SVS Legato Subwoofer Review - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

 
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SVS Legato Subwoofer Review

SVS Legato Subwoofer System Review w/ AS-EQ1



MSRP: $2299.00 (Legato) $599.00 (AS-EQ1 in bundle)
Value:
Fit & Finish:
Home Theater Performance:
Music Performance:
Overall:



When I expressed interest in reviewing a cylinder sub from SVS, Ron Stimpson was kind enough to suggest one of the newest products to grace the SVS website: Legato. Legato is a dual sub system featuring two passive PC-12Plus subwoofers, and a separate Two-channel Sledge amplifier - the STA-800H DSP. The legato is definitely as close to an audiophile product as anything I've seen from SVS - it isn't bursting at the seams with power, but it is more than capable of filling most spaces with prodigious bass. The beauty of this system is that it includes two subs - giving a great deal of placement flexibility to optimize in room response, while leaving the rack mountable amp with the rest of your equipment. The STA-800H DSP amplifier is a feature filled little monster in a chassis about the size of a blu-ray player. A fully adjustable crossover, dual-band PEQs and line level delay are all built in, along with three preset tuning programs for the subs.
The PC12-Plus subwoofers measure in at 40.25" tall and 16.625" in diameter with a weight of about 80lbs. Each sub ships with three foam port plugs, allowing three different configurations that can be set on the amplifier; no plugs yields the default 20Hz tune, while one port plug will give a 16Hz tune. For the music listener or mid-bass lover, plugging all three ports results in a sealed configuration that rolls off around 30Hz.

For purchasers of the Legato system, SVS optionally includes an AS-EQ1 for $599 - a pretty decent discount and in my opinion, a critical component of this system as I'll discuss later.

Packaging, Fit & Finish

The Legato system arrived at my house in four boxes. Each sub was packaged separately in a cardboard box surrounded by high density foam on the top and bottom, and encircled on the sides with several foam "ribs". Despite some minor box damage, the subs arrived in perfect condition along with three port plugs, and an SVS t-shirt. Next to the two big boxes SVS shipped the STA-800H DSP amplifier and AS-EQ1 in identical boxes, both well packaged in high density foam with the standard cords and accessories. Each sub also included a set of hand-built cables from SVS.
The subs are of identical fit and finish to the PC-12Plus, meaning that high grade fabric covers the outside, with the ports protected by a friction fit grill. The subs are obviously built to very high standards and showed no visible flaws. While these are in no means competing with the "furniture grade" cabinetry seen in many subs today, that is completely understandable given the cylindrical shape. If you want a veneer finished SVS product, their conventional box subwoofers have a great selection.

The STA-800H DSP and AS-EQ1 both feel like quality goods, the faceplate of the AS-EQ1 is solid aluminum and is magnetically attached - resulting in a classy appearance once calibration is finished.

Setup: Optimizing the Sound

I'm a huge fan of the "sealed" sound - as many of you have probably induced reading my previous reviews - so it should come as no surprise that I was eager to plug all the ports and set the amp to sealed mode right away. I started off with the subs located about 8 feet apart, one in a corner and the other in the middle of the rear wall of my room. The result was really solid mid-bass, but I was definitely missing something on the low end - rather than waste my time EQ'ing content that couldn't be reproduced, I removed a plug from each sub and set the tuning mode to 16Hz. This time the low end was greatly improved and mid-bass didn't suffer as badly as I expected - there was less punch, but a whole lot more rumble and I concluded that I was ready to start EQ'ing.

My initial sweep with the AS-EQ1 was conducted using a microphone stand and the included Audyssey microphone. The result? As you can see below, not so good!
Ed Mullen of SVS confirmed my suspicion that a nasty axial null was to blame and suggested a subs+mains arrangement with the subs in the two front corners of the room. I moved the subs (no small task I assure you) and ran a new sweep - the results were better in many ways, but I now had a massive 45Hz null down about 12dB.

