Cuttin-Edge, On-the-Spot Reporting

Evaluating the SVS SB16-Ultra Subwoofer

With the process of setting up the SVS SB16-Ultra complete, it was time to put this monster of a subwoofer through its paces to see how it performs. The first question I wanted to answer was whether the SVS app is preferable to the included small, plastic remote control. In a word, yes. The remote does provide basic controls such as volume and turning the display on or off, but the app gives the user far more control with direct access to functions such as the Parametric EQ and adjustable crossover. For users who don’t want their smartphone by their side in the listening room, the remote is handy in a pinch. The app, however, is made for you control freaks who want everything the sub is capable of right at your fingertips. I’ll use the app.

As I stated in my last blog post, I started my auditioning with Polo G’s “Through Da Storm” (Die a Legend, YouTube, Columbia). When the bassline dropped, the SVS came to life and instantly energized my room fully and completely. There was no sense of strain—that the driver or amp was working hard—or that the SB16-Ultra was even close to its output-capability limits in my room. What I appreciated most was how the SVS sub stopped on a dime and with no acoustic overhang. The bass frequencies were massaging my room, but the room itself didn’t seem to be contributing any problematic sounds of its own (recall that I had the Parametric EQ function enabled).

SVS

Next up was Chris Stapleton’s “Millionaire” from his 2017 album From a Room: Volume 2 (YouTube, Mercury Nashville). The song sounds pretty lightweight at the start, with just acoustic guitar and vocals. The drums and electric guitar enter midway through the first verse, and the song gains some needed weight. That gravitas made for a full presentation thanks to the SVS, but the sub did not interfere with or detract from Stapleton’s vocals or those of his wife, Morgane. The integration of sub and speakers was just right. It was what audiophiles crave: deep, powerful bass without any of the drawbacks of getting there.

SVS

Lastly, I cued up “Havana” from Camila Cabello’s smash debut album, Camila (YouTube, Epic). The bass in this song can easily overpower a room, and can sound plodding and bloated. There was none of that here. The SB16-Ultra reproduced the bass with surprisingly little room interaction. As I was listening, I came to realize just how bass-deficient most two-channel systems are—at least those without a great subwoofer.

SVS

The SVS SB16-Ultra produced exceptional deep bass in my Monitor Audio–based system. Bass to 20Hz? Check. Tight, defined bass notes? Check. No room boom or sloppy overhang? Check. One other question to ponder: was the SVS SB16-Ultra too much sub for this system? Can you have too much subwoofer? I don’t think there is any question that one of the smaller SVS subs would have been super satisfying in this system. You can read Dennis Burger’s review of the SVS PB-1000 Pro ($799.99, all prices in USD) on SoundStage! Access. Dennis had great things to say about that little guy. I feel confident that the PB-1000 would be just fine in my system. However, the answer to whether you need a beast like the SB16-Ultra depends partly on how committed you are to getting the install right. In my room I used the Parametric EQ function to tame a nasty bass mode I had at 80Hz—easy-peasy. I know a lot of rooms will require more work, more measurements, and more equalization to get it sounding right. If you don’t sweat the process of getting a beast like the SB16-Ultra dialed in just right, I am of the notion that you can’t have too much subwoofer. You can, of course, have too little.

SVS

All this leads me to my conclusion: if you can afford the $2299.99 cost of entry (there was a recent price increase), go for one of the biggest, baddest, best sealed-box subwoofers you can buy. The SB16-Ultra includes a modern feature set to ease installation, has output capability to spare for all but the largest spaces, is built and finished beyond what you would expect for the price, and most importantly, sounds fantastic. This is an easy recommendation.

. . . Jeff Fritz
jeff@soundstagenetwork.com

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