Greg Handy developed a passion for audio in his early teens when he worked as an installer of car audio systems. This experience taught him about passive and active crossovers, subwoofers, and challenged acoustics, as well as how to troubleshoot persistent bugbears like ground loops and noise.
From there, his interests grew to home audio and home theater systems. Once he bought his own home, he began installing sound systems and theater systems in different rooms, spending much time and money along the way. It wasn't long before he began doing the same for friends and family, then sharing his passion for AV with the HomeTheaterReview.com audience.
SVS, a well known consumer-direct speaker and subwoofer manufacturer, has recently introduced yet another subwoofer line: The 3000 series. Under review here is the sealed model in that range, appropriately named the SB-3000 ($999). SVS was kind enough to provide a pair of SB-3000s for a dual subwoofer installation.
According to SVS, the goal of the 3000 series is to push the limits of performance-to-price ratio by creating a more affordable reference quality subwoofer. I love capitalism in action, especially when manufacturers jockey for a leadership position by innovating and evolving. If done correctly both consumers and innovators are the winners: reference performance for a lower price--assuming the manufacturer delivers. Another observation is that the 3000 series represents SVS's most affordable app-controlled subwoofer. We'll dig into the particulars of this in a bit.
The heavily braced Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) cabinet of the SB-3000 measures 15.2 inches wide, 17.8 inches deep, and 15.6 inches high, which is surprisingly petite for a subwoofer with this much power and output. At 54.5 pounds, it's also easily manageable--certainly a lot more so than the 102.3-pound SB-4000, the next step up the sealed ladder in SVS's overall lineup. Additionally, because the SB-3000 is a single-driver front-firing sealed-box design, it's a lot more versatile in terms of placement than would be a down-firing sub in its class, or one with multiple passive radiators.
Finished in your choice of Premium Ash Black or Piano Gloss Black for a little extra coin, the SB-3000 has a typical subwoofer appearance, assuming you ignore the grill: a perforated heavy gauged sheet metal façade that has a gentle curve and finished with what appears to be a heavy-duty ultra-flat black coating. Unlike the acoustic fabric covers I am used to seeing, these grills will never tear. They attach to the cabinet with four heavy-duty dampening pressure fittings that absorb vibration and appear challenging to break within their cavities, which so frequently happens in my experience.
At the heart of the SVS SB-3000 is a compelling 800-watt RMS amplifier that is capable of 2500-watt peak output, per the manufacturer. The sub also employs a high-resolution Analogue Devices digital signal processor (DSP). While most functions are adjustable from the SB-3000's back panel, referred to as the Intelligent Control Interface (ICI), more adjustments are available from the SVS control application. Functions such as three parametric EQ presets and room gain can be modified from the control application, and functions like volume, low pass filter frequency, and phase also benefit from higher resolution via the app.
A 13-inch aluminum, in-house designed, high-excursion woofer is yet another significant aspect of the SB-3000 design. The woofer features a flat edge wound, split wind voice coil that increases magnetics at full extension, while reducing weight to size ratio, driver efficiency increases.
Two toroidal ferrite magnets create a beefy magnetic force to take advantage of the driver's high excursion, and a completely redesigned cast aluminum basket promises to new standards in the way of stiffness and strength.
All that rubber meets the road in a sub that delivers an impressive 18Hz low-frequency extension (-3dB), not to mention the controlled, focused performance for which SVS is known.
The Hook Up
I recently installed a Focal architectural speaker system in my living room, and for the duration of this review, the pair of SVS SB-3000s slid in place of a pair of Focal Sub 1000 F subwoofers. To keep the wife somewhat satisfied, I had to keep the space from looking like a stereo store showroom, and therefore the installation had to be discrete, hence the in-wall speakers. In particular, the subwoofers had to be out of plain sight. At the time of the original installation, two Focal subs were small enough to fit in the right and left corners in the back of the room with the couch in between. The SB-3000s became direct replacements of the existing units.
In this configuration, the subwoofers' 13-inch drivers are oriented facing forward, radiating directly into the room toward the front wall, 14 feet away. The scenario is perfect for a sealed box subwoofer, as it eliminates any concern of port blockage.
This space was previously wired for a single subwoofer, but I was able to daisy chain the additional subwoofer, located on the right, off the RCA line level output on the left subwoofer.
Worth mentioning: if your room lacks wiring for a subwoofer, SVS has you covered with their SoundPath Wireless Audio Adapter, sold separately. This kit allows your processor or receiver to transmit the subwoofer output wirelessly to the SoundPath receiver, which connects to the input side of the subwoofer. There is a USB connector on the amplifier plate of the subwoofer that provides a convenient way to power the wireless receiver.
The seven ear-level in-wall Focal speakers are powered by a Krell Theater-7 amplifier, while the four height channels are powered by an NAD M27 multi-channel amplifier. An Anthem AVM 60 controlled the system.
SVS's Bluetooth control application proved to be a godsend. since the subwoofers' cozy corner installation would not allow easy access to the back panel. Once the application was downloaded and opened on my iPhone, it located both units without any fuss. Their serial numbers appeared within the application, and from there it was easy to discern which subwoofer was on my right or left as it pertained to the control app by raising the volume. I was able to rename the sterile default names with creative names like "right sub" and "left sub," making it easier to toggle between each unit and make any desired changes.
While I appreciate that SVS provides PEQ presets for the SB-3000, all room correction was handled by the AVM 60's Anthem Room Correction software.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, Measurements, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...
The UHD Blu-ray release of Aquaman, via my Oppo UDP 205, was first on the list for its large scale action scenes, kooky weather, explosions, and all the usual superhero movie commotion that makes for a great Dolby Atmos soundtrack.
