At CES 2014, I was roaming the halls of the Venetian, where all the high-end audio vendors set up shop. When I came across the SVS room, I ducked in and saw that the company had two freshly minted subwoofers on display: the PB2000 and SB2000. The two subs utilize the same 12" driver and 500-watt amplifier, the main difference being the PB2000 features a ported cabinet whereas the SB2000 is sealed.
I'd heard of SVS before, thanks to the brand’s popularity with AVS members. Unfortunately, trade shows are among the worst places to evaluate subwoofers, so I arranged for an in-home audition, which is part of the SVS business model. The company will ship a sub to you for a 45-day trial, which is the best way to evaluate any audio product—in your own system. I opted to audition the PB2000, mainly because its specifications indicated that it plays deeper than the SB2000—all the way down to 17 Hz (at the -3 dB point) versus 19 Hz.
I love deep and visceral bass, and I've been addicted to subwoofers ever since I bought my first pair of B&W AcoustiTune subs back in 1991. Over the years, I can scarcely recall how many subs I have bought, built, and/or modified; suffice to say, it's a lot. Today, I listen to four DIY subs of my own design. They feature 12-inch drivers in ported cabinets tuned to 16 Hz, all powered by a Crown XTi-2002 amplifier. I am very happy with their performance—they have served me well for over a year and a half.
The SVS PB2000 is a ported sub that features a 12-inch driver and a 500-watt amplifier. Photo by Mark Henninger
When I saw the oversized PB2000 cabinet with the metal grill removed, I immediately stuck my arm into the 4" flared port. I felt how it extended to the back of the cabinet, which is 22 inches deep, indicating a relatively low tuning frequency. Since my own subs use an LLT design (large, low-tuned), I wanted to know how they would compare to a good-quality mass-produced sub with similar specifications.
Here's a peek inside the PB2000 cabinet. Photo provided by SVS.
When the PB2000 arrived at my home, it looked even larger than it did at the show. It measures 20.5" (H) x 17.3" (W) x 22" (D), and it weighs 65 pounds—about the limit of what I can easily carry on my own. I lifted the sub onto my shoulder and huffed it up two flights of stairs into my studio/theater.
Reviewing a subwoofer can be a bit tricky because the room has so much influence on how it sounds. This is especially true when using only one sub, which is usually the case with a demo unit. I use four subwoofers in my own system, which makes it easy to achieve relatively flat response throughout the listening area. It's simply not possible to achieve a similarly flat response over a large area with one sub. I chose to optimize the PB2000’s placement for my primary listening position, which is the traditional sweet spot right in the center of my couch.
Ultimately, I found a nice spot for the PB2000 in the back of my room—it gave me a relatively smooth response and blended well with my system overall. Connecting the sub was simple enough, since the PB2000 only offers left and right RCA connections; the right input is also labeled LFE. I connected that input to the subwoofer out on my Pioneer SC-55 AV receiver, with the crossover set to 80 Hz. I left the variable-phase control on the sub at zero and turned the crossover control to its LFE setting, which essentially bypasses the sub's internal crossover. For what it's worth, I confirmed with SVS that both the L and R inputs behave the same way when the crossover is set to LFE.
It was time to run some sine waves and sweeps to see how the PB2000 responds at the extreme bottom end. I'm happy to report that the sub does what SVS's specs state it will do—reproduce clean bass down to 17 Hz. At that frequency, the maximum output was somewhat limited. However, from 24 Hz on up, the bass output was very strong and clean even at extreme volumes—authoritative, in the lingo of bass lovers. Once I got the sub dialed in to play relatively flat at my main listening position, I was ready to audition it with both movies and music.
SVS provided me with this photo of the PB2000's 12-inch driver
Undoubtedly, the PB2000 will appeal to home-theater enthusiasts, who will get their money's worth. I respect how well this sub handles the extreme dynamic range found in many modern movies. The PB2000 has a really well designed port—with a generous flare on both sides—that allows it to reproduce the ultra-deep drones and tones that are part of the modern filmmaking vernacular.
