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SVS SB16-Ultra Sealed Subwoofer Conclusion

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Usually in the conclusion of these revSB16_hero.jpgiews, I start out with a list of the aspects of the review product that I feel are particularly good and aspects that I think could use some improvement. I usually start with the negatives before I go into positives. However, with the SB16-Ultra, there really aren’t any significant negatives. I have very little to complain about with this subwoofer. The only thing that I wish was different is the weight, because moving the SB16 is a chore. Two people are needed to safely lift it and carry it anywhere. You don’t want to drag it, because the rubber tipped feet will leave marks on the floor. The SB16 is built like a tank, but as a result, it also weighs as much as one. I wish there was a way that SVS could shed some weight on this beast without sacrificing any aspect of its performance or build quality. Perhaps they could use Neodymium magnets in the motor instead of a stack of ferrite slugs, but that would entail a very significant price hike. A lot of people have the idea that massive over-building equals build quality, but I don’t think this is necessarily so. Rather, I think intelligent construction choices equals build quality. In the SB16, there is a bit of both; I see some very intelligent design choices, but I think there is also some over-building just for the sheer physicality of it. For example, did the front baffle thickness really need to be 2” thick? Did the side panels and bracing really need to be 1” thick? They don’t look to serve a purpose beyond adding mass, and it all adds up to a daunting 122 lbs. weight.

Picking up the SBSB16_close_finish.jpg16-Ultra is akin to trying to lift a boulder, but a boulder that has a very fine finish that I do not want to get even a small scratch on; it’s not easy! However, this is not a major complaint against the SB16-Ultra. It is heavy but not unmanageable. Most people will already have a place allocated for it, and they plop it down there and rarely move it after that. My complaint about weight may also have something to do with the fact that, as I get older, I am finding that I don’t lift things like this as easily as I used to.

Outside of my nitpick about its weight, I don’t have anything else to gripe about. It has great performance, great looks, and brains too, on account of the very sophisticated DSP programming that has gone into it. It is, as they say, ‘the whole package.’ On the performance front, its greatest advantage is in deep bass, specifically from 16 Hz to 30 Hz. I doubt there is any sealed subwoofer using a cone diameter of less than 18” that can match it in this area. Above that range, there are similar-sized sealed subs that can match it for loudness, but it still has supremely low distortion in mid-bass regions, and it is no slouch in output in this range as well. In the looks department, as I have repeatedly mentioned, it looks fabulous with its gorgeous finish, slick cabinetry, lustrous cone, and cool front display screen. As for the ‘brains,’ you can use its digital processor to shape the response into nearly anything you want. There is a host of room compensation curves, a 3-band parametric equalizer, and an extremely flexible low-pass filter, and, on top of all of that is the ability to set the gain and the phase to very precise values. The digital processing allows the SB16-Ultra to be finely integrated and calibrated for a wide range of different conditions, and it can all be done from your smartphone or tablet.

bassaholic extreme.jpg

We are going to award the SB16-Ultra our Bassaholics ‘Extreme’ room rating, despite it not quite hitting the required burst test measurements. It only missed them by approximately 1 dB, and its performance is so exemplary in many other respects that we feel it would handle a very large room size. The ‘Extreme’ room rating certifies that this sub will be able to handle a room size of 5,000 cubic feet. Information about how this room rating was established can be read in the article: Bassaholic Subwoofer Room Size Rating Protocol. However, those who like their bass to be massive might want to use more than just one. Indeed, for a smooth frequency response in-room, multiple subwoofers are usually a requirement, and two or more SB16-Ultras would make for a tremendous system.

SB16_angle.jpg     SB16_grille.jpg

To bring this review to a close, in my evaluation I would say the SB16-Ultra is a top-notch subwoofer. It is expensive, but in addition to the subwoofer itself, you get a 5-year warranty and some of the best customer service in the industry. For those who are on the fence about the SB16-Ultra, you can try one risk free, since SVS will issue a full refund and pay for return shipping if you decide not to keep it for any reason with 45 days of receiving it. I think the vast majority of people who give it a try will end up keeping it. I can say that I am reluctant to send my review sample back!

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 AccuracyStarStarStarStarStar
Build QualityStarStarStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStarStarStar
Ergonomics & UsabilityStarStarStar
FeaturesStarStarStarStarStar
Dynamic RangeStarStarStarStar
PerformanceStarStarStarStarhalf-star
ValueStarStarStarStar
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:

Pogre posts on February 27, 2022 11:42
Bill Shenefelt, post: 1542738, member: 24555
I added the corner bass traps to sort of lower the intensity of placing a SVS 16 ultra at each front corner. I placed two 2x4 ft ceiling sound panels up to cut ceiling reflection of midrange that could blur speech.
But did you do any measuring or consult with an acoustician about which treatments to choose and where/how to place them? Putting up room treatments “doing it by ear” is not a great idea. Slapping them up around the room without the right data is a recipe for making things worse. It's really easy to over do it or attenuate the wrong frequencies. I would never attempt treatments without before and after measurements and good knowledge of how to apply them.
Bill Shenefelt posts on February 27, 2022 10:25
Pogre, post: 1542257, member: 79914
I think what you need is to measure the frequency response to see what's going on, but right off the bat I'm gonna say I'd recommend ported subs for the space you have.

