While the SB13-Plus provides ample tweakability, I can’t say it provides easy access to that tweakability. The IFC display and knob are on the back, and the sub’s heavy enough that you don’t want to be scooching it back and forth to get to those controls. Fortunately, once you get them set, you shouldn’t need to touch them again.
One really smart thing that SVS did with the SB13-Plus is set the defaults to work with systems using a receiver or preamp/processor for bass management. It worked just fine the moment I plugged it into my system, needing nothing but a level adjustment.
Adjusting the room gain compensation and parametric equalizers accurately requires measurement gear. If you do it by ear, you’ll likely end up with settings as bungled as the tone controls found on the average rental car radio. The manual explains the process thoroughly. Your measurement gear can be as simple as an iPhone or Android phone running an sound-pressure level meter app, or you can step up to using a calibrated microphone and a laptop computer running TrueRTA or Room EQ Wizard software.
My listening room has a broad peak of about +6 dB centered at 40 Hz. I was easily able to eliminate that response bump using just one of the P-EQs. The only control I needed to tweak was the Q, which took some experimentation to get perfect.
Because I had the SB13-Plus for so long, I had a chance to try it with numerous speakers, including the Thiel SCS4T, the Sunfire CRM-2, the GoldenEar Technology Triton Two tower, and SVS’s own SBS-02.
Reviewing the SB13-Plus proved more challenging than usual because I couldn’t find a single music track or movie clip that really stressed it.
Thinking its big, heavily damped woofer might prove too brutish to convey subtleties, I cued up some tracks from showboating bass players like Stanley Clarke, Jaco Pastorius, and Jamaaladeen Tacuma. Yet the SB13-Plus portrayed them all beautifully, with plenty of punch and perfect pitch definition. The slick L.A. studio grooves of Toto and Steely Dan also sang through the SB13-Plus.
Thinking that ultra-deep tones might torment the sub, I cued up my favorite bass torture tracks: the brontosaurus chase from Peter Jackson’s King Kong and the depth-charge scene from U-571 (both on Blu-ray), the spaceship explosion that opens Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones (alas, still on DVD only — until September 16!), and the pant-leg-flapping deep organ notes from Saint-Saëns’s Symphony No. 3 (as performed by James David Christie and the Boston Civic Symphony, conducted by Max Hobart, from the Boston Audio Society’s Test CD-1). Still, nothing but clean, deep, powerful bass. I just couldn’t make this thing distort, and couldn’t find a track on which it sounded less than stellar.
But I had to get some kind of handle on the SB13-Plus’s performance, so I compared it with the best sub I had on hand: the Hsu Research VTF-15H, which is about two-thirds its price but much larger. I stuffed the VTF-15H’s ports to convert it to sealed-box operation and better match the sound of the SB13-Plus, and deactivated the latter’s P-EQ, which the VTF-15H lacks. I then plugged both subs into my custom testing switcher and let the low notes fly.
Even in careful listening, it was hard to hear the difference. Finally, after countless repeats of a 6-second clip of a stumbling brontosaurus, I found the difference. The SB13-Plus gave me a bit more definition, so I got a better sense of the crunching of the rock as the dino fell to the ground. The VTF-15H, meanwhile, gave me a touch more subsonic vibration, so my couch shook slightly more. Clearly, the SB13-Plus can keep up with its supersize brethren.
While every home theater enthusiast can appreciate a true supersub, not every enthusiast has the space for an SVS PB12-Plus or a Hsu Research VTF-15H. But almost any home theater can accommodate the SB13-Plus, and it comes so close to the performance of the biggest and baddest subwoofers that I can’t see it as a compromise — even though SVS’s own Web site kind of suggests that it is. Best of all, the SB13-Plus is small enough that serious home theater fans can make room for two, which will give them smoother, more even bass than any single subwoofer can muster. S+V