There are a number of audiophile clichés and myths that I will never understand. One that thankfully seems to be going away in modern times is big, crazy-expensive, gigantic speakers are better for generating low bass than a good subwoofer or a pair thereof. The latter is better sounding, likely goes deeper, and can save you a cool five-figures in the process. The SVS SB-4000 subwoofer (buy at Amazon) is an $1,899 powered subwoofer ($1,799 if you opt for the more basic Black Ash finish instead of the swankier Piano Gloss Black) that produces sounds in the sub-sonic levels at high volumes without costing a fortune. The “SB” stands for sealed box, and there is a “PB” option that’s ported. Ported subwoofers traditionally tend to be used in more home theater applications, as they’re capable of delivering deep cinematic bass at gut-punching sound pressure levels, whereas sealed subs are often considered a more viable option in two-channel music systems, as most music doesn’t contain much information below 40Hz, and sealed subs excel at frequencies there and up without needing as large a cabinet as their ported counterparts.
What Makes The SVS SB-4000 Special?
- This subwoofer goes low for a sealed sub. And by low, I mean really low. Reportedly, well below 20 Hz and with today’s electronic music, synths, gaming soundtracks along with modern movie mixes, it’s nice to be able to go low without opting for a much larger ported sub in this class.
- The SVS app allows for very easy calibration in stereo or surround systems. There is a three-band parametric EQ that’s easy to use. There are three settings that you could use for movies, music, and gaming perhaps. My new AV design firm, Future Home, worked to get me the lowest, cleanest performance from the SVS via the app and through my Marantz SR-8012 receiver (playing the role mostly of an AV preamp).
- The driver in the SVS SB-4000 is an absolute monster. Look at the bracing on the driver’s spider. It is massive and rigid too. The 13.5-inch cone that is in this sucker is no shrinking violet either. And don’t get me started with the weight of the magnet. That’s only one of the number of reasons that the SVS SB-4000 should be lifted as a two-man job. Save your back, people.
- The internal amp is a Class D design with 1,200 watts RMS and 4,000 watts peak power.That amount of power takes a lot of burden from your main system to drive the deepest of depths, giving your main speakers a more comfortable, controlled place to operate from. You let the SB-4000 do its bass thing so the rest of your system can cover the rest of the frequency range. Game on.
- If you don’t want to use the SVS app, there’s also a nice control panel on the front of the subwoofer. You can dial in volume or any number of other parameters right from the front of this sizable subwoofer. Gone are the days of you laying on your back like some drunk-after-lunch Fiat repairman with a small Maglite flashlight in your mouth to see all of the adjustable knobs on the back of the sub. SVS is much slicker than that.
Why Should You Care About The SVS SB-4000 Subwoofer?
Most audiophiles should aspire to hear the entire frequency range for their music. They should want tight, appropriately loud, deep bass that perfectly matches the performance of their main speakers, whether they’re floorstanding or smaller bookshelf speakers. SVS delivers this in spades, and not for a lot of money either. That allows for more investment upstream without any level of audio sacrifice and that is driver of value in your system. Although I rarely got a chance to play my old Brentwood office system that loudly during the work week, I used an SVS sub matched with a killer pair of Focal Diablo Utopia speakers, which were the company’s top-of-the-line stand-mount speakers and got full-range sound without blowing the budget. The high sensitivity of the Focals and the fact that the landlord paid the electric bill as part of the rent allowed me the luxury of having a pure Class-A Pass Labs 30-watt amp (a 30.5 at the time; the current one is called the 30.8) and the system kicked total ass. Even at low levels, there was bass detail. On Saturdays when I could crank it up a little, the whole system came alive all built on a foundation of an SVS sub.
Some Things You Might Not Like About the SVS SB-4000
In a perfect world, I would want my SVS SB-4000 in a white finish. I have the piano black, and it looks nice. But it does need to be dusted regularly.
Listening to the SVS SB4000 Subwoofer…
When I was in music school in the mid-1990s, I was able to go to the studio where Barry White recorded the album The Icon Is Love (buy at Amazon) and I got to hear the actual master tape played back in the room in which it was recorded, which is a rare treat. The track “There It Is” (1440 AIFF CD resolution in this case) is one of those classic Barry White songs that narrates what he would do as the master lover that he was (or at least alleged to be). Musically, the track has some very low-frequency synth action in the opening moments, but the bass guitar walks around with slightly higher frequency musical aerobatics later in the tune. The control that the SVS SB-4000 has over these slightly higher bass guitar notes was remarkable, as if to gloss over the depth-charge low notes at the start of the track. Any forum-favorite subwoofer (they all look very DIY, have you noticed) can go pretty damn low, but more importantly the SVS SB-4000 blends seamlessly in with my full range Revel F208 BE speakers. They give the Revels the headroom that they need to thrive while not missing one low note or deep plunge on the bass guitar (or even, say, a Roland 808 synth). It would be so easy to never hear what is recorded on a track like this without a big sub in your rig.
