Updated 8/8/17 after spending time with 2 PB-16 Ultras.
Have you ever asked yourself what would happen if arguably one of the world’s best subwoofer makers, SVS, decided to design a mega-subwoofer? I have, but I clearly think about subwoofers a lot. To a fault, I’m sure.
I’m very proud to be the world’s first SVS affiliate, along with my other site affiliations like Amazon. The economics of being a YouTube Creator are challenging, and I need all the support I can get, but I truly enjoy this project and interacting with my audience.
Given the reputation and performance of SVS subwoofers, their support makes a lot of sense for this site; I’d be discussing their subwoofers regardless. Viewers regularly express their surprise at just how amazing SVS subs are. I get some fun comments! The depth is undeniable, even with their most economical subs.
Gary Yacoubian, president of SVS, challenged the engineering team to build something that they were uniquely qualified to build. A bigger and badder subwoofer than the PB-13 Ultra!
That’s a tall order, if you know anything about high quality subwoofers. The PB-13 Ultra has been a home theater champion for quite a while.
The new subwoofer is truly exciting, and a little frightening! In both sealed and ported configurations, the PB16 Ultra and the SB16 Ultra, are just insane. The power behind these subs easily eclipse the PB-13 Ultra, which already delivers an astonishing 1,000 watts RMS and 3,600 watts peak. The new PB16 Ultra delivers an obscene 1,500 watts RMS and over 5,000 watts peak!!!
Now just in case you missed that, we’re talking 5 KILOWATTS of peak power!! 10 KILOWATTS with duals!! Fun, right??
5,000 watts, available and ready to convince you that there is, indeed, a T-Rex crashing through your living room. Nikola Tesla himself might have been impressed!
Subwoofer 101 Disclaimer: NOT for houses with weak foundations!!
At first, that disclaimer was just a joke. Joking aside, having enjoyed these subs personally, you might need to actually consider it. Finding the limits of these subs is not something I’m willing to attempt.
Seriously. This house was built in the 50’s, and these subs made me nervous when I tried to push it. I gave up well before the subs did.
Not only did they cram the power of a typical naval ship into the incredibly reinforced cabinet (which is an absolute MUST at these levels), they’ve added new features for SVS, including a smartphone app and a remote control, along with an advanced DSP.
I have to say, I was concerned that the app might be a little gimmicky, but it’s incredibly well thought out, allowing multiple subs, the ability to rename those subs, ability to change the PEQ’s (Parametric Equalizers) with graphs for visual reference (rather than just plain numbers) to change the response curve, and all of it done in real-time. As the app changes (like an increase in volume), so does the sub.
A lot of time was spent on the app, and it really shows. It’s very intuitive. Being able to see how the Q effects the response is very useful, as some enthusiasts may not be 100% on how Q adjustments will effect outcome. In the app, it’s pretty clear once you fiddle with it.
At one point I thought I’d found a flaw in the app: every time I set the music or movie preset, everything defaulted, including the PEQ’s, Port Tuning, and Volume, which could really be an issue. Turns out, when you make adjustments, you’re supposed to save the preset.
Here I thought I was clever, and it turned out I just hadn’t read the directions. I’m sure that’s the first time that’s ever happened in home audio, right?
Saving the presets to Movie and Music allows you to run that extra dB or so for movies, and still have the perfect balance for music. Even if you run the same setting for both, it’s still a good idea to save both presets anyway.
Then there’s the new driver. Huge 8” voice coil. Massive magnet. It is shipped on a pallet due to the weight. You’re not getting this sub into the house on your own without a substantial dolly, and even then you should have someone help you. The dimensions according to the SVS website are 25” H X 21.7” W X 30.9” D and 174.5 pounds for the ported PB16-Ultra.
It’s not only deep in extension, it’s deep in physical dimension. You’ll want about 33″+ clearance to the wall. Not Small.
I’m really enjoying these subwoofers. I waited for a while to do the review, and the only way I could review it was in a dual configuration. Knowing what duals are capable of, a single didn’t give me the experience I wanted. So, I tried mixing subs.
I’ve found that trying to mix subs is generally harder than perfectly matched subs. The closer they are, the better. The PB-2000 (12″ driver) with a PB-16 Ultra (16″ driver) was not very good, with some annoying cancellations.
PB-16 Ultra mixed with the HSU VTF-15 (15″ driver)? It was better (I’m assuming due to a closer driver size) but still not what I knew it should be. I still haven’t heard dual VTF-15’s, so based on this experience, I still haven’t truly “heard” the VTF-15’s.
When SVS was finally able to send out the second PB-16 Ultra, everything clicked into place. A tight wall of well composed thunder came forth! It was then that I truly understood the desire for increased power.
I have wood floors, which absorbs energy and redistributes sound (not a good thing), so I took the isolation off of the PB-2000’s, and with an extra pack from SVS (the PB-16 Ultra requires 6 instead of 4 feet) I got both subs mostly decoupled from the floor.
The buzz in the floor, which could be felt clearly on the other side of the house, was now only evident when standing near the subs. I envy those with concrete floors, but now I was ready to rock.
Fear laced giggling was the initial response, something new people tend to experience as well. They always look around to be sure the house is not coming down, legitimately.
Hacksaw Ridge, when the big navy guns go off, is something that still makes me shake my head in awe. Absolutely incredible with these subwoofers!!
When we first saw that scene, my wife and I just looked at each other in disbelief, jaws on the floor and eyes wide, then we laughed out loud, and used some expletives to properly punctuate the experience.
