SVS MTS-01 vs B&W 604s3 - Home Theater Forum and Systems -

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post #1 of 4 Old 06-19-09, 06:44 PM Thread Starter
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SVS MTS-01 vs B&W 604s3

This review, as the title implies, in one of the SVS MTS-01 speakers, but in particular my upgrading from B&W 604 series 3 speakers to them.

Executive summary, for those that don’t want to read the whole thing:

The MTS-01 completely outclasses the 604s. If you are considering buying new, there is no consideration, get the MTS-01s. If you are considering upgrading, they are an extremely worthwhile upgrade.

Some Background

Before the full review I should give you some background on me and my situation. I’ve been a B&W fan for many years. Some B&W 601s, which I still own, were my first truly high quality speakers that I ever got over a decade ago. I’ve since built a B&W surround system and been rather pleased with it.

However, when it came time to purchase a subwoofer, I wasn’t that happy with B&Ws offerings. They were too much money for what you got, I thought, so I went looking. SVS was recommended and I decided to get a PC+ 20-39. Extremely good idea, it is an awesome sub and I’ve been real happy with it.

So lately I’ve been thinking about upgrading my system. The natural choice would, of course, be the B&W 703s. They are the next step up in B&Ws lineup and I like B&W sound. However I was impressed with SVS and their MTS line looked like it might be worthwhile. There’s also the fact that they are like half the cost, about the same cost as the 604s.

So with that in mind, let’s review some speakers.

Sound Quality

This is, of course, the most important part of the comparison, so we’ll start here. To put it simply, the MTS-01s seem to be the equal or better of the 604s in every way. There isn’t anything quality wise that I can say “The B&Ws do this better.”

The biggest step up is also the most important in my mind: Soundstage, or imaging if you like. The MTS-01s are equal to all but the very best speakers in this area, and that says something. They are past a breakpoint where you aren’t hearing speakers anymore; you are hearing a wall of sound. Instruments don’t come from the left or right channel; they come from their proper location in the mix. The speakers just vanish.

This is not easy to find in speakers. It was one of the big things I liked about the 703s (or rather CDM NT9s) when I was looking at the 604s. They really produced a better soundstage but alas, at the time I couldn’t afford them.

However the MTS-01s, they’ve got it. I can’t do a side-by-side with the 700s but I feel the MTS-01s are superior to even those. They just produce a solid, convincing image. Monaural sources sound dead centered, as though there was a third speaker right in the middle. Stereo sources are just amazing in their continuity.

The good sound doesn’t end there, either. These speakers are accurate. They do a great job of producing what they are given, no more no less. The only downside is that source flaws are far more apparent. Low bit rate MP3s can be really hard on the ears. The MTS speakers say “Ok, you want a bunch of high frequency garbage? We’ll play that for you.” Likewise, I find many recordings have rather unsatisfactory drum set recordings. The cymbals sound, well, kinda like someone beating on aluminum foil.

However they payoff is that good material is REALLY good. I love the Drumkit From Hell (a sampled drumset) even more now. It just sounds so real. Also tympanis are something that I notice are particularly good on these speakers. I played classical music for many a year and I’ve always loved timps, but they are a hard instrument for many speakers to reproduce. They tend to lose, well punch I guess. They just don’t hit like they do in real life. Not here, the MTS-01 produce timps I can believe.

In terms of extension, the MTS-01s leave nothing to be desired. Near as I can tell, they don’t yield anything to the B&Ws at all. They go low and loud. They are basically as near to full range as you are likely to get out of tower speakers unless you spend a lot of money and get large units. They are just fine on their own for most music, though of course you add an SVS sub and then there’s no problems.

One of the things that concerned me a bit was midrange. The midrange is, of course, extremely important since the fundamental frequencies of nearly all instruments and voices fall in there. Thus I like the concept of a 3 way speaker, since it has a dedicated mid and thus theoretically better performance. Well worry not, because the mids are clear and accurate on the MTS-01s, better than on the 604s. The woofer seems to have no trouble doing double duty, and doing so without muddying things up.

The MTS-01s are a little bit softer at a given volume setting, owing to their lower efficiency, but not much since they are a bit lower impedance. However despite that, they are better at playing loud. I suspect this owes to lower distortion. Nearly all kinds of speakers will start to distort more as they are driven harder. The 604s start to change their sound, for the worse, at a much lower level than the MTS-01s do. This isn’t something I’m going to spend time to try and quantify, since it is largely subjective, but more or less you can drive the MTS-01s louder and they still sound the same.