Next, I cued up “Vaseline” by Stone Temple Pilots from their Purple album (AIFF 1440 CD resolution) (buy at Amazon on CD, vinyl and cassette) . The driving bassline was so much stronger with the SVS in play. My Revel F208s can go pretty low, but not SVS SB-4000 low. The driving bass energy never sounded cloudy or muddy, as I have heard this track sound on other systems. With the SVS SB-4000 engaged, things sounded tight, low, and very deep during the iconic STP song. It gave the foundation that makes you want to keep turning up the volume. And I like that.
To touch on electronic music that might go lower than more traditional musical instruments via computers, keyboards, and synths, I cured up “Jumbo” from Underworld’s all-time classic 1999 electronic record, Beaucoup Fish (CD resolution AIFF 1440) (buy at Amazon). The low end on this track goes crazy-low thanks to the synth. The SVS SB-4000 shines on material like this. It is a blast to rock out this hard and with bass this low. My SVS SB-4000 makes my media room system more and more fun.
And while FutureAudiophile.com isn’t a home theater publication, in the event that your system has a TV (and it very well should) you’ve got to cue up the final bombing scene in Top Gun Maverick (Streaming 4K) from any number of streaming options today or UHD Blu-ray. All Tom Cruise jokes aside (I am going to jump on my sofa later today – sorry, I couldn’t help myself) the new movie is well written, cute, and a feel-good story at a time when we all likely could use just such a movie. In 2.1 with a big, gnarly sub like an SVS SB-4000 in the mix, you are in for one hell of an audio ride. While I have all of the surround sound goodies in my media room, the 2.1 track with the big boy sub in play makes for a very fun, modern demo scene. Boom goes the dynamite (or JDAM bombs in this case)
• Read Paul Wilson’s Review of the $6,000 REL G1 MKII Subwoofer
Does the SVS SV-4000 Have Any Resale Value?
I don’t foresee selling my SVS SB-4000, but it is likely worth pretty good money if I were to sell it. I would likely only sell it locally as there was no way that I was saving the box thus it would need to be a local sale. The fact that people use more than one of these monsters makes for more and more demand for a sub like this. My room likely would never need a second subwoofer but I do like the concept of having two. So do others, and that might very well be who your buyer is. That is, if you ever sell.
Who Is the Competition For the SVS SB-4000?
Paul Wilson just reviewed his REL G1 MKII subwoofer at $6,000, which he has a pair of in his nearly $400,000 stereo rig. They are really pretty, stackable, powerful, fast subwoofers and they go deep. There is a MKIII version coming soon too with some nice performance upgrades. The problem is that the REL product is three times the price of the SVS.
JL Audio is best known as a car audio manufacturer who makes quite expensive subwoofers for the audiophile market as well. They are part of the (tongue-in-cheek) “Audio Mafia” brands like Wilson and D’Agostino, dCS, and Transparent that tend to be sold together. Their taller woofers are also excellent performers, but they can be even more pricey that REL. The JL Audio Fathom 13.5 is likely the closest match to the SVS SB-4000 in that it is a Class-D powered, similarly sized woofer. Again, the retail price is in the $6,000 range versus sub-$2,000 with the SVS.
There are all sorts of low-cost subwoofer brands promoted on the AV enthusiast forums. SVS was that before their meteoric rise under their current ownership, complete with Best Buy and Magnolia distribution. Power Sound Audio, Seismic Audio, and others offer a good value and often very good measurements but don’t have the same features, fit-and-finish, and so on. If you are hiding your sub behind a screen or somewhere else out of sight, they could be a possibility.
Another competitor might just be a pair of SVS SB-3000 subwoofers (buy at Amazon). SVS prices their sub in a bundle (very Flo from Progressive of them) which gives you a price break if you buy two subs. We could debate if one big sub is better than two smaller subs. I likely would take the side of two subs is better in terms of coverage all over the room. In the case of my specific listening space, there wasn’t enough room for two subs, thus it was a moot point, but for others, a pair of subs can be a great solution. Paul Wilson does it in his big, audiophile rig. Many others do too.
Final Thoughts on the SVS SB-4000 Subwoofer
If you aren’t sold on why you need low bass in your life, then I’ve failed as a reviewer. The SVS SB-4000 subwoofer (buy at Amazon) isn’t the only way to get such low frequency performance in your room, but it is one of the best performers as well as a stunningly good value. There are more expensive subwoofers that might have an extra patent or a better external finish but I am not sure that there is a much better sounding option at any price. If you want to hear all of the music… If you want to rock your gaming system in ways nobody has ever heard (or felt) before… If you want to make a TV show or movie sound like your ass is parked in an IMAX theater, you might need an SVS SB-4000. Or two.