SVS SB-3000 subwoofer review

SVS SB-3000

SVS SB-3000 subwoofer review

SVS Inc., a leading subwoofer company since 1998, now offers a wide range of models at various prices and to suit a wide range of needs - each of their subwoofer lines has sealed and ported designs, and some include designer barrel models. A series of small closed-type devices is called SB, large ones are called the PB (Powered Box) series, plus their counterpart is the Powered Cylinder (PC series). 

I have been a fan of SVS subwoofers for a long time. I have three, an older PB NSD-10 used in my home theater system and two SB-4000s in my dedicated two channel system. Last month for SoundStage! Access, I wrote about my experience integrating the first and then the SB-4000 into my two-channel system. To say that I am pleased with their sound is an understatement.

When I bought my second SVS SB-4000 ($1499.99), I also received a SB-3000 ($999.99) from SVS. The SB-3000 hadn't been used in a few weeks while I was working on integrating a second SB-4000 into my two-channel system, but in the end it was time to find out how it stacked up with its big brother. Does the SB-4000 really cost 50% more?


The SB-3000 and PB-3000 have a 13" driver driven by an 800W class D amplifier. The PB-3000 costs more - $1399.99 in premium Black Ash (Gloss Black not available) - and measures 21.9" x 18.3" x 26" (HxWxD). The SB-3000 measures 15.6" x 15.2" x 17.8" (HxWxD) (with grill) and weighs 54.5 pounds - almost 28 pounds less than the PB-3000. And each of my SB-4000s is 30% bigger and almost twice as heavy as the SB-3000.

For the SB-3000, SVS defines a frequency response of 18-270 Hz ± 3 dB with applicable extension up to 10 Hz. SVS says they are using a brand new 13" long-throw STA-800D2 long-throw driver and amplifier module in the 3000 series, which combines "high current MOSFETs and class-D circuit efficiency." The motor system consists of a flat edge-wound voice coil and a massive 25-pound double ferrite magnet. The 800W RMS STA-800DS amplifier is claimed to be capable of producing 2500W peak power. The brains of the SB-3000 is Analog Devices' 50MHz high-resolution audio engine, which SVS says is the most advanced digital signal processor (DSP) ever used in a subwoofer.

As with most active subwoofers, the inputs and controls are on the rear panel. There are six buttons, three above and three below the 11 small white LEDs. The buttons labeled "+" and "-" are used to adjust the volume, phase and cutoff frequency of the low-pass filter (LPF), each of which is selected using its own button, respectively labeled Vol, Phase, Low Pass. For example, to adjust the volume, press the Vol button, then "+" or "-". The sixth button is Auto / On. In auto mode, the SB-3000 recognizes the incoming signal and wakes up automatically.

SVS SB-3000

11 LEDs indicate the status of volume, low-pass cut or phase, depending on which of these buttons is pressed. The scope is obvious; to cut the low-pass filter, the frequency scale with a range of 30-140 Hz is located above the row of LEDs; below the LEDs is a 0-180° phase scale.

To the left of the buttons there is a set of unbalanced inputs and outputs of the line level of the left and right channels (RCA); the right channel input is also labeled LFE for low frequency effects. Integrating the SB-3000 into a two-channel system is easy—no Y-splitters or dual pre-outs required. Above these inputs and outputs is a USB Type-A connector for updating firmware or powering a USB device, such as the optional SoundPath SVS Wireless Audio Adapter ($119.99) for convenient wireless installation. Below is a 12V trigger input and at the bottom of the rear panel is the main power switch and IEC 120V input for a detachable power cord (supplied).

While it seems necessary to provide manual controls, as SVS did, I suspect few SB-3000 owners will use them. The SB-3000 is SVS's cheapest subwoofer offering control of all its functions via a smartphone app. The SVS Subwoofer DSP app is available for free on the Apple iTunes App Store and for Android users on the Google Play Store; it communicates with the subwoofer via Bluetooth. I have already downloaded and installed the app for use with my SB-4000 and the setup and operation is very easy.

The Subwoofer DSP app is well thought out, intuitive and detailed. On the first screen, Home / Volume, you can adjust the volume and choose from three presets. (At the bottom of each screen, swipe up to save any changes you make to a given preset.) On the next screen, you can adjust the low-pass filter from 30 to 200 Hz in 1 Hz steps, as well as select the slope of the crossover: 24, 18, 12, or 6dB/octave. There is a switch to disable LPF control, to enable LFE mode when the SB-3000 is part of a home theater system and is operating in LFE mode, or when a subwoofer is connected to the LFE output of a two-channel preamp that also controls bass.

