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SVS SB16-Ultra Sealed Subwoofer Review

by June 05, 2017
  • Product Name: SB16-Ultra Sealed
  • Manufacturer: SVS Sound
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStarhalf-star
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStar
  • Review Date: June 05, 2017 00:00
  • MSRP: $ 2,000 (Free Shipping!)
  • Buy Now

Driver: 

  • 16” diameter cone
  • Cast aluminum basket
  • Four high-grade ferrite magnets
  • Dual shorting rings
  • Extended pole piece
  • 8” diameter edge-wound voice coil
  • Nomex spider
  • Dual 24-strand copper and Nomex composite leads
  • Fiberglass composite resin cone
  • Rubber surround

Amplifier:

  • Sledge STA-1500D DSP amplifier
  • 1,500 watts RMS continuous (5,000+ watts peak dynamic)
  • Class D topology
  • 50Mhz Analog Devices Audio DSP with double precision 56bit filtering
  • Active PFC (Power Factor Correction)
  • XLR and RCA stereo input/output with ultra-wide input voltage for consumer and professional audio applications
  • Front-mounted display with subwoofer controls and 8 digit LED display
  • Subwoofer Control and Bass Management Smartphone App for Apple and Android Devices
  • IR Remote Control
  • Three user adjustable parametric EQs
  • Continuously variable volume/gain control
  • Continuously variable (0-180 degrees) phase control
  • Continuously variable (30-200 Hz) 6, 12, 18, or 24 dB/octave low pass filter frequency with disable/LFE setting
  • Main power rocker switch
  • Main power rocker switch
  • Auto-On / On / Trigger Controls
  • 3-12V trigger with 1/8” (3.5 mm) TRS mini-jack input
  • Green standby mode with > 0.5 watts consumption
  • Input impedance 22kohm (RCA)/ 22kohm (XLR).
  • RoHS compliant, lead-free construction and world-wide safety certifications

Enclosure:

  • Black Oak and Piano Gloss Black finish options
  • Protective non-resonant steel mesh grille
  • Front-firing 16" driver
  • Rear-mounted amplifier
  • Screw-in rubber feet
  • Robust Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) cabinet construction
  • Cabinet Dimensions (w/ grill):  20” H X 19.5” W X 22.9” D
  • Weight (unboxed): 122lbs.

Pros

  • Excellent deep bass performance for sealed design of its size
  • Extremely low distortion
  • Very nice finish and cabinet
  • Highly adjustable frequency response
  • Heavily protected against over-driving
  • Very good customer service
  • Easily controlled via remote or smartphone app

Cons

  • Very heavy
  • Upper bass performance not significantly improved over SB13-Ultra

 

SB16_angle5.jpgAfter the positive impression that SVS’s PB16-Ultra left with us in our review late last year, it wasn’t long afterward when we inquired about the possibility of reviewing its sealed counterpart, the SB16-Ultra. The PB16-Ultra had set the bar very high for our expectations, and we wanted to see what SVS could do in a sealed subwoofer using much of the same technology employed in the PB16-Ultra. However, we also knew that the SB16-Ultra wasn’t simply a PB16-Ultra with a smaller, sealed enclosure. In our review of the PB16-Ultra, we stressed in the measurement analysis section that since there are some significant design differences in the driver from the SB16-Ultra, it would be misguided to judge the SB16’s performance from the PB16’s measurements. We were curious to see how the SB16-Ultra would compare to the sealed mode performance of the PB16-Ultra and also how it would stand on its own apart from comparisons to its larger brother. In this review, we will see what SVS brings to the market of sealed subwoofers for its $2k price point.

Unpacking and Setup

SB16_box.jpg     SB16_packing.jpg

This has to be the nicest looking subwoofer I have dealt with to date.

Packing for the SB16-Ultra was similar to the PB16-Ultra, so, in other words, it was very good and well thought-out. The SB16-Ultra arrived on a pallet. It was double boxed and sandwiched between three large foam pieces on the top and bottom. Additional foam pieces protected the side edges. Unpacking instructions are clearly labeled on the box itself, and it makes unpacking the SB16-Ultra a breeze, even though it weighs a hefty 122 lbs. While it takes two people to safely carry the SB16, there are built-in handles in the box that makes that a cinch. Once you have the box in room, you can slide it into place on the lower cardboard packing pieces, and that is easily accomplished by one person. After you have slid it into it final destination, you can conveniently slide the low pieces out from under the subwoofer, and it plops down into place. The SB16 is double-bagged, with a soft cotton bag protecting it from scuffs underneath a thick plastic bag protecting it from moisture. After unbagging, it, you may want to handle the SB16-Ultra with cotton gloves to keep its gloss finish unmarred by fingerprints. Overall, the SB16 is very well-protected from rough shipping, and, despite the SB16’s heavy weight, SVS has made it easy to unpack and place. This is top-notch packing work. I recommend holding on to the packaging in the event that it has to be shipped or relocated to another home, since acquiring packaging of similar quality for this 122 lbs beast will not be easy. 