Given previous experience with nulls I decided to try a diagonally opposed layout - moving one sub back to the rear right corner of my room - and leaving the sub in the front left alone. After another round of moving the sub, this eliminated the worst of the nulls, but it was far from perfect. You can see that response curve below:


In a final attempt to reach bass nirvana, I put both subs in corners along the same wall (the longer axis of my room) - this time the measurements were the best I'd seen. Having optimized the subs positioning - I proceeded to measure around the couch - finding that a move of about 10" to the rear for my main seating position would largely relieve the remaining room issues. Armed with this knowledge, I moved my couch and proceeded to run a full calibration with the AS-EQ1, using the maximum number of measurement positions since I had some free time. The end result was a very flat curve that held up when measured in room with REW. Now I was finally able to re-run Audyssey with an 8-point calibration and perform my usual level matching using a Galaxy CM-140 SPL meter. I used my normal crossover point of 80Hz for the sub and at long last, proceeded to begin listening.

Below is the final response of the sub, please excuse the DRAFT as I saved the image prior to accepting and uploading to the AS-EQ1.



Listening:

Music Impressions:

As stated previously, the Legato system is a music lover's subwoofer - it's articulate and not loaded up with extra power. That said, I was immediately impressed by the quality of bass this system reproduced for acoustic jazz recordings. I took the opportunity to throw in my standard "The Very Best Of" by Acoustic Alchemy and was immediately impressed by the quality of string bass reproduction - it was tight with a well defined attack and decay, though still not quite as resolved as sealed subwoofers can typically reproduce. Kick drums, congas and all forms of percussion were reproduced nimbly, and sounded great in all my seating positions. Impressed by the first album I'd thrown in, I decided to listen to a large variety of music to get an idea of what I would likely hear.
I started off with an old favorite - the THX Ultimate Bass track and was impressed by the articulation from the low 20's all the way up to the upper range of the subs. It should be noted that one of the strengths of the legato system is in the 60Hz and up range, where a lot of very capable subs begin to sound a bit strained or at least unnatural. In my case even allowing the subs to play up to 120Hz I was never anything short of impressed by their ability to take whatever I threw at them.

Moving on to some heavier material I proceeded to play the album "Pandemonium" by Pretty Maids. Their track I.N.V.U. is a recent addition to my guilty pleasures list and sounded great on the system, with plenty of detail in the kick drums, and bass. My mains really love power so as I increased the volume to "rock out" a little, I was also impressed that the Legato system kept pace without any apparent strain. Over the next hour I threw a huge variety of music at the system, from classical (Divertimenti by TrondheimSolistene), to trance (Mansion by Gareth Emery), to soundtracks (Fairy Tail, Madlax, Angels & Demons), and finally - to organ music.

Throughout this whole process I was never disappointed by the performance of the Legato system, while it may not outperform cost no object designs costing twice as much - for the money this is a great subwoofer system and delivers in all the ways you want it to.

Home Theater Impressions:

While I was happy to test this system out on music at first dedicating several hours to cataloging my impressions, the real litmus test of any subwoofer in my opinion, is in the gruelling task of reproducing the LFE content on some of today's best Blu-Ray discs.

I started the process off by listening to three of my low frequency favorites, Tron: Legacy, Battle: LA, and How to Train Your Dragon. Tron's soundtrack was reproduced superbly, with the pounding electronic bass line suffusing my room with deep, palpable bass. Battle: LA's more delicate and precise artillery fire was also enjoyable and while it wasn't quite as precise with a ported arrangement, it left no question that VLF content could be reproduced both authoritatively and articulately.
One of the best attributes of the bass in HTTYD is that there is such a variety; the first flight scene has a lot of wind buffeting Hiccup and this translates into an excellent test of mid-bass reproduction and integration with the mains, while the explosion of the giant dragon at the end of the film is a great test of just how deep a subwoofer can dig. The Legato did a tremendous job with the first flight scene and held its own as the dragon exploded but wasn't able to dig quite as deep as I would have liked - but this is more than likely a function of 12" drivers than design. With room gain there's plenty of deep palpable bass at 15-20Hz, but don't expect this system to reach 10 Hz like some super-subs can reproduce, SVS makes other products for that.