All in all, there is just no contest. I’d say the MTS-01s sound as good or better than the 703s, which are far more expensive. The 604s just can’t compete.

Sound Customization

This relates a bit to sound quality, but I figure it deserves its own category. One of the things I really love about my SVS sub is that they realize that there isn’t a “one right sound.” You can tune the thing. In my room, this proved very useful. I had a huge peak at 20Hz, which muddied the bass up a bit. Well, just knock in a port blocker, drop the tune to 16Hz and the problem was solved. It produced a nice smooth lower bass response, all the way down to 13Hz.

Well the MTS-01s continue in SVS’s tradition with this. They are ported speakers, as is standard for that size, and also they come with port blockers as you’d expect. It is worth noting that, in keeping with SVS’s style, they have MASSIVE ports and have two of them, which can be independently blocked, so you get more tuning than you might normally.

However the really noteworthy tuning feature is the tweeter. Right by the binding posts is a tiny switch to flip on 3dB of tweeter attenuation. The manual and their website give the particulars but the upshot of it is you’ve got a switch that turns your speakers from “bright” to “dark” or “precise” to “laid back.”

This is a wonderful feature, given that a lot of music has some really harsh and overbearing highs. Turning on the attenuation backs that off a bit, and gives the speakers a dark character somewhat reminiscent of the B&Ws. However, for high quality audio, it is nice to leave it flat. Good quality DVD-Audio sound great with the speakers set with no attenuation. So you can customize it to your music, your room, your tastes, whatever. The -3dB setting is probably a good idea for many people, however your speakers won’t be unduly crippled if you decide to get something that does re-EQing like Audyessy, which I am now going to have to seriously look at.

What it all comes down to is with no extra hardware, the speakers can be tuned a great deal to meet your needs and that is a very valuable feature, which you don’t find on many speakers, the B&Ws included.


With the sound clearly in SVS’s favor, the other questions turn to the overall presentation. After all, even if the speakers are great, they might not be worth getting if you have a marathon of difficult processes ahead of you to get your hands on them.

Well this is most certainly not the case with SVS. Despite being an Internet distributor, their presales is excellent, better than what you get from B&W. The only area B&W is better is that, of course, you can go and listen to their speakers. That is really nice, since ultimately the sound is what matters the most. Though SVS offers an in home trial, it is less convenient and you are out a couple hundred in shipping if you don’t like them.

The rest of the presales though, way in SVS’s favor. When you ask questions of a typical dealer, you are dealing with a sales person whose knowledge is limited to what’s in the brochure, and then whatever listening they’ve done themselves. With SVS, you talk to their engineers. If you ask a difficult question they don’t shrug it off, they put you in contact with one of the people who actually works on their products. They give you real answers, even to highly technical questions.

They also are willing to do plenty of Q&A. I went back and forth for probably 20-emails with them, some quite lengthy, before I decided to give the MTS-01s a try. Never did I get blown off, or have to poke at them to get a response. They answered all my questions, dealt with concerns, and so on.

Presentation, Packaging, and Finish

While this might not matter to everyone, it DOES count to many. Speakers that are ugly, rickety things that look like they were knocked together in someone’s basement (perhaps because that’s precisely where they were knocked together) can be a big turn off. Likewise, it is no fun to drop a bunch of coin only to discover that you’ve got no extras, and have to spend money to make the speakers work for you.

In this area again, SVS is a winner. The speakers are BEAUTFUL, there’s just no other way to describe it. The main body I just love. I don’t know what the black plastic they texture it with is, but it looks great and is seamless. You can run your fingers over the whole thing and never find a break. The B&Ws are nice, wood veneer finished, but nothing special. You can see the spots where they are glued together and the back looks a bit cheap. Nothing serious, but you can see the difference.

My only complaint is the accent panels. It isn’t that they look bad, it is just I personally think a full textured speaker would look even better. Had that been an option, I’d have taken it and I say that even more after having seen how beautiful their texturing is. However, I understand that many people want an accent, and don’t’ get me wrong, the panels are extremely well done. I got gloss black which was probably a mistake in retrospect since though good looking, they smudge easily whereas the textured black of the speakers resists fingerprints with gusto.

