SVS Prime Tower review: Audiophile performance for much less
With the new Prime Towers, speaker manufacturer SVS seems to have nailed it. These are a beautifully finished set of tower speakers that look -- and sound -- a lot more expensive than they are. In the US they're $499.99 each; the company has international distributors, including for the UK and Australia, which can provide pricing information elsewhere.
They are more detailed and more "hi-fi" than anything we've heard at this price before. If you are looking for detail above all else then you could consider the Prime Towers an audiophile bargain.
But this extra fidelity can come with a downside: while we never found the SVSs to be harsh, they could sometimes lack intimacy, particularly with vocals. If you are instead looking for something more "fun" or even "warmer," then the Klipsch RF-62 II towers or B&W 685 S2 bookshelves might be a better alternative.
Design and features
Even before we played them for the first time, we knew the SVS Prime Towers were something special. Our review samples' impeccable black gloss finish (an extra $100 per cabinet) gave the speakers a high-end sheen.
The speakers are moderately tall at 36 inches and measure a modest 8 inches wide and 10.8 inches deep (91.5cm x 20.3cm x 27.5cm). The drivers include a 1-inch aluminum dome tweeter with a protective grille, a 4.5-inch polypropylene midrange and twin 6.5-inch woofers.
SVS actually characterizes the speakers as "3.5-way" instead of three-way because the two bass drivers are set up with different crossovers. The bottom is a true bass driver and the second is a bass/mid.
We noted one small caveat: the Prime Towers have dual bass ports, so the speakers need at least 12 inches of clearance from the wall to sound their best.
The Prime Tower is a prime example of the advantages that the better big speakers have over any little speaker: superior bass, power, dynamic range and being capable of filling large rooms without sounding like they're working very hard.
Hunkered down in CNET's modestly sized listening room, we found the Prime Towers' transparency and resolution of fine detail were clearly better than those of the other tower speakers we compared them directly against, namely the Klipsch RF-62 II, the PSB Imagine X1T and the bookshelf Bowers & Wilkins 685 S2. We used a NAD C356BEE, an 80-watt-per-channel stereo integrated amp, for all of our listening tests.
Joel Fan's "Dances for Piano and Orchestra" handily demonstrated the Prime Towers' key strengths. With Charles Wakefield Cadman's track "Dark Dances of the Mardi Gras," the snare drums and other percussion instruments were correctly placed far back in the orchestra, and neither the RF-62 II or X1T could match the Prime Towers' ability to recreate a concert hall acoustic space as accurately. The drums' crisp attack and the other percussion instruments seemed to float above the orchestra with the Prime Towers, while the other speakers dulled the presentation.
Similarly, the full measure of U2's densely textured "Achtung Baby" album lit up the Prime Towers. The complexity of producer Brian Eno's spacey mixes shone more brightly. By contrast the X1T lost much of that sound, and the RF-62 II's bigger, bassier bottom obscured detail, its soundstage being nowhere as spacious. Still, if you crave maximum bass oomph the RF-62 IIs trounce the Prime Towers, which provide a leaner, but better defined low end.
Listening to the Artic Monkeys' "R U Mine," first over the Bowers & Wilkins 685 S2 bookshelf speakers and then the Prime Towers, the difference wasn't just that the bigger speakers made more bass (duh!). The Prime Towers opened up the sound in ways the 685 S2 could not. The little speaker is excellent, but the Prime Towers' midrange driver clarified the sound of the Monkeys' soaring vocals, fuzzy guitars and thundering drums in ways the 685 S2s or few two-way speakers of any size can match.
Stress-testing the Prime Towers with high-impact scenes from Blu-rays of "Super 8" and "Avatar" demonstrated the speakers' dynamic range agility. Dialogue was clear and natural, and the Prime Towers' big soundstage was also a plus. The Imagine X1T towers lacked that bass and treble extension, but they were warmer- and fuller-sounding than the Prime Towers.
When using sparsely recorded material, such as the The Mountain Goats' "The Sunset Tree" re-release from HD Tracks, the Prime Towers lacked the confessional quality summoned by its rivals. For this song, we found the SVS pushed the listener away in spatial terms rather than drawing you in. Compared with the "rock 'n' roll" Klipsch RF-62 IIs, John Darnielle's close-miked vocals lacked intimacy and sounded like they were situated deeper back in the room. With Ben Harper's "Widow of a Living Man," the singer was still in your ear but more spitty and ethereal-sounding than from the more grounded B&W 685 S2s.
The SVS Prime Tower is an audiophile-grade speaker that will appeal to anyone who craves big, highly transparent sound for music or home theater. For 2.1, or 5.1 and beyond, they can be paired with SVS's matching Prime center, bookshelf/surround speakers or subwoofer or both.