Finally, toward the end of my review period I was able to watch Transformers: Dark of the Moon with the Legato system in place, and was pleasantly surprised. From start to finish the latest Transformers film is full of ridiculous, intense VLF content and is a great workout for any sub. I was impressed with the way the Legato system handled itself - I heard no instances of strain or bottoming out despite watching at reference level. In the realm of normal bass, this is a very capable sub system and delivers plenty of performance, and in Transformers I consistently felt that I was hearing the full range of VLF content. As I pointed out earlier, this system will not likely give much usable response below 15Hz, but this is not what it was manufactured for - systems that dig down to the low teens often have in excess of 1000 watts of power and large drivers (15" + ), and this system has two 12" drivers and a modest 800 watts between them. Given the fact that this is not a high power system, it performs admirably - there is absolutely no "normal" content that the system is incapable of reproducing, and those hunting for insane ULF content reproduction will certainly be in another realm as far as price and requirements go to begin with.


Conclusion:

SVS has delivered a unique system in Legato - they've given home theater and music lovers the chance to purchase a dual subwoofer system and locate them flexibly with a central DSP amplifier. They've also delivered speakers that are very friendly to smaller rooms with minimal floor space. These could quite easily hide in the front right and left corners of most rooms, or be co-located in a single corner.

Be warned, the system takes some work to set up, and unless you are willing to invest some time and energy in choosing the appropriate configuration (port tuning), and getting it to integrate well with your room, you're probably in for some disappointment. Setting up two subwoofers is obviously a good deal more complex than one - but the benefits are worth it.

That is not to say these are harder to integrate than most subs, because out of the box they are still very impressive. What most users will not recognize is that with two subwoofers ideal location is even more important, as it gives you a chance to take the room out of the equation, essentially filling in the gaps in one subwoofer's response with the content from the other. In situations like this, a bass management system is extremely important - and hence my recommendation of the AS-EQ1. If you're willing to spend the time to hunt for the best response with REW, or you want to make it easier and use the excellent AS-EQ1 to aid you in this process, you're going to be a very happy customer. This holds true for any subwoofer and I would strongly advise any reader to ensure that you've done what you can to optimize positioning and room layout before blaming the sub.

Before tweaking and repositioning this was a good subwoofer system, afterwards, it was a marvel of engineering that so much performance could be had with so little floor space sacrificed. The Legato is a stellar value and a great option for people who'd like a corner placement or just have minimal floor space. You will need to be aware that these are tall subs, measuring in at almost 3.5 feet tall, but your footprint on the floor is a measly 1.5 sf (a 16" circle) for each cylinder. For many this is a great trade-off versus finding room for a giant box on their floor.

In extremely large spaces (my room is relatively small at ~2000 CF) the Legato may have a little trouble keeping up with your mains; with the amp sharing duty between two separate subs at 400 watts each, I would caution those with more than 5000 CF to speak to the folks at SVS first. That said, the majority of us don't have massive rooms or houses to fill, and these are more than capable of pressurizing the majority of home theaters and media rooms. I whole heartedly recommend giving this system a look if you're in the market for a subwoofer, but I'd recommend you purchase the AS-EQ1 with the Legato if you do, as this system really benefits from methodical setup and Audyssey based optimization.

SVS as usual, has put a lot of thought and care into designing the Legato subwoofer system. It offers a degree of flexibility and out of the box functionality rarely matched in today's Internet Direct and commercial subwoofer offerings. Multiple port tunings and an on-amplifier DSP may scare the less experienced user, but the fine folks at SVS will offer all the support you need to get you to bass nirvana. The features that come bundled into the amplifier are a tremendous value to the two channel afficionado who doesn't have a sophisticated bass management system built-in to a high end processor - and will be useful to those with an AVR or processor as well. Whether you're looking for a sub for music use, home theater, or something in between the SVS Legato deserves to be on your list. Recommended.


To discuss this review, see the SVS Legato Subwoofer Review thread in the Home Audio Subwoofers forum.

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