Something else that is absolutely worth mentioning is the grille. While all speakers come with one, and pretty much all high end speakers a removable one, the MTS-01’s is special. As SVS likes to advertise, it is magnetically retained and let me tell you that works great. There are no markings or holes on the front of the speaker. You just set the grille in the right spot and it grips tight. Such an elegant and good looking solution. It maybe sounds like hype, but it really isn’t. It makes a huge difference in presentation.
The included extras are great. The speakers come with frequency response graphs not for the line, but the actual speaker. They take a reading of it before they ship it to you so you can see how YOUR unit does. One thing this shows, which listening confirms is that they are extremely well matched to each other. They are +-2dB with respect to flat or so, but more like +-0.5dB (maybe less) with respect to each other, likely one of the reasons of their excellent soundstage.

On a function side, the speakers come with every kind of mount you could need. You can just set them straight on the floor, of course, they are flat bottomed. However they also come with some simple, fairly hard, stick on feet. These would likely work fairly well if you wanted something easy to decouple them a bit. If you want something better, that is included too. They have some extremely heavy duty, height adjustable carpet spikes. They’ll do a great job when the speakers are setting on even extremely thick carpet like I’ve got. One thing I don’t like is that the spikes are gold plated, which really stands in contrast to the rest of the speaker. They should be a blued metal to better match the black speaker.

So far this is good, but it gets better. Along with the spikes come little discs that have sturdy rubber pads on the bottom and metal with a little divot on the top. What this does is let you place these on a hard floor, like tile, and yet achieve extremely good decoupling. The carpet spikes sit in the divots on the pads. This holds the speakers in place quite well, and allows for a minimal amount of vibrations to be transmitted.

Finally, the speakers come with sturdy metal crossbars (black thankfully) that can be used to widen the base when used with the spikes. You screw the bars to the speakers, the spikes to the bars. While this certainly doesn’t look as good as putting the spikes directly on the speakers, it is a nice option should not need more stability. Maybe you have little kids that are likely to knock in to the speakers. These will keep them stable.

The presentation is just great over all, some of the best I’ve seen.

Comparison Conclusion

In case you haven’t figured it out, and skipped the executive summary, the answer is that MTS-01 wins handily. If you own 604s and want to upgrade to the 703s, don’t. Get the MTS-01s instead. You will get a better speaker, and do so at half the cost. If you are looking at 604s, don’t, get the MTS-01s, they are an amazing step up and cost the same amount.

At this point, I’ll take a moment to review a couple other aspects of the MTS-01 speakers on their own, not related to B&W.

Customer Service

Normally when you hear someone who just got something talking about customer service, it’s a bad thing. The device was broken due to poor QA and it is a bad situation. Not here.

UPS beat the speakers up pretty bad shipping them to me, lots of damage to the boxes. Because of the superb packaging, there was no physical damage… But there was damage. One of the woofers was knocked slightly out of alignment, which cause the voice coil to rub on the magnet making a buzz. Nothing like getting a new toy and having it broken.

Well, while this set me back a bit in being able to use the speaker, it was no problem in the long run. I contacted SVS about it and they immediately dispatched a new driver, along with comprehensive instructions on how to install it. No fuss, no run around, no charge.

What it comes down to is their service is as good as their presales. They don’t stop caring once they have your money.

Value Calculation

Something that we computer support types (which is what I do for a living) like to do to determine the value you get from an OEM, is look at what you get in comparison to if you built it yourself. See in the computer world, essentially everything is built by someone else. Dell doesn’t build your processor, Intel does, they don’t build your hard drive Western Digital does. These are all parts you can buy yourself. This lets you compare the price you’d pay for DIY to the price they charge you.

Ideally, they offer you as good or better a deal to what you could get. They can do this since OEMs play a lower price. They buy from the manufacturer direct, and they buy in quantity. So what is a $300 processor to you is a $250 processor to Dell.

With speakers this is harder to do since some (like the B&Ws) are all custom and others are not up front about who builds what. However in the case of the MTS-01s, SVS is extremely up front about where they got their components, so we can do just this.

We start off with the drivers. They feature a ScanSpeak tweeter which costs $220 each, and two woofers per speaker costing $55 each. That gives a total driver cost of $620. This is extremely good, meaning about half your money is going in to the drivers, which are of course extremely critical components. Lots of speakers cheap out on drivers, even good ones. For example I really liked the Dunlavy SC-IV speakers, which were $8000 a pair, but they used about a $30 tweeter.