I opted to check out Alfonso Cuarón's Oscar-winning film Gravity using the PB2000 as the sole subwoofer in my system. I thought it did as good a job as any single sub I've owned, with more than enough output to handle the Gravity’s deep but muted thumps and thuds at near-reference levels.
Happily, the PB2000 is a fast sub; there’s nothing muddy about it. The design is capable of producing visceral chest slam, great for feeling explosions and impacts in action flicks. I checked out Homefront starring Jason Statham and found the sub really helped create a sense of immersion. The PB2000 earns my unreserved recommendation for HT use, and it's easy to see how multiple PB2000s would easily provide a reference-level bass experience in a home theater.
Music tends to be a tougher test for subwoofers, and my predilection for listening to bass-heavy genres exacerbates the issue. I am a fan of dub, rap, and industrial music, which means quite a few of my favorite tracks feature continuous deep bass—enough to tax an amplifier that is prone to overheating. For example, check out "Dem Boys" off the album Dead Nasty by B.a.R.S. Murre, which the PB2000 handled with aplomb. When it comes to continuous bass, no matter what I played through this sub, it never broke a sweat.
For the past couple of years, I have used one album as my ultimate subwoofer reference—Daft Punk's Tron Legacy: Reconfigured. The album features track upon track of foundation-shaking electronica; any subwoofer that can ace it when playing at a robust volume level gets my respect. The SVS sub cruised through the album without a single hiccup.
The PB2000's ability to play deep with no audible distortion or port noise made it a great match for my music collection, never faltering or calling attention to itself. My main complaint is that SVS did not send me four PB2000s so I could perform a proper comparison against my four DIY subs. I had to settle for the next-best thing—comparing one of my subs to the PB2000. Ultimately, the similarities between them resulted in similar performance. Each of my subs gets 500 watts of power from a Crown XTi-2002 and features a 12-inch driver in a very large, low-tuned enclosure, the same recipe that gives the PB2000 its gusto.
The SVS unit had my sub beat when it came to clean-sounding ultra-low frequency reproduction—I didn't fully appreciate how clean a port that is flared on both ends sounds. Normally, I don’t have issues with huffing (the sound of air rushing through the port), but with only one sub doing all the work, it was clear that my ports could get a bit noisy and that my subs would benefit from an upgrade to flared ports.
The PB2000 itself is rather simple in its design; it does not have any fancy features such as DSP-based EQ or auto-calibration options. That means it is best suited for use in a system with bass management; it does require a bit of tweaking to arrive at a balanced sound, especially when using only one sub.
The only input option on the PB2000 is a pair of RCA plugs
In its marketing materials, SVS claims the PB2000 has the features and capabilities that are on par with subs costing two or three times as much. That's a common claim in the world of hi-fi, one I've seen countless times in the 30 years I've been reading ads and reviews. I'd rather put it another way—you are definitely better off buying two or three PB2000s, rather than one single sub that costs two or three times as much. The PB2000 plays clean and low, it covers the entire low-frequency range at fully satisfying levels—it really does dig deep. This is important because smaller, less expensive subs typically cannot play that low. Since it plays cleanly down to 17 Hz, the PB2000 does its part to deliver a truly full-range listening experience.
There are many subs to choose from, at every price point, and the PB2000 strikes me as a solid option for $800. It features a design that maximizes the amount of high-quality bass you get for your money. Among subwoofers that are capable of playing as low as 17 Hz, there are few with that capability that cost less, except for those in the world of DIY. If getting down to 17 Hz is not a big priority and your total subwoofer budget is what one PB2000 costs, you might want to consider buying at least two lower-priced subs instead. However, if you want to hear true full-range sound including the deepest bass, the PB2000 is a good choice.
As one option for a multi-sub home-theater installation, the eminently competent PB2000 offers a lot of boom for the buck. It was fun to have around, and if I owned four of them instead of my current subs, I’m confident I’d be just as happy with the results. As it stands, the sub goes back today. It was nice to play with the PB2000; I’ll miss it.
P.S. Running the PB2000 in conjunction with my four subs was fantastic. I concluded that you really can’t have enough subs in a home-theater system.