Keep in mind, big powerful subs are not new to us. We had expectations, but we were still unprepared for the merciless onslaught we’d experienced. And yet the pummeling was not painful, just exciting and fun! A little scary, sure, but incredibly fun!
Music is still as it should be, soft when soft bass is being played, but the true benefits of power become evident with powerful, “sharp” bass. Explosions hit you in the chest. Deep in the chest.
Some might assume that with such great home theater chops, music won’t be as good. After hearing all of my favorite material, even hearing vinyl for the first time in over 20 years, I can say that Diana Krall’s album on vinyl sounds absolutely gorgeous on these subs, as does Norah Jones, and my usual “go-to” tracks. If anything, the bass is just more sure footed.
Dual subwoofers are really important for music. Running dual matched subs means being able to hear all of the bass, and reduces “Swiss Cheese Bass”. Running matched duals wont make “bad” subwoofers sound great, but they will sound better.
So having said that, does this mean that the PB-16 Ultra requires a $5000 bass budget? Yes, I believe that 1,000%. If you’re going to spend this kind of money on a subwoofer, you really should get everything out of it, and not immediately put it at a disadvantage. I believe that to be true for any subwoofer.
If you’re running a cheap home theater in a box, getting a second matching sub would help, but it’s far from essential. If you’re spending anywhere near $1000 or more on a subwoofer, you really need 2.
So before the suggestion even arises, yes, if you followed the links, and bought 2 PB-16 Ultra subwoofers, it would be better for me than if you bought a single, so that MUST be my motive! No, my suggestion is that you should split your budget.
If you’re scrimping and saving to buy a single PB-16 Ultra, consider dual PB-12 Plus instead. So long as you order factory direct, you still have a year to upgrade at full purchase price, less shipping costs.
You may not get all of the benefits of the PB-16 Ultra, like the impressive amp, 75 pound driver, 8 inch voice coil, app, remote control, etc… but it’s how I would spend my money if I only had enough cash for a single PB-16 Ultra. Dual subwoofers are THAT important!!
But should you go sealed or ported? I’ve tackled this topic already, but to reiterate, I find the PB-16 Ultra more comfortable to listen to, as sealed causes a bit of ear fatigue, something I discovered when I checked out the SB-2000 subwoofers.
I expected to be a sealed subwoofer convert, but the unexpected pressure issues I experienced reduced my listening sessions down to less than an hour, and by comparison I can enjoy ported subs all day. Some people have this issue, others don’t.
I thought maybe the sealed issue might have been a room correction issue, so I was willing to try sealed again just to be sure. After all, sealed subs do have a lot of benefits, like zero port noise, tighter response, etc…
So I decided to try the PB-16 Ultra’s in sealed mode. That is what confirmed it, sealed subs don’t work for me. Angel (the white Tibetan Mastiff) didn’t like it either, her ears twitched in sealed mode, the same as with the SB-2000’s. So I think I can safely say that ported subs are more pet friendly.
Remember that naval gun scene in Hacksaw Ridge? She just slept through it, no problem. I’ve gotten used to seeing them snooze unfazed with their heads right next to the subs, but when my friend pointed it out, I realized it was pretty remarkable just how comfortable these powerful ported subs are.
I have to say though, in sealed mode, I was VERY impressed with the depth, it presented with similar characteristics of a ported sub! If you enjoy sealed subs, the SB-16 Ultra is a winner. It’s smaller, but still able to deliver serious home theater performance. The response profile is exactly what I prefer.
There are 3 modes on the PB-16 Ultra, Standard, Extended, and Sealed. Standard has all three ports open, Extended has two ports open, and sealed has all three ports closed. My favorite is Standard mode.
In Standard mode (all ports open), the performance is excellent, even in torture scenes like the one above. You can see from the video above that the PB-16 Ultras move a ton of air, enough to blow out the candles from across the room!
Cutting that airflow by 33% (plugging one port for Extended mode) was not quite as good for me. These subs like to breathe, and the extra 1/2 to 1 hertz extension wasn’t worth the trouble. Standard mode never sounded like it wasn’t deep enough.
Extended mode didn’t sound quite as natural to me either, so I recommend you let these babies breathe.
The SB-16 Ultras will not have as much headroom as the PB-16 Ultras will, but they are FAR from anemic, and will easily deliver the goods better than most ported subs. In Sealed mode, I found the sound of the PB-16 Ultra to be very impressive, and it made me more annoyed at my intolerance of sealed subs.
These subwoofers excel in providing realism that’s as close to real life as I’ve ever heard. For an ultimate home theater, a pair of PB-16 Ultras deliver a wall of bass that remains comfortable while exhilarating. Quite a trick, if you really think about it!
I don’t want to mislead anyone though. These subs, just like their least expensive stable mate, the PB-1000, could hurt your ears if pushed hard enough (I know, thanks to a rookie mistake measuring the PB-1000’s too loud), decibels are decibels.
When configured properly (as any sub should be) they are simply a joy to listen to, if not genuinely startling at times.
If you’re fortunate enough to add these subs to your home theater, plug them in, get them adjusted (more on how I do it), consider warning the neighbors to avoid uninvited blue and red party lights, buckle up, and enjoy the realism that few people will ever experience!
At $2,499 for the ported, and $1,999 for the sealed, they aren’t for those on strict budgets, but with a 5 year warranty including amp and electronics, free shipping, a gorgeous look, and loads of adjust-ability and convenience to go with it’s ultra powerful, sub-audible bass performance, they are truly outstanding.
This is what a home theater Mega-Subwoofer should be!