limited the subwoofer output before THD reached 10%. According to PB2-Ultra designer Tom Vodhanel, this is perfectly normal. He said the amplifier limiter is quite sophisticated, and will react differently to sine waves as opposed to normal transients encountered during DVD and music playback. Under normal operating conditions, the amplifier limiter will not be noticeable.

THD measurements were conducted at 16, 18, 20, 22, 25, 30, 40 and 50 Hz in the three standard tunes. The 16 Hz test was omitted for the 25 Hz tune, since the HPF was limiting output (as designed) at that frequency.

The average SPL over the test bandwidth is also provided below. Since the dB scale is log10, it cannot be directly averaged. In order to average log10 numbers, the values must be converted to linear units, arithmetically averaged, and then re-converted to log10. Regardless, famed subwoofer reviewer Tom Nousaine directly averages his dB values, and many enthusiasts rely on his data for comparative purposes, so both methods of calculation are provided below.

16 Hz Tune 10% THD Ground Plane 2M:
16 Hz: 92.2 dB
18 Hz: 95.6 dB
20 Hz: 94.8 dB
22 Hz: 98.7 dB
25 Hz: 99.8 dB
30 Hz: 106.2 dB
40 Hz: 111.4 dB
50 Hz: 110.5 dB

Average SPL: 106 dB (101.2 dB Nousaine Method)

20 Hz Tune 10% THD Ground Plane 2M:
16 Hz: 89.5 dB
18 Hz: 100.7 dB (8.4% THD amp limited)
20 Hz: 102.8 dB (9.4% THD amp limited)
22 Hz: 104.9 dB (7.7% THD amp limited)
25 Hz: 106 dB (6.2% THD amp limited)
30 Hz: 109.5 dB (7.9% THD amp limited)
40 Hz: 113.1 dB
50 Hz: 112.2 dB

Average SPL: 108.5 dB (104.8 dB Nousaine Method)

25 Hz Tune 10% THD Ground Plane 2M:
18 Hz: 94 dB
20 Hz: 101.1 dB (8.7% THD amp limited)
22 Hz: 105 dB (6.2% THD amp limited)
25 Hz: 109.3 dB (6.6% THD amp limited)
30 Hz: 110.4 dB (3.9% THD amp limited)
40 Hz: 117.1 dB
50 Hz: 114.9 dB (7.6% THD amp limited)

Average SPL: 111.8 dB (107.4 dB Nousaine Method)

The PB2-Ultra is capable of some pretty amazing ground plane sound pressure levels at 10% (or less) THD. Again, considering that moving the subwoofer indoors will typically add 10 dB just for boundary effects (with room gain often adding 5-8 more below 30 Hz), it's clear the PB2-Ultra can easily deliver clean Reference Level playback at the listening position in a typical listening room. This is world class performance; the list of subwoofers that can match the PB2-Ultra's 20 Hz performance (I also measured 109 dB @ 1 Meter @ 8.6% THD) at ANY price is very short.

TrueRTA screen shots of select THD spectra in all three states of tune are provided below.

Optimization Of Subwoofer Tuning Control Settings:

For in-room set-up, I decided to first optimize the settings for the phase, PEQ, and LPF controls. My goal was a flat transition from the mains to the sub, using an 80 Hz xo. The FR sweeps for this portion of the testing were processed through the AVR-3803 BM circuit, with the mic at the key listening location at head level.

The digital BM circuit in the 3803 imposes a 2nd order HPF and a 4th order LPF at the selected xo frequency. The L/R mains are bass reflex with an F3 of about 45 Hz. Therefore, at/near the selected crossover frequency, the roll-off of the mains will only be 2nd order, so there will be significant overlap with the subwoofer. Accordingly, I expected some response irregularities in the 50-100 Hz region.

I started by independently evaluating the FR of the mains and the subwoofer at the various digital crossover frequencies (40, 60, 80, 100, 120). I identified a room-induced peak at 63 Hz on the subwoofer sweeps, which I easily eliminated with the PB2-Ultra PEQ control.