Compared with our favorite standmounters, the B&W 684s, there is no competition: the floorstanding SVS Prime Towers sound bigger, go deeper and offer better insight into a recording, and for only a few hundred dollars more. While they're not the warmest or most "rocking" speakers you'll hear for the money, they do offer audiophile-like levels of performance for less money than you'd expect.
Reference Subwoofer Performance Just Went Micro.
Chest-pounding, musical bass with depth, slam, and impact, from a shockingly compact 10-inch cabinet. Many micro subwoofers have tried, all have failed. Until now. The miniature yet mighty SVS 3000 Micro subwoofer seamlessly blends into any room and speaker system, energizing the space with astonishingly rich, effortless bass that’s all the more impressive given its micro-sized enclosure.
Featuring innovations from the reference SVS 16-Ultra subwoofers married to fully active dual opposing 8-inch drivers, and an 800 watt RMS, 2,500 watt Peak Power Sledge STA-800D2 amplifier with discrete MOSFET output, 3000 Micro delivers performance that obliterates every micro subwoofer that has come before. It also features the powerful SVS subwoofer control smartphone app for advanced tuning and DSP. Finally, a micro subwoofer worthy of the name SVS
Finally, A Micro Subwoofer Worthy of the Name SVS.
The challenges of designing a subwoofer capable of chest-pounding output at the lowest frequencies, while maintaining effective thermal and energy management in a micro-sized enclosure, has always been the holy grail of subwoofer brands. Previous designs were flawed with weak output, distortion, and uncontrolled movement of the cabinet itself.
3000 Micro is like a magic trick— small enough to fit anywhere and capable of delivering breathtaking bass from a shockingly compact 10-inch enclosure. For the first-time ever, a micro subwoofer that does not compromise on performance.
SVS engineers had to bend the laws of physics designing a micro-sized subwoofer capable of massive, pristine output in HiFi and home theater systems. Reference amplifier technology from the flagship SVS 16-Ultra subwoofers was applied in an 800 watt RMS, 2,500+ watt Peak Power Sledge STA-800D2 amplifier with discrete MOSFET output for effortless, on-demand current with unerring control.
Harnessing the colossal power are fully active dual opposing 8-inch SVS drivers connected in parallel to move in perfect unison for massive slam and output with crisp, musical transients. The usable surface area of two fully active 8-inch woofers firing in opposite directions unleashes performance on par with much larger subwoofers and the tight, punchy output obliterates multi-driver passive radiator subwoofer designs known for bloated, one-note bass.
3000 Micro also has brains to match its brawn. A 50 MHz Analog Devices DSP enables sophisticated control and custom frequency response curves for optimized real-world output and acoustically tuned room gain. It also enables advanced tuning and control via the SVS subwoofer DSP smartphone app.
Fully Active Dual Opposing 8-inch Drivers – Defy the Laws of Physics with Room-Shaking Output and Pinpoint Accuracy
A first-ever design for SVS, two fully active 8-inch woofers are mounted on opposite sides of the sealed cabinet and move in perfect unison to generate stunning low frequency output with crisp, musical transients. The usable surface area of two fully-active 8-inch woofers firing in opposite directions achieves performance on par with significantly larger single-driver subwoofers. Its tight, punchy output obliterates multi-driver passive radiator subwoofer designs known for their bloated and boomy sound.
By firing in opposite directions, the mechanical energy transferred to the cabinet is effectively canceled out. This creates a sonically inert environment and solves the longtime curse of micro subwoofers, which are known to “dance” or “walk” across the room.
The active dual drivers are connected in parallel to a single power amplifier. Each receives the same amount of current, ensuring pinpoint control and more precise, accurate bass. The use of aluminum throughout the woofer, from bobbin to cone, creates a lightweight, stiff, and thermally-optimized driver without resonances or extraneous vibrations.
Each high-excursion active 8-inch driver employs a progressive inverted surround to ensure maximum linear displacement. This is imperative for moving massive amounts of air and generating sound pressure levels you can feel at the deepest frequencies from such a small enclosure.
Precisely tuned overhung motor configuration for unerring woofer control at all drive levels
Proprietary injection-molded NBR surround built for extreme-excursion and longevity at reference playback levels.
Total Excursion (each driver): 24mm Xmax, 37mm Xmech
High-current 4-layer copper voice coil winding minimizes distortion and power compression, while providing effective heat dissipation and tuned magnetics for accuracy at high excursion
Formidable proprietary ferrite motor system generates high-flux-density magnetic fields to drive room-filling sound pressure levels with pinpoint transients
Dual 8-inch baskets with FEA optimized powder-coated frames for maximum rigidity, thermal conductivity, and mechanical damping
Innovative Motor Assembly – Maximizes Current Delivery for Active Dual-Driver Array
An oversized, vented motor structure is optimized for efficient thermal and mechanical-energy management in a confined space. Massive electromagnetic force produced by the motor, in symphony with the high current driving power of the Sledge amplifier, allows the 3000 Micro to maximize on the output potential of the dual drivers.
