December 20, 2012

Sub Wars! SVS PC12-NSD vs SVS PB12-NSD.

SVS PC12-NSD standing tall, as tall as my Bose 301 Series II, mounted on 24 inch stands, as this picture shows.

Looking for a HT sub woofer with low end grunt, and guts to rock my gulis(marbles for our international readers) yet must not cost me an arm of a leg! Max Loh(the watch dog whisperer) of Maxx Audio put his hand up for the challenge. The confident guy somehow knew I was smitten by the SVS alpha sub PB13-Ultra when I last visited his showroom some time ago. I had a trouser flapping good time!(just to put it mildly). Max kindly suggested two models for us at Hifi-Unlimited to play with, in the form of SVS PC12-NSD(ported cylinder) and the PB12-NSD(ported box), both are the most afford able models on SVS product line up(until recently that is!). Being the sucker for something new, I opted to review the PC12-NSD, and let Odiosleuth have some fun with the other(his review of the SVS PB12-NSD sub was posted on this blog on 25th Nov 2012). It took a little while for me to write this because I was kinda busy at the time.

The 400Watt class D plate amp equipped with built in DSP.

When Max delivered the PC12-NSD to my door step, I was shocked by the size of the box, it was huge! Carrying the box from the transport in to my house was a two healthy men job. Upon un-boxing the sub, I marvelled at the build quality, which did not seem cheap at all. A knuckle rap at the sides of the cylinder showed the box to be not as dead as expected, but the whole she bang still feels solid enough for a few years of abuse. The cylinder is felt wrap at the sides and there's a raised platform to accommodate that 12 inch, down ward firing aluminium woofer cone. A single 4 inch up wards firring port is located at the top of the cylinder, covered by a removable steel mesh. The 400W rated class D plate amp with built in DSP is located at the side of the cylinder. The whole package looks intimidating indeed. I placed the SVS sub near the corner where my resident sub woofer has resided for years. All cables plugged in, Max proceeded to re-calibrate the Audessey EQ settings on my Denon AVR, ran a few test movies, and left when he was satisfied with the results. I took a further week or so to further refined the settings before I was happy enough to start doing proper evaluations.
The 12 inch woofer cone is down ward firing as shown here, the whole cylinder side wall is lined with felt material. The SVS badge also serves as a front facing indicator.

WOW! WOW! WOW! That's my first reaction once Max left me to my own devices. The sort of abyss deep, tidal wave flowing towards me kind of bass response is what I got, when it's decoded in to the 5.1 sound track of the movies. And the best movie to illustrate this point is Battleship, an alien invading earth classic story, with a bit of a naval tactic twist worked in to the plot, showing off those awesome destructive powers of those modern American navy destroyers. With lots of sea combat scenes, involving a sound track of deep bass to convey the flowing form of water in huge volumes, the SVS PC12-NSD conveys that energy flow with sheer realism, adding much excitement to the effects laden spectacular. Now, there's no need to mention about those explosion scenes involving those high powered weapons sling shot on to those American destroyers by those alien crafts, causing the whole ship to break up bow first then sinking. Also highlighting the capabilities of the SVS sub is that moment the grand ol' USS Missouri battleship opens up her main turret guns, with sheer fire power which is un-real.
The 4 inch port fires upwards, the metal mesh grille is remove able.

It took me a short while to fine tune the setting for the SVS sub woofer. Too high a level and the sub over whelms the main speakers, too high a low pass and the mid bass muddles the main and centre speakers. Then there's phase to dial in for seamless blending of the sub woofer in to the rest of the sound field, which a old adage still applies, subs must ultimately be felt more than heard, and great subs do just that when set up well. The SVS PC12-NSD has remarkable ability to fill my open family lounge space with full even depth bass that's highly believe able, from any position one is seated. Now the only area which I could mark down the PC12-NSD is bass impact, when compared to other conventional ported box designs, seemed a little lacking. There seems to be a slight softening of the projectile slam, followed by tailing low frequency echo of the tube of the USS Missouri battleship turret guns opening fire.
Battleship, one of the most anticipated action sci-fi movie this year. I have to credit Peter Berg, the Director for not making the aliens look like some sort of over sized "sotong"(squid) and have more human like features. What I didn't like was the idea that the highly advance space craft used by the aliens could only hop around in water and not glide over it more efficiently? By the way, Rihanna does O.K. too in her acting debut.

Battleship USS Missouri firing her main turret guns, it's quite remarkable that the grand ol' dame WWII veteran(and a few original crew too) could still start her engines and sail effortless with combat effectiveness intact! I know, it most probably CG working it's miracle here! 