Next, I ran several combined FR sweeps to assess how the mains and subwoofer interacted at various phase settings (10 degree increments) with a digital crossover frequency of 80 Hz. I obtained the flattest curve at about 100 degrees on the CV phase control. But there was still some emphasis in the 90-100 Hz region.

I enabled the 2nd order CV LPF on the PB2-Ultra, which (when combined with the 4th order LPF in the 3803) imposed a 6th order roll-off on the subwoofer. I did this to compensate for the shallow 2nd order roll-off being imposed on the mains. A 110 Hz setting on the PB2-Ultra CV LPF control provided the best results, reducing that slight emphasis in the 90-100 Hz region without affecting the remainder of the curve.

My efforts were rewarded, as the final FR curve was nearly flat from 100-35 Hz. Provided below is a TrueRTA screen shot of three "in process" FR sweeps showing the response irregularities I encountered in the 50-100 Hz region. Also shown is the final FR curve after optimizing the control settings on the PB2-Ultra.

In-Room Frequency Response Measurements:

After control optimization, I ran FR sweeps at the listening position with the PB2-Ultra in the three standard tunes (TrueRTA screen shots shown below). To demonstrate the PB2-Ultra does not suffer from power compression at typical HT playback levels, the in-room sweeps were conducted at a fairly high volume.

Even with custom EQ applied at each tune switch setting, there is a slight loss of efficiency (above the tune point) caused by plugging a port. This is normal with any variable tune subwoofer. In order to compensate for this efficiency loss, I increased the sub level 2 dB for the 20 Hz tune, and 4 dB (total) for the 16 Hz tune.

My listening area does exhibit some room gain at the lowest frequencies. I personally prefer some room gain below about 30 Hz, because it adds thrilling impact and headroom for HT applications. Above 30 Hz, I prefer a flat response for accurate popular music reproduction.

Due to room gain, the standard 25 Hz tune provides excellent in-room extension to about 20 Hz. The 25 Hz tune is my preference for most music (except pipe organ) with easy to follow bass lines and a natural, effortless character. The 25 Hz tune doesn't provide the absolute deepest extension, but it does offer maximum output capability and is recommended for large rooms and/or very high playback levels on DVD.

The standard 20 Hz tune provides very strong extension to about 15 Hz. With two ports open, the PB2-Ultra can still easily achieve very high sound pressure levels, while capturing nearly all the exciting infrasonic content on today's popular action, fantasy, and sci-fi movies.

While I personally don't use the 16 Hz tune, you can't argue with the extension. In my moderately sized room, the PB2-Ultra digs to a mind-numbing 11 Hz before showing any signs of trailing off. While the maximum output and efficiency is somewhat diminished in the 16 Hz tune, the PB2-Ultra still provides plenty of clean output across the entire operating bandwidth, as demonstrated in the THD Testing section. For the "subhuman" in a mid size room where Reference Level playback volume is not the first priority, the 16 Hz tune will not disappoint.

SVS strongly advises against running the PB2-Ultra (or any variable tune SV subwoofer) with the port configuration and the tune switch "mismatched". Tom Vodhanel (SVS Co-Founder and PB2-Ultra designer) spent a great deal of time ensuring that each conventional tune provides the best possible combination of output, extension, low distortion, and woofer protection, and it's best not to second guess his wisdom.

The TV-12 Driver - A Closer Look:

It is common knowledge the TV-12 Ultra driver has about a 1.5-2.0 dB advantage in clean output over the dB-12 Plus driver. But that doesn't tell the whole story. Anyone who has heard the TV-12 driver will tell you it definitely has a unique sound. Superlatives like refined, detailed, robust, authoritative, and bold are common from Ultra listeners.

