SVS SB12-NSD subwoofer review

This subwoofer's 12in driver should help it deliver a heavy-weight performance

SV Sound (SVS) was a pioneer in the field of direct sales in its native US and carved out a solid reputation for producing no-nonsense designs that punched well above their price point. Initially, it mainly offered cylindrical types, which we've previously likened to giant-sized scratching posts, but more recently the designs have also included more conventional boxes, like the SB12-NSD reviewed here.

SVS describes the SB12-NSD as a compact subwoofer and compared to some of its lineup it almost certainly is, but at the same time this is still comfortably larger than many other mid-price offerings. And while it’s a sealed design, the SB12-NSD doesn’t make use of a passive radiator for additional cone area. Instead, the SVS employs a larger driver – a 12in aluminium type with a composite dust cap. This is forward-firing and protected by a huge – and somewhat unattractive – metal grille. Indeed, the SB12-NSD is no oil painting overall. While it feels extremely sturdy (weighing nearly 16kg), the charcoal finish of our review sample feels a bit austere, and, combined with the large size, this sub might prove difficult to squirrel away. A gloss finish is available for a little more money, though.

Sledge hammer

With 400W on tap from a ‘Sledge’ (effectively a Class D) amp, the SVS is a pretty powerful beast. But it's also rather sophisticated. The SVS's controls are digital and it makes use of a DSP to control some aspects of the output, although these can’t be adjusted by the user. The only slight feature omission is the lack of high-level input.

The SVS puts in a performance that shows why the brand is highly regarded and is also a fairly compelling argument for using a larger driver. With the test sequence in The Impossible, the SVS boasts excellent low-end extension and ferocity – but is also fast, detailed and extremely accurate. There is very little sense of the cabinet doing anything other than holding the vitals in place.

This agility and energy carries over to broadcast TV and the SVS proves to be a very capable device for day-to-day viewing. Integration at the higher frequencies is seamless and despite its size the SB12-NSD is capable of impressive subtlety. The only catch with the performance is that there is a strangely ‘on/off’ nature to certain parts of the SVS’s frequency response. Quite why this might be is hard to say, but it is possible that the DSP control is sometimes a little too much of a good thing.

With music material the SVS is quick and the tight, deep bass that it generates with films is equally welcome here – this is a capable all-rounder.

Overall, the SB12-NSD is a talented bass beast that marries impressive weight with control and finesse – It doesn’t seem fazed by much you can throw at it. The slightly rugged aesthetic and large size do mean that you will need a reasonable amount of space to accommodate it, though, and it isn't as domestically friendly as some of the designs here. But some will prefer performance over looks.


£650 Approx

Highs: Impressive low end with plenty of detail; works well with music material; well-specified; solid construction
Lows: Slightly 'on/off' performance; prosaic appearance; fairly expensive

Performance: 4.5/5
Design: 4/5
Features: 4.5/5
Overall: 4.5/5