SV Subwoofer 25-31PCi User Review
Last updated 8/10/2002

It's been almost two years since I started upgrading my modest Pro-Logic home theater. In that time, I've spent many hours researching options and upgraded my receiver, speakers, CD player, and DVD player, added amps, and replaced my speakers. In all of that, I have somehow never actually had a proper subwoofer in the system. I had been planning on adding one eventually. At the beginning of August, I did just that -- I ordered an SVS 25-31PCi. I am outlining my impression of the 25-31PCi here on my site, much as I did recently with the Outlaw Model 950 and Panasonic DVD-RA60. I've included an equipment list at the end of this review as a reference.

Since receiving an SVS subwoofer involves having a rather large box shipped to you, I took a late lunch in order to meet UPS at the house. The UPS guy wheeled up a good-sized box and dropped it off behind the couch in the living room. Hagrid promptly inspected it, curious to know what was going on -- Wednesday afternoons are usually less eventful. Time to get it unboxed. The sub was single-boxed but well padded. It didn't take long to get it clear of its box and in view, even with both cats supervising.

The cylindrical enclosure is a very structurally sound design and SVS relies on that instead of internal bracing, so it's not as heavy as my somewhat smaller Paradigm Reference Studio/60's even with a built-in amplifier. It's still an ungainly shape, though, and after you figure out a way to coax it into position you'll want to smooth away any wrinkles that may have popped up in the fabric cover. I would expect that to be doubly true of the 25-31's larger siblings. Once I had it in place, it was a simple matter of hooking the LFE channel up to one of the line level inputs, plugging the amp in to the wall, and turning it on.

The 25-31PCi is paired up with a set of Paradigm Reference Studio/60's (42Hz-22kHz +/-2dB; 30Hz @ -3dB, crossed over at 40Hz), a Paradigm Reference Studio/CC (70Hz-22kHz +/-2dB; 42Hz @ -3dB, crossed over at 80Hz), and three Paradigm Reference Studio/ADP surrounds (75Hz-20kHz +/-2dB; 50Hz @ -3dB, crossed over at 100Hz). On DVD-Audio, all of the speakers are crossed over at 80Hz.

Part of the reason that I did not get a subwoofer when I upgraded speakers over a year ago was my desire to try to rely on full range (or nearly full range) speakers by themselves for music. At that time, my system's primary purpose was two-channel music (with some DVD watching and the occasional TV watching as well), and I wasn't sure if I wanted to try to use a subwoofer for music. Of course, budget played a part, too (good musical subs tend to be more expensive than simple rumble boxes), and I figured that I'd do without a sub initially and add one later if I felt it was necessary. I currently have my mains crossed over fairly low -- 40Hz, although I've also experimented some with 60Hz -- so for two-channel music the SVS isn't being asked to handle a lot of material. The listening I've done so far to several CD's has impressed me. The SVS blends in very well with my Paradigm Studios, not ever calling attention to itself while still providing a voice for material that the Studio/60's have not been able to reproduce on their own before.

Even more pleasing than the SVS's graceful cooperation with the Paradigms on two-channel material is the fact that it allows me to finally hear everything included on 5.1 DVD-Audio discs. When I added my Panasonic DVD-RA60 this spring, I re-visited several DVD-Audio discs that I'd had for a while, particularly the bass-laden Blue Man Group Audio disc. Unlike the Dolby Digital 5.1 track on the DVD-Video side (which had benefited from digital bass management to redirect the LFE channel), the DVD-Audio track's LFE signal could not be redirected to the main speakers, and the result was a noticeably thinner sound to Audio. Several other DVD-Audio discs exhibited similar behavior, and it didn't take any time at all for me to realize why. The addition of a subwoofer (and the application of the analog bass management on the Outlaw Model 950's 5.1 analog input) restored and expanded on the full sound of Blue Man Group's unique instruments. It's a fairly obvious statement, but I'll make it anyway: very few DVD-Audio discs will really please the listener without a complete 5.1 speaker setup. As for the SVS itself, it continued to impress me with its ability to be effective at its job without being obvious in its presence.

Ron and Tom at SVS often point out that their subs are quite capable of handling music well. Having listened to one in my system, I agree with them.

I have to say that movies are why SVS has done as well as they have. Granted, the SVS subs are well-regarded for their music performance, but it's the deep bass thump and rumble of movies that leads most people to acquire one of these little black water heaters of bass. The manual even lists scenes from numerous DVD's that are particularly good food for a sub. The pod race in Phantom Menace, the Monsters, Inc. trailer on Toy Story 2, and other scenes immediately demonstrate the presence of very low frequency information. I'd happily watched many of the movies on that list in the past while relying on my Studio/60's for bass. It only took a brief run-through of scenes from Braveheart, Blade, The Matrix, Phantom Menace, and a few bits and pieces of Fellowship of the Ring to recognize the difference adding a sub makes. Be warned, though -- some people may experience some odd rattles from the very structure of your homes. The windows in my 50-year-old home have a mediocre aluminum frame, and the Monsters, Inc. trailer is capable of making the glass dance in the frames if played close to reference level.

Even SVS's littlest subwoofer is a large and imposing figure. It won't be for everyone, or every space. They are well-built, and the fabric sleeve is an understated and cost-effective way to finish the sub's enclosure. Any cat owners out there may be reassured to know that my experience seems to match that of other SVS owners -- these do not end up as scratching posts. In fact, I had expected my Maine Coon to use it as a new perch and sit on top of the port grille (much like he sat down on the box it came in). For whatever reason, that has not been the case, and both cats have left it alone completely. I suspect that this is related at least in part to the low-frequency rumble that the sub generates from time to time. The black fabric cover doesn't even have any cat hair stuck to it, unlike the bottom and top edges of my Studio/60's grilles which typically have tufts of tan cat hair on them.

When I first set up my Paradigm speakers last year, I was completely satisfied with their bass performance even though I knew there was some really low material being lost because of the absence of a subwoofer. I would have probably continued to go without a subwoofer for at least another year or two if it weren't for a couple of factors: DVD-Audio, and the price drops in SVS's powered cylinder line after the PC series was replaced by the PCi earlier this year. Part of me wanted to step up to the upcoming PC-Plus or even the somewhat taller 20-39PCi, but in the end I settled on the 25-31PCi. Having used it, I have no regrets about that decision. It may be SVS's smallest sub, but it still packs plenty of punch.


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