Next up would be the crossover. Here there’s not as much information, SVS doesn’t publish a circuit diagram or name manufacturers of the components, but a look at it tells you it is well built. Now this sort of thing might not sound expensive, it is just a little bit of electronics right? Not so much. Since it is all signal path stuff, the quality of components is critical and component cost can be a ton. High end capacitors can cost a couple of hundred EACH, and crossovers need more than one. Now SVS doesn’t seem to have used stuff this high end, but there’s a good amount of money in each crossover. Each would probably cost you around $200 to build, so $400 total.

That leaves less than $500 for all the rest. The cabinets are built of MDF as one would expect. This isn’t particularly expensive stuff, but isn’t trivial. Also the workmanship on it is quite good, there is internal bracing, and all the openings are precisely custom cut for the components. That isn’t just cosmetic, it helps keep down resonance problems. Building such a cabinet wouldn’t be all that cheap, even if you had the tools. Then there’s the outside. As I said earlier, the texturing is amazing, and the accent panels lovely. Add on to that the nice magnetic grille.

Could you DYI all that for $500? I doubt it. Maybe if you had $50,000+ of equipment but realistically, you’d have to have it done elsewhere which would raise the cost.

So on a pure materials basis; I’d say the MTS-01 has already justified its cost. You just cannot go out and buy parts and build this kind of speaker for much, if any, less.

Of course that is assuming you know how. Unlike computers, there is a good deal of art and science to speaker building, some expertise to design thing well which clearly was present here. This isn’t a speaker that was knocked together from a kit, a preexisting design, some real work went in to making it right. The design isn’t complex but then it shouldn’t be. All the esoteric speaker designs never seem to sound as good as a tested design, and perhaps that’s why you don’t see them in recording studios.

All in all, you really get a lot of value for your money, an amazing amount. Frankly, I’m somewhat surprised they can afford to sell the speakers at this price.


The MTS-01 speakers really are the must buy speakers for this price range in my mind. They are not the best speakers you can get, I’ve heard better for sure. The B&W 800D speakers certainly out class them… However the 800Ds cost north of $15,000. They are also, of course, not the cheapest speakers. $1,500 is not a trivial amount to spend on some towers. What they are is an extremely good value for the money. They are $3,000-4,000 speakers with a $1,500 price tag. THAT makes them worth owning if you are shopping in that range.

More or less I’d say if you are willing to spend $1,500-2,000, you are a fool to not seriously consider these. Even if you are looking to spend $3,000, give the MTS-01s a look. They might not be a whole lot better than what you are looking at, but some of the little things like their tuneability may win them over, and of course saving a grand or two never made anyone unhappy.

I am now going to have to decide in what order I want to replace the rest of my system to become SVS. To quote the Oracle: “For what it’s worth, you’ve made a believer out of me.”

Last edited by Sycraft; 06-20-09 at 06:46 PM. Reason: Fixed a couple typos
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post #2 of 4 Old 06-19-09, 07:41 PM
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Re: SVS MTS-01 vs B&W 604s3

Great review, You did a great job comparing the two and I find it amazing that SVS has made such a great speaker given how much they cost.
I am also a B&W fan but after reading this post I really have to give SVS even more credit than I already have. I love my PB13 ultra and if the day comes that i need to replace my curent speakers I will most likely go with the SVS package.

Home theater:
Onkyo 805, Yamaha YDP2006EQ, Samson Servo 600 amp
3 EV Sentry 500 monitors across the front, 4 Mission 762i's Surrounds, SVS PB13U sub, Panasonic BDT220, Harmony 1100, Nintendo WiiU
Panasonic PT-AE8000 on a 120" 2,35:1 fixed screen

Living room system:
Sherwood/Newcastle R972, Mission 765's, SVS SBS02's, A/D/S MS3u sub, Yamaha YDG2030EQ
Yamaha KX-393 Tape deck, CDC 805 CD changer, Panasonic BD60, Sony turntable PS-T20
Panasonic TC-P50ST60, HD-PVR & WDTV Live, Harmony 900

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post #3 of 4 Old 06-22-09, 12:17 PM
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Re: SVS MTS-01 vs B&W 604s3


Wow! Very well thought out review and comparison. Thanks for sharing your experience and time. I especially liked the Value Calculation portion, a great eye opener and a credit to SVS!



Happy Listening!!! Listen with an open mind and heart!!!
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post #4 of 4 Old 06-24-09, 06:55 AM
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Re: SVS MTS-01 vs B&W 604s3

I am a B&W fans too and have a pair of DM602 bookshelves which I am still using now. Will seriously consider the SVS when I upgrade.
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604s3 , b&w , mts-01

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