SVS PB-3000 13″ Ported Subwoofer Review

SVS PB-3000

By Jim Wilson


{picture courtesy of SVS}


Introduction

The subject of this review is the recently released SVS PB-3000 subwoofer. The PB-3000, and its sealed counterpart the SB-3000, are smack dab in the middle of the SVS subwoofer hierarchy. The PB-3000 features a 13″ front firing driver with a pair of 3.5″ ports directly below. The amplifier is rated for 800 watts RMS and a whopping 2500 watts peak. The stated frequency response for the ported configuration is 16-260Hz ±3dB, while in sealed mode it’s 18-260Hz ±3dB (SVS includes 2 foam bungs so you can block both ports and use the PB-3000 as a sealed subwoofer). The cabinet comes with a black ash finish, measures 22x18x26 (HWD) and weighs 82 pounds.


Ordering

At one time you could have said SVS was the quintessential Internet Direct (ID) company but they’ve gone well beyond that. You can still buy from their website – like every other ID company – but they have expanded their distribution channel considerably and also sell products through countless dealers both in the United States and abroad. Wherever you are in the world it’s likely you can buy SVS gear.

The PB-3000 sells for $1399.99. It comes with a 5 year unconditional warranty but that’s just the tip of the iceberg as you also get SVS’s industry-exclusive Bill of Rights which roughly translates into the following:

  • 45 day risk free in-home trial
  • Free shipping and returns
  • 1 year trade-up policy
  • 1 year performance upgrade
  • 90 day defective replacement guarantee
  • 1 year ‘lemon’ guarantee
  • 60 day price protection

I don’t know of another audio company who offers anything like that. When it comes to what they provide the consumer, SVS stands alone.


Unboxing

I owned an SB13-Ultra and have previously reviewed the SB-1000 , PB-1000 and SB16-Ultra so a lot of SVS products have landed on my doorstep in the past few years. Each of them were packaged with obvious attention to detail so there was nothing to suggest the PB-3000 would be any different, and it wasn’t. The double-walled box was reinforced with thick L-shaped cardboard staves placed vertically in each corner. Custom molded 2″ soft foam cradles the entire top and bottom of the sub. The top half of the cabinet was shrouded in a foam sheet while both the grill and subwoofer were sealed in their own plastic bag and secured individually in the foam protectors. Accessories include 2 port plugs, heavy duty 6′ power cord, Iso-elastomer feet, owner’s manual, quick start guide and a product catalog. SVS certainly isn’t chintzy with the extras.


Impressions

It seems appropriate to start with the Quick Start Guide. It’s a small, laminated, 2 sided card which is a fairly typical format for the genre. Covering just the basics means it’s aptly named yet in spite of that it doesn’t come across as an afterthought like so many others do, it actually contains useful information. The owner’s manual kicks it up a notch and is a thing of beauty, being about as complete and well executed as you’ll ever find. There are sections dedicated to specifications, features, connections, setup, adjustments, wiring, placement, the app, you name it they cover it. For those not versed with industry lingo or technology this manual will prove to be a Godsend as they painstakingly take you through everything in easy to understand language.

A little known fact of the PB-3000 is it’s the first SVS subwoofer with dual ports. They offer single and triple port models but have never sold anything with two ports. Unlike some of the other subwoofers in this category there is no one port mode; you either plug both or leave them open. Generally one port lowers the tuning frequency at the expense of output but SVS didn’t see the need to do that as with both ports open the PB-3000 already provides volume and deep bass. More on that later.

Like most SVS drivers this one is a stout piece…


{picture courtesy of SVS}

Utilizing an all-new design featuring a 13″ high excursion driver with a cone made from 1050 aluminum, it’s both lightweight and rigid. Aluminum also acts like a heatsink of sorts, drawing warmth away from the voice coil and helping to keep things cool. The large, half roll surround is made from SBR (styrene-butadiene rubber). Two ferrite magnets – weighing roughly 25 pounds combined – should provide enough motor strength to overcome even the most demanding users. Everything is securely mounted to a high density FEA-optimized cast aluminum basket with 14 spokes.


{picture courtesy of SVS}

The amplifier is no less impressive…


{picture courtesy of SVS}

It’s the ubiquitous Sledge class D design SVS is known for. The version used in the PB-3000 features 800 watts continuous and 2500 watts peak power. There are dual unbalanced (RCA) inputs and outputs along with a 3v-12v trigger connection. Also present is a USB port for firmware updates or to power the SoundPath wireless adapter. Configuration changes are made using what SVS calls their Intelligent Control Interface. The ICI consists of two groups of three round, back-lit buttons that flank a row of horizontal LED’s. There are separate buttons to select Volume, Low Pass and Phase. Two of the buttons are marked + and – which are used to alter the selected setting up or down, respectively. The last button allows you to choose always on or auto mode for the power. The purpose of the LED’s will differ depending upon what setting you’re modifying. The interface is intuitive, so much so you don’t even need the manual to know how it all works.

