Sunday, December 15, 2013

SVS PC13-Ultra Subwoofer Review

They say good things come in small packages. In this case, the same is true for large packages. After all, subwoofers like the SVS PC13-Ultra come in very large packages. Subwoofers, for the most part, are not small. The SVS PC13-Ultra is actually quite large at almost four feet tall. I must admit, seeing this behemoth brought a smile to my face, and could hardly wait to get it set up.

Features and specs:
**Frequency response graph does not denote maximum output capability.
  • 2-meter ground plane away from reflective structures (quasi-anechoic)
  • 20 Hz Mode: 19-150 Hz +/- 3 dB
  • 16 Hz Mode: 16-150 Hz +/- 3 dB
  • Sealed Mode: 26-150 Hz +/- 3 dB
Subwoofer Specs:
  • Cabinet Dimensions: 46" (H), 16.6" (OD)
  • Dimensions: 47" (H), 16.6" (OD) (includes feet, grille, amplifier)
  • Weight (unboxed): 90 pounds
  • Shipped Dimensions: 52" (H), 20" (OD)
  • Shipped Weight: 114 pounds
  • Extremely rigid and strong cylinder enclosure
  • High-grade black fabric exterior cover
  • Down-firing driver with integral base plate
  • Top-firing triple 3.5" high-flow flared ports
  • Dense foam port blockers (3) included
  • Variable 20 Hz, 16 Hz and Sealed tuning modes
  • Protective non-resonant steel mesh grille
  • Power cord length: 8 feet
Driver Specs:
  • SVS 13.5” extreme performance underhung Ultra driver
  • SVS custom-tooled die-cast aluminum basket
  • Flat-wire, 3” diameter, high-power, high-temp, 8-layer, aluminum voice coil
  • Polyimide impregnated fiberglass former/bobbin
  • Dual 9", composite layered, linear roll, extreme excursion spiders
  • Integrated tinsel leads
  • Nickel-plated high-tension spring terminals
  • Proprietary injection molded gasket and parabolic SBR extreme-excursion surround
  • Composite pulp/fiberglass press layered cone with stitched surround
  • Low carbon 1008 steel components, electrophoresis black plating
  • Finite Element Analysis (FEA)-optimized underhung motor structure for the lowest possible distortion
  • Copper shorting sleeve reduces gap induction and distortion, and enhances thermal conductivity
  • Dual Genox 8H/Y-35 high grade ferrite magnets
  • Oversized pole vent for greater cooling and low noise
Amp Specs:
  • STA-1000D Sledge with 1000 watts RMS continuous power (3600 watts peak dynamic power)
  • High efficiency cool-running Class D switching topology
  • Detachable power cord with main power switch and ceramic fuse
  • RoHS compliant, lead-free construction and world-wide safety certifications
  • Auto-On / On switch with "green" standby mode
  • Stereo line-level RCA and balanced (XLR) input/output connections
  • Normal and Hi input voltage switch
  • Customized EQ and DSP limiter settings specifically for the PC13-Ultra
  • Variable tuning with 20Hz, 16Hz, and Sealed settings to match subwoofer port settings
  • Fully adjustable (frequency and slope) phase-correct speaker/sub digital crossover
  • Intelligent Feature Control (IFC) with bright LCD display
  • Two (2) digital PEQs with adjustable frequency, cut/boost, and Q values
  • Room gain compensation control with adjustable frequency and slope
  • Adjustable digital delay on main speaker line-level outputs to time-align the speakers and subs
  • Input impedance - 24 kΩ (unbalanced RCA) / 22 kΩ (balanced XLR)

 The SVS PC13-Ultra came well protected in a large box, with pictures of the sub and it's features listed. Opening the box revealed a well protected sub. Included with the sub was the quick start guide, owners manual on CD, power cord, and port plugs for tuning. The quality of materials used in the construction was excellent. Fit and finish was also excellent. The SVS PC13-Ultra is a flagship product, and it was built as such.

Subs are built for low frequencies. When it comes to home theater, this can be a big task. Especially in modern blu-ray movies, there is plenty of content down to 20 cycles and below. Reproduction of these frequencies is a daunting task. However SVS has designed the all the components to deliver such in spades with the SVS PC13-Ultra.

It all starts with the driver. To be able to handle the massive loads of subsonic frequencies, the driver needs to be massive. The cone needs to be stiff so there would be cleaner sound. The surround needs to be robust to handle the stress of the travel of the cone during high excursion. The motor structure needs to be massive to handle the needed power and control the cone. The basket also needs to be sufficient to handle the stress of all of the components. To power this driver, SVS has turned to a Sledge 1000 watt class D amp. Not only being able to provide up to 3600 watts of peak dynamic power, the Sledge amp is loaded with other great usable features. In addition to the standard RCA connectors, balanced XLR connections are available. There is also an LCD display for DSP control such as crossover, output and tuning.