SVS SB-3000

The next screen allows you to adjust the phase in 1° steps in the range of 0-180°; The next screen presents a switch that simply reverses polarity 180°. The next most useful feature for those who use the SB-3000 without an external EQ is a three-band parametric EQ with 1Hz resolution, +6/-12dB boost/cut in 0.1dB steps, and a Q range of 0 .2-10.0.

After all this, a screen appears with a switch to enable or disable room gain compensation with frequency settings of 25, 31, and 40 Hz. This feature is designed to optimize the low frequency extension and output of the SB-3000 to reduce bass bloat in small spaces. The last four screens are dedicated to naming or renaming three presets, as well as auxiliary items such as standby, contact information, and a tutorial. Like I said - this app is comprehensive.


The SB-3000 was easy to unpack - its small size and weight made it easy to pull it out of the box yourself. Includes instruction manual, detachable 6" power cord and black metal speaker grille. My subwoofer was in lacquer black - I didn't see any blemishes or scuffs on the beautiful mirror finish.

My listening space is a separate, windowless, soundproof room, 15'L x 12'W x 8'H, in the basement of the house, carpeted on a concrete floor. The SB-3000 comes pre-installed with small hard plastic floor spikes. For wood base customers, SVS offers additional SoundPath Subwoofer Isolation System feet ($49.99/four) to reduce acoustic energy transfer from the base to the floor.

My reference SB-4000 subwoofers are located along a long wall, to the right of my left speaker and to the left of my right speaker, and exactly 5' from each side wall. In my listening comparisons, I only used one SB-4000.

SVS SB-3000

I set the built-in LPF on the SB-3000 and SB-4000 to 130Hz with a slope of 24dB/octave and used my own balanced passive high pass filter (HPF) between preamp and amp (120Hz, 24dB/octave) when moving from subs to my reference speakers, a pair of Bowers & Wilkins 705 S2s. I corrected the bass sound in the room with the SVS and seamlessly blended their outputs with those of my B&Ws in the Dirac Live software that is built into my miniDSP DDRC-22D room correction processor using the target frequency response curve. The DDRC-22D only works in the digital domain - on the rare occasions when I'm using an analog source, I use the SB-4000's built-in parametric equalizers to manually adjust low frequency peaks and nulls.

The SB-4000s are connected to a McIntosh Laboratory C47 preamp via balanced interconnects (XLRs), and the SB-4000's balanced outputs feed my Marchand Electronics XM446XLR-A high-pass filter, the outputs of which feed my McIntosh MC302 power amplifier. To compare the SB-3000 and SB-4000, I defaulted to my preferred subwoofer evaluation method in my two-channel system, replacing the right channel of the SB-4000 with the subwoofer in question, and using Dirac Live, calibrated the system separately for each sub.

To compare settings with a single subwoofer, I connect the left and right balanced outputs of my preamp to the left channel of the SB-4000. Incorporating the SB-3000 into this system does not require any modification to these connections because my C47 preamp has a second set of switchable variable outputs - to which I connected the left/right RCA inputs of the SB-3000. This made it quick and easy to switch between subwoofers: turn on the SB-4000 subwoofer and turn off output 2 on the C47; then change that to listen to the SB-3000 - remembering to switch to the appropriate Dirac Live filter for each configuration.


In my relatively small listening room, the SB-3000 held up an inch - not even a millimeter - to its much larger, more expensive sibling, the SB-4000.

I selected three tracks and listened to all three through my system, first with the SB-4000 and then with the SB-3000, their output levels matching an SPL in the mid 90dB with a C-weighted load. First up was "Run-Around" from "Blues Traveler's Four" (16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC, A&M), chosen not for its bass output, but for the speed, rhythm, and drum timing throughout the track. Both SVS subwoofers delivered fast, tight bass that felt so sharp in my chest without losing control of the timing. I felt like I was reaping the benefits of the big and small woofer cones at the same time: pop and pressure, and nimble speed.

SVS SB-3000

The next track was "Perfect" by Ed Sheeran. At the 2:12 mark, this track ends with a very serious, deep, room-filling bass. Again, both SVS subwoofers were good, allowing me to really feel the lowest notes. The steady decay of the lowest notes never released me from their hold until the actual recording called for it. This combination of intense punch with a sense of low frequency extension made me turn up the volume - and it was an exhilarating experience no matter what subwoofer was used. I wish I could tell you where one subwoofer is ahead of another, but I can't.

