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.
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Stephen Hopkins is chief technology editor for EH Publishing. He writes product reviews, features, and focuses heavily on 3D TV, iPhone and iPad apps, and digital content.