Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment


Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Reviewers' ChoiceSVS has a loyal following of audio enthusiasts who covet and value solid bass reproduction at reasonable prices. I’m one of that number -- my two-channel system includes two SVS SB-4000 subwoofers ($1499.99/each; all prices USD), and when I reviewed the SB-3000 ($999.99) for SoundStage! Access last June, I was so impressed that I bought the review sample and put it to work in my home theater.

Then, in December 2019, SVS launched their newly revised 2000 series of subwoofers, priced lower than the 3000 models. So confident is SVS that these new subs represent more than an incremental improvement over the previous generation that they’ve added “Pro” to each model name. Excited to review the SB-2000 Pro in the context of my two-channel stereo system, I requested a sample.

Description

The SB-2000 Pro ($799.99 in Premium Black Ash, add $100 for Piano Gloss Black) and its upright cylindrical version, the PC-2000 Pro ($949.99), and their larger ported sister, the PB-3000 Pro ($899.99), all use a newly designed 12” driver driven by a Sledge STA-550D class-D amplifier that produces 550W continuous and 1500W peaks. This driver features a vented aluminum cone with an injection-molded, extreme-excursion surround, coupled to a motor with dual ferrite magnets. The brains of the SB-2000 Pro are the same as used in SVS’s more expensive subs: a 50MHz, high-resolution Analog Devices digital signal processing (DSP) engine.

SVS

The SB-2000 Pro looks like a scaled-down version of the SB-3000. It measures 14.6”H x 14.2”W x 14.2”D, and weighs 47.2 pounds -- that’s only seven pounds lighter than the SB-3000, 1” less wide and high, and 4” less deep. The SB-4000 is even bigger, with a 13.5” driver, dimensions of 18.3”H x 17.8”W x 18.6”D, and a weight of 102.3 pounds.

SVS claims for the SB-2000 a frequency response of 19-240Hz, ±3dB, but says that the user can “expect 2-3Hz deeper extension in small to mid-size rooms.” A small-to-mid-size room is exactly what I have.

The SB-2000’s rear-panel inputs and controls are identical to the SB-3000’s, which I covered in detail in my review. There are six buttons, three above and three below a row of 11 small blue LEDs. These are used to control volume, phase, and the low-pass filter (LPF) cutoff frequency, and to toggle between Auto and On modes. The LEDs serve various purposes, depending on the button pushed: they can indicate volume level, the phase, or the LPF cutoff.

To the left of these buttons and LEDs is one pair each of single-ended left/right input and output jacks (RCA); the right-channel input is also labeled LFE, for low-frequency effects. There’s also a USB Type-A port for an optional SVS SoundPath wireless audio adapter. Finally, there are a 12V trigger input, the main power rocker, and an IEC-compatible 120V AC connector for the supplied, detachable power cord.

SVS

However, I suspect that most users will ignore all of those controls, as SVS has now brought the power of its Subwoofer DSP app to its least expensive subs, including the SB-2000 Pro. The app is available at the iTunes App Store for Apple and at Google Play for Android users; it communicates with the sub via Bluetooth.

As I also explained in great detail in my SB-3000 review, the app is intuitive and comprehensive. It lets the user control, to a fine degree of precision, the settings for volume, LPF, phase, and polarity. It also offers a three-band parametric equalizer (EQ) and adjustments of room-gain compensation. Any changes made can be saved in one of three nameable presets. If I had to nitpick, I’d urge SVS to add perhaps two more bands to their parametric EQ; otherwise, this app is a dream, as you’ll read below.

Setup

The SB-2000 Pro was a breeze to unpack. Included are an instruction manual and a grille of black cloth, the latter a change from the curved metal grilles offered in the 3000 series and higher -- a cost-cutting measure? My review sample came in the Premium Gloss Black finish; at some point in its journey a careless shipper had managed to pierce the carton and leave a scuffmark on the right side panel. Otherwise, the mirror finish was immaculate.

