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Reveling in the heavyweight sound of the SVS SB-4000 subwoofer

If your pint-size subwoofer doesn’t move you anymore, step up to the SVS SB-4000.


The SVS SB-4000 subwoofer


As I looked over SVS's line of all-new 4000 Series subwoofers I was drawn to the SB-4000 mostly because it's a sealed design, not ported. Sealed subs typically have faster, more cleanly defined bass than ported subs. So I had a good feeling about the SB-4000 even before I heard it.

One thing's certain: it's big. The cabinet measures an imposing 18.3x17.8x20.9 inches (that's 465x453x530 millimeters), and it tips the scales at 102.3 pounds (46.4kg). The SB-4000 features a 13.5 inch (343mm) woofer with an 8-layer aluminum 3-inch (76mm) voice coil and a 1,200 watt Class D amplifier. 

Connectivity runs to stereo RCA and XLR inputs and outputs. There's a SVS Bluetooth DSP control app for iOS and Android devices with volume, parametric EQ, low pass filter, phase, polarity, room gain, custom presets and system settings. I like the large, easy-to-read display on the top of the sub's front baffle. The SB-4000 sells for $1,500, £1,799 or AU$3,199.

It's big for a reason. There's no way a smaller sub could match the SB-4000's low-end fury and bass finesse. If you love bass but never experienced what a great large sub can do, you're really missing out. The difference is significant.

The SVS SB-4000 subwoofer's rear panel


So it's not just about bone-shaking power, the SB-4000's deft control and dexterity were apparent in the way it synced up with a pair of Q Acoustics 3020 monitor speakers and a Sony STR DN1080 AV receiver in the CNET listening room. Using a small speaker like this makes extra demands on big subs in terms of blend. Can a big sub's woofer seamlessly meld with the speaker's 5-inch (127mm) woofers? The SB-4000 had no problem in that area. 

I set the STR-DN1080's bass management crossover to 100 Hertz, and adjusted the SB-4000's volume level for a few minutes. That's all it took for the sub and speakers to make beautiful music together. Watching home theater with just the two speakers was also spectacular. 

First up, I played Kraftwerk's stellar "3-D" Blu-ray and the synth pop pioneers' music set the room in motion. The SB-4000's bass was deep and powerful, bass transients were quick, and there was no thickening or bloat. I've never heard bass like this in the CNET listening room!

Then I played Mickey Hart's "Dafos" percussion CD at near realistically loud volume, and again the SB-4000 made the magic happen. The drums and percussion's impact and dynamics were visceral. There was a palpable texture to Bobby Vega's electric bass, which was well served by the SB-4000.

Thanks to the perfect blend with the 3020 speakers the SB-4000's bass seemed to come from the speakers, not the sub. Big as it is, the SB-4000 disappeared as a sound source.

I moved on to recordings that didn't make big demands on the SB-4000. When I played Spoon's "Hot Thoughts" CD, the sub helped the 3020 speakers project a larger and deeper soundstage. I tested it further by turning off the SB-4000 and running just the 3020s. Right away the sound space seemed markedly smaller. Then turning on the sub didn't just add more bass, the SB-4000 enlarged the soundstage. I've noted the same effect with other top-quality subwoofers over the years.

I also watched a few movies, "Gravity" and "The Revenant." The 3020s and SB-4000 subwoofer combination demonstrated the appeal of stereo home theater for smallish rooms. Of course the SB-4000 would be even better when matched with better speakers, the SVS Prime Towers or Pioneer Elite SP-EF73 towers would be stupendous with the SB-4000, for example.

The SVS SB-4000 is a reference-grade subwoofer that doesn't merely dish out room-rattling home theater effects, it's also a very musical sub. I highly recommend it.