May 012012

First I changed my surround speakers, getting Mirage OMD-Rs to mount on the wall to better match our room and to make some space.  Then I quickly caved and got matching OMD-28s to replace my left/right speakers, and an OMD-C2 for a center channel. I feel like there was a noticeable improvement – and at roughly 4 times what I originally paid for the Infinity Delta system that it was replacing, one would hope that this would be the case.  But while I’m OK at hearing A/B differences when two things are side-by-side, above a certain level of quality, I’m much less capable of comparing two things if I hear them even a day apart. Still, the new speakers have done a pretty good job of bringing the few movies we’ve watched on them to life.

These changes did leave one weaker link in the system: the subwoofer, an Advent AV-550s that was great for the price, and highly capable of rattling things with its massive 15″ driver and 500W Sunfire amp. While I’ve never felt there was an issue with the AV-550s, I did feel that it was boomy (which was also the main criticism even at it’s low price point by other reviewers, though overall ratings were pretty strong).  Unlike with speakers, I haven’t had much of a chance to listen to different subwoofers, so I also didn’t have a strong basis for comparison. In any event, I spent lots of time researching moderately priced options, and wound up picking the SVS PB-12NSD.

First things first; while some speakers offer nice aesthetics – the Mirage set I mentioned looks quite nice, in my opinion – subwoofers are generally these boring and ugly boxes.  The PB-12NSD takes this to the max; without anything in the picture to gauge its scale, this could be pretty much any boring subwoofer ever made:

(with the grille on)

(with the grille off – super boring!)

Since I wasn’t buying this to fit a particularly constrained space, I didn’t really look at the dimensions. I assumed that since this was a 12″ driver, 400W unit, that it would be smaller but hopefully more precise than my existing AV-550s. Wrong! It was at least as big, and even heavier than its predecessor.

Fortunately, on the acoustic end of things, it didn’t disappoint; indeed, it was really easy to tell the difference with the PB-12NSD because you just feel it a lot more. Whereas my old sub was pretty good down to about 30Hz, the PB-12NSD supposedly gets down to 20Hz – which really is the range where you’re feeling the vibration as opposed to hearing audible sound. Some of the scenes in X-Men: First Class – even the opening where a young Magneto bends the gates open – had substantially more impact with the new sub.

As a company, SVS is also interesting; it’s one of an increasing handful of companies that don’t sell through dealers; they only sell direct, over the Internet (or presumably the phone). While you’d think this model wouldn’t work well for something that you need to hear in person to evaluate, and that’s really expensive to ship around, they seem to be quite successful with the approach; and indeed, considering quality & price, this feels like the approach to beat. Why even go through Amazon, give up some margin, and be forced to charge taxes in a larger number of states? Perhaps the future isn’t that we buy everything from Amazon, but rather that we buy everything direct from the individuals and companies that make those things, with only UPS & FedEx between us? That remains to be seen, but for this particular purchase, buying directly from the folks who made the product worked out pretty well!

 Posted by at 10:12 am

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