My listening space is a dedicated, acoustically isolated, windowless room in the basement of my fully detached home. It measures 15’L x 12’W x 8’H, and its concrete-slab floor is carpeted wall to wall -- perfect for pushing powerful subs without disturbing the neighbors. Like all other SVS subs, the SB-2000 Pro comes with its small floor spikes of hard plastic pre-installed. To mitigate the transfer of acoustic energy from the sub to a hard surface, they also offer isolation feet for those who have wood floors or subfloors; these are available separately ($49.99/four).

My room is well damped, with homemade broadband absorption at the first sidewall reflection points and on the front wall between the speakers, plus homemade bass traps in the front corners. My reference SB-4000 subs sit along a long wall, one sub to the right of my left speaker and the other to the left of my right speaker, each exactly 5’ from the nearer sidewall. For the comparisons for this review, I used only one SB-4000 sub.

SVS

I replaced my right SB-4000 with the SB-2000 Pro, and connected their left/right inputs to Output 2 of my McIntosh Laboratory C47 DAC-preamp. The C47’s left/right Output 1 was connected to my left SB-4000 using balanced Monoprice interconnects (XLR), whose outputs then fed my custom Marchand balanced, passive high-pass filter (HPF) set to 120Hz with a 24dB/octave slope. The HPF makes possible a smooth transition between the output of the subs and that of a pair of NHT C 3 Carbon minimonitors ($1249.98/pair, review forthcoming). The NHTs were driven by my McIntosh MC302 power amp. I installed the SVS app on my Samsung S9 smartphone, and used that to set the LPFs of the SB-2000 Pro and SB-4000 to 130Hz (24dB/octave).

I used a miniDSP DDRC-22D room-correction processor running Dirac Live 2.0 between my source component, a Bluesound Node streamer, and the C47’s DAC, to correct the SVS subs’ in-room bass response and seamlessly blend their outputs with those of the NHT speakers. The target frequency-response curve I used with Dirac Live is inspired by Harman International’s research, a plot of which can be seen in my article “Two Subs, One Listening Chair.” When I wrote that piece, I was adding 5dB of bass boost relative to 1kHz. I now add 6dB -- I guess, over time, I’ve yearned for a bit more bass.

With this configuration, switching between the SB-4000-and-C 3 and SB-2000-and-C 3 combos was simple: turn on the SB-4000 sub and switch off Output 2 on the C47, and vice versa to listen to the SB-2000 Pro, while also remembering to switch to the appropriate Dirac Live filter for each configuration.

What I describe above is my preferred method for evaluating a subwoofer in my two-channel system: replacing the right-channel sub under review, then individually calibrating each sub-sat combo using Dirac Live 2.0. Here’s why I like this method. Below the Schroeder frequency (200-300Hz in most rooms), the room itself, based on where your sub is placed in it, will affect the sound just as much as, if not more than, the sub will. The ideal comparison would be to quickly swap out subs, making sure that the center of each sub’s driver occupies precisely the same spot for each listen. However, achieving this in practice is not easy. Even if you nail the placement on the horizontal plane, you’d need a platform to nail the vertical plane, as driver and cabinet sizes vary. Then there’s the problem of the time it takes to swap out subs, especially with heavy models such as the SB-4000 -- it could easily take two minutes, which begins to strain the reviewer’s aural memory, especially of bass.

SVS

My method uses sophisticated room-correction software with which the user controls the target curve, to mitigate the effects of the room on the subs. And since the subs aren’t being physically moved, this method also allows for quick switching between them (about ten seconds, in my case). The idea is to normalize the subs’ frequency responses to the same target curve, establish matched volume levels well below any compression, then play some music at high volumes and compare the two subs’ performances.

Before doing any serious listening or measuring, I played bass-heavy music through the SB-2000 Pro for two days, on and off, to ensure that its driver was well broken in.

Sound

Before I performed any Dirac Live calibrations, I matched the subs’ levels using Room EQ Wizard and my miniDSP UMIK-1 microphone and a 40Hz test tone, copied my SB-4000 EQ settings to the SB-2000 using the SVS app, then listened for a while. I was very impressed with the SB-2000 from the get-go. The little box filled my room with deep, tight, tuneful bass. Much as with my experience of the SB-3000, but to an even greater degree due to the SB-2000’s smaller size, it was difficult to believe that such a small box was delivering such impressive bass output.

