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 . . .
There’s something comical about pairing a 65-pound subwoofer with five-pound satellites, although in practice, it’s not as silly as it looks. When I originally auditioned the SVS PB-1000, I found that I had to crank the gain to roughly 80 percent to match its output to the GoldenEar SuperSat 3s. During the balancing process with the PB-2000, I found that dialing its gain just past the halfway mark – maybe 55 or 60 percent – allowed me enough headroom in my receiver’s level adjustments to balance the system.
Still, it’s a hilarious sight, so I couldn’t resist the urge to pop in the most ridiculously, uproariously and bombastically bass-heavy Blu-ray I own: Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s Hot Fuzz (Universal). It’s pointless to spotlight any single scene in the film, because nearly every moment is punctuated by pounding parody bass. Every closed door (slammed or not), every cradled telephone (slammed or not), and every friendly pat on the back sounds like a thermonuclear device detonated by Thor’s hammer. To be honest, it can be tiring if you’re not in the mood for it, or if your subwoofer isn’t up to the task. But the PB-2000 dished out every ludicrous pounding sound effect with the utmost in effortlessness and absolutely zero distortion, as far as I could hear.
Moving onto something slightly less ridiculous (sonically, not narratively), I cued up Chapter Two of Oblivion (Universal) on Blu-ray. There are numerous amazing subwoofer show-off scenes in the film, but one of my favorite is about nine minutes in, when Tom Cruise lands his scout ship on the surface of the post-apocalyptic Earth. This scene doesn’t necessarily feature the deepest bass that the soundtrack has to offer, nor the most impactful, but the reason I love it is because it spotlights the wonderful flexibility of the PB-2000. When Cruise’s ship lands, it does so with a thunderous kaboom that practically reverberates through your bones. It’s impactful, big, bold, precise, and, through the SVS, it honestly doesn’t sound like the thud is coming from a subwoofer. It sounds like an in-room apocalypse. But shortly thereafter, the score kicks in with these ominous, thumping low notes that also beautifully demonstrate the sub’s capacity for nuance: they aren’t loud. They’re definitely subtle. But through the PB-2000, they’re wonderfully textured, tactile, and cavernous in a way that I haven’t heard many subwoofers deliver them.
If you’d rather not support Tom Cruise’s career (hey, I got the Blu-ray for free, don’t blame me), there’s a scene early in Gravity (Warner Home Video) that conveys much the same flexibility and range. About six minutes into the first chapter, when Kowalski joins Dr. Stone on the surface of the HST, the only sounds aside from comms chatter are low-frequency conductive sounds. The PB-2000 delivers them superbly, with an exquisitely tangible quality that permeates the listening space. Again, it’s easy to forget that you’re hearing a subwoofer and truly just get lost in the reality of the sequence.
But then, just a few minutes later, as the score turns ominous to alert us to the fact that things are about to take a turn for the worse, the loping bass notes take on a very different but equally substantial physicality. In contrast to the very staccato bass beats of gloves and boots on metal surfaces, the score here is smooth but ridiculously deep, and it manages to be both powerful and subdued at the same time. The bass here, through the PB-2000, takes on the characteristics of the proverbial gentle giant: you can feel every ounce of its power, but it isn’t flagrant. It’s all strength and no bravado, which is exactly what the scene calls for.
Sufficiently convinced that the PB-2000 made a fantastic sonic match with the little GoldenEar SuperSats when watching movies, I moved onto some of my favorite musical bass tests, starting with Björk’s “I See Who You Are” from the album Volta (Elektra), which features a delightful little “doodle-duh-doom-doooom” bass line that descends from about 120 Hz (right at the crossover point between the sats and sub) down to 60 Hz and back up again. To my ears, the PB-2000 did an exceptional job with the lowest frequencies, but only a very good job with the higher bass notes.
Likewise, Lyle Lovett’s “She’s Already Made Up Her Mind” from Joshua Judges Ruth (MCA) features a Texas crapload o’ bass in the 80 Hz-and-up range, punctuated by these big bottom-heavy booms centered around 40 Hz, starting about 47 seconds in. Although the PB-2000 delivered the latter with gobs of vigor, I felt like the higher bass notes got a weensy bit lost in the mix, both in terms of loudness and definition.
So I dragged the PB-2000 into my home office and connected it to the aforementioned Parasound Halo P 5 and GoldenEar Triton Sevens, crossed over at 80 Hz, which I felt would allow the SVS sub to play to its strengths. It certainly did. Shifting the higher bass notes to the Triton Sevens and allowing the PB-2000 to flex its low-bass muscle did wonders for both Lyle and Björk, resulting in a wonderful mix of ultra-low-frequency oomph and upper bass definition.
There was still one last trip in store for the SVS sub, as I moved it into the main home theater to see if the PB-2000 could fill the space effectively on its own. In addition to all of the above scenes and songs, I also threw in my Blu-ray copy of The Amazing Spider-Man (Sony), specifically the scene in Chapter 12 in which Spidey and the Lizard go mano-a-garra in the New York City sewers. While I did have to crank the volume knob to its extreme setting to match the output of my Paradigm Studio 100 speakers and CC-590 center channel at reference levels, I was impressed to hear that the PB-2000 was, in fact, capable of filling the room, with all of the bass nuance and intricacy that the soundtrack has to deliver. Even more impressive to me was the fact that, despite being driven to the absolute edges of its performance capabilities, the subwoofer nonetheless exhibited nary an ounce of strain or struggle.
With a product that delivers the level of performance that the PB-2000 does, downsides are relative, and many of them are subjective. The fact that the sub performs at its best when crossed over at 80Hz or lower – especially with music – may be a concern for some. Its size, when contrasted with its maximum volume levels, may also keep it from being a practical solution in some living spaces. Neither of these issues really bothers me in the slightest, to be frank, but I would prefer a nicer-looking cabinet for the sub, or perhaps a glossy finish. Still, it’s hard to complain about the look of a subwoofer that costs this little, yet delivers such low bass with this much authority and complexity.
Comparison and Competition
If you’re shopping for a sub at roughly this price point with this much power, this little distortion, and this much detail, I think the most obvious alternative would be SVS’s own sealed equivalent, the SB-2000. It comes in at $100 cheaper, has a much smaller footprint, and the same no-hassle, no-questions-asked 45-day audition period. It might be a better solution if you’re tight on space, spend the bulk of your time listening to music, have smaller satellite speakers, or if your preferences lean toward upper-bass agility over lower-bass vitality.
If deep bass is your thing, HSU Research’s VTF-3 MK4 subwoofer would be another very viable alternative. At $799, the VTF-3 MK4 features two ports and can be operated with both ports open, one closed, or in completely sealed mode. It also features a variable Q control that allows you to tune the subwoofer on the fly depending upon your listening material.
As I said above, it’s easy to look at a subwoofer like the PB-2000 and make a lot of assumptions about it, but yet again, SVS has proven to be a company that defies expectations based on aesthetics and price. I found it to be an incredibly impactful yet refined subwoofer in a very small space, paired with very small satellite speakers, capable of delivering raucousness and refinement in equal measure with movies. Although it took mating with a larger speaker to eke the most in terms of musicality from the PB-2000, that’s to be expected given its design.
If you’re looking for the balls-to-the-wall loudest subwoofer you can buy for the money, with no concern for anything other than SPLs, the SVS PB-2000 might not be your best pick. However, if you’re looking for a sub that delivers truly deep, palpable, intricate bass within its performance parameters, look no further. This big boxy beast is an undeniable winner.