SVS. You know who they are, everyone does. They started out as an ID company (Internet Direct) but have branched out into much more than that. However, some folks aren’t comfortable buying on-line and would rather do business with a large retailer like Best Buy/Magnolia, Crutchfield, OneCall or Electronics Expo. Thankfully you can get SVS products from every one of those retailers, as well as many others. What’s that, you aren’t in the United States? Not a problem because you can buy SVS speakers and subwoofers in… well, it might actually be easier to name the countries where you can’t find them than the ones you can because the former will be a shorter list than the latter. Point being, SVS is ubiquitous – they’re everywhere – and for good reason; solid products, fair price, excellent service and extras galore. That brings us to what I’m evaluating today, the new PB-1000 Pro.
8 years ago I published a review on its predecessor, the PB-1000. A ported subwoofer with a 10″ driver and 300 watt amp, it instantly set the benchmark for subs selling for less than $500. It remained a stalwart for almost a decade yet despite its popularity – and the ever increasing raw materials costs – the price never changed during its run, the PB-1000 was always $499. That’s quite an accomplishment, not only did SVS’s margin per unit shrink during that time but they also resisted the urge to cash in on its success. How many times have you seen a product become very popular only to have the manufacturer raise the price just because they could? SVS never did that.
For the past few years the company has been systematically going through their subwoofer line and upgrading each model, starting from the most expensive and progressing to their least, and now it was the 1000 series turn. You need to tread lightly when updating a product this successful however, change the character or price too much and you lose the momentum and good will that made it so popular in the first place. So how did SVS do in that regard, did they enhance it or mess up the formula? I’m not telling, at least not yet. Before I can even answer that question though I have to get it out of the box.
The PB-1000 Pro was packed very well with thick foam blocks in all 8 corners (4 on the top, 4 on the bottom). The subwoofer was inside a plastic bag with the finish protected by foam sheets. Included was the power cord and a packet containing a product brochure and quick start guide (QSG). There was no owners manual but the QSG gives a URL to download one from the SVS website. That link yielded a 404 page not found error for me so I wasn’t able to see what the guide contains. If you’ve setup a subwoofer before it’s probably not needed anyway as the PB-1000 Pro is pretty straightforward in that regard.
So What’s The Difference?
After unpacking the PB-1000 Pro something popped into my head, it didn’t seem all that large. Why is that? SVS made changes which logically should have resulted in a bigger subwoofer, but that’s not what happened. They went from a 10″ driver to 12″ and from a single port to duals, yet to my eyes it looked to be about the same size. I actually went back to my original article to see if I was losing my mind. Thankfully I wasn’t; the size difference between the original PB-1000 and the new Pro version is a mere 0.15″x0″x.75″ (HWD). That translates to a height difference all but imperceptible, absolutely no difference in width and a mere 3/4th’s of an inch in depth. Side-by-side with grills on it would be difficult to tell the two apart. Since I’m making comparisons let me continue with a few more.
The PB-1000 sold for $499 while the new Pro goes for $599. The former used a 10″ driver and a single port while the latter comes with a 12″ driver and dual ports. The Pro weighs 2 pounds less than its predecessor, 42 versus 44. Amp capacity went up; 325 watts RMS (820 peak) for the Pro versus 300 watts RMS (720 peak) for the PB-1000. Overall frequency response is similar with the original PB-1000 rated at 19Hz-270Hz +/- 3dB and the Pro being 17Hz-260Hz +/- 3dB.
The PB-1000 Pro is only available with a black ash finish. Curiously it’s brother, the sealed SB-1000 Pro, adds gloss black and white to the finish options. Thankfully the black ash is tastefully done and looks quite nice. It’s my preferred finish anyway – I’m not a fan of shiny surfaces, white or black – so for me it was ideal.