Appearance

SB16_Dory.jpg

SB16_angle2.jpgWith its pristine gloss black finish, rounded edges, angled front display, and lustrous fiberglass resin composite cone, the SB16-Ultra is one pretty subwoofer. Its 20” cube dimensions add symmetry to the mix as well. This has to be the nicest looking subwoofer I have dealt with to date. However, if the grille is used, it messes up a lot of that. The grille is a very heavy-duty steel unit, and, unlike many other subwoofer grilles, it really will protect the driver, but in doing so it greatly diminishes the aesthetic elegance of the SB16. I think that most owners of the SB16-Ultra will use it sans grille when they are able to do so. This is a gorgeous sub that ranks very high in spouse-approval-factor, although it is slightly large by many people’s standards. That black gloss is mirror-like in its fineness: witness the reflection of the ‘Finding Dory’ blu-ray case above. The finish is certainly a major contributor to the overall cost, but once you get that thing in your home, it will be difficult not to think that it is worth it.

Design Overview

SB16_amp_int.jpg     SB16_amp.jpg

SB16-Ultra Amplifier (left) and Backpanel (right)

Since the SB16-Ultra does share many of the same attributes as the PB16-Ultra, I will point you to that page in our PB16-Ultra review, and spend our time in this design overview discussing the differences. The amplifier is the same 1,500-watt class-D Sledge amp, with the same interface, remote control, and smartphone app. The chief difference from the PB16-Ultra is the sealed design of the SB16-Ultra. Ported designs like the PB16-Ultra have a lot more deep bass headroom, but the enclosure size must necessarily be much larger. Port generated output is very efficient but requires more cabinet space to work well, and the major contribution of port generated output tends happens over a narrow band in low frequencies. Those willing to give up some low-frequency output can still get very good performance from a sealed enclosure over most of the subwoofer frequency band but from a much smaller enclosure.

driver2.jpg

SB 16-Ultra Driver

The differences between the PB16-Ultra and SB16-Ultra do not end there. The drivers used in both subs are similar in design in some aspects; for example using an 8” voice coil, 16” wooferSB16_cone.jpg, massive 56 lbs magnet, and so on, but there is some key differences, one of which is that the SB16-Ultra uses an overhung driver instead of the underhung configuration of the PB16-Ultra. In underhung drivers, the height of the coil winding is not larger than the magnetic gap that the coil travels in. This means that the coil’s travel within the magnetic gap is always going to be subject to the same amount of magnetic force as long as it stays within that gap. Because of this, the coil’s travel within the gap is very linear and well-controlled. The disadvantage of this approach is that since the gap is larger than the coil’s height, a lot of the force from the permanent magnet is wasted, because the coil only occupies a part of the gap and is therefore only using a part of the magnet’s available force. An overhung design, by comparison, always has some coil in the permanent magnet’s field, so none of the magnetic field is wasted. Overhung drivers do see waste too, since only part of the coil is ever in the gap, but in the case of SVS’s driver with its monster 56 lbs magnet, the force of the permanent magnet is enormous. Taking full advantage of that powerful magnetic force can give the driver more motor force and greater sensitivity, both of which can come in very handy in a small, sealed enclosure that will have more internal pressure. This is why SVS opted for an overhung design for the SB16-Ultra; it makes more sense for a small, sealed cabinet. 

There are other differences between the SB16-Ultra driver and PB16-Ultra as well. Many of the parameters of the SB16-Ultra driver have been optimized for its smaller, sealed enclosure, for example, the suspension used is not like the PB16-Ultra and wouldn’t work as well. The SB16-Ultra driver is specified by SVS to have a 65 mm xmax, meaning that this driver should have a bit over 2.5” of linear excursion on tap. In comparison, most drivers around this diameter would be lucky to have 2.5” of available throw at all, let alone 2.5” of linear throw.SB16_internal.jpg