The metal grill SVS uses can be somewhat polarizing; it seems people either like it or they don’t, there aren’t too many on the fence about how they feel. It does have a bold, industrial-strength appearance…

{picture courtesy of SVS}

You know where the company stands however because it’s a feature of every subwoofer they sell except for the entry level 1000 Series. Whether you’re a fan or not there’s no question it’s a solid piece. Anchored to the cabinet by robust plastic pins mated to rubber cups on the front panel (read: no rattles) it will surely do an excellent job of protecting the driver from kids, pets, errant feet or whatever else comes at it with intent on doing harm.

Looking over the cabinet I detected no issues with fit and finish. The black ash veneer was applied smooth and even, screws were all snugged down tight, the alignment and installation of the driver, amplifier and ports was spot on. General construction quality was outstanding.

SVS was one of the first companies to develop a phone app to control their subwoofer. You can tell a lot of thought went into the design, and it works very well, but I wonder if they’re relying on it a bit more than perhaps they should. Unlike the 16 Ultra Series – which have an interface on the front of the subwoofer to manage all the amp settings – the 3000 Series has only the most basic options available via the amplifier controls, and those are on the back of the sub. The Ultra’s also include a small remote so you have three ways to make changes; the front panel interface, an app or the remote. That’s their top-of-the-line subwoofer so you would expect to get the most features. With the PB-3000 having just fundamental controls on the amplifier it means installing the app becomes mandatory, and that’s where I question the approach.

If you look at the SVS distribution channel they likely sell to a number of more traditional customers, those who may not consider their phone a do-it-all device. Out of curiosity I setup the PB-3000 initially without using the app, just the amp controls and my receivers room EQ. After fiddling around for a few days I was never able to fully dial in the sound to be exactly what I wanted. I understand why SVS created an app – it no doubt can be handy, and their implementation has been executed quite well – but it really should be in addition to standard amplifier controls, not in lieu of them. Owners should be able to access calibration settings in whatever manner is most comfortable for them, whether that’s dials and switches or icons and tapping. OK, contrarian viewpoint = off. For those who do install the app you’re in for a treat.

The SVS PB-3000 supports both iOS and Android so no matter what phone you have it should work. As you probably already surmised it connects to the PB-3000 via Bluetooth. Pairing was simple and painless, accomplished in mere seconds. You can use the app to change volume, phase and the low pass filter – like the controls on the amplifier – but the app unlocks a host of additional features:

  • 3 parametric EQ’s (PEQ) that allow you to boost or cut specific frequencies to accommodate for personal preferences
  • Port tuning, enabling you to select whether the ports are open or plugged (sealed mode)
  • Room Gain Compensation which can roll off the lower portion of the frequency response to account for any increase your room may introduce
  • Multiple presets – Movie, Music and Custom – allowing you to easily switch between settings depending upon the source material

There’s also a tutorial and a contact SVS support feature. The feedback system is bidirectional so whatever adjustments you make using the app show up on the amp and vice-a-versa, ensuring everything stays in sync.


Listening

Typically ported subwoofers are purchased for two main reasons; output and presence. The definition of “presence” here is bass that’s rather evident, conspicuous even. I favor a more understated approach however, which means right off the bat the ported PB-3000 had me casting a suspicious glance its way. Most of you know I’m a fan of sealed subwoofers, something I have been for decades. A quick glance through my previous articles would reveal only a small portion of them have been ported, something that’s not purely coincidental. I have always been a quality over quantity person, even in my youth. Back then there was an audible difference between ported and sealed but in recent years an argument could be made that high-caliber drivers and DSP tuning have blurred the distinction between alignments, that there is no longer a clear advantage in sound quality. Old habits die hard so I’m not willing to fully concede that point just yet, but I have to admit the gulf between them is nothing like it once was. In a blind test it would no doubt be tough – impossible? – to differentiate between quality ported and sealed subwoofers with any degree of consistency. Regardless I still have a preference, so what was my overall opinion of the PB-3000 then? What I heard was more subdued than anticipated, which is not to be confused with less potent. This thing has some definite kick to it, make no mistake about that, but only when it was right for the situation. It had more composure than I envisioned it might. Some of the SVS ad copy had me casting that suspicious eye again though…

I have always been the person who bucks the norm, the one who challenges conventional wisdom. That drove my parent’s nuts, may they rest in peace, but despite now reaching an age where most of my contemporaries have mellowed out I simply haven’t. For whatever reason I still contest things I see or read that strike me as unrealistic or far-fetched. Case in point, this is what SVS says about the PB-3000 on their website:

Earth-shaking output, subterranean low frequency extension, crisp speed in transients and pinpoint control, the PB-3000 delivers reference subwoofer performance at a breakthrough price.

