SVS Prime Satellite 5.1 System
by Dennis Young
SVS is a name many of us are familiar with, a name that is destined to become more familiar, even with the big box store crowd. Synonymous with subwoofers, and recently with speakers, SVS has been slowly but surely expanding their loudspeaker moxie. The Prime Series is the next step in that evolution.
Prime is an entirely new line for SVS, slotted under the flagship Ultra line, using filter down technology to bring exceptional value to us, the consumer.
The SVS Satellite Prime is a rear ported two-way dome and cone monitor, with the 1" aluminum dome crossing over @ 2.3 kHz (12 dB/octave slopes) to a 4 1/2" poly cone woofer. The tweeter uses an FEA-optimized diffuser, said to lend an airy and unveiled presentation. The FEA-optimized cabinets are finished in Black Ash, having angular, chamfered baffles, which helps defeat edge diffraction. An optional Piano Gloss Black finish is available.
The SB-1000 subwoofer features a 12" driver with FEA-optimized motor technology. A conservatively rated 300 watt (720 watts peak) amp powers the bass system. The compact enclosure is also finished in a handsome Black Ash veneer. Piano White is available.
Further insight can be found at this SVS resource, a Q/A conversation with the engineer/designer of the Prime Series.
The five SVS Prime Satellites arrived packed in two separate boxes, which SVS intelligently boxes in twos and threes for stereo, 5.0, 7.0 or more. Large Styrofoam inserts protect the ends, providing a cushion of air around the sides. The subwoofer was double boxed and cradled in thick Styrofoam, with a third layer(!!!) of cardboard protecting the top and bottom... nice job! Grills, instruction manuals and warranty cards along with little rubber feet for the Satellites and power cord for the sub were included.
Evaluation Equipment and Setup
• Sources - h/k TC35C, Ortofon OM 10 Super, Phono Box S/Marantz VC6001/Sony BDP S590
• Amplification - Sherwood Newcastle R-972
• Cabling - MIT AVt 1 Interconnect, MIT AVt 1 Speaker Cables, Monoprice HDMI
• Wood Technology 24" stands
• Subwoofer Augmentation - Chase Home Theater VS-18.1 (duals), Dayton SA1000 Subwoofer Amplifier
• Light 2" Foam Treatments (Reduce Flutter Echo)
The Prime Satellites were placed about 6 1/2 feet apart, mounted on 24 inch high wooden stands, center of front baffles placed 41 inches from the front wall and well away from the side walls. The center fit very neatly right in front of the shelf that holds my HDTV, I simply laid it on it's side for movies and stood it upright for music only listening.
The SB-1000 was placed 4 feet from the front wall and about a foot off the left wall, a good place in my room for physical time alignment with the Satellites and boundary reinforcement for the sub. I tried crossover points ranging from 60 Hz up to 120 Hz., all working successfully, so I settled on the standard 80 Hz for most of the review.
I started off this review expecting to make a comparison to the little cube type HTIB systems. That notion was quickly dispelled. There is no comparison. Within a few short moments of play, stone cold, right out of the box, the Prime 5.0 (for a quick listen, I started with my already integrated subs) took command of the room. The tweeter's diffuser and diffraction free baffle had the Primes throwing up a surprisingly large sound.
A wide and deep soundstage was presented to me, with some instruments located well behind and outside of the speakers' plane. While the soundstage was deep when the recording called for it, the Satellites were still able to place the lead singer front and center in the mix. Higher level listening was nice and clean, while the onset of the Satellite's limits were easy to hear coming on, which I'll detail below.
I found the Primes reproduction of the highs to be very interesting, especially for a budget model. The tweeter started off with a tad bit of bite, which smoothed itself out over time. A week into the review period any trace of sibilance was gone. What remains is a very detailed sound. Small scale, micro-dynamic high frequency sounds come through even the busiest, most complicated mix.
Ports, when I held my hand up to them, always seemed to be moving considerable air, but without any perceivable chuffing. Pushing the Prime Satellites hard never caused them to bottom, the aluminum shorting ring preventing that. When cranked up past their comfort zone, the Primes simply get a little rough all around, the mid bass, mids and highs all start to get a little ragged and images starting to blur around the edges ever so slightly. The Prime has so much detail that it is easy to hear the limits coming on. So slight is the effect that one can easily push them a little harder and still get some usable "oomph" out of them, which is useful in a home theater situation. For music, I found them more enjoyable in their comfort zone, understanding that extreme levels out of a design as small as this just isn't going to physically happen. I will say that SVS wrung as much out of this size of speaker as is humanly possible! Leaning slightly toward the warm side in the midbass and mids, the highs just a touch bright without being overly analytical. It is a good balance, one that gives this little monitor a big sound.
Easy to hook up, I just plugged into the subwoofer's LFE input and played with the level control until I found equilibrium with the main's level. It only took about 3 hours of playtime to break in the sub, bass becoming tight and tuneful.
