1 Big Sub VS 2 Smaller Subs

This article is updated from time to time as new information becomes available. Last update 6/20/2016. Subwoofer 101 became the first SVS affiliate June 2016! It is not exclusive, meaning other quality makers are encouraged to participate!
This question has to cross a few minds. Is it better to go with a single giant sub that digs deep and has very high output? Or is it better to go with 2 smaller subs that dig almost as deep, but with a little less output, for the same price. The short answer is, “it depends”.
First off, you need to know what kind of equipment I’m talking about. I’m not talking about $200 subwoofers, I’m talking about high quality subwoofers. The big sub is a Hsu (pronounced “Shu”) VTF-15h MK1, a venerable powerhouse in the real world of bass, which I have enjoyed for over a year and a half. It is a 15” subwoofer, with variable tunability, such as both ports open, 1 port open, or both ports closed, as well as Q control. After shipping, it’s just over $1,000 and is a very large unit, capable of bass that will boggle your mind. It’s an excellent unit.
Hsu VTF-15h
Hsu VTF-15h
The dual subs are a set of SVS PB-1000 10” ported subs, which are more simplified. No port adjustments or Q control. They are currently the most economical sub you can buy from SVS. SVS sent out a set for me to evaluate for this site and this review in particular, and I see why they were eager to do so.
Dual SVS PB-1000's
Dual SVS PB-1000’s
It is generally my recommendation to go with 12” or better, but these subs in particular demolished that barrier. They are the only 10” sub I can recommend with confidence, and that’s only after hearing what they can do. Prior to hearing them, I wouldn’t have thought they would deliver, and would have recommended something bigger. Come to find out, it is an SVS product at it’s core, which means excellent performance.
They are $499 each, or they give you a $50 break at $950 for a dual set. There are no shipping charges, even if you send them back.
PB-1000 shipping boxes next to VTF-15
PB-1000 shipping boxes next to VTF-15
Now some people may point out that this comparison is a little unfair, pitting the best of Hsu against the most affordable SVS model. It hardly seems like a fair comparison. However, if you have $1,000 bass budget, then these two options should be in your cross hairs. The benefits of duals are well known, and I can say with confidence that the benefit is very real. Some people may dismiss the PB-1000 as not being substantial enough, as I nearly did, but after my experience, I can say this would be a mistake.
Now in terms of appearance, the 2 PB-1000’s look almost “kid like” next to the VTF-15h. The words that came to my mind? “Not a chance”. These would be fun to listen to, but they weren’t going to be able to provide the same presence and authority as the big sub. In my mind, this was just going to be a fun exercise, and I’d be happy to bring the Hsu back out for duty when this experiment was over. I’ve been wrong before though…
PB-1000 cover off
PB-1000 cover off
The setup was easy, I just got a splitter and an extra RCA cable. I had to cut in a foam floor pad to make the right sub fit over the base of my speaker stand, it was a tight fit. For continuity, I put a foam pad under the left as well. This was not required, but I did have a large foam pad under the big sub, so it’s not like it would skew the comparison.
Later, having removed the pads for a different configuration, I found no noticeable effect as the standard rubber feet do a pretty good job. SVS also offers their more substantial SoundPath Subwoofer Isolation System that can be used for any subwoofer with screw in feet, and they DO provide a noticeable difference on my wood floor.
Foam pad solution for a tight fit
Foam pad solution for a tight fit
Placement:
I had a little more wiggle room here, but still not much. My home theater is also my living room, so I can’t go sticking the subs wherever I like. This was a problem with the big sub. It only fit in one place: The corner. A sub crawl was pointless. It could only go one place. I talk about Wife Acceptance Factor, and this was a biggie.
Big Woofers.
Big Woofers.
The smaller subs fit on either side of the entertainment center, although the right one just barely fit. I could move the left one toward the corner or up tight against the entertainment center. I preferred the latter after some experimentation.
Two woofers are better!
Two woofers are better!
To spare you the hi-jinks my AVR played on me, once I got the crossover levels correct, I started running through tracks I was very familiar with. I don’t mess around, I went straight for E-40, MGK, Whiz, Young Jeezy, all of the hard stuff. If there was going to be any lackluster performance, these tracks would flesh it out.
You can find these tracks on my YouTube channel under playlists, as well as the Enjoying Your Gear page, but keep in mind they are not safe for sensitive ears. They have hardcore bass, and are great for testing, but not something you want your 6 year old listening to.
PB-1000 driver close up
PB-1000 driver close up
And boom went the dynamite! I was beside myself with the depth, cleanliness, and tightness. It was such a full and rich experience. Very satisfying. I kept looking at my wife, asking what she thought, as I really did not trust my own ears at this point! She backed me up, she said it sounded better, wherever she was standing or sitting. I could have written this sooner, but I still didn’t trust myself, and I didn’t want to lose credibility among my audience for such a substantial topic. Truly, I did not trust my own ears.
So I began asking my brother, my niece, our friends, anyone who had heard the big sub prior. All were echoing what I felt. Duals were better, and these PB-1000’s are incredibly good. After playing the moving bed scene in “The Haunting”, I saw a lot of open mouths and big eyes. “It sounds better than a movie theater” was something I heard repeatedly. It was the immersive bass that left that impression, I’m certain of it. The dual setup was everything it was supposed to be, so long as the subs are solid!
Does this mean the VTF15h is a dog? Hardly. 2 of them would be outstanding. It would also be more than I could personally justify needing, but headroom is awesome. It does dig a little deeper, but we are talking a few hertz. The only track I found where the big sub had a clear advantage was Saint Saens Symphony Number 3 “organ“, which is a pipe organ symphony, and at 7 minutes in it gets real. The bass tends to hurt your ears, even when properly reproduced. It’s really deep. The big sub handled it better, but it wasn’t as though the PB-1000’s gave up. They just didn’t do quite as well. Unless your listening habits revolve around this track, I don’t see this as a major reason to rule out the PB-1000’s.