The first thought that jumped into my head when I read that was “oh really?” and immediately I had cause for a crusade. “Earth-shaking”, “crisp speed”, “pinpoint control” you say? Since you printed it I’m going to verify it. I can almost feel myself getting worked up already, but how exactly do I go about validating those claims? SVS is all over the map with their statements so do I focus strictly on movies and songs with punishing soundtracks? Should I simply crank the volume to extreme levels and forgo all else? Would I be better off using material that is subtle and complex? Why not all of it? If you’re going to say this subwoofer can basically do everything then I’m going to test everything.


Movies

The longest dimension of my room is a little over 17 feet and the way I have things setup means the PB-3000 was about 12 feet away from me (room width – sub cabinet depth – seating position from wall = roughly 12 feet of distance). Admittedly not a huge expanse, but I’m not exactly sitting right on top of it either. Because I review so many sealed subwoofers there is one thing I rarely get to experience; port wind. Those of you with more capable bass reflex subwoofers know what I’m referring to, the breeze you feel from the ports during spirited listening sessions. I got a bit of it with the PB-3000, and not just once either. Some may consider that revelation inconsequential, and perhaps it is, but the kid in me thought it was kinda fun. If I’m being honest, more than once I cranked the volume just to make it happen. Insert goofy grin here.

In order to test ‘everything’ I opted for movies with some difficult material, but those intense parts are mostly in short bursts. Slam the door and then whisper. The PB-3000 would have to behave itself and be polite with these flicks, until the soundtrack decided to hit you with an uppercut. Then, and only then, do I want to hear it spring to life. That should allow me to test “earth-shaking output, subterranean low frequency extension, crisp speed in transients and pinpoint control” all at once.

Open Range (DVD)

If you’ve ever watched this movie I bet you know which part I used to test the PB-3000.

Open Range seems like a deliberate attempt to create an old-school western, and in my opinion it mostly succeeds. With characters that probably look, act, talk and dress close to what people in the early 19th century did this 2003 movie produced by Kevin Costner (who also stars in it) is a throwback piece. Featuring a rich cast that includes Robert Duvall, Annette Bening and Michael Gambon, Open Range moves at a leisurely pace and allows the characters to form their own identity while the storyline builds naturally. It harkens back to a different time in Hollywood’s history, a refreshing change from the typical movie fare.

The aforementioned “you know which part I used to test” begins with scene 14, that’s when the PB-3000 got its first legitimate workout. You can tell things are getting serious when ominous music begins to play as the bad guys started walking down the street to confront Charlie Waite (Kevin Costner) and Boss Spearman (Robert Duvall). The low tones from the orchestral piece immediately got my attention, creating a palpable sense of the impending doom. It was at this point I decided to turn up the volume and boy am I glad I did. When Charley’s first shot rang out the hit was so potent it almost startled me, even though I knew it was coming. That was merely the prelude; facing off within a few feet of each other the good guys and the bad guys unload. As those old Colt revolvers fired off rounds the percussions were forceful, each of them strong and clear. Spearman’s “scatter gun” – what we call a shotgun today – had even more kick, as did the rifles some of the men had. The battle reaches its zenith in front of the sheriff’s office with everyone, including some of the town folk, shooting at the outlaws. The PB-3000 didn’t seem the least bit fazed by all the action, handling the chaos with aplomb. I played this portion of the movie three times, increasing the volume several dB with each iteration, and all it did was get louder and more fierce. Nice.

10,000 BC (blu-ray)

If you’ve ever watched this movie I bet you know which part I used to test the PB-3000.

D’Leh is an outcast among a tribe of people who lived during the time before the ice age. He desperately wants to fit in and the best way to do that is to slay a mammoth. Once a season they migrate through the tribes land and provide the perfect opportunity for them to dispatch one and sustain themselves for the coming year. D’Leh reasons that being an integral part of a kill might elevate his status in the community. That will also guarantee he wins the heart of his true love, Evolet. As you may have guessed, things don’t go according to plan.

