Home Entertainment

Shock and awe: SVS 20-39 PC Plus subwoofer review

When it comes to speakers and subwoofers, SV Sound proves size still matters.

If I had a dollar for every time I answered the question--"I'm looking for a great speaker system, but I don't have a lot of money, what should I get?"--I'd have enough loot to buy SVSound's awesome SBS-01 satellite/subwoofer speaker package.

SVS sells directly over the Internet so the prices are affordable, and the systems come with a 45-day, full-refund return policy. So what's the catch? SVS' speakers and subs, especially the subs, are big muthas.

No beauty queen, this bad boy delivers the big beat SVSound

Take the 20-39 PC Plus subwoofer: it features a custom-built 12-inch woofer and a 525 watt power amplifier. If you've never heard, or better felt, what a grown-up sub can do, this bad boy's bass will be a revelation. Come to think of it, even if you've heard some of the better compact 12- or 15-inch cube subs, the 20-39 PC Plus will knock your socks off.

The $899 SVS sub can generate something more akin to a whole body experience--it gets you involved in the sound in an almost physical way. But then again, spouse acceptance factor of this 40-inch tall, the 16-inch diameter, velour wrapped, 55-pound cylinder sub may be a stumbling block for some folks. No problem, SVS offers a nice selection of somewhat smaller alternatives, including the PB10-NSD, cube model, which is in fact, the standard sub for the $999 SBS-01 sat/sub system.

Yes, there are a number of extremely powerful one-foot cube subs in the $1,200 and up price range, and the best of them can go as deep as the big SVS, but their bass is nowhere as nimble as what I'm getting here. The SVS has a sonic ease the little ones never do, and most baby subs' overwrought bass sounds thick and boomy. That makes it hard to hear musical pitches, so the bass notes get muddled together; the 20-39 PC Plus's down-low clarity lets you hear more music. And since the beast isn't the least bit fazed by home theater bombast, I found myself playing everything louder than I normally would. And when my wife was out of the house, I cranked up the volume to stupid loud levels.

Concert DVDs, like The Blue Man Group's The Complex Rock Tour Live was a total blast. The Blue Man's Group is no rock band. But when those guys were whacking the bejeezus out of their drums and weird-looking percussion instruments, the SVS sat/sub system totally rocked my world. The drums really sounded like drums, a feat few systems in this price range can match.

Tomorrow, I'll review the SVS SBS-01 System satellites.