Frankly, I’m glad I could find a “weakness” with the PB-1000’s. It’s hard to write about SVS without sounding like a groupie. It’s a common problem, and a great problem for SVS.
In terms of music, I listen to all kinds. Sarah Mclachlan, Slipknot, Norah Jones, Dead Sara, Ray Lamontagne, E-40, Anne Murray, Merle Haggard, Digital Underground, Metallica, Korn, Keb Mo, Pink Floyd, Eagles, I could go on. Both subs do great with all of that content. It’s hard to judge this against one another as I was not willing to listen very long to the PB-1000 as a single, not because it didn’t sound good, but because duals just sounded so much better.
Frequency response is a very grey area in the subwoofer world. Fair disclosure, I do not own an SPL meter. This site is for normal guys, and like most guys, I don’t have an SPL meter laying around, (now have a UMIK-1) although I don’t discourage it. Instead, I listen to sweeps and let my ears discern the peaks and valleys. The VTF-15h had some peaks in my room around 50-70 hertz.  (I though it had some peaks, but after discovering my mains were causing peaks, I need to revisit this issue.)  It was authoritative down to 17, which is why it handled Saint Saens so well. It’s an excellent sub that would do even better with Room Eq Wizard and a Mini DSP 2×4 to correct in room peaks, as any sub would. Corner loading also played a part I’m sure, so don’t take my observations as accurate or definitive.
The PB1000’s had softer peaks (not as dramatic) around 35-40. (again, mains were causing peaks) They produced clean, authoritative bass down to 21 hertz, and began to taper to 19 hertz, under which they really started to fall off. These would also do well with Room Eq Wizard, but did pretty well with Audyssey alone. Again, this may be due to having dual subs, but SVS is known for their flat frequency response curves.
More “common” subwoofers that are not on the same level as these two makers might list a response of 18 hertz, but really taper off around 30 hertz, producing some sound, but not with any real authority to speak of. Both of these matched their marketing material and their stated performance. Both companies are known for being spot on, and I can absolutely back that up. Both are great value for what they deliver.
Conclusion:
So my conclusion comes with a lead heavy caveat. In order for it be beneficial, at least in my opinion, you need to have the smaller subs be as good or better than the PB-1000’s, which is a tall order. I would prefer a sub that has true authority at 20 hertz, but 21 hertz is not enough of a difference to make me want to pass these up considering they do still produce healthy response at 19. If I was buying subwoofers today, these would be my starting point, the minimum level of performance I would be truly happy with. This is not meant to be a dig on the PB-1000, quite the opposite. It’s an outstanding sub, even if it were more expensive. There are subs that exceed $5,000 that are only rated to 30 hertz.
I’m happier with the dual PB-1000’s than I am with the single VTF-15. If you are at all familiar with the real subwoofer world, then you know the flame war that is bound to descend upon me for speaking such blasphemy! Remember, I LOVE my VTF-15, and would really love a pair, knowing I could easily power a room triple the size. If I wasn’t able to find an extra $1,000 in my couch cushions, or in my wife’s budgetary approval, I’d have to go with the dual PB-1000’s. Anywhere in between or better would be great too. Dual PB2000’s would likely be a very low compromise solution, assuming you have the space.
The goal for my audience is to find subs that are good at everything. Never running out of steam, never being taxed to a point of sloppiness at sane volumes. The PB-1000’s fit that description quite nicely. If these are not your choice, the next step in my opinion would be 12” subs, which of course will be more expensive for similar or better performance. That’s OK, bigger subs are nice, it’s better to have too much rather than not enough. Just don’t go getting dual $200 subs and wonder why you aren’t thrilled. Quality makes a huge difference.
So for this particular scenario, I’d have to put my money on the dual PB-1000’s over the single larger sub (or any other single for that matter, including SVS, this wasn’t meant to be a brand comparison). There are a couple of reasons:
  1. Duals are amazing, few will dispute that. In my opinion, duals should absolutely be part of your plan, if you want amazing performance. It resolved my dead spots and gave great saturation. It’s not a clever sales ploy, duals are worth it!
  2. Compromise was expected, but there wasn’t nearly as much compromise as I anticipated. Given the amount of bass heavy content I bombarded these with, I’m beside myself with how well they do. Overall, they are impressive and surprising. The PB-1000’s are ridiculously good.
  3. The ability to upgrade to the larger PB-2000’s or any other better SVS Subwoofer within a year, at FULL purchase value. This shouldn’t be your deciding factor, but it’s a really nice option. The trade in scenario is the only time I’m aware of that SVS will ask you to pay for shipping, which gets expensive with heavy subs like these.
  4. No shipping charges, and a full refund if you need to send them back. You have 45 days to decide if they work for you. If you live in the LA area and can pick up directly from HSU, this is not a factor.
  5. Visual impact. Better Wife Acceptance Factor. They are not nearly as imposing as the larger sub. Granted, I can always say, “sorry honey, it’s for the website” and put just about anything I want in my living room, but not everyone will have as good of an excuse. Good bass takes up space, and you should be prepared for larger subs if you want great sound. These just happen to be the smallest ported subs that I’m aware of that truly belong on this site.
So there are my thoughts. I can sincerely say that dual PB-1000’s meet my bass needs with gusto, and given the name of this site, that has to count for something. I would not be upset if they were the last subs I was able to have. It’s getting off the hook cheap for outstanding performance.
For the reasons above, and the fact that I will be very sad to see them go back to SVS, I can sincerely say that Dual PB-1000’s are the smartest buy in bass. I would recommend buying deeper response if you can afford it, assuming proper quality, but these are extremely satisfying and should leave no trace of buyer’s remorse. Even if they did, SVS has a stellar reputation for customer service. For a bass budget under $1,000, there is no question in my mind that these are the best bang for the buck, and I cannot comfortably recommend less.
Good luck in the search, hopefully this was useful!
Ryan B.

