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SVS 3000 Series Subwoofer Measurements and Conclusion

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PB3000 outdoor testing.jpg

The SVS PB-3000 and SB-3000 were tested using ground plane measurements with the microphone at a 2-meter distance in an open setting with well over 100 feet from the nearest large structure. The subs were tested with woofer facing the microphone. The temperature was recorded at 43 degrees with 58% humidity. The subwoofers’ gain was set to maximum, phase was set to 0, and the low pass filters were left off.

PB3000 frequency response.jpg  SB3000 frequency response.jpg

The above graphs show the measured frequency responses for the PB-3000 and SB-3000 subwoofers. Both curves show a very well-controlled and flattish response overall. SVS’s claimed response windows do pan out in our measurements. The PB-3000 does show a small bump around port tuning that might give a bit more weight to effects sounds that take advantage of those deep frequencies. Users who want to taper the low end of the PB-3000 in cases where room gain boosts it too much have a variety of ways to do so, including plugging the ports and setting the PB-3000 to ‘sealed mode,’ using the parametric EQ to reduce that narrow frequency band, or use the ‘room gain compensation’ to reduce the low end altogether. We can see from the above graphs that the SB-3000 does have a high-pass filter which attenuates the response shape below 20 Hz, as the SB-3000 has a steeper slope than the traditional 12dB/octave that one would expect to see in the low end of a sealed subwoofer. In both graphs, it’s nice to see the response extend out to 200 Hz. This isn’t just good for those who like to use higher-than-traditional 80 Hz crossover frequencies, but also makes for better integration with the main speakers because the response needs less work at the crossover by the AVR.  

PB3000 CEA2010 table.jpg  SB3000 CEA2010 table.jpg

Note: The above CEA-2010 measurements are short-term bursts that show the subwoofer’s clean peak SPL before heavy distortion sets in. Our measurements have been referenced to 2-meter RMS, which is 9 dB down from the standard requirement for the measurements to be shown at 1-meter peak. However most publicly available CEA-2010 measurements are shown at 2-meter RMS, so we followed that convention.

There are a couple of differences between this round of CEA-2010 testing from what we normally do that we should note. Firstly, testing for these subs was conducted in weather that is a fair bit below the specified 65F to 80F degrees mandated by the CEA-2010 protocol. The reality is unless testing is done in such cold weather that the surround becomes very stiff thereby inhibiting excursion more than normal, the results should be very close to values obtained in compliant temperature conditions. Second, due to an interface issue with the pre-amp, CEA-2010 testing was conducted using REW instead of Don Keele’s CEA-2010 testing program written for Igor Pro from Wavemetrics. The two programs can get slightly differing values at times, with REW managing to record somewhat higher values in the low-end in past comparative testing. For the most part, however, the measurements should be very close. Indeed, SVS told us our results are within 1 dB of theirs at all frequencies for both subs except for the 16 Hz measurement of the PB-3000 where they did see a couple of dB more than what we recorded. But one drawback of using REW for CEA-2010 burst testing is that it does not give out distortion numbers as a percentage, and so we do not have the corresponding THD numbers for our burst measurements as we normally would.

For a small sub, the SB-3000 is an absolute humdinger.

Both the PB-3000 and SB-3000 put up some very impressive numbers. As a point of comparison, check out the measurements in our review of the larger and more expensive SVS PB-4000. The PB-3000 is either matching or surpassing the performance of its higher-end sibling at 25 Hz and above. The PB-4000 holds a major advantage at 20 Hz and below, but that range isn’t used nearly as often as 25 hz and above. I think this was a smart move on SVS’s part in the PB-3000’s design. SVS could have made a heavier driver that could dig a bit deeper but that would have incurred a pretty hefty penalty in all other frequencies. That might also have needed a larger cabinet. By giving up on some ultra-deep bass and letting the PB-3000 have a slightly higher tuning point, SVS gets big returns over all of the rest of the range. Yet it still holds very respectable deep bass performance with solid output down below 20 Hz. In fact, for 90% of movie content and 99.9% of music content, I doubt anyone could tell the difference between the PB-3000 and PB-4000 from their sound alone.

The SB-3000 is similarly good for a sealed sub; respectable deep bass output but terrific mid-bass output, especially when one considers its size. For a small sub, the SB-3000 is an absolute humdinger. Its mid-bass burst measurements are more in line with what one would expect to see from a 15” sub, not a 13” sub.

PB3000 Compression sweeps.jpg  SB3000 Compression sweeps.jpg

Testing for long-term output compression was done by first conducting a 20-second sweep tone where 50 Hz hit 90 dB with the subwoofer 2 meters from the microphone. We then conducted further 20-second sweeps by raising the gain by 5 dB until no more output could be wrung out of the subwoofer. These tests show us the long-term continuous headroom that the subwoofer is capable of. Both the PB-3000 and SB-3000 have a great deal of headroom in mid-bass frequencies. Again, comparing the PB-3000 to the PB-4000, the PB-3000 gives up very little to its bigger brother except below 30 Hz. Compression around port tuning does put a lower ceiling on deep bass output at higher levels on the PB-3000, but it can still produce over 110 dB continuously at 30 Hz and above, which is a lot of headroom. It even touches 115 dB from 40 to 50 Hz, and that is the range where the lower notes of electronic music hang out, so if you like to give your dubstep tunes some real oomph, the PB-3000 is a sure bet.

