SVS Prime Tower Review
SVS started out as a subwoofer company but has grown to much more than just another rumble maker in recent years. Extending out in a wide trajectory, their product offerings have grown from the Ultra series to the Prime and even now to a full, flushed out accessory line (including cables). The roots of their loudspeaker design are still funneled through home theater inspirations, but it is clear from their sound and the company’s presentations at CES that SVS products are built for two channel as much as they are for 5 or more.
Sitting atop the Prime lineup, the Tower talking points beg to start with price. At $500 a piece, these speakers drop into a very interesting group. While many a big box retailer may dabble around these parts, the audiophile collection is far thinner than you might imagine, especially when it comes to three-way, full-size floor standers.
In comparison to its big bro Ultra Tower ($1k each), the Prime presents itself as a much more manageable installation (40 vs. 75 lbs.). The former is often shipped on a full transportation pallet, while the latter appears on your doorstep in the usual 40” inch high individual box. The loudspeaker itself looks very much like your typical front 2-channel size and shape, with a loud exception to be made regarding the finish. The Prime is available in both Black Ash and Piano Black. The review sample I received arrived in the high gloss black and it was fairly stunning to behold. The color appears deep and the surface impeccable. Of course high gloss finishes are more prone to fingerprints, but the look definitely separates itself from the rest of the <$1k herd by a country mile.
The 36.6” stature of the tower feels good at sitting level and the 1” aluminum dome tweeter hits right about ear height when listening from a couch or standard easy chair. Mids are delivered courtesy of a single 4.5” polypropylene cone and ABS-fiberglass composite basket while lower frequencies are driven by dual 6.5” woofers of the same material. The 4.5” driver rests in its own sealed enclosure and interestingly each individual woofer has its own rear-ported enclosure as well. That’s two ports in the back for those counting, twice the fun. Rear ports usually mean that a little more breathing room is needed behind the cabinet, so don’t go squashing these towers directly up against a wall if you want them to sound their best. The dual woofers are actually controlled by what SVS calls a 3.5-way crossover system. In addition to their own ports, each 6.5” driver also gets its own individual crossover point to further separate out bass responsibilities for a smoother transition from high to low. Another interesting feature that could be easily overlooked is the protective grill that covers the aluminum tweeter. Its easy to brush off as something that could never happen to you, but unbelievably I have seen pushed-in dome tweeters on a pair of $40k loudspeakers due to party hosting, so its just one more little thing that adds to the thought out proposition of these music makers.
The SVS Prime delivers top-notch imaging and detail for the price range. The prominent air and breathability around the treble frequencies was certainly a major contributor to its overall presentation that translated to a highly articulate and decisive sound. The treble reach upward was well executed and created an interesting sensation of a vertical extension above the cabinet. Listening to Jason Mraz’s Freedom Song, it was clear that both his vocals and the backing singers in the mid tones were sharp and spacious within the sound field. The high hat pushing out 1/16 notes just seemed to hover above the right channel, while small percussion highlights and guitar strokes in the left channel during the later chorus seemed equally detailed and focused within the landscape. On the opposite side of the frequency range, the low end from the tower mirrored a surprisingly far-reaching delivery. Perhaps this formidable presentation should be less surprising given SVS’s resume, but even so, the bass is very deep and shockingly tight in its execution here compared to the bar set by many speakers of this type. A little Daft Punk from Random Access Memories proved to be quite an entertaining listen. The entire album strikes me as mixed a little bass forward, but the result is still quite fun to listen to. The album’s track Lose Yourself to Dance nearly had me thinking a separate sub was plugged in against the backdrop of the Prime’s quick and nimble response. If you desire soul-crushing bass from your system, with a little EQ these towers can give it to you. Out of the box, they are geared deliver a pleasant, even audiophile delivery in the lower regions with plenty of kick. Bass drum sounds thump with authority from the dual 6.5” woofers. Compared to the similarly-priced Zu Omen the Prime hit its bass notes just a little bit deeper and with a more even keel. The Zu appears to have a bit more bass presence overall, but its placement isn’t focused as low the Prime is. A frequency sweep down the scale helped shed some more light on these observations. As the tone made its way down below 60 Hz a slight bump in volume could be heard from the Omens, whereas the Primes dropped off more evenly and was still audible at a lower frequency. The Zu tone performs at its best around the mids and while the Prime is definitely a frontrunner in this department as well, the SVS felt just a tad more analytical when compared side by side in the vocal regions.
The sum total of the Prime’s package is one that feeds well into its mantra of appealing to both sides of the audio coin. I’d like to think that a two-channel application is a bit more revealing than that of home theater, but in the case of these speakers more transparency at a lower price point is a win for both applications. If you want to hear every note, foot tap and breath at $1000, then this is a speaker for you.
The Prime Tower brings a big package to the $1k game. The fit and finish, 3-way design and expansive soundstage all collectively push for something not usually found around these parts. Stop-and-go dynamics feel visceral and real, as does the very well executed low-end. The relative transparency is perhaps some of the best I’ve heard at this level, as is its crisp response to its source. The outer aesthetics don’t fall short of expectations either. The high gloss finish looks classy and the cabinet work feels confident and solid. While they don’t deviate far from the home theater sensibilities in terms of size and shape, the subtle yet elegant look should fit the demeanor of many a listening room. SVS sells the speaker direct from their website which you can check out here (they even pay for shipping):
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