I began with “Locomotive,” from Guns N’ Roses’ Use Your Illusion II (16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC, Geffen). The opening is a well-recorded drum solo by Matt Sorum, followed by Duff McKagan on bass guitar -- perfect for evaluating a subwoofer, as no other instruments enter until several seconds later. The SVS SB-2000/NHT C 3 combo delivered the goods. I heard and felt the dynamic snap of the skins being struck, the punch and slam in my chest from the kick drum, the sustained decays from the bass-guitar strings, even the subtle reverb of the recording venue. There was a phenomenal sense of speed to the bass -- it was fast, nimble, and exhilarating. All of this was delivered with big volume and big scale, completely belying the diminutive sizes of the NHTs and SVS sub. Compared to what I usually hear from my two SB-4000s, I didn’t feel I was missing anything.

SVS

Next came “Rolling in the Deep,” from Adele’s 21 (16/44.1 FLAC, Columbia). Some thunderous bass is unleashed at 0:25, and it was a different experience from listening to “Locomotive.” While I really like the speed and dynamic contrast of the drumming on the GN’R track, “Rolling in the Deep” was about intense bass slam and pressure, and SVS’s little black cube was up to it. With every thump, I felt I was being punched in the chest by a prizefighter, and the recovery of the bass notes was never slow -- the SB-2000 Pro gave me the same fast rhythm and timing I’m accustomed to.

Next I cued up some synth bass from a track I often use for testing subs. I’m not a hip-hop fan, but I know I can count on “She Will,” from Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter IV (16/44.1 FLAC, Cash Money), to deliver sustained pulsing bass down into the lowest octaves, coupled with punchy lower midbass. Here again, the SB-2000 Pro wowed me. The punches in my chest were fast and impactful, and I could feel the slow, rhythmic, ultra-low notes authoritatively massaging me and my chair. However, compared to what I’m used to with the much larger SB-4000s, I felt I was experiencing just a bit less extension in the lowest octave. Only one way to be sure . . .

Comparisons: SB-4000 vs. SB-2000 Pro

Once I’d performed the Dirac Live calibrations for the SB-4000-C 3 and SB-2000-C 3 combos, I began my comparisons with the drums-and-bass-guitar intro to “Locomotive.” I must have gone back and forth between the SVSes five or six times, but I couldn’t definitively distinguish between them -- a strong start, and high praise, for the little SB-2000 Pro, which costs just a bit more than half the price of the SB-4000.

Next up was “Birds,” from Dominique Fils-Aimé’s EP Nameless (24/44.1 FLAC unfolded to 24/88.2 MQA, Ensoul/Tidal), which opens with Etienne Miousse’s intimately recorded bass guitar. Both subs delivered the same dynamic snap on the leading edge of the string -- I could feel its impact through each. As I switched back and forth and focusing on the sustain and decay of the lowest bass notes, the SB-4000 took a slight lead, yielding a bit more output that I could feel in my legs. But the SVSes were very close -- both delivered quick, visceral reproduction of e-bass, the dynamic snap of each plucked bass string grabbing and holding my attention with the feel of low-end extension on the decays.

Last, I went back to Lil Wayne’s “She Will,” and this time heard bigger differences between the subs. I played this track quite loud -- at over 100dB SPL, C-weighted, at the listening position -- which accentuated the differences even more. This was loud enough that every time the SB-4000 pounded out a bass note, the lights in my room dimmed. The SB-2000 Pro, with its smaller amp and driver, didn’t do this. Again, the punch and slam I felt in my chest from the lower-midbass notes in this track were very close from these two subs. The difference I felt was in those ultra-low, pulsing bass notes -- the sorts of sounds you’re unlikely to find on recordings of acoustic instruments other than pipe organs. The SB-4000 just dug a bit deeper while also providing a few extra dB in the lowest octave, which let me feel the pulsing bass in the lower half of my body a bit more than did the SB-2000 Pro. While it wasn’t difficult to feel these differences in direct comparisons, when I listened to this track with the SB-2000 Pro in isolation, I was very satisfied with the speed and impact of its bass punch and the extension of the bass pulses.