The SB-3000 also sports terrific output for music-range bass, although it does compress deep bass above the 95 dB sweep level. The SB-3000’s deep bass headroom is decent from a sealed sub of its size, and it did produce a surprising amount of mid-bass output. For music reproduction, I doubt most people would feel the need for more than one, at least for the purpose of headroom. 110 dB at two meters is fairly loud for bass frequencies, at least for home audio. 

PB3000 THD graphs.jpg  SB3000 THD graphs.jpg

The above graphs show the corresponding total harmonic distortion to the long-term output graphs. Essentially, they depict how linear the subwoofer remains for the corresponding drive level seen in the long-term sweeps. The quantity being measured is how much of the subwoofer’s output is distortion and is shown here as a percentage. Distortion remains very low on the PB-3000 to below 20 Hz. We can see port tuning is almost exactly 20 Hz from the dip in distortion there where the woofer doesn’t undergo much motion. Above that notch, we see a blip centered around 40 Hz that peaks out just above 10% THD, which is unlikely to be audible and only occurs at very high drive levels. At 50 Hz and above, total distortion hovers around 2% at maximum volume, which is vanishingly low. The SB-3000’s distortion levels are low at nominal levels down to 20 Hz, but when it is pushed, distortion will begin to rise on the low-end. Without the assistance of a port, the driver runs into far more stress in deep bass, and we can see the driver being pushed past linear excursion at progressively higher levels below 50 Hz. However, most music content doesn’t dig too much below 50 Hz, especially acoustic recordings, and the SB-3000 can’t be driven into distortion above that region no matter how hard it is cranked. One thing to keep in mind is that while it looks like the SB-3000 is running into major distortion below 30 Hz, its output is also declining, so the large distortion spikes that are seen here occur at much reduced loudness levels. Sub-20 Hz content isn’t really the SB-3000’s wheelhouse, but very few sealed subs are adept in that frequency range, and those that are tend to be much larger.

PB3000 distortion components.jpg

SB3000 distortion components.jpg

The above graphs depict measurements of the constituent harmonics from the long-term output sweeps and are what the total harmonic distortion measurements are composed of for the 2nd and 3rd harmonics. These individual harmonics can give us a clue as to what might be the cause of some quirk or non-linearity. We are only showing the 2nd and 3rd here because they more or less reflect the higher even-order and odd-order behaviors, although higher-order harmonics are much further down as a percentage of distortion compared to the second and third.

We can see from the harmonic distortion component graphs that the third harmonic is by far the dominant distortion for both the SB-3000 and PB-3000 subwoofers. This shows that the driver has been pretty well balanced so that nothing is restricting a particular direction of travel. One interesting detail that can be seen is an inverse of the second and third harmonics at the port tuning frequency in the PB-3000; this may be because the port is loading the rear side of the woofer more heavily causing a slight imbalance of travel, although it is well below anything that could be picked up by human hearing.

3000 Group Delay.jpg 

Group delay is the measurement of how much time it takes for individual frequency bands of an input signal to be produced by the speaker. It can indicate that some frequency components are developing slower than others or are taking longer to decay. It is generally thought that 1.5 sound cycles are needed for group delay to be audible at bass frequencies, although there is an argument that group delay should remain under 20 ms to be completely unnoticeable, but that is likely meant for mid and upper bass frequencies. We can see from these measurements that SVS seems to be targeting group delay of less than 1 cycle until very deep bass where larger quantities are permitted but would still likely be inaudible. Below 30 Hz, bass sound becomes too indecipherable for qualities like extra group delay to be audible unless they are massively lagged. One feature we can see is that the SB-3000’s group delay resembles that of a ported subwoofer, and that is due to the high-pass filters that protect the driver from over-excursion. It is relatively high for a sealed subwoofer in the low-end, but that occurs in a region where it wouldn’t be discernible nor is there a lot of output down there anyway. All in all, a good showing in the time domain with nothing of concern.

Conclusion

At the close of most of my reviews, I like to briefly gPB3000 hero.jpgo over the strengths and weaknesses of the product under review, and I always start with the weaknesses, but the SVS 3000 series subwoofers don’t really have much to complain about. If I had to nit-pick, I might say that the PB-3000’s Black Ash finish is a bit pedestrian for its $1,400 asking price, but that may be because I am so used to SVS’s gorgeous gloss black finishes. That’s basically my only complaint, and it is a trifling one at that. So let’s move on to discussing the 3000 series’ strengths…

The first and foremost strength of the SVS 3000 series subs is their performance. As was discussed in the measurements analysis, the PB-3000 mostly equals the PB-4000’s performance above 30 Hz. My guess is that the same is true in a comparison of the SB-4000 to the SB-3000 above 40 Hz. The PB-3000 and SB-3000 both have unexpectedly high output for their size. They boast performance that one would expect more from 15” subs rather than 13” subs (although, as was mentioned before the cone diameter is closer to 14”). Compared to the other large 15” subs on the market, they do give up headroom in the deepest bass frequencies in order to achieve parity above that range, but sound below 20 Hz is barely discernible as it is. That is a worthwhile trade-off, in my opinion, and the audible difference would not be huge. The bottom line is that both the SB-3000 and PB-3000 sound great; they produce palpable bass sound with a very high degree of control. Performance metrics of the PB-3000 earns it our ‘Extreme Room’ Bassaholic room rating. The SB-3000 earns our ‘Medium Room’ rating, however I do feel that for the purposes of music that it would suffice for a large room on account of its very good mid-bass performance. 

