Test and Review - SVS Ultra vs. 20-39 PC+

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Edward J M, Jan 27, 2003.

  1. Edward J M

    Edward J M Cinematographer

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    I went over a friends house in a neighboring city to check out his new HT system and help him calibrate it.

    He is running a B&K AVR307 in 6.1 mode, Polk LSi series all around, and an SVS Ultra running off one channel of a Samson S1000 500W amp. Filter point at the receiver is 80 Hz. He also has the SVS01 Bass Box by Marchand in the loop which has an adjustable SS filter, variable phase, and up to 18 dB of gain on the pre-out signal.

    The SVS01 Bass Box in the loop gives a VERY slight hum at rest - you must put your ear right up to the sub vents to hear it. It is certainly never audible during playback, even during quiet passages and it would never stop me from buying one considering its many benefits.

    We calibrated using the AVIA disc - speakers to 85 dB and the sub to 88 dB. We used a recently calibrated and factory certified B&K Model 2205 SPL meter set to C-Weighted Slow mounted on a tripod at the listening position.

    After calibration, we ran some 1/12 octave bass sweeps to check the in-room FR. With the SS filter set to 15 Hz, the FR was essentially flat from 18 Hz to 40 Hz, with a slight 3 dB rise between 40 and 50 Hz. Above that, the FR got ragged due to a standing wave null at 56 Hz. Moving the meter 2 feet to either side lessened the effect of this null considerably.

    He had recently upgraded from the 20-39 PC+ (which I also own) to the Ultra in anticipation of moving to a bigger house, and he wanted my subjective and objective opinions on his system and particularly his sub.

    The SVS Ultra appears identical in construction to a 20-39 CS+, except for the proprietary TC Sounds TV-12 driver. The Plus line uses the TC Sounds dB-12 driver.

    Anyway, how does it sound? Well I expected to be impressed and I was. Demo material included The Haunting (dts), SWII-AOTC, and Atlantis. All source material was extremely clean with very strong impact at reference volume.

    Subjectively, I would say the sonic accuracy of the TV-12 is just a hair better than the dB-12 driver in the Plus line. But they are very close in sound quality, which is no surprise considering the drivers are made by the same company. I also found the TV-12 driver to be slightly more "authoritative" than the dB-12 at VERY high volumes. This is probably due to the larger magnet and VC structure and extraordinarily high xMax (>25mm one way) allowing excellent cone control and excursion characteristics. The TV-12 is an effortless driver and really makes the stretch for that last dB of deep impact.

    As expected, the TV-12 driver can play a bit louder than the dB-12 driver, and we certainly proved it. We recorded 116-117 dB peaks (on C-weighted Fast) about 12 feet from the sub during playback at reference level. This is a good 2 dB better than the dB-12 driver in the same room.

    Am I ready to trade in my 20-39 PC+? In a word - no. I would say the PC+ is between 8/10 and 9/10 of an Ultra in terms of sound quality and performance. However, it is 40% less expensive than the Ultra/Samson/Marchand set-up. With that said, the Ultra clearly has a slight but definitely audible and measurable advantage over the Plus and if you've just gotta have that last tenth (or so), the Ultra certainly delivers the goods. Overall, VERY impressive.

    Regards,

    Ed
     
  2. Juan_R

    Juan_R Supporting Actor

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    Edward,

    I currently have an SVS 20-39 CSi and was thinking about upgrading to a + or Ultra. After reading your review I think I will go with the +. Thank for the review.
     
  3. steve nn

    steve nn Cinematographer

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    Edward that was very informative and a good assessment. Thanks for the Info.[​IMG]
     
  4. Frank Carter

    Frank Carter Screenwriter

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    Edward,

    Thanks for the great review. I went from a 20-39CS Plus to a CS Ultra and found there was a tad more output, but my room is kind of small so I didn't need it.



    Where you got the 25mm from? I've been wanting to know this for a while.