19 thoughts on “1 Big Sub VS 2 Smaller Subs”

  1. Nice article, I’m looking for dual subs now for a new HT system. Leaning SVS since all reviews are so positive, nice to see a comparison of the dual vs single. Not an audiofile, just looking for a fun movie experience so I really enjoyed not reading charts.

  2. Thank you! The PB-2000’s are amazing, and the PB-1000’s aren’t far behind. SVS earned their reputation through shear performance. Dual PB-2000’s are very fun, especially when showing someone new! It can be mind blowing for some. Glad you found the article helpful!

  3. Very well written, I enjoyed the read.

    Question: Are you at all sponsored or reimbursed by SVS for your write up or use of subs? Just curious is all. Have you contacted HSU to see if they would be willing to lend you two of their lesser priced subs to do a fair comparison. More of an apples to apples test, not grapefruit to grapes haha….see what I did there? 🙂

    Thank you for the write up!

  4. Thanks!

    I have tried contacting Hsu a few times but haven’t heard anything back. I don’t blame them, I’m still “new”. You could substitute virtually any big sub in place of the VTF-15h, including the PB-2000 or any other sub on The List, and my opinion would be the same. Brute force in a single sub will not overcome the need for dual subs. It wasn’t really meant to be a comparison of brands, but it was what I had on hand. I could have done the same comparison with all SVS or all Hsu, or any mix of other brands. The main point is that dual subs are really important.

    I’d really like to hear any Hsu subs that are on The List, along with any of the other subs on the list. Hsu beefed up the VTF-15 since I bought mine, so I’d like to hear the new one’s at some point. SVS has not paid me for this review or otherwise compensated me for it, the only thing they did was provide their subs for the comparison. I may become an affiliate for SVS, and if I do it will not be exclusive. Hsu, Outlaw, Rythmik, and a few others that I need to add to The List are absolutely encouraged to participate! The main requirement is quality performance down to 20 hertz with good manners. That disqualifies most of the subwoofer market.