Finally, I played some hip-hop - the bass in many hip-hop tracks is deep and powerful. Lil Wayne  's "She Will" from " Tha Carter IV " (16/44.1 FLAC, Cash Money) has a solid foundation for throbbing, ultra-low bass notes, complemented by a rhythmic thump in the lower midbass. If the SB-4000 ever beat the SB-3000, I thought it would be with this track.

No - the SB-3000 didn't soften. Both subwoofers played "She Will" with ultra-low bass, my entire listening chair pulsing with music. The bass hits had the same weight through both subwoofers, hitting my chest with authoritative air pressure, repeatedly sustaining the fast punches on the leading edges of the bass notes. As the SB-3000 continued to fill my room with bass, I couldn't believe what I was hearing and one day got up and touched the SB-4000's cone to confirm that it was indeed off. And he was off.

SVS SB-3000

That's not all

Before anyone jumps to the conclusion that the SB-3000 is as good or better than the SB-4000 ($500 cheaper), that's not exactly what I'm talking about.

Functionally, there are two differences between these models that are important to me. My room has balanced XLR cables running in the wall from the listening position to the front of the room where the subwoofers and amplifier are located - the SB-4000 has balanced inputs and outputs, the SB-3000 does not. Secondly, as a reviewer, I usually use different presets on my SB-4000s and their front panel displays let me see at a glance which presets are loaded. The SB-3000 does not have a front panel display. These are the only functional features of the SB-4000 not found in the SB-3000.

SVS SB-3000

The SB-4000 is able to output more sound, even if the SB-3000 lived up to its performance in my room. To provide a counter to my listening observations, I've taken measurements that show the SB-4000 can indeed play lower and louder with less compression than the SB-3000, which may make the SB-4000 a better choice for larger rooms.

I placed a calibrated UMIK-1 microphone 10 feet away from the SB-3000 and used the Room EQ Wizard (REW) to generate a frequency sweep from 15 to 200 Hz. I took five measurements, each time increasing the volume of the subwoofer by 3 dB. I started with a normalized sound pressure level of 100 dB at 50 Hz for both subwoofers. The graph below shows that the SB-3000 exhibits strong compression—meaning its measured power no longer tracks volume increases—at 20Hz with its two loudest inputs. As the top two graphs show, when I raised the SB-3000's volume setting by 3dB, I was still effectively measuring the same SPL at 20Hz.

Compare this to the SB-4000 measured at the same subwoofer and microphone positions. Graph 2 clearly shows that at 20Hz the top two graphs still closely track the 3dB increase in volume, meaning there is little to no compression. I would have kept turning up the volume on the SB-4000 and measuring the results, but REW warned me that I was approaching the mic cutoff point.

Bottom line: In a room large enough to require an SPL of 100+dB at 20Hz at 10' or more, the performance of the SB-3000 will noticeably drop compared to the SB-4000.


In my relatively small room, the SB-3000 matched its big brother, the SB-4000, in all aspects of soundproofing, and for significantly less money. However, in a much larger room, this is likely not the case.

SVS SB-3000

The SB-3000 delivers exceptional value at a relatively low price of $999.99. Featuring a comprehensive, intuitive SVS app, it gives the wearer complete control over all performance parameters including phase, room gain compensation and a precise three-band parametric EQ. And for those who can't find a way to hide wires in their rooms, SVS offers an optional Bluetooth wireless transceiver for $119.99.

I was so impressed with the SB-3000 that I purchased it. It works just as great in home theater as it does in my two-channel system.

Related equipment

Speakers - Bowers & Wilkins 705 S2

Subwoofers - SVS SB-4000 (2)

Power Amplifier - McIntosh Laboratory MC302

Crossover - Marchand Electronics XM446XLR-A adjustable 120Hz balanced high pass filter at line level (between preamp and amp)

Preamp DAC - McIntosh Laboratory C47

Room correction - miniDSP DDRC-22D with Dirac Live (between digital sources and DAC)

Digital sources - Rotel RCD-991 CD player, Bluesound Node streamer, Windows 10 laptop, Roon

Analog sources - Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Esprit turntable and tonearm with Ortofon 2M Red cartridge

Speaker cables - 12 gauge copper, oxygen-free copper (universal, lockable banana plugs)

Analog interconnects - AmazonBasics (RCA), Monoprice Premier balanced (XLR)

Digital Communication - AmazonBasics Optical (TosLink)

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