As part of this review, I asked TV-12 designer Tom Vodhanel why the Ultra driver performs so well. He said the difference lies in the motor design. The magnets are composed of strontium ferrite, with an extremely high field strength, providing excellent VC/cone control characteristics. The VC is "underhung" and always stays in gap, thus maintaining a consistently high motor strength (BL) over the entire excursion range. The maximum linear travel (Xmax) is quite high, about 28-30 mm. The aluminum VC is a proprietary 10-layer flat-wound design that has extreme thermal power handling capability (several thousand watts for 8-10 seconds). If the TV-12 is being fed a steady 500 watts and a 1500 watt transient is spiked into the signal, the VC retains the ability to translate that transient into a useable increase in sound pressure. A lesser driver already being pushed beyond its thermal limits would simply ignore that transient. In fact, (TV-12 builder) TC Sounds acknowledges that no one else in the industry uses a similar design because it is so expensive.

How does the Ultra driver sound to my ears? The TV-12 separates notes and conveys subtle changes in timbre better than any other woofer I have yet heard. The deepest notes seem to well out of a fathomless pit; not from the subwoofer itself. The TV-12 doesn't just pressurize the room, it pushes through the room, and is visceral even at low volumes. At high volumes it remains completely composed, and really digs for that last ounce of deep impact on big transients.

Subjective Impressions and SPL Levels For Home Theater DVD Movies:

Many HT enthusiasts like to listen to movies at/near Dolby Reference Level. This is the playback volume the mixing engineers intended for the movie theater. With quality HT equipment and proper calibration, Reference Level playback is enjoyable and no different in terms of overall loudness than a properly configured commercial Cineplex. Reference Level provides life-like dialogue, averaging around 80 dB at the listening position. Due to the extreme dynamic range of movie soundtracks, bass peaks in the surround channels can often approach 105 dB at Reference Level. And since the LFE channel is boosted 10 dB, bass peaks in that channel can approach 115 dB.

If the surround speakers are set to "small" (which is a common practice), the subwoofer is required to handle both the redirected bass from every surround channel, and the LFE channel. In the event of simultaneous bass peaks in the surround channels and in the LFE channel, a subwoofer could theoretically be required to deliver a 117 dB bass peak at the listening position.

Measuring sound pressure peaks at the listening position during DVD playback is an excellent way to determine if the subwoofer is truly capable of handling Reference Level playback. Peak SPL monitoring was done with a B&K Model 2205 set on C-weighted Fast, mounted on a tripod at the listening position. The SPL values listed below are direct meter reads; for the approximate unweighted (i.e., actual) value add 3-4 dB, as most of the passages listed occur in the 22-27 Hz region.

When evaluating the peak SPL values in this review, keep in mind the listening room exhibits considerable room gain below 30 Hz. As such, some of the bass peaks during Reference Level playback will easily exceed 115 dB. This is not because the subwoofer is calibrated hot (it isn't); it is simply due to the presence of room gain below 30 Hz.

The HT system was calibrated with Avia (85 dB) at Master Volume 0.0. Certain DVDs (Underworld is a perfect example) are simply mixed far too hot to be comfortably played at Master Volume 0.0. We used life-like dialogue levels and the SPL meter as a guide for where to set the Master Volume control.

1) The Run Down (DD 5.1), Master Volume -8, 25 Hz Tune

The PB2-Ultra kicks you hard in the chest with the first football tackle and doesn't quit rocking the HT room until the credits roll. It effortlessly holds a steady 112 dB (probably 115 dB actual) for about two seconds during one of the slow motion fight scenes, waffling your pants the whole time.

