SVS PB16-Ultra Subwoofer Review
By Stephen Hornbrook on
Big sub, big sound. Sure the PB16-Ultra is a beast, but given today’s technology, bringing low-end performance sans distortion requires of size and weight. SVS has a pair of subwoofers featuring their new 16” driver, the SB16-Ultra, previously reviewed by us and the PB16-Ultra. The SB is a sealed box design, while the PB is a ported box.
If you are looking to reproduce the lowest subsonic octaves, then the PB16-Ultra is your choice.
Build Quality / Looks
In our review of the SB16-Ultra, the sealed version of this subwoofer, he mentions the increase in subwoofer size that accompanies moving to a 16” driver, and that definitely applies to the ported version. It tacks on an additional 50 pounds compared to the SB16-Ultra in an even larger enclosure. At a 175 pounds, the PB16-Ultra is built to produce strong bass levels with no cabinet vibration. 3 ports sit below the massive 16” driver and on top is an angled LED display and control panel.
Unlike Chris, I was not able to unpack and set up this beast on my own. Thankfully he came over and helped as getting it up the stairs was no easy task. The heftiness aside, unpacking and setting up was pretty easy as SVS has taken a lot of care in the packaging. They even have a handy unpacking video on the website!
Once out of the box, the PB16-Ultra shines with its glossy piano black finish. It is also available in black oak, but I can’t imagine not going with the beautiful piano black. The build quality, like the SB16-Ultra, is impeccable. Smooth edges and beyond solid construction make this subwoofer feel like you are getting what you pay for. I love the angled inset front display. Not only does it provide instant feedback, it gives the SVS a presence that it means business, and boy golly does it back that up.
Usually, I’m not easily impressed with shimmery displays on objects that don’t really require them, but it is a nice touch on the SVS and it gives it an elite look. What I enjoy even more though is the ability to control the sub via remote or phone app. Listen, I’ve got neighbors, a wife who doesn’t always watch movies with me, and sometimes a scene just gets a little out of hand and I need to dial back the bass a bit. Or it’s the middle of the day and no one is around and I want to crank it till I feel it in my bones. Either way, having that control in my hands on the couch is amazing.
It also means you can easily play with the different modes like music, movies, or custom setups from your optimal seating position. Hear what sounds the best. The app, available on iOS and Android, is straightforward and easy to use and it pairs automatically with the sub. No complicated setup process here, thanks SVS!
Like the SB16-Ultra, the PB16-Ultra has a few features that are most easily accessed via the phone app. Control volume, crossover, phase, room gain, and a 3-band parametric EQ. The EQ allows for adjustments on frequency, boost, and Q-factor.
Unlike the SB16-Ultra, the PB16-Ultra has 3 3.5” high-flow ports on the front. These ports allow for increased output at low octaves as well as 3Hz of additional extension when using one port plug-in extended mode. There are 3 port plugs included, allowing for further customization of the subwoofer’s sound. I opted for extended mode, placing one plug in the center port.
The opening series of bass notes on Edge of Tomorrow provide a perfect introduction to the PB16-Ultra’s capabilities. You could host a photo shoot with the PB16’s ports blowing a supermodel’s hair in the wind from the amount of air the high-extension 16” driver can move. That amount of low-frequency energy will shake your entire house, so anything that can produce a noise from vibration, will. The final bass frequency in that opening must be somewhere around 15Hz, certainly not much higher, and I have never heard a sub reach it, until the SVS PB16-Ultra. Hearing, or feeling, those subsonic notes is a treat and I thank SVS for engineering and producing a subwoofer that is capable of doing this while maintaining quality sound with low distortion. Bravo!
During Star Trek Beyond the PB16-Ultra elevated the experience to visceral levels. The attack on the Enterprise features a mass of small ships pounded the hull and you could feel it through the SVS PB16-Ultra. Even more so, when the saucer section crash lands on the planet below, a thundering boom envelops you in the home theater. During all that chaos the bass remained clean and articulate thanks to that massive voice coil.
Tron: Legacy has one of my favorite sound mixes with full use of the surrounds and high levels of bass output. The PB16-Ultra fills my 15’x20’ home theater with ease. I actually have to crank it down to -18dB in order to not bring the neighbors knocking. Incredible depth and detail to the explosions and light cycle engines make this subwoofer stand out among the pack. It’s really competing with subs costing quite a bit more than it.
Super 8 has an incredible train crash scene that sets up the intensity for the rest of the film. I chose this scene as my reference to A-B the SVS and the Paradigm Prestige 1000SW. My honest opinion is that neither sub is the clear winner. The Paradigm has more upper low-frequency impact and detail which filled the room with more energy. The erupting flames and careening train cars felt more immediate. On the PB16-Ultra, the lower octave growl and rumble carries the scene and makes the train cars feel more daunting like they carry more weight off the screen. The crashing trains sounded incredible on both subs and it really comes down to personal preference. I wish I had a chance to have compared the PB16 directly to the SB16, but given Chris’s review, I’m sure it performs similarly to the sealed Paradigm with the added plus of it costing $1000 less than the Paradigm. Unless you aren’t looking for a particular wood finish and don’t need the room calibration kit (PBK) that comes with the Prestige 1000SW, then there’s a grand saved by going with the SVS SB16-Ultra. If subsonic performance is your goal, the $2500 PB16-Ultra should be your choice. Although the Paradigm Prestige 1000SW is quick and detailed, its smaller driver and sealed design doesn’t allow it to reach the depths that the PB16-Ultra does. However, the PB16-Ultra does take up quite a bit more space than either the SB16-Ultra or Paradigm Prestige 1000SW.
For music, I listen to a couple of multi-channel SACDs. First up, Dark Side of the Moon which sounds wonderful. The deep extension of the PB16-Ultra seems to pull me further into the music, probably the way the low frequencies travel through the body. It does well with any electronic bass, Bjork and M83 sound great, but I still prefer the speed and tightness of the sealed Paradigm for the acoustic bass lines from Eugene Write on The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s “Take Five”.
Editor’s Note: Having reviewed the SB16-Ultra, I listened to a few scenes after unpacking the PB16-Ultra. There are a couple of scenes I specifically want to call out. The opening for Edge of Tomorrow on the PB16-Ultra is a completely different experience than the SB16. A rush of wind hits me and those subsonic notes that fill the room from the PB16 are absent on the SB16 by comparison. During the motorcycle chase scene in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, the PB16 packs more lower octave impact, but the SB16 performs much closer to it. Both fall behind the dual JL Audio f112v2’s on this scene, which you’d expect when those cost $7,400 combined. But if you’re after that lower down chest impact with films, the PB16-Ultra can certainly hit levels the SB16 cannot.
In the end, the SVS PB16-Ultra is a monster of a sub, both in terms of looks and performance. I have the room for it, so personally, the size doesn’t bother me, but not everyone will. Like the SB16-Ultra, its low distortion allows it to disappear and blend into your home theater system. Unlike the SB16 however, the PB16 can reach new depths, giving you that full home theater experience we all pine for. Unless you have the means to jump up to a dual JL Fathom setup, still the reference king, the SVS PB16-Ultra is a perfect solution for those looking for intense, bone crushing bass.
Beautiful build, impressive low-end performance for less money than the competition.
Requires a lot of space.
Massive impact and low-end extension with minimal distortion make this sub a winner. A high-end subwoofer that will fill even a large home theater space with ease.