I've learned a lot in the past few years about first impressions and snap judgments. Since adopting a 75-pound pit bull (actually, he's an American Staffordshire Terrier, if you want to be picky about it), I've grown accustomed to ignoring the leery looks, the unfounded assumptions. It used to sting a bit when ladies would clutch at invisible pearls and pull their younglings under pretend petticoats at the sight of Bruno's rippling muscular frame and big cinderblock head as we jogged around the neighborhood. The first few months, I found myself defending him quite a bit: "He's just a big lap baby!" "Honestly, he would love nothing more than to give your kids a sloppy smooch." These days I just nod and smile and keep on jogging.
Why do I bring that up? Because SVS's PB-2000 12-inch ported subwoofer reminds me a lot of Bruno in a lot of ways. They're both big and boxy. They both look a bit intimidating. When you get to know them, though, the most surprising thing about both Bruno and the PB-2000 is an overwhelming tendency toward gentleness that overshadows their undeniable physical capacity for violence.
You can hardly blame the friends who've visited my home since I installed the PB-2000 for taking one look at it and assuming that it's designed for nothing more than maximum-impact, foundation-liquefying sound output, with no nuance or restraint. "My god, that thing is massive," I've heard more times than I care to count. "Nobody needs that much subwoofer." "Did you steal that thing from the AMC?" At 20.5 inches tall, 17.3 inches wide, and 22 inches deep (nearly 25 with its curved metal grille, which harks back to the design of the company's Plus and Ultra subwoofers), this beast of box gives the impression that it's designed purely to peel the plaster off the walls and rearrange the contents of your digestive tract.
Of course, if you're familiar with the design of ported subwoofers (if you're a regular reader of HomeTheaterReview.com, it's a safe bet that you are), the size of the PB-2000's enclosure in relation to its relatively small 12-inch driver is probably no great shock. If you're not hip to subwoofer design, though, it's worth noting that a well-designed ported subwoofer requires a much bigger cabinet than a sealed equivalent with similar specs and drivers. There are pluses and minuses to both design approaches, no doubt. Sealed subwoofers are generally, in my experience, more articulate, nuanced, and impactful, but often struggle to crank out the deepest of bass notes with a ton of authority in larger rooms. Ported subs, by contrast, tend to move a lot more air in the very lowest octaves and are much more efficient (giving you more SPLs per watt, generally speaking), but they sometimes trade coherency for raw output, and they can at times overwhelm smaller spaces.
The perception that has arisen from these generalities is that ported subs are only good for action movie soundtracks, dub step music, and cavernous listening spaces, while sealed subs are the clear winners for small rooms, or for music listeners who spend all of their time surfing between channels 16 and 33 on the SiriusXM Radio dial.
However, if the time I spent with SVS's PB-1000 last year taught me anything, it's that a well-designed ported sub can be exceptionally nuanced, wonderfully detailed, and quite reserved, while still belting out some truly seismic ultra-low frequencies when called upon to do so. So, when SVS gave me my choice this year to review either of its new mid-priced subs - the $699 sealed SB-2000 or the $799 ported PB-2000 - I opted for the latter, despite my general preference for sealed subs. I was mostly curious to see how much difference the PB-2000's extra two inches of woofer diameter, larger cabinet size (two inches of extra height and width, and nearly four more inches of depth), and 200 extra watts (RMS) of amplification would make.
The first and most obvious difference between the PB-1000 and PB-2000, aside from their size, is that the connections have been further simplified on the newer, larger sub. The PB-2000 lacks the former's five-way binding posts for speaker-level input and features a C17/C18 power coupler in place of the PB-1000's C7/C8 connection. Other than that, all of the ins and outs are the same. The PB-2000 features stereo line-level RCA inputs and outputs (the right of which serves as the LFE in), a 3-12-volt trigger input, a dipswitch to toggle between on and auto standby, and knobs for volume/gain, phase control, and a low-pass filter that runs from 50 to 160 Hz on its way to the LFE/bypass setting. Give that I relied upon the bass-management settings in my receiver, two-channel preamp, and surround preamp during my testing, I left the last two knobs in their default positions (0 degrees and LFE/bypass, respectively) and only ever needed the single LFE input and the volume control.
Since the SVS PB-1000 I auditioned last year didn't have sufficient output for my main media room, I listened to it primarily in my 13- by 15-foot secondary home theater system, so that's where I began my listening with the PB-2000. Associated equipment included Anthem's MRX 710 AV receiver and GoldenEar Technology's SuperSat 3 satellite speakers, crossed over at 120 Hz. From there, I moved the subwoofer into my two-channel setup in the home office, relying on the excellent bass-management capabilities of Parasound's Halo P 5 preamplifier to mate it with a pair of GoldenEar Triton Seven towers, with a crossover frequency of 80 Hz. Finally, I heaved the PB-2000 into my main home theater and connected it to my Anthem D2v AV processor, A5 amp, and Paradigm Studio 100 speakers to see if it could do what that PB-1000 couldn't: energize the entirety of that 17- by 19-foot space.
Click on over to Page 2 for the Performance, the Downside, the Comparison and Competition and the Conclusion . . .