I value ground trembling sensation of well-executed extreme low frequency as much as any audio nut. For the majority of my listening, though, extreme low frequency is not essential to musical satisfaction. However, lately I have developed a latent appreciation for electronic dance/ambient influenced music. Needless to say, my KEF LS50 speakers, overachievers that they are, simply cannot deliver the full impact of genre. Therefore, I contacted the subwoofer specialists at SVS to arrange delivery of their SB-2000 ($699 black ash,$799 piano gloss black).
The SB-2000 is 35 pound 14 inch cube with sealed front-firing 12 inch driver. The actual diameter of the cone is closer to ten inches because it is sustained in position at the circumference with a bicycle inner tube like rubber surround of about one inch. "I wonder if I have any program material that could make that thing flex?" I thought to myself. To draw another mental image, the copper colored cone of my LS50 would very likely fit in the space covered by the subwoofer's DUSTCAP! The impressive SVS driver is powered by an efficient 500 watt class-D amplifier and crossover network. Three smooth turning dials on the back adjust volume, crossover, and phase.
Plan on spending the better part of an afternoon to several days dedicated to fine-tuning the control settings and placement. Trust your ears, but having bass decade test tones will help locate optimal location and levels. Furthermore, without the need for bass support from the front wall, you may also find yourself repositioning the main monitors such as I did. Additionally, SVS offers free set up advice to customers.
After a brief period overindulgence in bass, I began some serious listening. I cued up Marvin's Gaye's 1971 still relevant masterpiece "What's Going On?" with the great James Jameson on bass. If Saint James' bass were mucked up in any way, it would be time to box up the SVS. Thankfully, the SB-2000 was up for the task and smooth tactile bass flowed like warm sweet taffy. Additionally, the room gained a measure of ambiance and increased depth of perception.
I followed Motown with a visit to London's O2 Arena. Listening to Led Zepplin's "Kashmir" from their 2012 live recording Celebration Day transported me to the center of the first third of the venue. You have not heard or experienced this song unless you feel rumblings and vibrations moving from your bottom up through your spine to your brain where very pleasing brain chemicals are released and a smile overcomes your face. This version of the song contains a series of very low bass pedal notes throughout that I was previously unaware of. Not only was the lowest octave convincingly recreated, the SB-2000 also helped transform the humble dimensions of my modest post-war suburban ranch house living room to emulate the vast space of O2.
"Pines of Rome" by Respighi as performed by Atlanta Symphony Orchestra conducted by Louis Lane on Telarc is a majestic piece of music. The symphonic tone poem softly rises from a muted cadence to thunderous climax like a drenching storm approaching on the distant horizon. Timpani, bass drum, and organ pedal notes seized the room with visceral impact. The sensation was stimulating and never distracted me from enjoying the complete composition.
My Latin music download recommendation of the month is a party starter called "Do You Wanna Dance" by the Boogaloo Assassins. Formed only a few years ago, BA are an ensemble from Los Angeles dedicated to reviving the rhythm and blues/Afro-Cuban hybrid known as Boogaloo popularized in the barrios and dance halls of New York during the late 1960's. The song features Rich Rochelle on Ampeg Baby Bass. The characteristic punchy timbre of the Baby Bass is usually played in the mid to upper registers of the instrument. However, when played down low, the baby bass can make even expensive full range speakers sound murky or incoherent. Having recently witnessed the band live, I can attest to the SVS SB-2000's command, definition, and accuracy in supporting my main speakers recreate the Baby Bass gestalt.
As for my growing interest with electronica/ambient music, listening to "128 Harps" by Four Tet at a friend's house was a milestone moment for me. The song contains musical information in the sub sonic range. You cannot hear the notes. Your only clue that notes are being played is the vibrating furniture or rattling objects on walls or shelves in steady time. The friend's $100,000 system includes floor standing main speakers with active internal subwoofers, room correction, and 900 watts of amplification on tap. Although my system couldn't match the overwhelming force and immersive experience of my colleague's kit, listening "128 Harps" at home with the SB-2000 was much more engaging, tangible, and impactful than without it.
The main stereo system also serves as two channel home theater. With the addition of the SVS SB-2000, the system became 2.1 One night my wife and I were watching 10 Cloverfield Lane. A few minutes into the film the protagonist suffers a terrible car accident and rolls down the embankment of the dark and lonely country road. The energy of collision was so jarring that my wife and I nearly bumped our heads on the ceiling with shock and surprise! At that very moment, she turned to me and said, "You can't send this thing back!" The utter speed and dynamism of the SB-2000 was unexpected and enthusiastically welcomed.
If you own a pair of LS50 or similar, I applaud your fine selection, however, know that you are not hearing or feeling the complete musical performance as the artists intended. Beyond car crashes, explosions, and epic space battles, popular classical works such as Intermezzo Sinfonco from Cavelleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni, Symphony No. 3 in C minor Op. 78 "Organ" by Saint-Saens, The Planets Op. 32 by Holst, modern heavy metal, and all of electronica/ambient contain valuable musical information in the lowest octave. Fleshing out the bottom end is a risky proposition for owners of high quality monitors for fear of corrupting other musical values. With a very well designed and constructed sub like the SB-2000, set up help from SVS, and 45 day at home trail period, those fears should be easily overcome.
In closing, the SVS SB-2000 is an excellent pairing for the KEF LS50. I admire the unobtrusive proportions, rounded edges, and curved perforated metal grille to protect it from a wayward vacuum cleaner or shoe. Low bass is like salt and pepper. Season to suit your taste but don't overdo it. Furthermore, my experience determined that there is no one "set-it-and forget-it" volume level because bass content levels on source material vary greatly. For the most part, my settings stayed intact with very occasional trips from the listening position to attenuate or increase sub level. In the end, I have decided to purchase the review sample. The SVS SB-2000 greatly enhanced enjoyment of an already fine sounding set of components and filled out a more complete musical picture. Soundly recommended.
Retail: $699 black ash, $799 piano gloss black