SVS-Ultra-Series-Bookshelf-Black-Oak-Featured

SVS Ultra Bookshelf Speaker

SVS has been known for their subwoofers but not associated with other speakers. Their Ultra line, released 2012, is a push to handle all the audio duties in a theater and not just the bass. Designed by Mark Mason, formerly of PSB and now head designer for Thiel, the Ultra Bookshelf speaker offers a lot for the money. A very large bookshelf speaker finished in a beautiful piano black, the Ultra Bookshelf has no trouble filling a room. For $1,000 a pair it is a very impressive speaker, even when compared to those costing 50% more.

Specs
Manufacturer: SVS
Model: Ultra Bookshelf
Drivers: 1" Tweeter, 6.5" Woofer
Dimensions: 15” H x 8.5” W x 10.9” D
Weight: 19 lbs.
Review Date: May 21, 2015
Price: $999.98
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Recently for a Wirecutter piece, I had 22 different pairs of bookshelf speakers in my basement home theater. Twenty-two different pairs of speakers. While most of these were $400 or less, I also brought in a few higher-end models for comparison. One of these was the SVS Ultra. With a 6.5” woofer it had no issues filling my 12’x25’ room without sounding strained at all.

Build quality on the SVS Ultra is very nice for $1,000. It feels very solid and the piano black finish on my pair looks great. There is a huge difference in build quality for speakers as you move up the line and the SVS are well built. Knock on the side and there is very little resonance to them. The only speaker here that felt as solid is the KEF LS50 that costs 50% more. What the KEF couldn’t do as well as the SVS is rock.

The opening bass line on The White Stripes “Seven Nation Army” filled the room far better than any other bookshelf speaker I used. The SVS’s 6.5” woofer is able to dig deeper and put out bass that other speaker cannot. “Teardrop” from Massive Attack showed similar benefits, as those opening beats are felt in your chest. Not only does the bass extend deeper, it has better definition. Better bass isn’t just about bass lines and beats, it really enhances everything.

SVS-Ultra-Series-Bookshelf-Rear

“Just The Way You Are” off Diana Krall’s Live in Paris is more realistic through the SVS than through a smaller bookshelf. The SVS has extra weight and authority behind the piano notes, which improves the soundstage and imaging as well. Her vocals are well defined through the SVS, only falling behind the UniQ driver of the KEFs when it comes to overall clarity. While the KEF offers a bit more clarity in the midrange, the SVS fits my tastes better as it performs better with rock and movies. It can fill the room in a way that smaller bookshelf speakers can’t.

After spending time with the SVS Ultra Bookshelf I decided to replace my current speakers. I came very close to picking the SVS Ultra for my room as they sound great and offer great value. The speaker I eventually went with costs almost twice as much as the SVS, which was the minimum I needed to spend to get a noticeable upgrade. Unless you’re a real bass head you’ll probably be happy with their low-end response. If you do decide to add a subwoofer to the SVS Ultra, the larger woofer size will make it easier to properly integrate with one than bookshelves with a smaller driver. Or you can step-up to the SVS Ultra Towers that reach down to 20Hz.

SVS Ultra Bookshelf In-Room Response

Looking at the in-room frequency response of the SVS Ultra Bookshelf speaker we see that the treble is slightly recessed in comparison to the midrange but only by 1-2dB. The overall frequency response is in the +/- 3dB window from 50Hz up to 20kHz with a couple room nodes at 250Hz and 500Hz making an appearance. There is very usable bass down to 35Hz here. This data is collected using RoomEQ from 6 positions in the room. This helps to remove most room issues from the data.

If you want a bookshelf that offers full-range sound, great depth to the music, and a good value then the $1,000 SVS Ultra deserves a look. SVS’s 45-day return program makes it easy to try and be certain that you’ll enjoy them as much as I did. I don’t think you’re likely to ship them back after using them, though.

Review Summary
Product: SVS Ultra Bookshelf Speaker
Reviewer:
Pros: Great bass, good depth to music, good soundstage, very nice build quality.
Cons: More clarity in the midrange and treble can be had with other bookshelves.
Summary: The SVS Ultra Bookshelf speaker is a $1,000 pair that has no trouble filling a room. Bass is full and well defined, and the tweeter is very clear without being peaked. Some other speakers can offer a bit more clarity in the midrange, but lack the low-end that the SVS can offer.
Value: 5/5
Performance: 4.5/5
Overall: 4.5/5

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  • Modesto Mundo

    Chris I’m curious what speaker did you pick and why.

    • I bought KEF R300 bookshelves for fronts and surrounds and the R600 center channel. As I said, they’re far more expensive than the SVS Ultra ($1,800 a pair for the R300) but the UniQ tweeter offered a bit more transparency and a more cohesive sound. It costs 80% more but it’s not 80% better, but it was the cheapest bookshelf with the same good bass as the SVS but better midrange and treble. Had I been more budget constrained, the SVS would have suited me just fine.

      • Modesto Mundo

        Chris thank you for the reply. I am looking at a similar setup. Is there a particular subwoofer that you would recommend matching with the r300 mainly used for home theater in a 18 x 15 x 8 room?

        • Right now I’ll be using my existing SVS PB-1000 with them. I’ll wait to see how the new JL Audio f113 update is before I buy anything else. I’d also consider the updated HSU Research VTF-15H MK2 subwoofer as Brent Butterworth tested it and found it to be fantastic for the price.