When the beasts stop to graze in a field the tribesman sneak up on them using the thick reed grass for cover. As they inch closer you can clearly hear the mastodons snorting, an effect that proved to be more noticeable than I anticipated it would. Eclipsing that – by a fairly wide margin – were the thunderous footsteps as the massive creatures mingled about. They pounded the ground, and my room, with equal ferocity. That’s only the beginning of what this movie has in store for your subwoofer however.

The clan needs to create a stampede and force the animals into a kill zone in order to cull one from the herd. They accomplish this by startling them and then chasing the pack through a narrow canyon, funneling the lot through a small area and deploying a huge net to trap the last in line. The rampaging beasts created a cacophony of noise and pulsating bass that reverberated through my room, establishing a perceptible sense of their size.

Trivia note: while this movie certainly won’t be confused with Hamlet, it does feature none other than Omar Sharif as the narrator. Didn’t see that coming, did you?

Master and Commander (DVD)

If you’ve ever watched this movie I bet you know which part I used to test… wait, enough of that line already! I’m pretty sure you know what I used to test the PB-3000.

Since Master and Commander is set during the Napoleonic war – which occurred in the 19th century like Open Range – does that make a theme? Probably not, but I’m guessing it wasn’t simply happenstance that lead me to pick these two for this review. The movies share other traits; an unhurried pace, both are character pieces and each has one noteworthy scene renown for being a subwoofer torture test. There’s also a connection to 10,000 BC in-as-much-as this movies famous (infamous?) scene happens early on. Maybe I’ve somehow tied all 3 of these flicks together? Nah, that’s a bit of a stretch perhaps.

Russell Crowe plays Jack Aubrey, Captain of the British frigate H.M.S. Surprise. His orders are to hunt down and destroy the Acheron, a French warship sailing toward South America with the goal of extending Napoleons Empire. As they near the area where the Acheron might be they run into thick fog. One of the crew thinks he hears something and calls Captain Aubrey to the upper deck to inform him. After looking around and listening himself he decides it was probably nothing. Sudden Aubrey gets the feeling something is wrong, spins around and gets the surprise – no pun intended – of his life. Off in the distance he sees muzzle flashes and realizes they’re under attack. The Acheron has found them before they found her. “Down, all hands down!” he shouts to the crew, and with that the onslaught begins. This is also where the PB-3000 got to strut its stuff.

The canon blasts are short in duration but they packed an unmistakable wallop. The ships took turns blasting away at each other, with the Acheron having a clear advantage over the Surprise. Lead cannon balls rained down on the Surprise, shattering her deck and sides. Each strike made the PB-3000 react with authority, creating violent impacts. Like I had done with the previous movies I replayed this scene several times, increasing the volume on each pass. It was about then I came to a realization the PB-3000 cannot only handle volume, it seems to relish the challenge. My notes on all 3 movies started to look the same; “played each films toughest scenes several times, increasing the volume with each successive pass yet it remained unperturbed”. In effect, the PB-3000 performs better the more you crank it. This thing seems to enjoy being pushed.

After beating on it for about 3 hours using a multitude of movies, not just what you see listed here, I did my customary check-the-amp-for-heat deal and found… nothing. I wish I was kidding, but I could barely tell it was even powered on.


Music

For music I decided to mix things up further. There’s something from a metal band, a guitarist who is a charter member of the psychedelic club and a 6 string visionary. You have studio music from the 1970’s and the 2000’s, as well as a fairly recent live track. Old school, new school and dropped out of school, it’s all here.

Inside the Fire, Disturbed (CD)

This is a headbangers special. Energetic with a driving rhythm, Inside the Fire ticks all the boxes for those of us who like their music hard and heavy. From the bands fourth album Indestructible, this angry and poignant song is about the suicide of singer David Draiman’s girlfriend when they were both just 16. The lyrics make no attempt to hide his pain, even though it’s been many years since the event. Frequently aggressive music such as this is considered cliché, lacking any heart, but I beg to differ. Songs like this remind me there is often something very real behind them.

The beginning 15 seconds or so is a bit odd, with a bizarre mix of sounds. Just about the time you begin thinking “what is this?” the band explodes to life and the song gets mean. Once Disturbed steps on the gas they don’t let up until the very last note, keeping the needle pegged for the duration. As the intensity of the song increased so did the volume and the PB-3000 faithfully complied by playing along. Mike Wengren is the stereotypical heavy metal drummer, which means he pounds away. No matter how hard he hit the PB-3000 was right there with him. Bass player John Moyer is the other half of this bands rhythm section, and like Wengren he tends to approach his craft with a lot of force. Changes abound in this song with the drummer and bass player seemingly intent on outdoing the other. In that scenario it would be easy for a subwoofer to fall behind but I never sensed the PB-3000 struggling. Intensity and speed didn’t seem to upset this thing. If you aren’t rocking your head back and forth from this one you better check your pulse.