Football Tackle (0:02:07): 115 dB
Football Tackle (0:02:16): 116 dB
Slow Motion Walk (0:05:09): 107 dB (sustained)
Bar Fight (0:06:16-0:07:38): 110-113 dB
Body Slam (0:45:12): 110 dB
Slow Motion Body Flying (0:45:59-0:46:01): 112 dB (sustained)
Cave Methane Explosion (1:01:28) 114 dB

2) Master & Commander (DTS 5.1), Master Volume -12, 25 Hz Tune

The mixing engineers recorded live cannon fire for this incredible soundtrack. The PB2-Ultra stood tall and delivered room shuddering blasts that put us directly in the heat of the battle. Transient response to the cannon fire was excellent, and the timbre difference between the two size cannons was easily discernible.

Opening Salvo (0:09:03-0:09:09): 111-115 dB
Salvo Exchange (0:10:48-0:11:32): 111-115 dB
Double Blast (0:13:21): 112 dB
Last Round (0:13:31): 116 dB

Cannon Blast custom waterfall chart courtesy of HTF member MingL.

3) Open Range (DTS 5.1), Master Volume -8, 25 Hz Tune

The opening thunderclap materialized out of thin air and pulverized the room before we knew what happened - awesome. Ditto for the abrupt, deep, and loud gunfire later in the movie. These types of bass transients can sound sloppy on inferior subs, but the PB2-Ultra stayed tight.

Opening Thunderclap (0:02:41): 114 dB
Rolling Thunder (0:02:46): 110 dB
Shotgun Blast In Saloon (1:12:35): 112 dB
Handgun Fire (1:42:57): 112 dB
Shotgun Blast Through Wall (1:46:50): 114 dB

4) Underworld (DD 5.1), Master Volume -12, 25 Hz Tune

This a HOT soundtrack; not the deepest bass I've heard, but certainly some of the loudest. The sheer sound pressure the PB2-Ultra belted out on certain scenes was just jaw dropping - if this sub has limits, I can't find them.

Opener (0:00:44): 111 dB
Watery Grave (0:30:40-0:30:50): 116-117 dB
Selene Kicks Door Open (0:48:37): 109 dB
Safe-house Attack Gunshot (1:13:03): 113 dB
Sonja Condemned To Death (1:25:05): 114 dB
Sonja Condemned To Death (1:26:13-1:26:24): 117-119 dB
Sonja Condemned To Death (1:26:40): 118 dB
Raze The Avenger (1:36:57): 112-113 dB
Endangered New Species (1:46:33): 113-114 dB
Endangered New Species - Punch (1:58:33): 115 dB

5) Matrix Reloaded (DD 5.1), Master Volume 0.0, 20 Hz Tune

Did you expect anything less than deep, strong and pervasive bass from the sequel to The Matrix? The PB2-Ultra did not audibly strain or compress in the 20 Hz tune, even when delivering 115-116 dB peaks.

Trinity Helmet Smash (0:01:59): 112 dB
Trinity Falling (0:02:52: 112 dB
Agent Landing (0:54:42): 112 dB
Agent Falling (0:55:00): 114 dB
Neo Sparring With Pipe (0:57:06): 112 dB
Neo Breaks Free From Smiths (0:58:51): 115 dB
Underpass (1:32:51): 114 dB
Neo Flying (1:36:32): 112-114 dB
Trinity Falling - Take 2 (1:58:53): 116 dB
Neo Stops Sentinel (2:04:57): 114 dB
Hammer Rescue (2:05:20): 110-112 dB (sustained)

6) Matrix Revolutions (DD 5.1), Master Volume 0.0, 20 Hz Tune

Our favorite of the three Matrix movies for deep (infrasonic at times) bass containing more character and detail than Reloaded. The PB2-Ultra transported us directly into the heart of the battle for Zion, providing convincing special effects and making us forget we were listening to a subwoofer; a real thrill ride from the first room-crushing APU stomp to the final smack down with Agent Smith.

