- Written by Jim Clements
- Published on 05 June 2013
The SVS SB13-Ultra Subwoofer In Use
I often find it difficult to integrate subwoofers into my system. This is normally due to any one of a number of reasons. Probably the most common reason is that a lot of subs have peaky response. When they do, I have to keep fiddling with the level turning it up and down until the balance seems right. Anytime I switch sources (or discs even) then I need to adjust it again striving for a subliminal blend. A lot of times, I can never get a good blend between a subwoofer and the satellites.
Some subs may have flat response, but they impart their own character to the bass. This is most often in the form of distortion. It doesn't really matter if this distortion originates from the amplifier, the driver, port noise or from a poorly designed cabinet. All that matters is that a majority of subwoofers have a characteristic sound that further complicates the task of blending them with the main speakers.
The SVS SB13-Ultra handles both of these points as well as any sub I have evaluated in the last several years. This is evidenced by the bench tests in the next section. But I could hear the differences long before I ran the measurements. I could hear the very flat response of the SB13-Ultra. Plus, this sub's extremely low distortion and sealed cabinet provided a most accurate sound with minimal overhang. It wasn't dry, it was just plain accurate. As a result, I got superior integration of the sub. This also meant that I could turn up the bass, get a better sense of slam and the sub didn't stand out too much. Add to that the super powerful amp that means you don't have to worry about overload and you simply have one hell of a great product.
The first material I evaluated was the Diana Krall Blu-ray "Live in Rio". I listened to the DTS HD Master 5.1track this time around. Diana Krall always attracts the best musicians to play with her. For this live performance, her band shares the stage with a small orchestra that performs on a number of tunes, but I prefer the parts of this disc where she is playing with the smaller jazz ensemble.
As discussed above, the parametric EQ provided an excellent blend. As a result John Clayton's runs on his upright bass held together across the transition from the sub to the satellites. The SB 13-Ultra laid down a rock solid and steady foundation to the music with nary any hint of peakiness. I didn't hear any of the far too common effect of the bass sounding like a detached entity. And the bass was nuanced throughout each track. This was indeed a very good beginning to my evaluation.
The next piece I used was the redbook CD by Robbie Robertson – "Contact from the Underworld of Redboy". I listened to this disc in Dolby PLII Music mode. This CD is mixed with copious amounts of synthesized bass.
The SB13-Ultra underpinned the sound better than any sub I've had in my system in the last 5 years. It revealed all the life and nuance in the very low bass. By contrast, lesser subs may put out plentiful bass energy but it can be more of a formless mass that smears the bass texture recorded on the disc. Even though the bass on this disc is dominated by synthesizer, there is plenty of transient information and the SVS preserved the dynamic integrity of the bass lines.
The SB13-Ultra has tight bass response with a natural decay and very little overhang. This contributes to great timing. This was most evident with tracks like "Sacrifice" and "Rattlebone" where the bass rolled along at the appropriate pace and in time with the mid and upper registers.
This sub could also dig deep. Take "Peyote Healing" for example. This song has the lowest bass pulses on the disc. They were very clean through the SVS. These pulses were largely felt, not heard.
Another disc with a ton of low bass energy is the SACD of Sting's 1999 solo album "Brand New Day". I listened to the 5.1 channel layer. As a reviewer, I have become a little spoiled with clean low bass over the years so I was sort of taken aback by the even stronger, cleaner output from the SB13-Ultra when compared to other subs in its class.
It made me think of a friend of mine who used to play sax with Bob Seger. He said their engineer would tell him that he knew he had the bass right when he could feel it in his chest. Well, on "Brand New Day" I could really feel it in my chest - believe you me. On top of that, the SB13-Ultra revealed low bass on this disc that most subs just cut off. As before, the bass pacing was exemplary so bass lines didn't lag like some subs (despite the very deep extension).
Well I would be remiss to conclude this review without evaluating a cinematic piece. How about "Dark Knight Rises" for a movie with some bombastic moments? This is a rockin' action flick with kick ass bass throughout – the SVS brings out the best in it too. A common complaint with this movie is that Bane's voice can be difficult to understand. With the SVS SB13-Ultra, I heard every line from Bane loud and clear.
When Batman flies away from cops at the end of the stock exchange scene, the walls of my room were literally bowing from the stress. Later, the big explosions during the stadium attack scene were full-throated and well controlled. I personally attest that the SB13-Ultra sub has nuance, power and slam all in one package.