Hang on, didn't I promised a sub war earlier on? I didn't forget of course. After Odiosleuth had his fun, the SVS PB12-NSD came to my place for a 2nd tour of duty. Max again came to set the sub up for me, and left it with me once his was satisfied with the performance. The PB12-NSD's box isn't as intimidating as the huge up right standing bass tube. It's got the same woofer cone, port design and DSP equipped plate amp. It's the same basic design building blocks with a different enclosure. The PB12-NSD is a conventional ported box design, and will have performance characteristics more in kind of a regular sub. Am I wrong to assume here?
As promised, an all out SVS sub war!

Again, the build quality is sensible for the price, rather than lavishly solid. I think the SVS subs will still give years of problem free enjoyment if cared for. The only thing I didn't quite like about the PB12-NSD is that heavy but flimsy semi circle design metal grille with four plastic stubs to grip and plug in to the sub cabinet. The weight of the metal grille eventually becomes too much for the four plastic stubs to hold on to, causing the grille off when those deep bass rumbles get too much to handle. No problems with that, A slight bending of the grille fixed the issue.
SVS PB12-NSD with grille removed.

With the same movie used as benchmark, I clearly felt the PB12-NSD didn't extend as low down as the PC12-NSD, and the bass distribution was less even across the family lounge. However, what PB12-NSD loses out, it more than claws back brownie points by being easier to integrate withe my Bose 301 Series II main speakers. Compared to the PC12-NSD, the ported box gave more lower mid bass details, like in scenes where the 50 calibre gun clocks and spits the spent casings as it fires. I guess the height of the up right standing bass tube design was blocking off, or it's felt lined body was absorbing some of the direct/reflect sounds of the Bose main speakers, where else the port box sits just below the main speakers. The PB12-NSD also has the edge when it comes to slam bang, where the same scene of the USS Missouri firing her main turret guns is concerned. I could clearly feel the impact as the projectile leaves the gun tube. With other high impact action Blu-rays disc, such as The Dark Knight(part of the Christopher Nolan Batman Trilogy), the SVS PB12-NSD never failed to convey the darkness and hopelessness of life in Gotham City via the movie's sound track. The Batmobile vs armoured car chase scene has a mix of various powerful engine roar, road rumble, guns shooting and crashes all going at once, and the ported SVS box never fazed one bit. Best of all, there are still some trouser flapping experience(remnants of the PB13-Ultra) still available with the PB12-NSD, which was not so obvious with the PC12-NSD.
Note the same plate amp, same 12 inch aluminium cone driver too, but different box concept.

In a way I was kinda surprised that even though both subs performed well in most areas, there remains a priority of choice when it comes to certain sonic parameters, even for both subs that retails at RM$3,499.00/each. Does one favour deep, even spread, flowing bass performance? Or does on prefer an easier to set up sub woofer with more impact slam bang? I think that really depends a lot on system integration, matching, room acoustics, system tuning optimization and lastly one's sonic preference with practical considerations in mind.
The SVS PB12-NSD in it's current resting place. Note my old 10 inch Velodyne VX-10 sub woofer just hiding behind it. 

For me, the PC12-NSD in it's special up right standing tube design is at once it's attractiveness, and Achilles heel. In the context of my system, it couldn't sonically match the Bose 301 series II as seamlessly as the PB12-NSD. On the WAF(Wife Acceptance Factor) side of things, the PC12-NSD was just far too visible in my family lounge, because it stood just as tall as my main speakers on 24 inch stands. The PB12-NSD is in fact far more subtle in proportions(if similar in cubic box volume) and easier to blend in to the corner of my family lounge. Those were the main factors contributing to my choice to make the PB12-NSD my new sub reference for HT. I would've liked it to go just a few Hz lower, but I guess that will require the use of SVS PB12-Ultra perhaps? Max and SVS certainly doesn't think so. Max reckons the PB12 Ultra would overwhelm my main speakers, and SVS's Merlin service on their website, used to provide sub woofer matching services to one's main speaker. Merlin reckons the PB12-NSD is the perfect match for my Bose 301 series II speakers. After an extended review period spanning more than 6 weeks, I think I can agree with both Max and SVS Merlin's logic. Deal done!

SVS Sound products sold by Maxx Audio and appointed dealers nation wide, contact Max Loh at 017-6778820 for full details.


Ken said...

looks more like a bass trap than a sub ;-)

Wang said...

Big E,

I am dissappointed in you!

You forgot our motto, "Never Enough Bass"!

Hahaha....the SVS looks the business alright.

Btw, do you serve popcorn?

Big E said...


Bass tubes are not a new concept, as they have been used for the car audio scene about 15 years ago. However, they are new for home HT use.


I am sorry, I had forgotten about our "Never Enough Bass!" motto.

Popcorn??? Only Garrets man!


Ken said...

Big E,

I know. I remember seeing this subwoofer design in old Stereophile magazine. It is found in adverts by Hsu Research.

Wang said...

Big E,

Bazooka bass tubes are more than 24 years ago la! I think you are denying time! Hahaha...

Ok, let me know when the Garrets are hot and ready! Looking forward!