In the first scene, Thomas Curry is contending with a thunderous storm by buttoning down his lighthouse as he notices the unconscious Atlanna, Queen of Atlantis, lying on the rocky shoreline. Pounding waves, along with raucous thunder, dominate the sound mix. While the outgoing Focal Sub 1000 Fs integrated well with the Focal in-wall speaker system, I noticed an appreciable improvement with the SVS SB3000s, but couldn't quite place my finger on why at first.
Silent or quiet passages were instantly quiet, but when action entered the scene, the power of the subs came on fast, in a violent way. The next action scene from the same movie involves soldiers from Atlantis attempting to bring Atlanna home, but a fight ensues. The subwoofers kicked in ferociously, creating a fantastic startling effect. I could feel the power through my chair, but it wasn't overbearing or exaggerated. Intense, with purpose and authority, is the way I would describe it.
With subwoofers of this size, it was astonishing to hear such dramatic attack. I wondered how much of the performance was due to the dual subwoofer installation, so I turned one of them off via the SVS app. There was no doubt that a single SB-3000 was plenty powerful enough to energize the room. The effect was still substantial, but without the same level of evenness, nor the same consistency from seat to seat. And even with only one sub powered, there was a quality to the bass that I liked, but still couldn't quite define.
With both subwoofers back on, the movie Hunter Killer seemed like a worthy demonstration due to its robust low-frequency energy. Plus, I appreciate films that get to the point quickly. In one of my favorite scenes, two submarines, one Russian and one U.S., attempt to play cat and mouse while avoiding any collusion--I mean collision.
Both vessels move through deep waters just before the Russian submarine suffers an explosion, while soon after the U.S. submarine is completely demolished by a torpedo fired from a third unknown submarine. The deep sounds of maritime clatter and eerie sonar circled my room, and then Bam! An explosion pushed right through my seat. Even though I had previously watched the movie, the destruction stunned me, but rather than pulling me out of the film it pushed me deeper into its reality.
Various other action-packed scenes on this movie provided the same impressive performance of lightning-fast effects of different intensity. At this point, it was clear that one of the most distinctive things about this sub is its ability to go from zero to one hundred in naught-point-nothing seconds.
The bass performance was so significant with movies that I couldn't help but wonder how the SB-3000 would sound with music. Before moving on to two-channel audio, the UHD Blu-ray release of Bohemian Rhapsody, with its Dolby Atmos soundtrack, provided such an opportunity.
In an early scene, where Freddy Mercury performs with the band for the first time, the song "Keep Yourself Alive" was wonderfully and naturally rendered, with no boom or bloat, but rather a tangible-sounding bottom end with no hint of anything out of place.
Continuing with Queen, I streamed from Tidal, through a MacBook Pro, the song "Killer Queen" from their Sheer Heart Attack album. Top to bottom, the audio was seamless, and the subs blended beautifully with the front two channels while imparting solid bass reinforcement throughout the room.
I continued streaming various songs from various artists and found one track in particular, "She Talks to Angels" from The Black Crowes album Shake Your Money Maker, that demonstrated further the SB-3000's capacity for nimbleness. The subwoofer gently breathed the lower end of midbass output emanating from the body of an acoustic guitar, providing weight and hence realism to the presentation. It was a majestic demonstration of the sub's capabilities.
For some, the limited finishes available for the SVS SB-3000 could be an issue. While that did not impact me as I had these subwoofers tucked away and out of sight, some may want more décor-friendly options. In defense of SVS, this is one way to keep costs down, while delivering a substantial product.
Worth mentioning is the absence of balanced (XLR) line level inputs, which for a subwoofer in this performance class is surprising.
Comparison and Competition
The MartinLogan Dynamo 1100X at $1099.95 is a close match to the $999.95 SVS PB-3000, at least in terms of price. Both products are DSP subwoofers with sealed enclosures of similar dimensions and features. The Dynamo is rated 650 watts RMS/1300 watts peak, compared to the 800 watts RMS/2500+ peak wattage output of the SVS. Both products have mobile connectivity, while the Martin Logan includes room correction in the form of ARC. Given that most processors and receivers have some form of room correction or auto-EQ, this may not be a concern for many consumers.
Another contender is the GoldenEar Technology SuperSub X, which is even more compact than the SB-3000 at just over a 12.5-inch cube. Two 8-inch drivers mounted in opposition from front to back, along with passive radiators on the top and bottom, is a compelling way to create bass while managing vibrations. A 1400-watt class D amplifier powers both drivers. While this subwoofer is more compact than the SB-3000, I worry that it might not would not work in my room because of its driver configuration. Regardless, my particular needs may not be yours, making the GoldenEar a real consideration.
Lastly, the Focal Sub 1000 F was my reference sub for this review. At $1,500, it is significantly higher priced than the SVS SB-3000. With similar dimensions and sealed speaker enclosure, it has some similarities to the SB-3000; however, the Focal falls short in terms of control and configurability.
The SVS SB-3000 is a powerful subwoofer that excels in terms of form, functionality, and performance. With its compact size, sealed box construction, and single driver design, this sub can fit in tight locations. The wireless mobile device control delivers a level of convenience not normally found at this price point. Lastly, the SB-3000 has sophisticated DSP processing with a powerful amplifier coupled to a newly designed driver, which provides the backbone of its performance.
All of these essential qualities combine to create a seriously sophisticated audio device, one that can render subtle differences in bass inflection, but with the capacity to slam hard with a fast and tight signature that worked well with my main speakers, and demonstrated high performance with both movies and music alike. While dual subwoofers will always outperform a single subwoofer installation, a single SB-3000 is a remarkable performer even in isolation, assuming your room is symmetrical enough and not overly large.
If you're looking for state-of-the-art, high performing subwoofer, with small proportions, and the qualities of a sealed enclosure, the SVS SB-3000 is worth every penny and more in my opinion.