SB3000 close.jpgAnother strength of the 3000 subs is just how physically manageable they are. Having dealt with their much heavier siblings in the SVS product lines, I was prepared for another back-breaking, overbuilt cabinet, even after I had read the specified 82 lbs. of the PB-3000 on the product sheet. I suppose the SVS badge had conditioned me to expect heavy labor at this point after having reviewed the 153 lbs. PB-4000, the 120 lbs. SB16-Ultra, and the 176 lbs. PB16-Ultra. Even though I knew the weight of the PB-3000, I was still surprised that I could actually lift the PB-3000 without the need for assistance when it had arrived (nonetheless, I would still advise users to lift the PB-3000 with a buddy if possible). And the physical manageability of the SB-3000 was a comparative delight compared to SVS’s other boulder-esque subs. This is a real advantage, even for those who think it doesn’t matter much since they are only going to place the sub in one spot and never move it again. When moving the sub isn’t such a chore, it is much easier to find the best location for sound quality. The location of the sub in-room is going to be a far greater determinate of sound quality than any performance features or technology from any subs at this price point. Furthermore, outside of the luxury feel of these heavy-weight loudspeakers, there isn’t any real performance advantage to having such a massive cabinet. If there were performance advantages to having such massive, dense cabinets, it would be manifest in the measurements, but the measurements of the 3000 subs show excellent distortion performance and good time-domain performance. It’s still a well-constructed subwoofer with good build quality; it just isn’t absurdly overbuilt for an emotional effect.

I will say that the 3000 series subs are my favorite subs from SVS so far, and, in some ways, are their best subs yet.

Another strength that the SB-3000 in particular has is it looks great, in the gloss black finish. It’s not likely to be an eyesore to other household occupants, so those who need a sub but can’t have a large or utilitarian looking one do have a great choice in the SB-3000. SVS could improve matters by using a less industrial looking grille, but without the grille, the SB-3000 is just a nice-looking subwoofer and is certainly one of the slicker looking ones that are available. What is more, the smallish size of the SB-3000 will allow it to fit in a lot more places than larger subs, which can potentially net better sound quality by finding a more optimal placement.   

The SVS subwoofer co3000 pair8.jpgntrol app is another nice feature. It makes some aspect of setup convenient, but, to be honest, it’s not as exciting for me personally, because many of the features you can use to control the sub is better done onboard the AVR, not the sub itself. However, for those with systems of limited bass management, it would be a major advantage since it allows for such fine control of the sub’s behavior. It is also a great feature for those who like to tweak their equipment just to see what happens. That is done so much more easily with an app rather than having to fiddle around with knobs on the back of the sub.

To bring this review to a close, I will say that the 3000 series subs are my favorite subs from SVS so far, and, in some ways, are their best subs yet. In a sense, they (mostly) put the performance of the 4000 subs in a package that is the size and weight of the 2000 subs (minus the cylinder subs). You get the best of both worlds. The 2000 subs were solid subs, but not quite SPL monsters, and the 4000 box subs, particularly the PB-4000, was an SPL bruiser but it was ridiculously heavy and large. The PB-3000 is not much more than half the weight of the PB-4000. And the SB-3000 is a small, light, great-looking sub that has absolutely smokin’ performance considering its size. My worry is that since the 3000 series is squarely the middle child in SVS’s subwoofer lines, they will get overlooked, as middle children often do- but that would be a mistake by any subwoofer shoppers. Of all of SVS’s subwoofers, the 3000s have the best balance of performance, size/weight, features, and pricing. Anyone looking for a subwoofer in this price range is encouraged to give these subs a try, and that is easy to do and risk-free since SVS allows a 45-day in-home trial in which they will pay for shipping both ways if the buyer decides not to keep it for any reason. My guess is that SVS will see few returns of these terrific subwoofers.  

The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor
MetricRating
Bass ExtensionStarStarStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStarStar
Build QualityStarStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStarStar
FeaturesStarStarStarStarStar
Ergonomics & UsabilityStarStarStarStar
Dynamic RangeStarStarStarStarStar
PerformanceStarStarStarStarStar
ValueStarStarStarStarStar

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About the author:

James Larson is Audioholics' primary loudspeaker and subwoofer reviewer on account of his deep knowledge of loudspeaker functioning and performance and also his overall enthusiasm toward moving the state of audio science forward.

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