APU Stomp (0:59:02): 114 dB
Rumbling Before Dock Breach (1:02:42: 114 dB
Driller Hits Ground (1:03:15): 114 dB
APU's Firing (1:03:49): 112-114 dB (sustained)
Driller OutRigger Stomp (1:05:03): 114 dB
Hammer's Fat Ass (1:09:25): 112 dB
Looking Into Driller (1:10:45): 113 dB
No One Can Pilot A Mechanical (1:12:16): 113 dB
Passing Sentinel Swarm (1:14:28): 116 dB
Kid Fires APU (1:19:17): 116 dB
Machine Speaks (1:39:40): 112 dB
Water Bubble (1:47:20): 114 dB
Water Bubble Aftershock (1:47:26): 114 dB*
Neo Smashes Through Wall (1:44:03): 114 dB
Pavement Body Slam (1:47:51): 114 dB
Exterior Decorating (1:42:41): 113 dB

*At the special request of HTF member VinhT, I played this passage at Reference Level in both the 25 Hz and 20 Hz tunes and held my head near the ports to listen for port noise (chuffing). In the 25 Hz tune, all three ports moved a huge amount of air, with no audible chuffing. In the 20 Hz tune, more of the signal was handled by the woofers, and not as much air moved through the ports, but regardless there was still no audible port noise.

7) Pearl Harbor (DTS 5.1), Master Volume -8, 20 Hz Tune

This movie takes on a more personal meaning in the post-9/11 era, and I was happy to revisit it for the PB2-Ultra review.

Arizona Explosion (1:29:57): 116 dB
It's A Dud (1:39:03): 114 dB
Arizona Sinking (1:40:00): 113 dB
Post Attack Montage (2:07:31): 107 dB (by special request for HTF member Tee)

8) Harry Potter - The Chamber Of Secrets (DD-EX 5.1), Master Volume -5, 20 Hz Tune

This is one very entertaining family movie. Add in excellent surround use and superb bass with character, definition, and power, and HP-COS becomes must-have in the DVD collection.

Diagon Alley Flue Explosion (0:14:30): 113 dB
Whomping Willow Car Crash (0:26:44): 112 dB
Whomping Willow Takes Revenge (0:27:12-0:28:03): 111-114 dB
Swinging Staircases (0:47:34): 110-112 dB (sustained)
Quidditch Bludger Smashing Grandstand (several timestamps): 110-114 dB
Bludger Hits Ground (0:57:41): 113 dB
Harry Blasts Spider (1:48:13): 112 dB
Opening To Cavern (1:59:08): 112 dB
Basilisk Bursts Forth (2:12:30): 115 dB
Basilisk Strikes Wall (2:13:14): 116 dB
Basilisk Dying Head Sweep (2:14:10): 116 dB
Basilisk Falls Dead (2:14:17): 114 dB

9) LOTR-ROTK (DD-EX 5.1), Master Volume -9, 20 Hz Tune

The final movie of the trilogy does not disappoint in the bass department. The 20 Hz tune definitely showed its value on this DVD, as a few scenes obviously dipped well into the infrasonic region. There is some really deep content (but not loud) when the howdah starts to slide off the oliphant in the field battle scene, and also when the eye of Sauron spots the ring. But the scene that steals the show is Frodo's heartbeat in Mount Doom. The aftershock from the last few heartbeats is strong in the 15 Hz region and the entire room just pressurized, rattling loose objects everywhere - just an awesome display of refined power by the PB2-Ultra.

Nazgul Flyover (0:43:26): 111 dB
Battering Ram Hits Door (1:46:45): 115 dB
Moody Deep Bass (1:47:00-1:47:05): 108 dB
Oliphant Stomping (2:04:20-2:04:23): 114 dB
Oliphant Stomping (2:04:54-2:04:57): 113 dB
Oliphants Collide (2:06:05): 115 dB
Nazgul Death Throes (2:09:37): 113 dB
Witch King Spike Ball Hits Ground (2:10:10): 114 dB
Oliphant Howdah Sliding (2:13:21-2:13:24): 107 dB
Sauron Spots The Ring (2:29:05-2:29:27): 108-116 dB
Frodo's Beating Heart (2:40:33-2:40:57): 110-113 dB
Cave Troll Stomping (2:42:53-2:42:58): 111 dB
Sauron Takes A Tumble (2:46:10-2:46:19): 111-114 dB
The Earth Opens (2:46:35-2:46:52): 110-113 dB

10) Kill Bill (DTS 5.1), Master Volume -8, 25 Hz Tune

No matter what you think of Tarantino's bloody twist on the classic revenge tale, Kill Bill doesn't disappoint in the bass department. The knife fight body slams and the anime sequence were visceral and authoritative.