Flat edge wound split-wind voice coil within the motor assembly provides effortless, on-demand power at high excursion, while reducing mass and improving overall driver efficiency. The result is room-shaking output with amazingly precise response when the music, movie or other content demands it most.
Dual ferrite magnet motor assembly weighing nearly 25lbs generates massive amounts of current to produce extreme driver excursion with precise control for the deepest, most accurate and authoritative bass possible from a 13-inch driver.
Lightweight and rigid aluminum vented cone with composite fiber dustcap generates massive output with pinpoint accurate frequency response.
Long-throw parabolic surround and proprietary injection molded gasket ensure longevity and allow extreme excursion for room-energizing bass.
Sledge STA-800D2 Amplifier – Massive Output with Precise Driver Control
A driver is only potential and requires and equally potent amplifier. Extreme challenges existed for SVS engineers when designing an amplifier capable of powering fully active dual 8-inch drivers at reference levels in a micro-sized cabinet. How to maximize SPLs while maintaining accuracy? How to optimize on the potential of room gain? How to maintain proper cooling while achieving massive SPLs?
SVS met these challenges with an 800 watt RMS, 2,500+ watt peak power Sledge STA-800D2 power amplifier that combines the high-current output of discrete MOSFETs with Class D efficiency and the processing power of an Analog Devices DSP. The 3000 Micro subwoofer’s amplifier effortlessly produces sustained high-current output for the most difficult low frequency playback without clipping or bottoming out. Convincing, high-impact audio experiences without a trace of distortion.
High Current Output from Fully Discrete MOSFETs with the efficiency of Class D amplification allows the Sledge STA-800D2 amplifier to generate massive amounts of current enabling immense output with surgical precision.
Optimized frequency response curves for the sealed cabinet 3000 Micro allow the subwoofer to take control of a room and pressurize it with accurate, heart-pounding, acoustically tuned bass.
Sophisticated multi-band limiters enable the system to behave effortlessly move air and with complete control, even when played at extreme levels.
Sophisticated 50 MHz DSP Engine – Unrivaled Processing Power from a Home Audio Subwoofer
A 50 MHz Analog Devices DSP, normally reserved for high-end separate audio components, delivers sophisticated control and custom response curves optimized for real-world output and acoustically tuned room gain.
DSP plays a huge role in making the 3000 Micro subwoofer sound far bigger than its size. SVS engineers painstakingly crafted an in-room frequency response curve that fully maximizes on the potential of a room’s boundaries to produce greater output and deeper bass extension without bloat or boominess. The result, a subwoofer that far exceeds expectations given its size.
3000 Micro Smartphone App – Easiest Way Ever to Manage Subwoofer DSP and Control
The most convenient way ever to control volume, access multiple DSP functions, and program custom preset tuning profiles optimized for music, movies, gaming, and more. All accessible with a single touch. Adjust crossover frequencies, a three-band parametric EQ, polarity, room gain and more, all from your favorite seat.
Connects via Bluetooth for convenient control even when subwoofer is out of sight.
Saved custom presets for one-touch tuning with optimized settings based on listening preferences for movies, music, and more, with one-touch access.
3-band parametric EQ controller allows precise adjustments for boost or cut, Q-factor, and frequency down to the single Hz level to eliminate peaks, nulls and other room issues
SVS Authorised Dealer - Best Service & Pricing in South Africa
SVS Speakers and Subs: High End Audio that Doesn’t Discriminate
SVS was founded in 1998 by a group of audio loving engineers working out of their garage who felt that customers were paying too much for lackluster subwoofer performance. The vision behind SVS is a belief that world-class, immersive audio experiences should be within everyone’s reach. The SVS design approach involves a fusion of sophisticated technology, precision engineering, exhaustive lab and real-world testing, and a deep personal passion for audio excellence, all brought to life by a top notch acoustic engineering team.
From the coherent soundstage and pinpoint imaging, superb detail and sonic transparency of reference-grade SVS loudspeakers to the effortless power, sonic low frequency extension, chest-thumping slam and pinpoint accuracy of their subwoofers, award-winning SVS products guarantee an expectation-shattering audio experience. (Oh, and that guarantee also comes with a 5-year unconditional warranty)
Based in Youngstown, Ohio, SVS maintains direct communication with its passionate owner community though social media, forums, live events and other digital channels to ensure a great customer experience. This means they're engaged with their users - far beyond the date of purchase. They're committed. SVS’ authentic approach, product build and performance, and white glove Sound Experts support are all reasons why World Wide Stereo welcomed them into the fold.
To dig a little deeper into what makes SVS different, we sat down with SVS President Gary Yacoubian. Gary is a longtime friend of World Wide Stereo’s founder Bob Cole, and we're thrilled to get his exclusive take on SVS speakers, subs, and their unique company culture.
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