Review: SVS Speaker Package


The Internet-direct company blends price and performance in a no-frills speaker/sub offering that's a super suite package.

Aug. 05, 2010 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

In recent days, Internet direct speaker companies have received a black eye due to the fraudulent actions of the owner/CEO of one popular brand. What makes this tough to shake is the company in question, AV123, produced some high quality equipment and often had excellent pricing. Fortunately, there are dozens of other such brands out there offering equipment and pricing as good or better with customer service and operational stability not rivaled by even the largest brick-and-mortar manufacturers. SVS, one of the original internet direct manufacturers of high value subwoofers, falls squarely in the safe-bet category. 

SVS has been manufacturing big (literally and figuratively) bang for the buck subwoofers in cylinder form for more than 10 years. While these cylinder subs introduced many an unsuspecting theater owner to the sub-20hz range at prices unheard of, their unusual shape didn’t win them and awards with spouses or interior decorators. It wasn’t long before SVS branched into the more traditional box subs with equivalent performance in more aesthetically palatable packages. The next step took things up several octaves into speaker manufacturing. 

The latest addition includes full-range speakers featuring the STS-02 floorstanding speaker, SBS-02 bookshelves and SCS-02 center channel.

At first glance, the STS-02 looks like a hundred other dull black-box speakers on the market. The main reason? Flash costs cash, and the STS-02 is all about packing in every bit of performance with the given price tag.  While wood veneers, machined phase-plugs, high-gloss lacquer, and carbon-fiber cones can make a speaker look outstanding, more mundane materials can do the job at a much lower cost. But don’t mistake a lack of bling for poor build quality. The entire S-series is built as solid as they come, with computer-milled MDF construction and vacuum-formed textured finish. While not abnormally heavy for their size, the STS-02’s cabinets are extremely inert with little to no “knock-test” resonance thanks to generous CNC-milled internal bracing. The function-over-form approach was applied with driver selection as well, with the selection of “ClearSilk F2” tweeters and matte black 6” “SoftCap” poly woofers, though the “ClearSilk” gets an upgrade in ferro-fluid to facilitate the extra output from the larger floor standing model. The 2-way design is simple and well implemented. 

The no-frills design would lead many to expect the SVS S series speakers’ sound to stand out. It doesn’t. In no single performance characteristic do these speakers draw attention to themselves. The simply reproduce any given sound neutrally and effortlessly. High frequencies are clear and detailed with no ringing. Midrange is smooth without losing snap, but without over-accentuating it. Midbass and bass, to the extent that the STS-02 attempts to reproduce it, is clean with no unwanted boom or bloat. 

Low frequency extension, however, is not the STS-02’s strong point. This may be somewhat surprising given the floorstander’s size, but it’s intended to be used with a THX-standard 80Hz crossover. Looking beyond the STS-02’s large footprint, this makes sense coming from a company whose niche was forged with highly capable subwoofers. The STS-02 doesn’t try to reach far beyond 80Hz because it’s all but given you will be pairing them with a capable subwoofer. This limits the STS-02’s usefulness in 2-channel music listening, but makes them nearly ideal for home-cinema applications. Their sealed design controls mid-woofer excursion, opens up placements nearer boundaries (mainly rear and side walls), and allows them to integrate extremely well with standard THX filters. 

In the same way that the STS-02 blends away, only drawing attention to the sound being reproduced, the SCS-02 center and SBS-02 surrounds blend naturally with the STS-02 mains. Their similar sealed design allows them to roll-off properly when paired with the same 80Hz THX crossover, with the main trade-off being total output. In their roles as center and surround, this trade-off is made well and their limits are rarely approached.  The SBS-02 would not be my first choice as a main speaker, but with a capable subwoofer, they could make due in a small room or secondary system where reference level is not a frequent requirement. 

Speakers that blend this well with a subwoofer deserve an equally as competent one to round out the system. The PB12-NSD that SVS sent me delivers with poise and balance. Not only does the transition from speaker to subwoofer happen fairly effortlessly, the 12” driver has no issues reproducing the upper end of its pass band. Often, larger drivers lose poise in the 40 - 100Hz range, though the PB12-NSD stays in check allowing it to blend as well as it does. This prowess in the upper bass range doesn’t mean the PB12-NSD can’t reach low. While extremely dependent on room and placement concerns, my single PB12-NSD at 1/3 of the front wall was able to produce ~111db as low as 17Hz. More careful placement may have resulted in even lower and louder results. 

While the pieces of the SVS puzzle are intriguing separately, the entire system sings when each part locks together to reveal the big picture. My absolute favorite piece of demo material is Blue Man Group’s How to Be a Megastar Live! The main reason is laziness. The subject material, consisting of strong percussion, engaged surround, a wide range of vocals, and cinematic style sound effects mean I can evaluate many both musical AND home cinema attributes of a given piece of equipment with a single disc in a single session. 