Here are some spec’s for the driver and amplifier:
12-inch long-throw, overhung motor
Treated fiber composite cone
1.5″ diameter voice coil
Two-piece Y35 ferrite magnet motor
6″ composite cotton-poly spider
Class D 325 watts RMS, 820+ watts peak
Unbalanced stereo input/output
Speaker level stereo input
Auto/Always On/Trigger power options
50Mhz Analog Devices audio DSP
High resolution double precision 56bit filtering
As you can see from the specifications the Pro now has a sealed mode whereas the PB-1000 didn’t. The frequency response curve between sealed and ported that SVS posts is similar enough that I never requested the optional port plugs for this review.
[Yellow is sealed, purple is ported]
My own close-mic (1 foot) measurements almost mirror what SVS provides which suggests they’re accurate:
Thankfully one thing SVS didn’t change with the upgrade was their Bill of Rights, unquestionably the most comprehensive set of customer policies in the industry. Among the many things it provides an owner of their products is a 45 day in-home trial with free shipping both ways, 60 day price guarantee, 5 year warranty, trade up program and free 1 year performance upgrade. No one in the industry offers what SVS does.
Setup and Configuration
Since we’re on this theme of changes let’s talk about the amplifier. The PB-1000 Pro now offers the same technology as their flagship Ultra series. That won’t be visible to the naked eye as the amp is internal but what you will be able to see is the addition of an app to control all the settings.
For those who consider a mobile device an extension of their arm you’re going to love this. Available for download from the app store of whichever evil empire you’re tethered to – Google or Apple – the subwoofer app is intuitive and easy to use. It gives you the ability to adjust far more than the physical controls on the amplifier itself. There are settings for:
- Low pass filter
- 3 different PEQ’s (Parameter EQ’s), each independently controlled
- RGC (room gain compensation) to tame frequencies overly boosted by your room acoustics
- Tuning for ported or sealed alignments
- 3 preset configurations (movie, music, custom)
There’s also a built-in tutorial and the ability to contact SVS support directly should you encounter any difficulties.
Listening Impressions – Movies & TV
I do something a bit differently than most reviewers when it comes to listening impressions, I take my sweet time. What exactly does that mean? When I get a product to evaluate I place it in my system, run room correction, adjust to taste and then simply listen without jotting down a single note. That “listen” part often encompasses several weeks before I get serious, and while that might sound counterintuitive to some it works for me. I want to do the exact same thing you do with your audio equipment, live with it on a day-to-day basis. Sure, I’m going to push the limits and see if I can find any deficiencies – after all, that’s what I’m paid to do – but I personally believe you can’t understand the true essence of a piece of gear unless you live with it when you aren’t doing a critical analysis. I want to know how something handles everyday life, how it performs doing more mundane things like it will probably be tasked with the majority of its life. In the case of the PB-1000 Pro that means I ran it through a gamut of bass heavy movies, but I also used a few that aren’t so punishing. What happens when it must hang back and wait for its chance to shine? Will it deliver and augment the experience or does it try to dominate and make sure you know its there regardless of whether that’s appropriate? How about when the volume is low, does it still hold up its end of the bargain or will it shrink away and become lifeless? I can’t find all those answers in a few days, I need a few weeks.
When it comes to subwoofer tests one of my go-to movies for the past several years has been Battle: Los Angeles. Not only does it have a pretty decent plot line, so I can actually watch the whole thing, it also has a lot of action and a well recorded soundtrack. The battle on the bridge is one of the better tests with weapons from the Marines and the aliens blasting away virtually nonstop. There are explosions of different magnitudes, rounds from guns of various calibers and whatever those things the invaders were shooting. The musical passage during this section seemed to lacked a bit of the drama I’m accustom to but the destruction certainly didn’t, having both impact and presence. The bottom most octave could have been a touch stronger during some of the heavier action but what the PB-1000 Pro didn’t do was fall all over itself and loose composure, it brilliantly played what was within its capability and steadfastly refused to come unglued. Even during parts where the chaos had multiple layers it never faltered. To test that further I used volume but my attempts to trip up the PB-1000 Pro were fruitless as it simply refused to sound bad. But that’s a challenge as far as I’m concerned so let the games begin. Speaking of games…
Since Battle: Los Angeles didn’t unsettle the PB-1000 Pro, how about we throw some Tron: Legacy at it? That will almost surely do it, but what scene would I use to unnerve this subwoofer? Why the Lifecycle Battle, of course. With an obnoxious and completely overdone soundtrack by none other than Daft Punk, this part of the movie will fluster SVS’s entry level subwoofer right? Wrong. To my surprise the exact opposite happened, the PB-1000 Pro tamed the beast. Not only did it quell the droning you typically get, it actually made it sound good. There are parts of this scene were it seems as though the engineers overlaid several tracks with different fundamental tones to create a menacing effect, but in so doing it can come across as a bit exaggerated. Frankly, it can sound pretty sloppy sometimes but the PB-1000 Pro filtered out the objectionable and smoothed over the rough spots and made for quite an enjoyable experience. There was very good detail and a nice balanced sound, no irritating droning was heard. I was actually enjoying this scene so much I forgot to take notes so I had to watch it a second time, not that I’m complaining of course.