    For sure, dual Hsu subs, like the VTF-2, VTF-3, and VTF-15 should all deliver the goods. Nothing on The List should disappoint, and the VTF-15 did not disappoint, I just needed a second one. What I learned from this is that you cannot hear everything a subwoofer has to offer unless there are 2 of them, and this was not the VTF-15’s fault. With a single there will always be Swiss cheese bass (frequencies suppressed due to standing waves). I have both the VTF-15 and the PB-2000 right now, and while it would be tempting to compare them, I couldn’t do it fairly with a single. Duals make that much of a difference. I could compare dimensions, finish, power ratings, etc, but in terms of actual sound it’s impossible to get a proper impression with a single. Any nuance is lost in the single subwoofer standing wave effect.

    Hopefully I’ll be able to hear more Hsu and other brands soon and offer a broader opinion. Good bass is good bass, and it should all sound very similar if it’s done right, just different flavors. I will say them are some powerful little grapes!

  5. Thanks for article! I felt you were very thorough, and I like the comparison of two manufacturers that are typically neck and neck in conversation throughout the internet.

    I have a couple questions, if you don’t mind. I was curious as to what you thought the differences in the pb-2000 and pb-1000 are? Is it just output capability? Or is the 2000 quicker/tighter, and more detailed? If it is just output, I’m told a pair of pb-1000 will outperform a single pb-2000. Do you find that to be true? I’m looking for a dual setup on a budget, but don’t want to sacrifice that visceral impact the the 2000 is claimed to have, nor do I want to sacrifice quality in music. But I’m much inclined towards the dual pb-1000 to save some money. What are your thoughts?

  6. I appreciate that! You have motivated me to finish my write up on this very subject. For sure, duals are a must, and will outperform any single in terms of being able to hear all of the bass, but depth is still a real limit. With the PB-1000’s you are only missing out on the bottom 3-5 audible hertz, where most subs are missing out on the order of 10-30 hertz on the bottom end, depending on how you look at it. The PB-1000’s are fantastic, and the PB-2000’s are even better, you miss nothing audible on the bottom end. Both will sound great in music, adding a deep richness that you have likely been missing.

    Here’s my article on it: http://www.subwoofer101.com/pb-1000-vs-pb-2000/

    Thanks for the feedback, and lighting the fire under me to get this finished.

    Ryan B.

  7. How do you feel dual SB-2000s would do compared to a single PB-2000? I’m curious as to the comparison between dual sealed vs single ported. I have space for dual sealed subs since they are much smaller but do no have room for dual ported, only room for a single ported. Which would give movies the most impact? I’m currently running a single sealed 15″ sub that is pretty old & not up to par with current sub technology. It is however a servo sub & not horrible but wanting to upgrade for sure.
    Thx for any feedback! Look forward to more of your write ups 🙂

  8. Well, we’re kind of apples to oranges here. Dual subs will give you the even coverage and complete sound. The sealed subs will do decently for home theater, but ported will do better. Get a shoe horn and make’em fit! = ) I doubt the dual sealed would “disappoint” you, but for maximum theater impact, dual ported PB-2000’s would be the ticket. Could you fit 2 PC-2000’s? They are the same as the PB-2000’s, and are rated for 1 hertz lower. Kind of a unique look too. I won’t run a single sub anymore if I have a say in the matter. No matter how well you place a single sub, you will always be missing something somewhere. Thanks for the feedback!

  9. Great article! I’ve a SB-2000 which is really great but would love to see where dual would get me for HT…do you think a PC-2000 would be mismatched in this case or I should really stick with another SB-2000 ? if going with 2 SB-2000 would their performance be on the level of a PC\PB 2000? take care ciaoo

  10. Thank you! How old is your SB-2000? You may still be eligible to trade it in. As far as mixing subs, I’m highly inclined to keep them identical. I will be doing a video in the future trying to integrate a sealed and a ported. I didn’t do it when I had the chance, so I will revisit it, but I don’t expect great results.

    2 SB-2000’s will give you more even response (less Swiss Cheese Bass), and more headroom than a single, but the ported versions will be more “pronounced” at depth. If you haven’t already read it, my Ported vs Sealed might give you more insight. If you read that and feel sealed fits your needs the best, get another. The sealed subs aren’t bad for movies, they do a lot better than most typical ported subs, but the ported SVS subs have a deeper sensation. The SB-2000 goes to 10 hertz in room. The PB-2000 goes to 14 hertz in room, but it “sounds” deeper.