Able to reproduce lower frequencies with movies while remaining invisible playing music. The SB-1000 does not draw attention to itself, just accompanies the mains, making the Satellites seem larger than they are. Tight with no overhang, subdued in the tradition of sealed subs, but able to bring it and surprise when deep bass content is presented to it.
DSOTM SACD 5.1 surround - Playing the song "Money", the panning cash register sounds were all localized, as should be, exactly at each speaker position as the sound bounced from front to back and side to side. When the guitars kicks in on the center channel, depth was added to the front stage, the instrument located a couple of feet behind the physical placement of the Prime Satellite. When Gilmore starts singing, the vocals are presented correctly, front and center, big and bold. The mid song sax solo was presented with the almost the proper amount of bite, softened only by the inability of the Prime to play at really high levels.
It was not my intent, but I did sit and listen to this album all the way through, so much fun I was having.
Monster Magnet "Powertrip" Redbook CD - On track 3, "Space Lord", the background rhythm guitar was brought forth in the mix by the Satellites, I never really noticed that there, before. The detail these little speakers are able to bring forth is really amazing.
Pandora - Stereo listening to various tracks, the Primes are fully capable of revealing the data lossy/compressed nature of this streaming medium. Still, when well recorded songs like David Bowie's "I'm Afraid of Americans (Nine Inch Nails V1 Mix)" were played, I was able to crank up the volume knob and enjoy, the heavy, deep bass was reproduced by the SB-1000 subwoofer with suprising authority.
Gary Numan "Cars" is one of my favorite songs, ever. The SB-1000 reproduces the left hand on keys notes, lower registers ascending and falling with zero blur or bloat. Musical! This is the little sub that could.
Pink Floyd "Things Left Unsaid" Blu-ray 5.1, sounds completely detached from the speakers, truly holographic sound. On "Skins", the sticks hitting the drum heads was distinct from the sound reverberation in the shell. The new Pink Floyd is a fantastic recording and the Prime Satellite 5.1 let the quality shine through.
Sade "Promise" Vinyl - Getting my vinyl fix was easy with the Prime Satellites and SB-1000 subwoofer. Sade's sultry voice and the band's infectious groove on "Never as Good as the First Time" had me tapping my toe, the experience also led to both sides of the album being played in their entirety.
Prometheus Blu-ray - The start of this flick is very demanding, especially for subwoofers. The SB-1000 lent a palpable weight to the thrumming UFO mothership and rumble of the waterfall. Never did I hear the SVS sub cry "Uncle!", the protection circuitry did it's job admirably. One does not have to worry about hurting the SB-1000.
Metallica "Through The Never" Blu-ray - The quality of this recording is very high. The bass, like Prometheus, will tax your system. The SB-1000, once again, came "through the never" completely unscathed. I showed the Prime Satellite 5.1 system off to visitors with this disc, and each one was impressed, A/V enthusiast and non-enthusiast alike. While not quite able to reach reference, satisfying levels were reached, but the characteristic most noticeable to me was the very large soundstage, transporting me to the event, immersing me as if I was there. Yes, like my guests, I was impressed, too!
Prime Satellites: A great introduction to the world of performance music and home theater surround sound. Articulate vocals and effects for home theater, and musicality that makes listening to your favorites tunes a delight. There are limitations to a system this size, but the Prime punches well above it's weight class. I'll go so far as to say that the Prime Satellite defines it's class.
SB-1000: Highly recommended for music listening and small to medium sized rooms. Able to fill in the lower frequencies with movies while remaining invisible playing music. Not drawing attention to itself, just accompanying the mains, making the Satellites seem larger than they are. Tight with no overhang, subdued in the tradition of sealed subs, but able to surprise when deep bass content is presented to it.
This medium sized subwoofer was not quite able to pressurize my open floor plan room, but to be realistic, that would be asking too much for any single sealed 12" sub. I did hear the SB-1000 at the 2014 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest show, and it was fully capable of pressurizing the sealed, medium sized hotel room to my satisfaction. I remember being very impressed with this small sub that day.
The SB-1000 is a very decent effort for it's size and in it's price range, but I feel the mains can use a sub with more output. The Prime Satellites deserve it, too. If the system leans more towards HT than music, then look at getting two of these or better still, look to one or two of SVS's ported subs. I'm of the mind that the PB-2000 or PC-2000 would be a perfect match with the Satellites.
I also tried the SB-1000 with my reference speakers. It was fully able to fill in the bottom end of these more sensitive loudspeakers, maintaining the tight, tuneful impression given with the Prime Satellites.
The Prime Satellite 5.1 System Summary
The primary question I had, is this a music or HT system? Turns out, it is both. $1k shipped to your door (free shipping in the contiguous) with the SVS Bill of Rights and generous trade up program makes it a high value, zero risk alternative to milquetoast Big Box store offerings.
Please use the SVS Prime Satellite 5.1 System Discussion Thread for question and comments.