What is the SVS SB16-Ultra?
Features and Specs
It's this innovation that ensures ultra-low distortion and pinpoint control at the highest drive levels resulting in increased output and low frequency extension. To push the driver are four dedicated toroidal ferrite magnets that can deliver 78mm peak-to-peak Xmech excursion (65mm Xmax) for the highest levels of motor force and sound pressure levels. The light and rigid 16-inch Ultra driver cone consists of a premium fiberglass resin composite with optimal stiffness to mass ratio to maximise the movement of air and create sonic energy without distorting or losing control.
The second major innovation is the new Sledge amplifier which, according to SVS, is rated at 1,500W continuous and over 5,000W of peak power. The Sledge STA-1500D amplifier uses 64 Amp 200-Volt MOSFETs (metal–oxide–semiconductor field-effect transistors) that are the sonic muscle behind the physical power of the SB16-Ultra. The fully discrete MOSFET output stages deliver improved performance and represent an upgrade over the less robust integrated circuit output stages found in other Class D subwoofer amplifiers. To harness this power effectively the SB16-Ultra uses an advanced 50 MHz Analog Devices Audio DSP with 56bit filtering to deliver all the low frequency energy at the correct time.
The connections are on the rear panel and here you'll find XLR and RCA stereo inputs and outputs with an ultra-wide input voltage for consumer and professional applications. There's also a three-pin socket for the power cable and an on/off switch. However what there aren't are any controls because you set up and fine tune the SB16-Ultra using the controls on the front, the provided remote control or the smartphone app. The credit card sized IR remote control includes buttons for volume, up/down, back and enter, along with the presets and a brightness control for the LED display.
However you're unlikely to use the remote control once you've had a taste of the SVS Subwoofer App, which is the third major innovation in the SB16-Ultra. The free app is compatible with iOS and Android platforms and allows you to setup the sub, control all the DSP functions and conveniently store custom presets. The app provides an incredibly easy way to fine tune bass performance, all from the comfort of the sweet spot. For added convenience, SVS have included a two-way feedback which shows updates in real time on both the app and subwoofer interface. There is also Bluetooth connectivity to allows adjustments to be made even when the subwoofer is not in sight.
Setup and Operation
The app has a well designed and intuitive user interface that makes setting up and optimising the SB16 as easy as possible. There is a home page that allows you to set the subwoofer volume and turn the subwoofer display on or off. You can also access a range of options from which you can select Home/Volume, Low Pass Filter, Phase, Polarity, Parametric EQ, Room Gain Compensation, Presets and System Settings. For each of these options there is an additional help page that explains what the feature does and how best to set it. You can set up the SB16 so that it is On (which is the default), in Auto (which means it comes on when there's a signal) or you can use a Trigger as part of a controlled system. In terms of the display you can set it so that is shows the Volume (the default setting), you can set it so that it shows the SVS logo or you can turn it off. If you have the display on, you also have the option to add a time out from 10 seconds (the default setting) to 60 seconds.
There's also a Parametric EQ control with three EQ adjustments that you can use to compensate for peaks and dips in the acoustic signature of the room that couldn't be avoided during initial placement. Each of these EQ adjustments can be set for Frequency between 20 and 200 Hz in single Hz increments, for Boost in a range that goes from +6 to -12 dB, and for Q Factor (bandwidth) from 0.2 to 10. You can create presets as well with the option of no preset, a Movie preset for when using the SB16 with film soundtracks (which introduces a mild bass boost), a Music preset for listening to two-channel music with a subwoofer (which is flat) and a Custom preset if you'd rather create one of your own. It should be pointed out that there is no auto EQ feature on the SB16-Ultra, so you'll need to make all these adjustments manually, ideally with the help of a calibrated microphone and an audio spectrum analyser like Room EQ Wizard.
The opening of Interstellar suddenly goes from almost silent to very loud as the protagonist dreams about an accident and this is not only a great test of dynamic range but also reveals how responsive and fast the subwoofer is. The same is true of the scene in King Kong where the artillery start shelling the titular ape after the ice skating sequence. The soundtrack for Logan includes a number of incredibly deep bass moments that the SB16 handled with ease but the sound designers also mixed low frequencies into Logan's voice in certain key scenes and the SVS handled these with a telling subtlety as well. This ability to handle bass moments with both power and dexterity is what really impressed but the SB16-Ultra also managed to deliver these incredibly low frequencies without distorting. It was a highly accomplished performance that showed how effective SVS's efforts have been in delivering a sealed subwoofer that can hold it's own against ported boxes.
The musicality that the SB16-Ultra revealed with Whiplash meant that the subwoofer was certainly capable of delivering low frequency support for two-channel music. If you like combining a subwoofer with your main stereo speakers then the responsive nature of the SVS meant that drum hits and bass lines were delivered with a pleasing tightness, keeping pace with the music whether its rock, dance or classical. The gravelly vocals of Roger Waters on his new album Is This The Life We Really Want were given a nice low-end rumble, whilst the epic sweep of M83's Hurry Up, We're Dreaming was very effectively supported by the SB16-Ultra. What was particularly impressive was that no matter how complex the arrangements, the SVS seemed capable of retaining a sense of identity and never causing any low frequency confusion among instruments. Overall it was a superb performance from a subwoofer that takes both movies and music to another level in terms of bass delivery.
- Superb bass performance
- Very low distortion
- Great smartphone remote app
- Flexible setup and control
- Well made and attractive design
- Bass not quite as deep as some ported models
- No auto EQ
- It's very heavy
SVS SB16-Ultra Subwoofer Review
However once you have set the SVS up properly you will be seriously impressed with its performance. The 16-inch driver, 8-inch voice coil and 1,500W of Sledge amplification mean that the SB16 can deliver incredibly deep bass for a sealed box but also do so in a surprisingly fast and agile way. This is one powerful and responsive subwoofer that can handle both movies and music with ease. There there is a lightness of touch that belies the depth of bass within and the responsive nature of the SB16-Ultra combined with the confidence and tightness of the low frequency performance results in a subwoofer of genuine authority.
As a result we feel the SVS SB16-Ultra is definitely worthy of a Highly Recommended badge and will doubtless prove difficult to beat, particularly at it's current price. If you like the idea of the SB16 but would rather have a ported subwoofer, then the PB16-Ultra might be right up your alley with all the same features but in a ported box. If you're looking for an alternative sealed unit then the Sunfire XTEQ 12 is definitely worth considering. It only uses a 12-inch driver compared to the SB16's 16-inch driver but the Sunfire is cheaper, has plenty of power, an equally nimble performance and it comes with an auto EQ feature.
Our Review Ethos
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