By this point I had begun to realize SVS programmed the DSP in the PB-1000 Pro to perfection, rolling off offensive sounds without strangling the life out of the soundtrack. But in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t seem to be trimming too much, it’s giving me an awful lot in spite of the digital wizardry. Maybe it’s time to go old school, how about some War of the Worlds?
When it comes to movies used for testing subwoofers is there one mentioned more often than War of the Worlds? Probably not. I want to find a weakness though so I’m going to boost things a little using the SVS app. I enabled 2 of the 3 PEQ’s, the first at 60Hz with a 3dB boost while the second was at 20Hz with a 4dB boost. I set a Q value of 1 for both of them (a “Q value” is basically how wide the adjustment is, so it’s not just 20Hz and 60Hz that were affected but frequencies before and after those as well). Basically what I did was increase the output and centered it at 20Hz and 60Hz – making them ‘hot’ so to speak – because I wanted to see how the PB-1000 Pro handled those critical areas when they were overemphasized. The 50-70Hz range is what a lot of people consider mid-bass, often referred to on forums as “chest slam”. Since that’s very desirable for many of us I wanted to find out what might happen if I intentionally made it thicker in that area. 4dB at 20Hz was nothing more than a deliberate attempt to cause an issue; 4dB is a lot of boost down that low. Pushing the envelope on a ported sub at its tuning frequency is a recipe for disaster, precisely what I was looking for. The app doesn’t allow you to create a boost point below 20Hz, so I wasn’t able to center it exactly at port tune, but with a wide Q value it does encompass the 17Hz range. OK, now that I have everything set let’s queue up the movie.
Of course one of the first scenes you have to try is Lightning Strikes. The bolts crashing to earth were clearly defined but there wasn’t quite as much sensation in my chair as I thought there might be. It wasn’t weak by any means, just not enough to create that startled perception I think the producers were going for in this scene. When the pod emerges immediately afterward all that changed as the PB-1000 Pro made short work of this part, clearly communicating the subterranean rumbling you expect. That portion lasts for a few minutes so there was an opportunity to really listen, and I definitely liked what I heard. Immediately thereafter I jumped to another scene that is short in duration but does require precise control in order to sound right. At one point Ray and his family are boarding a ferry to get off the mainland when one of the pods comes in behind them. Standing on the hilltop it pounds one foot on the ground and then the other, something the PB-1000 Pro got very right with two intimidating thuds. As if to cause even more fear in the throng of people below it trumpets an ominous sound with a pulsating undertone that this subwoofer nailed.
By now I figured the amp should be getting hot, seeing as how I’m not only pushing the volume but I also increased the output at both 20Hz and 60Hz, but that wasn’t the case at all. To be honest there’s almost no warmth to speak of. It’s as though I’m not trying.
Listening Impressions – Music
Free Bird! At one point in time you couldn’t go to any rock concert without some knucklehead in the audience shouting that during a quiet interlude. I love live music – actually let me correct that, I’m completely addicted to it having seen over 200 bands in my life – so what better way for someone like me to test a subwoofer than with a live song or two?