Comfortably Numb (live), Pink Floyd (Streaming)

From Disturbed to Pink Floyd? Is it possible to go from one end of the spectrum to the complete opposite like that? It is if you’re me. Oddly enough this song ended up in the review by fate’s hand, I had nothing to do with it. While putting the final touches on another article I had music playing in the background, pretty much standard for me. It helps with the creativity. The other system was unhooked but I wasn’t doing any serious evaluation of the PB-3000 at that point simply because I was writing about another piece of equipment. Then Comfortably Numb came on and I was no longer able to concentrate on writing.

What makes a song resonate with someone? Is it the lyrics, the beat, an association with a time or event in their life? For most it’s perhaps some combination of all three. Who knows for sure, but regardless of the trigger ‘Numb hit me the first time I heard it. No matter my mood this song fits. That’s part of the reason I used it in the review, the other part is this version was recorded live. Typically at a concert you get a very pronounced bottom end, exactly what you want when testing a sub. If there’s anything I know it’s what a concert sounds like.

Comfortably Numb has a lazy feel to it, an unhurried pace. Even during Gilmour’s guitar solo at the end there never seems to be a sense of urgency. During this performance the rhythm section had plenty of weight, with Nick Mason’s right foot having a particularly solid thud. I didn’t recognize who was playing bass in this rendition of the band – obviously not Waters – but his guitar had a lot of power, almost as if it was growling. That was especially true of the sustain notes which held on and created a rich sound. So strong were certain portions of this soundtrack that with the volume up high enough there was some physical sensation, a scaled down version of what one might feel at an actual concert. That’s a good thing for someone like me.

Day of the Eagle, Robin Trower (CD)

How many of you know who Robin Trower is? I’m betting few of you can raise their hand and say “I do”. Robin’s first taste of success was with the fringe 1960’s band Procol Harum, a group whose only real success was a song called A Whiter Shade of Pale. Even back then Robin was a technician, a craftsman who was more about rhythm and style than outright finger speed. He favors off-tempo riffs and odd time signatures few others explore. Mainstream was not his stock in trade. Other than his signature album Bridge of Sighs – which this song is from – he had little commercial success, possibly due to his unorthodox ways. I saw him play live about 2 years ago and he was every bit as good as he was during his heyday. How many of us can say that?

This band was the stereotypical power trio with Robin playing guitar, Reg Isidore on drums and James Dewar manning the bass and singing. That’s all you need for this song however as the three of them easily handle the load. Day of the Eagle is a lively number from the get-go, at least until just past the halfway point where it drops off suddenly and turns very bluesy. It’s that dichotomy which made me include it; in essence you get two songs in one, something that allowed me to switch it up on the PB-3000 in a single 5 minute tune.

The first half is recorded with a slight emphasis on Isidore’s drums and I clearly heard every ‘thwack’. James Dewar’s bass was interlaced with the drums beautifully, allowing the pair to hold down the bottom end with vigor. When things slowed the two trade places and it’s the bass guitar that becomes more prominent, just as you would expect from a good blues song. At this stage the bass became very full, with a nice meaty sound to it. The PB-3000 had no problem handling the switch, playing both halves with equal poise.


Conclusion

What do you expect to get from a subwoofer? Are you the type of person who wants something capable of significant output? Maybe you prefer an emphasis on mid-bass ‘chest slam’? Do you tend more toward deep bass rumble? Perhaps you enjoy the ability to configure every setting to your liking without ever leaving your easy chair? If you were given the choice and could select all of the above would you take it? For the person who answered ‘yes’ to that question the PB-3000 is definitely an option. I beat the living you-know-what out of this thing and it never flinched. No matter the volume, no matter how punishing the source material, it shrugged off everything. Composed and powerful is a nice combination.

 

{pictures courtesy of SVS}

This measurement was taken using an Omnimic V2. The PB-3000 was positioned in the middle of my listening room with the microphone 1 foot from the convergence of the driver and ports. All enhancements and room EQ were disabled, gain was set to maximum, LPF off and phase at 0 degrees.

Note the strange dip centered in the mid 30’s. This only appeared on the 2nd set of measurements, it wasn’t evident with the first set which were billiard-table flat. During the first go round I inadvertently didn’t select LFE in the app and my 80Hz crossover skewed the upper frequency response. I didn’t notice until I was about to post this article so I took a second measurement and made certain I set LFE this time. For some inexplicable reason that dip materialized even though every other setting was the same. I don’t know what to attribute it to but there was nothing audible during the entire time I had the PB-3000 so perhaps it’s simply an anomaly.


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