The Drumbone segment of the disc offers particularly wide dynamics, with low bass into the high-20Hz range along with vocals and high-frequency effects.  This piece makes very clear any deficiencies in transitions from subwoofer to speaker and even crossover-point transitions within the speakers themselves. The SVS system plays with integration making transitions nearly seamless, as if from a point-source. Frequency-range transitions were smooth, as was the 3D sound-stage created.  Instruments and vocals hang in the air where your mind expects them to. While not a particularly wide sound stage, at least not beyond the physcial width of the main speakers, the space defined by their placement offers 3-dimensionality and imaging convincing enough to emulate even the most difficult musical venue or theatrical scene. While the 80Hz THX crossover may not be a purists ideal for musical reproduction, it doesn’t hinder the SVS system from performing admirably. 

Home cinema, especially dynamic action, is where this SVS combo really shines. Last-summer’s 2012 is a true workout for any home theater speaker system. The transitions from John Cusack’s whispering mumblings to a bridge falling on a little girl’s puppy is a test of any system’s dynamic presence. The SVS system runs the gambit, retaining clarity and detail and low-volume vocals, without becoming shrill during female screams or overly boomy and uncontrolled when an aircraft carrier lands on the white house or an Antinov crashes into mainland China. 

Civilized control really is the SVS S-series systems strong point. Not the kind of civility that limits output or raw power, but the kind that keeps every aspect of reproduction in check without any becoming overpowering, but with minimal compromise as well. While the finish may not be piano black or bamboo, its understated build quality subtly punctuates a design methodology that places performance at the absolute forefront. The aesthetic compromises in favor of acoustic prowess make the SVS S-series system ideal for the dim glow of a home cinema. 

The price tag makes it ideal for anyone looking to get the absolute most home theater bang for their buck. The STS-02 is available for only $749, while adding the SBS-02 surrounds and SCS-02 equates to a combo discount price of only $1,169. The pricing model also leaves you open to add as much or little low-end impact as your room, or tastes, demand.  Adding an SVS subwoofer to your package nets you a 5% discount on the sub itself, with the tested PB12-NSD getting knocked down from $599 to $569. Total price as tested is $1,699, but other sub options start at $499 for the 10” PB10-NSD and go up from there. 

-Mirror-imaged, dedicated Right/Left configuration
-Removable fabric grill w/chrome pin retainers
-New SVS ClearSilk F2 ferro-fluid cooled tweeter
-Quad, SoftCap enhanced 6” black-poly woofers
-CNC-cut bracing and panels for superior fit-finish
-SVS-designed audiophile-grade 2 1/2 way crossover
-Linear, wide-bandwidth frequency response
-High power, natural non-fatiguing sound
-Efficient, easy to drive with any receiver
-Distinctive charcoal-black polymer finish, slim design
-Attractive base with black steel carpet spikes
-Operating bandwidth (F6): 60Hz - 18kHz

-Removable grill with chrome pin retainers
-SVS 1” BlackSilk™ tweeter
-6” compact frame SoftCap woofers
-Smooth and seamless braced cabinet
-Multiple installation modes
-Fully new audiophile -grade crossover
-Linear frequency response
-Bookshelf, center and surround speakers
-7 day a week support

-Mirror-imaged, Right/Left configuration
-Removable grill w/chrome pin retainers
-SVS BlackSilk ferro-fluid cooled tweeter
-Twin SoftCap 6” black-poly woofers
-CNC-cut panels for superior fit/finish
-SVS-designed audiophile-grade crossovers
-Linear, wide-bandwidth frequency response
-High power, natural non-fatiguing sound
-Efficient, easy to drive with any receiver
-Charcoal-black polymer finish, slim design

-SVS built long-throw 12” NSD AL driver
-Full-featured 325 watt BASH digital amp
-Computer Assisted Design (CAD) enclosure
-Dual CNC’d internal braces
-Removable grill with chrome mounting pins
-Front-firing woofer/port for easy installs
-Built-in, flush-mount amp configuration
-Compliant floor mounts (six)
-Patented 4” high-flow flared ports (in and out)
-Heavy-duty removable 8 foot power cord
-Assembled in the SVS factory, Ohio, USA
-“Seamless” cabinet design
-+/-3dB 18Hz-200hz anechoic extension
-Size: 18” wide x 21” high x 25” deep 74lb.

-Neutral sound ideal for home cinema
-Easy subwoofer integration at THX 80Hz crossover
-Dynamic sound with smooth transitions from low vocals to loud action
-Solid build quality with understated design
-Match any sub depending on room size and tastes

-Minimalist cabinet finish may not appeal to all aesthetics
-Sealed design not ideal for 2-channel music sans subwoofer
-Subwoofers are available in multiple finishes, while speakers are only in black

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