SVS-Prime-Series-Tower-Hero-Piano-Gloss-Featured

SVS Prime Tower Review

SVS built their reputation selling subwoofers, like the previously reviewed PB-2000, that are known to offer impressive performance at attractive prices. The company was able accomplish this by moving manufacturing overseas and marketing their equipment directly to consumers over the internet. Several years ago, SVS branched out from subwoofers and began offering speakers with the based on the same principles of competent design, overseas manufacture and direct marketing. The Prime Series represents the companies first foray into a more approachable priced, entry level speaker. Was SVS able to maintain their reputation for terrific bang for the buck? Our take was a resounding yes.

Refined Looks in an Efficient Package

Specs
Manufacturer: SVS
Model: Prime Tower
Drivers: 1x 1" Dome Tweeter, 1x 4.5" Midrange, 2x 6.5" Woofer
Dimensions: 36.6" X 8" X 11.6"
Weight: 40.1 lbs.
Review Date: December 30, 2014
Price: $999.98
Company Website

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Why Amazon Links?

SVS sent the Prime Towers and matching Prime Center to review. The speakers arrived via UPS – the boxes are reasonable enough in size that freight isn’t necessary. The Prime towers are fairly compact and at 40 lbs each quite manageable. Unpacking is easily accomplished on my own. All that is necessary to get up and running is to install rubber bumpers on the towers (carpet spikes are also included) and some adhesive bumpers on the center channel.

The speakers are finished in gloss black (a $100/speaker premium), though they are available in a flat ash finish. The overall look of the speakers is sharp but not attention grabbing. For my set up, the SVS Primes are a perfect match for my BDI Mirage stand and JL Audio F113 subs. I doubt any members of the aesthetics committee will complain if these speakers become part of a living room system. Branding is subtle – just a small, plastic SVS logo on the bottom of the driver cover. The towers are compact, measuring in at exactly 3 feet high. With a footprint of 8” x 12”, the SVS towers are a terrific size for someone who is tight on space but still wants a full range speaker; they fit perfectly in my NYC living room.

SVS-Prime-Series-Center-ISO-Piano-Gloss

The overall feel and build quality of the speakers is solid – perhaps not as burly as you find in costlier speakers, but I have no complaints. With a critical eye you can see a few places SVS saved in cost: the speaker grill feels a bit flimsy, and the plastic SVS logo on the front is a little flimsy. The binding posts are merely adequate, not the ostentatious ones that some speakers have. From a build quality perspective, I feel the Prime Series exceed other speakers at a similar price point.

Under the grill of the Prime towers, we find a 1” dome tweeter, dual 6.5” woofers, and a single 4.5” midrange driver. SVS employs a “3.5-way” crossover, utilizing a separate crossover points for each woofer. Each woofer lives in its own compartment, both of which are ported on the back of the speaker.

The Prime Center channel shares many of the same design features as its big brother, but the drivers shrink: 3.5” midrange driver instead of 4.5” and dual 5.25” woofers vs 6.5”. The binding posts are identical between the center and the towers. No members of the Prime series are bi-amp capable – not a problem in my eyes.

The Prime Towers were placed on either side of my stand, about 18 inches away from the back wall, slightly toed in. The center channel sits on top of my BDI Mirage stand. The speakers were powered by a Parasound Halo A51 amp. Interestingly, the binding posts of the SVS Prime will not accommodate the spade ends (6mm) on my Cardas Clear Light speaker cables directly – I have to install them such that one end of the spade passes through the hole intended for bare speaker wire in order to achieve a connection.

I used Audyssey Professional to setup the Primes with my Marantz AV8801 pre/pro. I evaluated the towers full range for music. When listening to movies and TV, I employed subwoofers.

A lotta sound for $1000

I evaluated the Prime Towers on their own at first to get a sense for how the pair is able to deal with music. My first choice was an obvious one.

I love Prince. No shame whatsoever. And anyone who doubts that this is a musician at the absolute TOP of their game need look no further than the November 11th episode of Saturday Night Live, where Prince (and band 3RDEYEGRIL) absolutely killed during a never before done (as far as I know) 10 minute mid-show set – a personal request by host Chris Rock to Lorne Michaels. The set is terrific – if you haven’t watched it, go and watch it here. The review will wait.
Queuing up the new Prince/3RDEYEGIRL album from this fall, I am immediately struck by how good the Prime Towers sounded as I sat back and took in Prince’s opening guitar riffs. These are $1000 speakers? They sound seriously good. The opening riffs of PLECTUMELECTRUM are both powerful and detailed. PLECTUMELECTRUM is a nice demo track as it features both heavy, more distorted riffs, paired with more delicate sections. The Prime Towers move admirably between the two. Imaging is also terrific.

I want to push the Prime Towers a bit more in both the bass and treble on a track that I have a bit more familiarity, so I goto Phish’s “Story of the Ghost”. The title track here has a terrific intro that pairs Jon Fishman’s drums with Mike Gordon’s bass, and is a nice test for a speaker’s ability to reach deep while at the same time accurately reproducing higher drum lines. I am impressed with the ability of the Prime Tower’s to keep up with this track. Bass reaches deep, but stays tight, and the treble ranges maintain resolution and punch. All in all, I am quite pleased with their ability to keep up with this difficult test.

