Downgrade to On-Wall Speakers Salvaged After SVS Ported Subwoofer Upgrade

David in California

When David moved from Georgia to California last year, he gave up the dedicated basement home theater he had painstakingly put together. The previous set-up had featured a 100” front-projection screen and towering speakers arranged in a rectangular room with plenty of space (see system shot below). Leaving this behind was difficult, but his family’s move did provide David with a clean slate from which to create his next system.

Space and style demands factored heavily into the new audio system, as well as a desire to keep the home theater area looking as clean and tidy as possible, since it was a multi-function room adjacent to other living spaces. He also invested in a pair of dedicated 20-amp circuits knowing full well his listening habits sometimes demanded extra “oomph” on the low end.

After deciding on high performance on-wall speakers, David found himself unsatisfied with the subwoofer performance from the same brand. After some research, he decided on an SVS SB13-Ultra for its combination of articulateness, deep bass, and transience, and also because it provided the perfect low-frequency complement to the on-walls, without overpowering them.

Despite the smaller space and smaller gear, David discovered his new system offered more sonic detail and produces sounds he can feel with even more authority than his old system. Read his story below…

The Setup:

  • GoldenEar On-Wall Speakers
  • SVS SB13-Ultra Subwoofer
  • 12 gauge Cable Matters wire
  • Mogami Gold XLR Cable
  • Blue Jeans HDMI Cable
  • Niles 20 series IR sensor/repeater
  • 65" LG 4k Display
  • Emotiva XMC-1 Preamp
  • Emotiva XPA-5 Power Amplifier
  • Dune HD Smart D1 media player
  • HP Stream mini PC
  • Sonos CONNECT wireless audio
  • AT&T U-verse set-top box
  • Furman Power Conditioner

Questions and Answers:

Why did you decide to install a home theater?

Our previous home theater system was in a 19' x 21' dedicated room in the finished basement and based entirely on Legacy Audio loudspeakers and a 100" front-projection screen. It was wonderful, but we relocated out west last year, and a setup of that scale is not feasible in any house that we could afford.

What were the greatest challenges you had to overcome when setting up your home theater?

When we found this house a few of months ago, one of the things that really excited me about it was the potential to create a nice (but small) dedicated home theater room out of what was originally the formal living room. Although the right side of the room opens up into the front entry and what was the formal dining room, there are side walls for mounting surround loudspeakers and a nine foot wide front wall. One of the biggest challenges with converting this room to a home theater was that it still had to look tidy for guests--big tower loudspeakers, racks of gear, and cables running all over the place were not going to cut it! Ideally, there should be no visible wires, no speakers on the floor, and nothing that visibly distracts from the display.

I started researching in-wall and on-wall speakers and subs from brands I was familiar with and was pretty excited when I discovered that GoldenEar Technology offers wall mounted loudspeakers that incorporate technology from their well-regarded tower systems. While they do have matching subs, my wife and I were not impressed with the blend when we auditioned them at a local dealer, so after doing a bit more reading, SVS was the obvious choice to provide the critical foundation for our new theater system.

The next big challenge was wiring. New construction is easy--get in before the drywall goes up and you can run cable and/or conduit wherever you need it--even do extra runs in case you change your mind about where things will go. None of that was possible here, but this room has the next best thing: directly behind the front wall is a small coat closet with a trap door that leads down to the crawlspace. This enabled me to run conduit containing 12 gauge Cable Matters wire under the house for the surrounds. The Mogami Gold XLR cable for the SVS SB13-Ultra sub, Blue Jeans HDMI cable, and 14 gauge Cable Matters wire for the front speakers took a more direct path through the front wall. A Niles 20 series IR sensor/repeater completed the system by enabling remote control of the equipment behind the wall in the coat closet. To maintain access to the crawl space trap door and the rack cabling, I attached casters to the bottom of our Plateau equipment rack--not pretty, but gets the job done. :-)

Any unusual or special steps you took to ensure a phenomenal listening experience?

Electrical power is an important consideration when building a dedicated music or theater space. The previous owner had installed an electrical outlet in the closet to power the alarm system; however, this outlet was on the same circuit as the entire living room. Having a powerful sub like the SB13-Ultra on the same 15 amp circuit as the display, a rack of gear, and the rest of the room was not going to be great, so I had an electrician install two dedicated 20 amp circuits--one for the SB13-Ultra and one for the equipment rack. Adding these circuits required upgrading the house electrical panel to a larger model with more capacity. These electrical upgrades added nearly $2k to the system cost, but I feel good about the investment and have had no issues with power even at punishing playback levels.

What made you decide to go with the SB13-Ultra Subwoofer?

The SVS SB13-Ultra sub is not only a great cosmetic match to the GoldenEar SuperSats with its piano black finish and curved front grill, it's an amazing sonic match. The sub draws no attention to itself--creating the illusion that all of that wonderful sound is coming from the other five loudspeakers, and I believe that's exactly what a great subwoofer should do. Big LFE effects like helicopter blades, space ships landing, and explosions punch the couch with sharp impact that is felt more than heard. Our previous system shook the couch but lacked the articulation that SVS brings to the new system. Deep bass really brings the theater experience to life, but a delicate balance must be maintained to achieve believable impact without overpowering the rest of the system and distracting from the storyline. SVS nails this like no other sub I've heard. Well done!

How has the subwoofer affected you listening experience?

Every time we queue up a movie for testing with the intention of just watching a few minutes, we end up watching to the end! It's been so much fun rediscovering our movie collection with the unparalleled clarity of the SVS SB13-Ultra (...even though it's been keeping us up until 2:00am every night. :-)

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Apr 11, 2024