    Frank
     
  5. BrianKR

    BrianKR Second Unit

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  6. Edward J M

    Edward J M Cinematographer

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    Hi Frank:

    I think the SQ of both subs is excellent. Placement was the same as with the previous sub. It's kind of hard to quantify a term like "more excellent". [​IMG] The Ultra sounds a bit more realistic than the PC+ on certain passages, but it was subtle - not night and day by any means. If the PC+ rates a 9, the Ultra rates a 9.8 - that kind of thing. I also thought the Ultra hit a bit harder and with more authority at reference. It never sounded strained even when pushed extremely hard.

    I didn't measure the room, but I'd guess it's about 1,500 ft3 with an opening to the kitchen and hallway. A decent sized room, but not huge by any means.

    From the SVS website: "1 inch Santoprene surround capable of over 2" peak to peak excursion." Admittedly, I made an intuitive leap here. I'm assuming the surround would not be advertised as capable of over a 2" peak to peak excursion unless the driver/motor could deliver the same. I would be very surprised if the xMax is less than 25 mm considering the other recent offerings from TC Sounds like the Stryke AV-12 have an xMax of 23 mm and the TV-12 has a much deeper basket in comparison. Tom V can verify of course.

    Ed
     
  7. Jeffrey_B

    Jeffrey_B Agent

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    Nice review Ed. Where in NY are you (I am in Orange County)? I too have the 20-39PC+ and couldn't be happier. I have a Polk LSi setu all around. In my family room (22 x 14 x 8), the 20-39PC+ is more than adequate. JEFF
     
  8. Edward J M

    Edward J M Cinematographer

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    Hi Jeffrey:

    I live in Monroe County outside of Rochester, and my friend with the Ultra lives just south of Buffalo.

    I consider myself fortunate to have heard a 25-31PCi, a 20-39PC+, and an Ultra/Samson/Marchand set-up.

    All of them are exceedingly good values in their respective price ranges. Personally, I think the PC+ line is the best value - I can't believe what it offers for the modest premium over the PCi line. Along those lines, I can't help but wonder how well a PC Ultra would sell.

    Or failing that, I really think SVS should offer a single Ultra with the unmounted 525W Indigo BASH amp as an alternative to the 2-channel Samson/Marchand set-up. Personally, I think that package would sell like crazy.

    The Indigo unit is small and light enough to mount and discretely stash just about anywhere near the sub. It would not only cost less than the Samson/Marchand set-up, the interconnects are less expensive and less complicated (a single RCA cable is all that's required), and the user features and functionality are the same or even a bit better.

    C'mon Ron - throw the 525W Indigo BASH unit on the site as a loose amp option packaged with a single CS+ or single Ultra. That is a killer amp with great features for the money and would be very easy to set-up and use with a passive sub.

    Regards,

    Ed
     
  9. Frank Carter

    Frank Carter Screenwriter

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    Brian,

    I thought I'd reply to your PM here so anyone who's interested can read my view on the Ultra. As you already know, the CS Plus woofers are are excellent for both movies and music. My 20-39CS Plus exceeded my expectations and I was completely satistifed. Soon after I bought it I found out the woofer in the CS Ultra was upgraded at no extra cost. I returned the 20-39CS Plus and got the Ultra mainly out of curiousity. As hinted in my previous post, I prefer the Ultra for both HT and music.

    As I mentioned earlier, in my room both subs had more than enough output to please me. Both subs do great for HT and music but the Ultra has it's own distinct sonic signature that I prefer more than any other commercial sub I've heard at any price. The Ultra does everything with an "aggresive ease" that the 20-39CS Plus didn't have. I'm not trying to down talk the Plus at all, I think it represents the greatest value on the sub market.