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I’ve been on a bit of a folk music kick recently and on a recent rainy afternoon I sat down and loaded up a Spotify Premium playlist of some of my current favorites. As I move between the likes of Shovels and Rope, Jason Isbell, Down Like Silver, Patty Griffin, and Hound Mouth, I am impressed with the ability of the SVS Prime’s to handle this more mellow and subtle genre. Acoustic guitar is well resolved and vocals are clear and pleasing.

Curious how the SVS Primes stack up against my B&W 805D bookshelves I compared the two. Though 5 times more expensive than the SVS Prime Towers (more with matching stands), I wanted to see just how much SVS was able to achieve for $1000. Compared the 805D’s, the Prime Towers are not able to achieve the same level of detail on music tracks. I don’t find them lacking in detail necessarily, but A/B’ing between the two reveals differences in both resolution and tightness across any music I tried. Unsurprisingly, the Prime Towers dug a bit lower than the 805D’s, but i felt bass on the 805D’s was marginally tigher. Important perspective here though: the Prime Towers sound terrific. Can you do better? Yes, but it’ll cost you more…perhaps much more…to get better performance.

A Capable Movie Performer

After being so impressed with the Prime Towers on music tracks, I was eager to jump into some movies to see how the SVS Prime Center will perform.

I did not connect with The Lego Movie. Lots of folks whose opinions I greatly respect love this movie. I…well…did not. I just don’t get it. Despite my lack of appreciation for the movie, I am fully onboard with the Blu-ray disc as reference quality material.

I have no complaints whatsoever with how the SVS Prime handles the front stage from The Lego Movie soundtrack. Dynamics are solid, easily conveying the excitement during the movie’s frenetic (to me anyway) climax as the good guys fight Lord Business. The SVS Prime Center handles its duties well; dialog is clear and well articulated. The overall soundstage is broad and cinematic.

In daily use, the SVS Prime’s handles TV duties well. Moving from sports to SNL – I have no complaints.

Measurements

Editors Note: Mark was unable to perform measurements on the SVS Prime, as his measurement equipment arrived just after they left. If you’d like to see how they measure, I’d recommend looking at the measurements that SoundStageNetwork performed on them here. They have access to the anechoic chamber at the NRC in Canada, and their data is as good as it gets.

Excellent Sound & Great Value

I’ll just state this up front: the SVS Prime series are exceptionally solid performers, especially for the price. At $1000 ($1200 for Piano Black), the SVS Towers are a terrific bargain. The build quality is solid, the footprint is terrific, and the sound is excellent. Add the Prime Center, and you have a front soundstage that provides a compelling cinematic experience.

SVS knows, like any good audiophile, that the best way to audition speakers is in your own home. SVS allows you to do that with a no questions asked, shipping both ways covered with a 45-day in home audition period, making the decision to take these guys for a spin even easier. If you are looking for speakers in the ~$1K mark, I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

Review Summary
Product: SVS Prime Tower
Reviewer:
Pros: Great sounding, especially for the price; Attractive and compact footprint easily
Cons: A few short cuts taken here and there in build; Better detail and dynamics are out there but will cost you more
Summary: The SVS Towers are a terrific bargain. The build quality is solid, the footprint is terrific, and the sound is excellent. If you are looking for speakers in the ~$1K range they are a speaker you need to seek out to hear.
Value: 4.5/5
Performance: 3/5
Overall: 4/5

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Why Amazon Links?

 

  • Because performance is compared to every speaker out there, regardless of price. The value lets you see that it’s a great speaker for it’s price, but it still has an overall sound that is good, but not as good as the best speakers out there. Does that make more sense?

  • Neel

    How would you compare this to the andrew jones pioneer line? The SVS cost 2-3x more, do you think that it delivers sound that justifies this increase in cost? Thanks for all your reviews, I base a lot of my shopping around them!

    • I don’t know that Mark, who did the SVS review, has heard those in his room, and I’ve heard them but not the SVS in my room. Unfortunately that leaves me unable to directly compare them and offer advice on that. Sorry.

  • Rodriguez

    What crossover do you recommend with a sub?

    • If you look at the measurements that are linked, you’ll see that the distortion begins to rise very fast below 80Hz. Because of this, having a crossover at 80Hz to pass that to a subwoofer, which should have less distortion at lower output levels, will result in the best quality.

      • Rodriguez

        Thank you! I read you had the towers about 18 inches from the back wall toed in. I have mine around 8 inches from the back wall and not toed in. Do you suggest I place them further out or even closer to the wall? Toed in or not?
        How does further or closer to the back wall and toed in or not change the sound?

        • The closer to the wall the more impact it’ll have on bass as the wall will help to amplify it. Toed in or not is up to what sounds best to you. It’ll adjust the soundstage and imaging, so just listen to it both ways and decide what you like most.

  • Rodriguez

    Have you heard the Axiom M60 V4 towers? I was wondering if you did how do they compare to the Prime Towers.

    • Mark Vignola

      R-
      Unfortunately, I have not heard the Axiom M60 towers so I can’t offer a comparison.

  • klepp0906

    A 3/5? .

    • This is where assigning a score runs into issues. When it comes to performance, should that be compared to products of the same price, or all speakers? If you do products of the same price, then does a value rating have any impact? We try to gear performance towards everything in the category to a degree, but we’re also always thinking about this.

      The overall score isn’t a simple average either. There’s an upcoming review that’s a 5 for performance, a 3 for value, and a 5 overall because the product is just fantastic. But this is always something we’re trying to work on.