From Lynyrd Skynyrd’s seminal album One More
For From the Road, Free Bird is a 13+ minute song with the last half being little more than dueling solos from their 3 guitarists. That alone is enough to make me listen, but the recording also has a solid bass track which makes it perfect for exercising a subwoofer. In order to compete a sub will have to rise to the occasion and get on even footing with all those guitars, and the PB-1000 Pro did just that. This was one of those tests that I played at both low and high volume because… well, because I like this song and I felt like listening to it. Bass player Leon Wilkeson and drummer Artimus Pyle get as much of a workout as the guitarists but the PB-1000 Pro kept up with the lot. No matter how chaotic it got during the last ~7 minutes of this classic it never fell behind, doing its part to lay a solid foundation for the rhythm section. I enjoyed that.
Hans Zimmer, ever hear anything he’s done? If you said “no” I would counter with “I believe you have”. Perhaps the most storied and prolific composer of movie and TV soundtracks there ever was, Hans is the man behind the music of such well known titles as Gladiator, Driving Miss Daisy, Rain Man, Interstellar, Crimson Tide, Madagascar, The Lion King, Inception, Da Vinci Code, Pirates of the Caribbean and who knows how many more. So what happens when he decides to tour? He puts together a 72 piece orchestra and wows audiences. His blu-ray disc Live in Prague is a tour-de-force, not only because it’s a whose-who of his work but it was recorded exceptionally well. The opening sequence, a mashup of 3 soundtracks called Driving/Discombobulate/Zoosters Breakout, is an excellent way to kick off a show. It’s also outstanding material to use for this article.
The song goes through a slow build-up as the individual players start coming in, then the orchestra explodes to life and the fun begins in earnest. Multiple percussion instruments – along with both stand-up and electric bass guitars – create a deep foundation for the composition, all of which the PB-1000 Pro played effortlessly. This is a soaring piece with dozens of instruments and multiple changes in pace. This passage requires precision to pull off and SVS’s newest offering did just that. I’ll let you in on a little secret, I put this medley on repeat and listened to it about 3 or 4 times while writing this part of the article. I defy anyone to watch this performance and not be enthralled by what these people are capable of, this is musicianship at its finest. Man I wish I had been in that audience.
A subwoofer is not defined by live music alone however so I decided to try something different; electronic music. This is not my genre but it often represents quite a challenge for a subwoofer, and who better to choose than the granddaddy of them all? That would be Bassotronics, and what better song than Bass I Love You? Not so fast, that’s predictable and I don’t do predictable. If everyone is going right I’ll go left just to see why no one is going that way. Instead I chose Sub Bass Excursion. This song has an almost piston-like rhythm, where sections caused the driver to undulate wildly. Despite gyrating to the point where movement seemed almost a blur the PB-1000 Pro was unperturbed, pumping out tons of controlled bass. Between you and me I probably pushed it a little too much with this song. The 3rd time I played it the volume was cranked to a “maybe I shouldn’t really do this” level, but the PB-1000 Pro was resolute and refused to play a single bad note. The ports didn’t even make any unpleasant noises in protest, which was a bit surprising considering how loud it was.
With the breadth of SVS’s subwoofer line it seems odd to say that when revising the 1000 series – the entry point for the company – they had a lot of pressure on them. Wouldn’t the premium offerings be more critical? For sure their top-of-the-line Ultra series is important, but the less costly 1000’s have a lot of consumer placements so there are more of those in peoples homes. So what does a company do then when it’s time to update a storied subwoofer like the PB-1000? You trickle down some of the proven enhancements already part of the other series and package them in a manner where almost anyone can afford it, then you make the thing bulletproof. The new PB-1000 Pro was a long time in the making but it’s poised to continue the legacy of the original as an economical subwoofer that sounds anything but cheap. With a larger 12″ driver, app control, infallible DSP programming and myriad tuning options it provides a lot of bang for the buck. SVS deftly upgraded the venerable PB-1000 to the new Pro version and in the process walked a fine line by not losing what made the original so special in the first place. Job well done.
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