Measurements

As I had for my review of the SVS SB-3000, I performed a compression test on the SB-2000 Pro. I placed my calibrated UMIK-1 microphone about 10’ from the sub, and used Room EQ Wizard to generate a 15-200Hz sweep. I took five measurements, each time increasing the sub’s volume 3dB, and began with a normalized SPL of 100dB at 50Hz, to match what I’d done with the SB-3000 and SB-4000. The graph below shows that, with the two loudest input signals, the SB-2000 Pro exhibits noticeable compression (i.e., its measured output no longer tracks increases in volume) at 20Hz, the very bottom of the audioband. The two top plots show effectively the same SPL of 102-103dB at 20Hz, despite the increase of 3dB on the SB-2000’s volume setting. That’s compression.

SVS SB-2000 Pro

The plot below, of the SB-3000, shows roughly the same compression at 20Hz, but it’s also clear that the SB-3000 can output higher SPLs at around 17-18Hz than could the SB-2000 Pro. Still, the SB-2000’s measurements are impressively close to the SB-3000’s.

SVS SB-3000

If you compare this to the SB-4000’s results, you can see in the graph below that, at 20Hz, the top two plots still closely track the volume-setting increases of 3dB -- in other words, there’s virtually no compression.

SVS SB-4000

These graphs remind us that, depending on the user’s listening habits, the larger the room, the larger and more powerful the subwoofer needed to achieve, at very low frequencies, SPLs high enough to energize and fill that room. I admit that I don’t need two SB-4000s in my relatively small room to get the sound I want -- the SB-3000, and now the SB-2000, do incredibly well at that. What I do need are the SB-4000s’ balanced inputs and outputs -- something you don’t find on SVS’s 2000 or 3000 models.

Conclusion

For $799.99, the SVS SB-2000 Pro is a helluva deal. In my relatively small room, its sound came very close to that of my reference SB-4000 at nearly twice the price, giving up only a few dB to the much larger sub in the lowest synth-bass notes. And with bass guitars and conventional drum kits, the two models were nearly indistinguishable at SPLs approaching 100dB. Like its slightly larger, slightly more expensive sibling, the SB-3000, the bass I heard from the little SB-2000 Pro was ridiculously impressive -- very fast, very tight, and very deep, with enough output to fill my 15’L x 12’W x 8’H room. If you’re looking to build a 2.1- or 2.2-channel system on a budget in a room of small to medium size, look no further -- I can’t see you being disappointed in the sound of the SB-2000 Pro.

SVS

The SB-2000 Pro is now the most affordable SVS subwoofer to offer full control via SVS’s intuitive smartphone app, which includes phase adjustment, a precision three-band parametric EQ, and room-gain compensation -- features that let you wring every bit of performance from the sub. As impressed as I was by the SB-3000’s level of performance for the price, I’m even more impressed by the SB-2000 Pro -- it brings to a low price and small size a level of bass quality I didn’t think possible a few years ago.

. . . Diego Estan
diego@soundstagenetwork.com

Associated Equipment

  • Speakers -- NHT C 3 Carbon
  • Subwoofers -- SVS SB-4000 (2)
  • Power amplifier -- McIntosh Laboratory MC302
  • Crossover -- Marchand Electronics XM446XLR-A (between preamp and amp)
  • Preamplifier-DAC -- McIntosh Laboratory C47
  • Room correction -- miniDSP DDRC-22D running Dirac Live 2.0 (between digital sources and DAC)
  • Digital sources -- Rotel RCD-991 CD player, Bluesound Node streamer, laptop computer running Windows 10, Roon
  • Analog sources -- Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Esprit turntable with Ortofon 2M Red cartridge
  • Speaker cables -- homemade, with 12AWG oxygen-free copper conductors and locking banana plugs
  • Analog interconnects -- AmazonBasics unbalanced (RCA), Monoprice Premier balanced (XLR)
  • Digital link -- AmazonBasics optical (TosLink)

SVS SB-2000 Pro Subwoofer
Price: $799.99 USD (add $100 for Piano Gloss Black finish)
Warranty: Five years parts and labor.

SVS Inc.
260 Victoria Road
Youngstown, OH 44515
Phone: (877) 626-5623

Website: www.svsound.com