  11. What are your thoughts on the newer 16 series, one PB16 vs dual SB16 in a family room with kitchen and hallway of 5,000cubic feet +? Would the two sealed SB16 be able to be powerful enough to watch movie and feel the punch scence or hair flying? Only listen to -20 to -18 on the volume. Thoughts? Would be awesome if you can get those subs and do the comparision. one PB16 vs dual PB2000.

  12. I’m always for duals, always. I say pick your budget and fit 2 subs in it. At your listening levels, which are similar to mine it seems, you wouldn’t run out of power with any SVS ported sub in a dual configuration. The Sealed Ultras (SB-13 Ultra and SB16 Ultra) have a unique EQ’s that I think you’d be happy with, but see my Ported vs Sealed for my thoughts and decision chart.

    That said, I’m excited as can be about the new 16 Ultra series!

  13. The thing about is space, I wouldn’t be able to fit any of the dual ported PB13 or PB16 series. However PC13 might be able to due to the same footprint. Not sure if I like the materials, I wish it come with glossy black instead of the fiber cotton looking around it. I’m waiting for the measurments to come out for the SB16.

  14. The specs for the SB-16 Ultra are 20″ (H) 19.5″ (W) 20.1″ (D) and the PC-13 Ultra is 16..6 inches wide/deep and 47 inches tall. That’s pretty tall, but it’s cheaper than the PB13-Ultra. Make sure it won’t interfere with your TV/screen. The PB-12 Plus is barely wider at 19.8 wide. You won’t run out of steam, not at your listening levels with duals.

  15. Thank you for a very professional, thorough and well written review of the Dual PB-2000’s. I appreciate the time and effort put into this. You’ve reassured me about a recent purchase (still returnable) with this one line from your review ‘I can sincerely say that Dual PB-1000
    ‘s are the smartest buys in bass’ .

    I previously had a big box store sub that blew on me one day and I was about to buy another one until I came across SVS on various online forums. As my pockets weren’t as deep for the replacement, I bought one PB 1000 and was very VERY impressed however I noticed a major difference in bass reproduction depending on my sitting position.

    My 2 considerations to resolve the issue were either buy a single larger 12 (PB-2000) for more output or get another PB-1000 for a more balanced, cleaner and non localized output. So I ended up calling SVS for an opinion and they told me without hesitation that dual PB 1000’s would not only balance out the room but also give me higher output 100% guaranteed as compared to a single PB 2000. Getting the single larger 12 would give me higher output but not resolve localisation and balance issues.

    So I bought the duals 1000’s and couldn’t be happier, like you said dual PB 2000’s would sound even better however when your family room doubles as your home theatre space you must consider space and optics. I’m just waiting for them to break in properly and with my Audyssey set up I find the sound amazing (I have Q700’s as fronts and JBL surround and Centre).

    My main struggle now is ideal placement, I’ll continue playing with various setups to see what works.

    Anyway thank you once again!

  16. That’s great to hear! The PB-1000’s were my wife’s favorite in terms of size, so I know what you mean about mixed use rooms. As far as placement, mimic my setup if you can, with a sub on the inside of your left and right channel speakers. They could be on the outside too, I just like to keep them fairly symmetrical in relation to the front channels. Another tip, run room eq every time you move them and are going to keep them there (a hassle, I know), and add 2-5 feet to the subwoofer distance, depending on what sounds the best to you. My subs measure at 15 feet, and I have them set to 19 feet. Lots of tinkering…

    One thing is for sure, those are the most economical subs SVS makes, but they are definitely NOT entry level subs! Glad you’re enjoying them as much as I did!

  17. For me, I started with a single SB13 then went dual. I prefer SB than PB for everything including movies:) GO DUAL !
    I might add 2 more SB13s or up to quad SB16 if I save enough money 🙂

  18. Dual subs are everything! I would probably stay with the same driver size to make it easier, I failed when I tried to mix a PB-2000 and a PB-16 Ultra. A quad SB-16 Ultra setup would be pretty insane! That said, the biggest improvement comes from going from 1 to 2 subs. 2 to 4 subs is definitely nicer when done right, but not as dramatic as going dual over a single, and it can be more challenging than duals. Not to discourage 4 subs, it’s a great way to go when funds allow, but it won’t be as dramatic as when you first went dual. Quick tip, don’t use wireless unless you have to. If you have to use wireless, use it for all subs, but I strongly prefer hard wired subs.

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