    It's hard to quantify the difference because the difference is small. The Plus is a subwoofer that does a stellar job for music and HT. The Ultra is a subwoofer that does a flawless job. Even though the difference is small, it's just enough to put it in it's own class for reproduction of bass. It's right on with getting the timbre of each bass note correctly, without ever giving an indication of strain. My Samson S1000 clips before anything else(that's only at volumes past reference). Now that I've recently added a BFD to my system, I'm +/-2db from 15-90hz. I've gotten it to blend so well with my Klipsch RF-3II's that when demoing to my uneducated friend's, they ask if something's wrong since they aren't hearing the boom they're used too. I usually proceed to turn it off to show the difference it makes then I play The Haunting at reference level(this is when it does more than what they expect).

    Hope this is what you're looking for Brian.

    Frank
     
  10. Robb Roy

    Robb Roy Supporting Actor

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  11. Edward J M

    Edward J M Cinematographer

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    Frank - we are on the same page. A bit more accurate sounding, with an effortless and authoritative quality not quite matched by the Plus driver. Definitely audible and measurable.

    Both subs are SO good to start with, that you must pay a 55% premium to go from a 20-39 CS Plus to a CS Ultra for perhaps a 15% gain in performance and sound quality.

    It always costs the most to go from "extremely good" to "flawless" - it is a perfect example of the law of diminishing returns.

    Is it worth it? Each of us must answer that for ourselves. For some people - definitely; for others, maybe not. Tom V considers the Ultra to be "worth every penny". I can't say as I disagree with him. [​IMG]

    Regards,

    Ed
     
  12. Frank Carter

    Frank Carter Screenwriter

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    I agree, worth every penny.
     
  13. ChadLB

    ChadLB Screenwriter

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    I want to throw a question out...I am interested in the 25-31 pci but not sure if it pays to wait a little while and get the 25-31 plus. Any opinions.... This is what Ron said
    You guys are on the comparison topic so I thought I would take other opinions.....

    Something that will work well today, and grow with you into nearly any room you could configure?

    Easy. A 25-31PC-Plus.
    If that’s a bit over budget the 25-31PCi but it’d be a tick less than I’d want to see in your largest imagined room.
    We’ll have box solutions out in the next weeks and months that will be nearly as good, but will always tend to cost a bit more for similar performance. If you are sold on a box, wait for either the upcoming PB1-ISD (around $599) or the PB1-Plus (price TBD) later in the year. More on them in our News page.
    Suffice it to say you came to the right place for bass you can make a long term part of your family!
    Ron Stimpson
     
  14. Edward J M

    Edward J M Cinematographer

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    Chad - I don't know how big your HT room is, but if it's borderline "large-ish" say 1,800 ft3 or more, I think the Plus is the WTG.

    As I said above, it's amazing what the Plus provides in terms of usable features (tuning and variable SS and phase), power (525), and improved driver (dB-12) for such a small premium over the PCi. If you're a tweaker (like I am), and you like to try different tuning, phase, and SS filter combinations, and run FR sweeps and SPL measurements, then the Plus is definitely for you.

    With that said, the PCi is no slouch. In a medium sized room, it will be more than any sane person will probably ever need. But if you play near/at reference level, the Plus is capable of upwards of 5 dB more clean output below 30 Hz and might make all the difference in a bigger room.
     
  15. ChadLB

    ChadLB Screenwriter

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    Edward,
    Right now I live in a duplex...the living room is about 15' by 14' and 7 ft ceilings...though we are starting to look at houses.
    The thing is you can get a bstock 25-31pci for $499 once in a great while and the 31plus is 775 or 725 b-stock. A $200 difference is not huge but it is money I can put in a 5 channel amplifier if i want.
    The thing is I don't want to be like wow I wished I would saved for the plus. But from all responses the pci seems like it holds it own. I mean it beat the HSU vt-3 on most ends.
     
  16. ChadLB

    ChadLB Screenwriter

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    Well it looks like my old AR will sell on ebay in the next 3 days so then I must decide do I go with the 25-31 pic or the new box style....any recommendations....help...someone.
     

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