The design philosophy of the SB16-Ultra seems to be SVS’s answer to the question of how much power, mass, and technology can fit in a 20” cube. As with the PB16-Ultra, the cabinet is solid like a rock, to use the cliche. In fact, in its weight-to-size ratio it very much feels like a small boulder. Of the 122 lbs of the SB16-Ultra, the driver weighs 64 lbs, which means the amp and cabinet somehow weigh a hefty 58 lbs, an extraordinarily large amount for such a small sub. The cabinet paneling is 1” thick MDF all around, except for the front baffle which is 2” thick. There is a 1” thick window brace in the center of the cabinet which supports the motor of the driver. Dacron is used as cabinet stuffing. Unless you are a professional weight-lifter, two people are needed to carry it despite its modest size. SVS uses some wide, spiked feet that have a rubber-covered tip so it does not scratch the floor. However, if you drag or push the sub, it can leave dark marks on the floor surface, so if you want to slide the SB16 in place, the use of furniture sliders is advised. The pointed rubber feet will sink into the carpet or rug so the SB16 bottom surface will likely be resting on the fabric surface. If you want the sub to be elevated off of the fabric of a rug or carpeting, the use of SVS’s SoundPath Subwoofer Isolation Feet would be a perfect fit.  

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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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Recent Forum Posts:

RXP posts on March 04, 2019 02:54
shadyJ, post: 1216024, member: 20472
It does very good in deep bass for a since sealed subwoofer of its size. If you can accommodate a ported sub, like a PB13-Ultra, you can get a lot more deep bass output for the same price. The extension rating in this case ignores the distinction between ported and sealed subs, because the truth is a lot of people do not understand the difference between ported and sealed subs. Those who are after deep bass around the same price point can do better if they can handle larger enclosures.

I based my purchasing decision on this logic when I went for an SVS PB13 in my main theatre. Then I wanted a sub for my office I was shocked at the performance of the SB2000 I ordered for a smaller room (4mx2.5mx2.6m )

In the US the rooms tend to be bigger, but in the UK they're smaller. I made a PVG calculator that's available here. Just input the yellow cell. Any errors you notice let me know. The slower roll off of a sealed sub works really well in smaller rooms. Of course, the rigidity of walls and the materials of your house mean you may get significantly less.

Knowing now what I know - I'd have preferred to get a couple of sealed PB13's. I'd get deeper extension in my room at reference levels and save some space. They're also much easier to move around and ship if you decide to sell. Of course if I had a much larger room, ported is the way to go. Hopefully the Pressure Vessel Calc makes that clear to potential purchasers
shadyJ posts on October 18, 2017 11:18
It is generally not a good idea to mix ported and sealed subs, if all those subs are in one system.
Rolljdc posts on October 18, 2017 09:32
I know the difference in ported and sealed box subwoofers as I have a combination of both (Rythmik D15SE, Rythmik LVR12, 2 Golden Ear Forcefield 4's, and the aforementioned SVS SB16 Ultra. I know that ported or one with passive radiators extends deeper and has more output than sealed, and sealed is a thighter and speedier but less output and less deeper extension. As you can see, I have a combination of strengths and weaknesses in my system. The question is since the SB16 have substantial output in the 16-30hz, why would you rate it 4 star? Also the sound is probably the best I have heard in my past ownership of subs, and it ranks below the PB16? Just sayin (my opinion)…..
shadyJ posts on October 16, 2017 18:34
Rolljdc, post: 1216006, member: 83881
“The SB16 isn't just about performance. Yes, if you want raw SPL, there are other subs that can get louder. The SB16 has good performance, extensive features, great looks, and all the customer service amenities that come with SVS. Regarding performance, the SB16's wheelhouse is the range of 16 Hz and 30 Hz. No other 15” is going to touch it there."
I just got done setting up and listening with my SB16 Ultra. What the review said about the deep bass performance and extension, well should'nt that warrant a 5 star rating for the extension? Just scratching my head about that.
It does very good in deep bass for a since sealed subwoofer of its size. If you can accommodate a ported sub, like a PB13-Ultra, you can get a lot more deep bass output for the same price. The extension rating in this case ignores the distinction between ported and sealed subs, because the truth is a lot of people do not understand the difference between ported and sealed subs. Those who are after deep bass around the same price point can do better if they can handle larger enclosures.
Rolljdc posts on October 16, 2017 15:43
“The SB16 isn't just about performance. Yes, if you want raw SPL, there are other subs that can get louder. The SB16 has good performance, extensive features, great looks, and all the customer service amenities that come with SVS. Regarding performance, the SB16's wheelhouse is the range of 16 Hz and 30 Hz. No other 15” is going to touch it there."
I just got done setting up and listening with my SB16 Ultra. What the review said about the deep bass performance and extension, well should'nt that warrant a 5 star rating for the extension? Just scratching my head about that.
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