SVS SB-3000 powered subwoofer

SVS’s recently introduced SB-3000 is a compact powered subwoofer that’s $600 cheaper, a few cubic inches smaller, and 37lb lighter than the model it replaces, the SVS SB13-Ultra. Its amplifier is less powerful (800W vs 1000W), but its rated frequency response extends lower: a stygian 18Hz, compared to the SB13-Ultra’s merely stentorian 20Hz.

The SB-3000’s newly designed 13″ driver has a vented aluminum cone, an injection-molded gasket and surround, and a polyimide-impregnated fiberglass former, surrounded by two 15lb toroidal ferrite magnets. Its new 2″ split-wind voice-coil has a lower winding density in the center, flanked by two higher-density winding sections, an arrangement said to support low excursion at low output volumes but increased output range for higher output volumes. The driver has four 24-strand silver-plated Litz lead wires woven through the 6.5″ 2-ply Nomex-composite spider; oversized nickel-plated high-tension spring terminals; and a low-carbon vented steel U-yoke and top plate.

The sub’s internal class-D amplifier, named Sledge, has a digital front end but an output section built with fully discrete, high-current (25A), 600V MOSFET output devices, for a rated 800W RMS and 2500W peak. All app settings, including those for its parametric equalizer, are managed by an internal high-resolution 50MHz Analog Devices DSP chip with 56-bit filtering. The DSP uses a “power factor correction algorithm” to reduce current needs by 30%–50% while maintaining a steady 360V DC from the internal power supply. This contributes to the sub’s efficiency, enabling it to pump out 120dB SPLs, a significant increase over the SB13-Ultra’s 111dB SPL rated output.

SVS’s user-friendly smartphone app (version 1.3.25, build 20190319), available free from iTunes (but also for Android and Amazon devices), provided me with wireless Bluetooth control from my listening-room chair. Its bidirectional Bluetooth wireless link manages each SB-3000 separately, even if they are hidden behind a couch, controlling volume, low-pass filter frequency and slope, a three-band parametric equalizer that works over a range of 20–200Hz, room-gain compensation (a high-pass filter in the range of 25–40Hz to prevent deep bass overload), presets (Movie, Music, Custom), polarity, and built-in tutorials. The app’s toolbar displays the two last digits of the serial number of the sub being managed next to a Bluetooth icon, its color signifying the state of connectivity: green for “on” and white for “off.” A bottom menu offers the option of resetting default settings, saving to a preset, or explaining the control feature.

For wireless audio-signal connectivity, SVS offers their SoundPath wireless audio adapter kit ($119.99), eliminating the need for typically long, costly interconnect runs. The kit contains a pre-paired Bluetooth transmitter and receiver set; the latter plugs into the SB-3000’s rear service panel via a USB cable. It operates at 2.4GHz, employs dynamic frequency selection, uses forward error correction, and has an operating range of 50 feet.

Ever since JL Audio’s Carl Kennedy insisted I review their f113 Fathom subwoofer in pairs, I’ve asked manufacturers to send me two subs for review. Dual subs, I’ve found, have enabled improvements in soundstage width and ambience recovery. SVS’s Ed Mullen confirms my impression and lists the additional advantages of two smaller subwoofers over a single large unit, including lighter weight, smaller size, easier flow of foot traffic, greater dynamic range, a smoother frequency response across the room, decreased localization of the source of the bass, less visual impact, and easier room placement.

The SB-3000’s nearly cubic shape and relatively compact size—15.6″ high by 15.2″ wide by 15.7″ deep—helped make up for its 54.5lb weight, making it easy for me to unbox and carry the pair, one at a time, up two flights of stairs to my listening room. Smallness and low weight also meant that sliders weren’t needed to protect the listening room’s hardwood floors. I plugged each of their power cords into my Torus Power RM 20 power conditioner and used unbalanced interconnects: The SB-3000 and the SVS wireless transmitter use only RCA input connectors.

I selected first Quad ESL-989s and then KEF LS50s to serve as my almost-full-range speakers: I thought their limited deep-bass response and dynamic range would benefit from a subwoofer. Both were positioned 68″ from my listening position. The KEFs were placed on Franklin & Lowell speaker stands (footnote 1), with their tweeters 34″ above the floor—the same height as my ears when I’m seated in my listening-room chair.

As with most other aftermarket subwoofers reviewed in these pages, the SB-3000 was designed to be used with an audio system’s main speakers run full range, so they don’t include built-in high-pass filters. This worked fine for the LS50 because its internal crossover has a 24dB/octave rolloff below 52Hz (footnote 2), protecting its woofer from excessive deep-bass excursions. I also tested them with my JL Audio CR-1 external electronic crossover’s high-pass filters set to 70Hz, 24dB/octave, but I was unable to detect any major differences in sound quality between the high-pass filter on or off.

But the Quad ESL-989s’ bass panels are vulnerable to damage from excessive excursions during sustained deep-bass passages. To avoid this calamity, while reviewing the SB-3000s with the Quads, I always used the CR-1’s high-pass filter. (See the sidebar, “Using the SVS SB-3000 with an external crossover.”)

I also experimented with wireless connectivity by pairing the SB-3000s with the CR-1 crossover’s outputs via SVS’s SoundPath kits and their corresponding receiver modules. I connected the transmitter modules to the CR-1’s low-pass outputs with unbalanced interconnects, and the receiver modules to the subwoofers’ real panels via USB-A cables. LEDs on the transmitter and receiver modules slowly flashed red while linking, then remained steady, after which both subwoofers woke up and played. Comparing wired vs wireless signal connection, I could hear no differences in background noise, bass power, pitch definition, solidity, or tightness, and I experienced no drop-outs of the musical signal at any time during this review. The right- and left-channel SoundPath kits did not interfere with one another, as they did with MartinLogan’s wireless kit,5 so both subs could be controlled without disconnecting one and connecting the other.

Footnote 1: These piano-black metal stands were designed by distributor Sumiko for Sonus Faber’s minimonitors and can be filled with sand for damping and stability.

Footnote 2: See here and here.