Body Slam (0:06:17): 114 dB
Knife Plunge (0:06:58): 111 dB
Anime Sequence (0:36:54): 115 dB
Anime Sequence (0:37:08): 112 dB
Anime Sequence (0:39:27): 113 dB
Anime Sequence (0:40:26): 112 dB
Anime Sequence (0:42:23): 113 dB

11) The Iron Giant (DD 5.1), Master Volume -7, 20 Hz Tune

A pretty cool animated film with really kick-ass bass. We pushed the PB2-Ultra very hard in the 20 Hz tune on this DVD, and deep impacts stayed clean and strong. When the giant sat down, the shockwave that blew through the room was spectacular.

The Giant Sits Down (0:20:01): 113 dB
Robot Landing (0:25:41): 114 dB
Green Boom (1:11:40): 116 dB

Subjective Music Evaluation:

I am fortunate to have a slab-on-grade concrete floor covered with Armstrong laminate. This floor is acoustically inert, making it an ideal platform for evaluating the PB2-Ultra.

1) The Look Of Love - Diana Krall, Verve Music Group, High Resolution SACD, 2002

S'Wonderful and Cry Me A River prominently feature the acoustic bass. While much of the trademark sound of the acoustic bass is conveyed by the mains, the PB2-Ultra nevertheless provided excellent mid-bass detail and a seamless transition to the lower octaves. The overall presentation was delicate and lively, and the timbre of the instrument was nicely preserved.

On Cry Me A River, the percussionist (Peter Erskine) employs a mitt on the kick drum pedal head to mute the tympanic skin strike. When the kick pedal is struck gently, it creates very deep, subtle pressure in the room which the PB2-Ultra conveys beautifully.

It should be noted that the Denon 2900 only imposes a 2nd order LPF on the subwoofer for SACD, so the PB2-Ultra is required to support more mid bass detail in this high resolution format.

2) Pomp & Pipes - Frederick Fennel, Dallas Wind Symphony, 1993.

I played this CD in the 20 Hz tune, at a live concert level. Paul Riedo performs on the Amelia H. Lay Family Concert Organ. The kettle drum strikes at the opener of Allelujah Laudamus Te were tympanic, deep, and room shaking. Riedo leans on the long pipes at the closing and the room pressurizes nicely, with plenty of air moving out the PB2-Ultra ports.

3) Sound Hound Classical Organ CD, Artist Unknown, 2003.

It was time to break out the big gun. The now infamous Sound Hound Classical Organ CD will wreak havoc with all but the best subwoofers. In the stock 20 Hz tune, I was not really afraid to damage the sub, so I wicked it up to live playback level.

Unless you have heard a full size organ live, there really is no way to adequately describe how the infrasonic notes feel on the PB2-Ultra. Whenever a long pipe is hit, there is suddenly an incredibly thick and heavy sensation in the air, and your skin kind of tingles and you feel slightly nauseous from the pressure on your ears. At live playback levels, there was no audible port noise - just clean, rafter lifting, pull out the stops, classic 32 foot pipe organ; simply awesome.

4) For Duke - Bill Berry & the Ellington All Stars, Miller & Kreisel Sound Corporation, 1978 Original Master Recording, 1995 20-Bit High Resolution Digital Master

This CD has to be experienced to be fully appreciated. When Ray Brown on Perdido strums his way through one of the funkiest acoustic bass solos you will ever hear, the PB2-Ultra makes you forget you are listening to a subwoofer; suddenly you are right there in the recording studio with Bill Berry and The Ellington All Stars. It just doesn't get any better than this.