The enclosure is a huge part of the design, and I absolutely LOVE what they did with it. Unfortunately for some, the WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) may not be that high, but I still love it. SVS has gone with a tall tube design. For very deep tuning, you need a LOT of airspace, long ports, and usually both. With a tube design, they were able to get this in a very small footprint, of only 16.5 inches round. What this does mean is that to get the necessary internal volume, and length of ports needed for tuning, the enclosure needed to be fairly tall at almost 4 feet. Hence the rather low WAF, due to not being able to be hidden.  This subwoofer is going to be seen, and I can't see that as a bad thing.

I have had experience with SVS for several years now, when I met Ron Simpson at CES years ago.  They had a suite at Alexis Park to show off and demo several of their subs.  I was taken back at their performance, and ended coming home with a demo model 16-46 PC Plus.  I will never forget driving home from CES that year.  I went by the suite to pick it up at the end of the convention.  I was driving home in a small Honda Del Sol.  To get it in the car, I took the top off.  The sub stuck out the top of my car by a good 12 inches at least.  I put the seat belt around it, and off I was.  Fortunately I had clear weather the hole drive home.  And I will never forget the looks I got driving home.  The women stared at it with an astonished bewildered look on their face as if they were thinking to themselves...."what is that thing?"  And the guys had an astonished yet longing look on their face as if thinking to themselves...."I know what that is, and I want it!"  So when given the opportunity to review the SVS PC13-Ultra, I jumped on it!

I really liked the flexibility of the design. There are 3 long ports, and 3 include port plugs. These plugs allow for user tuning, depending on listening preferences. Default tuning is 20hz, but with the port plugs the tuning can be changed to 16hz or sealed. The black steel mesh on the top comes off fairly easily to access the ports.

The use of a tube design also simplified the construction. With a high output subwoofer, there is the concern of needing to include internal bracing to guard against panel flex, to insure for the cleanest sound and best performance. By nature, the structure of a cylinder is already very strong. Internal bracing is not needed. The tube used in the build of the sub is very strong. And I really liked the elegant look of the black cloth. The down firing driver, tall tube with king ports, really give for an efficient design. And of course a look that demands respect.

Performance of the PC13-Ultra was what was expected from SVS. It did not matter what content I threw at it. The PC13-Ultra was up to any movie. Whether it was battle scenes in the new Star Trek movie, the pod race in Star Wars Episode One or multiple battle scenes in all of the Lord of the Rings movies, to name a few, they were all handled to perfection. The PC13-Ultra played loud, deep and with utmost authority. Only when pushed beyond reference levels did the sub seem close to it's limits. And not once did I hear the sub bottom out, even listening at reference levels and beyond! I loved the sound I was hearing. The bass was very dynamic, explosions had impressive impact with excellent resolution. I couldn't help but chuckle when feeling my pant legs vibrate. I had some friends over for a movie and they said the same thing, without me pointing out I felt it. He said it first!  But I think the best came from my kids.  My youngest at 8 came in and said I had to turn it down because the walls of the whole house were shaking.  But the best was my youngest son at 12 coming in and saying "dad, turn it down, really.  I'm trying to go to the bathroom and the water in the toilet is bouncing!" And come to find out, that was not in the bathroom next to my theater room.  That was in the bathroom upstairs!  I just started to laugh.

I threw at it a gambit of different music tracks. The SVS PC13-Ultra seemed to easily handle whatever I threw it's way. Bass had excellent low end extension, with no bottoming out. As with the movie tracks, the sub played with authority with additional apparent reserves and headroom. Kick drums had chest pounding impact, and great resolution. The cone sounded well controlled by the motor structure, and only sounded a bit muddy when really pushed extremely hard at high volume levels.  I have seen subs that were great subs for home theater, but not as good for music. The PC13-Ultra was very musical. It performed excellently with movies AND music, being an excellent all around performer. I would not hesitate in a heartbeat to use it for both.  My 16-46 PC Plus has performed well, but does bottom out on occasion.  The SVS PC13-Ultra is a noticeable improvement all around.

SVS makes an excellent sub. And the PC13-Ultra as their flagship performs as such. At an MSRP of $1,699 it is a real bargain for the performance you are getting. And you can rest assured your satisfaction is guaranteed with their 45 day guarantee. If you are not happy with it, you have 45 days to audition it. If you are not happy they will issue a full refund, and even cover return shipping. Now that is confidence. And having heard it, I can understand why! So you really have no risk. Based on it's design, features, quality and performance, the SVS PC13-Ultra has earned our Editor's Choice Award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at Reference gear used included NHT Classic Series Speakers, Onkyo TX-NR1007 receiver, Oppo Digital BDP-83 transport, Sony Bravia SXRD front projector, Elite Screens ezFrame fixed mount screen.