You have several treated walls and bass traps? So how did you determine that you needed them, and how did you determine which treatments to get and where to put them

I added the corner bass traps to sort of lower the intensity of placing a SVS 16 ultra at each front corner. I placed two 2x4 ft ceiling sound panels up to cut ceiling reflection of midrange that could blur speech. I do have a third sealed SVS 16 ultra along the sidewall across from the archway in the other long wall and in line with my seats. The old 18 inch JBLsub is ported and so are my 4 big JBL monitors holding 15 inch woofers. The 5 ported JBLs are all tuned to 27 CPS and have great output up into the 300 cps plus range. Summing up the ported enclosure volumes it comes to about 28 cubic feet. The three SVS sealed subs are not ported since I only have so much space in my living room. I had started with two ported svs 13 cylinders and went to the newer sealed 16 ultras. SVS recommended that option over ported since I should not need to go to the higher efficiency ported gives. If I had gotten the ported ones they would not have meshed with the higher frequency porting of the JBL's anyway. The overall frequency response with a sweep is pretty decent from about 12 cps up. Having the room length twice the room width is sort of bad for the 60 cps realm but I cannot move the room walls. The svs in line with the seating at about the middle of the room length helps fill tant standing wave though. Having the multiple subs helps to smooth things out. I hope to get my Anthem 90 processor (which has 4 sub outputs all separately controlled by the processor) this coming month after waiting over a year for it. It will hopefully help blend the ported subs with the sealed subs
Pogre posts on February 25, 2022 11:41
Bill Shenefelt, post: 1542236, member: 24555
My livungroom is about 27 ft (7 1/2 meters) long by13 feet (3 1/4 meters)wide by 8 feet (2 2/3 meters) tall. Front subs are 3 ft(1 meter) in from each sidewall but against the front wall. The room is “beside” my dining room and kitchen which are connected to the theater(my living room) with a 6 foot wide archway on one sidewall adding almost another volume nearly as much as the living room. The big old JBL 18 sub is roughly centered against the end wall. Seating is about 2/3 of the way to the back wall from the front wall. I have several treated walls and some treating pannels on the ceiling with floor carpeted. Each front corner has a 1.5 by 1.5 by 8 ft tall “bass trap” between the front sub and the front corners of the room. Walls are drywall or paneling with no special acoustical construction, just 16 inch centered 2x4 studs. The room measurment ratios are not great for 60 cps especially. With the multiple subs it is not too bad at the seats though
I think what you need is to measure the frequency response to see what's going on, but right off the bat I'm gonna say I'd recommend ported subs for the space you have.

You have several treated walls and bass traps? So how did you determine that you needed them, and how did you determine which treatments to get and where to put them?
Bill Shenefelt posts on February 25, 2022 10:23
My livungroom is about 27 ft (7 1/2 meters) long by13 feet (3 1/4 meters)wide by 8 feet (2 2/3 meters) tall. Front subs are 3 ft(1 meter) in from each sidewall but against the front wall. The room is “beside” my dining room and kitchen which are connected to the theater(my living room) with a 6 foot wide archway on one sidewall adding almost another volume nearly as much as the living room. The big old JBL 18 sub is roughly centered against the end wall. Seating is about 2/3 of the way to the back wall from the front wall. I have several treated walls and some treating pannels on the ceiling with floor carpeted. Each front corner has a 1.5 by 1.5 by 8 ft tall “bass trap” between the front sub and the front corners of the room. Walls are drywall or paneling with no special acoustical construction, just 16 inch centered 2x4 studs. The room measurment ratios are not great for 60 cps especially. With the multiple subs it is not too bad at the seats though
Bill Shenefelt posts on February 25, 2022 09:58
Steve81, post: 1506237, member: 61173
A few thoughts…

1. Have you measured your in-room FR to see if there are any big problems?

2. Moving one sub near field might be worth a try. It’s free, and easily reversed if nothing else.

3. If punch is what you desire, you’re probably looking for more mid / upper bass output, which isn’t exactly the PB16’s specialty.
I located my first two SVS ultras near the front corners of the room and the third is at aboout 2/3 of the way to the rear wall along side of the three seats. The JBL 18 is a super punch generator in the 35 to 80 cps realm along with the 4, 15 inch JBL ported's also tuned to 28 cps
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