5) Gaucho - Steely Dan, MCA Records, 1980, 2004 High Resolution DVD-A

After nearly 25 years Gaucho remains a time-tested tribute to 70's pop funk. Steely Dan has always been fanatical about studio recording quality, and Gaucho is no exception. The PB2-Ultra makes every track on Gaucho memorable, delivering throbbing and resonant electric bass guitar licks and a tight kick drum.

6) Flyer - Nancy Griffith, Elecktra Entertainment, 1994

A heartfelt, folksy bluegrass album, Flyer has a little of everything, from guest appearances by the Indigo Girls to a vocals duet with Adam Duritz (Counting Crows). And every time I hear Michael Rhodes mournfully pluck low E at the 1:30 mark on Southbound Train, it just sounds so "right" on the PB2-Ultra; just like a real bass guitar.

7) Gladiator soundtrack - Hans Zimmer, Decca Records, 2000

This soundtrack remains one of my favorites for evaluating the musical capabilities of a subwoofer. Virtually the entire soundtrack is filled with deep, rich, and highly textured bass. The first few subtle deep bass notes in Progeny simply well up from a bottomless pit and fill the room. The Might Of Rome features a sustained bass note that steadily builds in intensity and the PB2-Ultra adds great emotional foundation to this track. Barbarian Horde features deep, throbbing bass hits at the 6 minute mark that pressurize the room nicely and stay focused and distinct, and the single deep note at the 9 minute mark sounds so accurate, you'll want to back up and play it again.

8) Underworld soundtrack - Lakeshore Records, 2003

Short of 32' pipe organ, Renholder's Now I Know has some of the hottest and deepest bass I've ever heard in a music CD. Crank it up to party volume and the PB2-Ultra owns this track, staying tight and controlled as it pulverizes the room with 23 Hz shockwaves. The SVS was also fully up to the task of faithfully reproducing the powerful and throbbing bass line in A Perfect Circle's Judith (Renholder Mix). If your music tastes lean toward metal or industrial, the PB2-Ultra delivers with authority.

9) Led Zeppelin II - Atlantic Records, 1969

The PB2-Ultra proves it can "get the Led out" and rock with the best of them, staying clean, musical, and defined on John Bonham's hard-driving drums and JP Jones' soaring bass lines in Ramble On and Living Loving Maid (She's Just A Woman).

Summary And Conclusion:

The SVS PB2-Ultra is a very satisfying subwoofer. It is flat-out gorgeous and would be at home in the most upscale of music and HT systems. A truly versatile performer, it has flexible tuning options and offers a wide range of output/extension combinations to accommodate different size rooms and the varied needs of listeners. The TV-12 drivers sound realistic and refined on music, and can also effortlessly deliver clean reference level playback for HT applications.

The PB2-Ultra is the finest subwoofer I have heard, and certainly ranks with the very best subwoofers available to the consumer for home use. The $2,300 asking price is reasonable considering there are a number of OEM subwoofers costing considerably more that can't match the PB2-Ultra's handsome appearance, or deliver even a fraction of its incredible performance.

steve nn

Senior HTF Member
Jan 12, 2002
Way to go Ed! What a nice Sunday surprise. Done to perfection as expected.

It's of no help to me in staying away from buying another SVS sub though.;)

Robb Roy

Supporting Actor
Jul 15, 2002

Thank you for such a great review! It makes me want to upgrade from my PB2-Ultra to, well, nothing.



Second Unit
Jan 28, 2003
Hey Ed

When do you think you will get the chance to provide an indepth review of the PB2U:D

Thank you for taking the time. :emoji_thumbsup:


Supporting Actor
Nov 8, 2002

You have out done your self again, and i thank you for the review. As well for my special request (Pearl Harbor) thx! :emoji_thumbsup:

Review: :star: :star: :star: :star: :star:

Rory Buszka

Supporting Actor
Jun 5, 2002
Subs featuring the TV-12 driver probably are the ones that set SVS apart as not just the best bang for the buck subwoofer builder, but the builder of the best subwoofers, period. I wonder how the VMPS 215 subwoofer would compare?

Edward J M

Senior HTF Member
Sep 22, 2002
OK, Craig - you're next up to bat; one B4-Plus review comin' up?

I wouldn't go that far, Steve. Try as we might, things like "Happy Potter" just slip past the editors around here. :b Thanks to Robb for catching this (and a few others), and thank God for the "Quick Edit" button. :emoji_thumbsup:

Robb - what are your thoughts on PB2-Ultra ownership and how does the sub differ from ones you've previously owned?

Tee - I ran that Pearl Harbor fire scene in the 25 Hz and 20 Hz tune and got 2 dB more in the 20 Hz tune. Your original assessment was correct - deep stuff.

Rory - I'd like to get my hands on a VMPS sub myself, and I agree, the TV-12 SVS' best kept secret. It is a very impressive sounding and performing woofer. Someone recently mentioned that comparing the TV-12 to almost any other 12" woofer is like bringing a knife to a gunfight; it's that good.


Stunt Coordinator
Apr 23, 2003
Nice review Ed!

What port tuning did you like and/or perform the best?

I still can't get over the sound/feel differences between the PB2+ and the PB2ultra.

Craig Chase

Gear Guru
Oct 21, 2002
Real Name
Ed - It may be a while yet... I need about 3 more weeks with the Ascend 170's... then will get to work on really torturing the B4+ ...


Supporting Actor
Feb 20, 2000
I hate SVS. Just kidding. So compared to the PB2+ what are the main differences?

Personally, if I was spending this much I'd want dual CS/PC-Ultras so I could place them in 2 different spots (like front/back in the Harman .pdf).

frank manrique

Supporting Actor
Sep 15, 1999

Incredible review! A new benchmark model in subwoofer testing, that's for sure.

Say, when will YOU be testing the B4+ subbass system?
I sure like to see you do one on this baby.
Am sure Tom V and Ron S would be more than happy to acommodate you. However, you'd be most welcome to borrow one of mine if the need arises!... :)


"...hi, my name is Frank...and am an SVS bassaholic..."

Edward J M

Senior HTF Member
Sep 22, 2002

I agree, it's actually pretty remarkable how Ultra owners - almost to a person - all have the same subjective reaction to the TV-12 driver.

The measureable clean output of the Plus and the Ultra are similar, but there are other other differences in the driver construction that affect sound quality. I could immediately tell the two subs apart. The PB2+ IS an awesome sub, but the Ultra is in a league of its own.

Edward J M

Senior HTF Member
Sep 22, 2002

Integrating more than one sub into a room can be challenging. Good results can be obtained, but be prepared to have some halfway decent FR measuring tools and some patience....oh and get ready to tweak that variable phase control. :)

Edward J M

Senior HTF Member
Sep 22, 2002

Thanks for the kind words, Frank. And I think you've got quite enough bass at this point - let's see, eight 16-46+ and 2 B4+?

Thus far, I've only reviewed what I've purchased....maybe that will change someday. Anyway, I think Craig will do a fine job on the B4+ review (a little bird on my shoulder told me to expect his report around Labor Day).



Jun 2, 2001

Thanks for taking the time on that Ed. You said you were going to do a PB2-Ultra review, but this exceeded what even we'd come to expect from "Mullen Labs".

It's a great feeling to know our products hold up to this level of scrutiny.

While I would imagine you are loath to add to its length, a post script some day... if you are ever able to get your musician friend over ... might be worth the electrons. When you did that for your PB1-ISD/STF-3 review I found his expert observations to be really interesting.


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