I recently picked up some SVS Ultra towers and while I was doing my extensive research Into speakers in this price range I was surprised to see that there were hardly any reviews for these towers. This inspired me to give back to the community and give these towers a user review.
Let me first start by saying I'm not a super audiophile who can tell the difference between $7,000 speaker wire and $7 speaker wire
Audio has been a hobby of mine for the past 8 years and I would say my ears are a little above average(I've trained them a little and spoiled myself by listening to some very nice setups). Enough about me lets get to the speakers!
They arrived on a pallet and were boxed very well as all SVS products are.
The packaging shows a cut-away drawing of the inside. Very cool.
I started my listening tests by first setting them up in my home theater room next to my 6 year old Aperion Intimus 6Ts. If you aren't familiar with the 6Ts they once were Aperions flagship speaker if I recall correctly(now encompassed by the Verus line). They have a 1" silk dome tweeter and two 6.5 inch woofers with a front firing port. The cabinet on the Ultras sounded a bit more dead than the 6Ts when I tapped on the cabinets with my knuckles(a good thing). These cabinets are indeed very thick and well braced.
Let me make a note here and say that my ears are very sensitive to bright speakers and that's why ALL of the speakers I've ever owned used silk domed tweeters. I was deciding between the Ultras and Aperion Verus Grand but went with the Ultras for a few reasons, one of them being that I want to experiment with different speaker designs and tweeter materials. I began by running the MCACC Advanced setup on my "old" Pioneer Elite receiver so I could compare the Ultras to the 6Ts in pure direct mode(no eq) and with MCACC(a more realistic comparison since I always use room correction). All of the music listening was done in 2.0 stereo(no sub, speakers set too full range). I don't subscribe to speaker break in so I jumped right into the comparison. I started by playing some tracks from the Last of The Mohicans soundtrack(not a great recording but I know the music well) in pure direct mode via the 6Ts then as quickly as possible I wired up the Ultras and listened to the same music samples. I also had some family members help me out with the listening tests to make sure i wasn't just hearing things. The difference between the two speakers was fairly significant. The Ultras sounded more open and forward(by forward I mean that the 6Ts sound stage seemed setback further and the Ultras sound stage was closer, not in your face close but out in front of the speakers), both the 6Ts and Ultras sounded quite bright to my ears due to listening to them in pure direct. Either way I was pleased to find that the aluminum dome tweeters in the Ultras were not ear piercingly bright or fatiguing as other metal domed tweeters I've heard, In fact, they were quite neutral. I went ahead and listened to the same content with the room correction settings engaged(I had 2 correction profiles, one for each speaker). This of course made everything sound much better. My initial impressions remained, the Ultras were still more open and detailed than the 6Ts, everything just sounded better over all after MCACC did its thing.
Next I went ahead and switched gears to some EDM. I mostly listen to Techno, house etc so how these speakers preformed on this type of music was important to me. Again, the Ultras were more open, detailed and forward with more "sparkle". I thought they were going to have way more bass than the 6Ts due to the quad 8" woofers but in this large room(25x20ft) the difference on this material was minor. The Ultras seemed to image a bit better and they seemed to have a bigger sweet spot.
As far as music went I was satisfied that the Ultras were appreciably better than the 6Ts. Next I dusted off my THX demo disk and ran through some of the movie test samples in 2.0 Stereo. Here is where the Ultra Towers low end became more apparent. Explosions packed a bit more punch but more significantly you could tell there were more sub-bass frequencies being portrayed. The bass of the 6Ts was admirable and actually impressed me. I would say the bass of the Ultras was a bit more tight than the 6Ts. One of the biggest differences I noticed was that the voices on the Ultras were more clear, and sound effects like glass breaking seemed more sharp. Again the Ultras take the cake in my book.
Satisfied with my listening tests in the home theater I went ahead and moved them to their final resting place. My bedroom(for now, when I move to an apartment where I no longer have a HT they will be in the family room/den). My bedroom is not very large, it's about 12ftx15ft so the Ultras really dominated the space(which I don't mind since they are gorgeous IMO). However, I must admit they look a bit out of place due to their size. Unfortunately, due to my room layout I wasn't able to position them very well....so I went ahead and took everything out of the room(including the bed) and assembled the room around the speakers which allowed me to position them as wide and as far away from the walls as I can(my girlfriend was NOT pleased with the new room layout, she said she didn't care how good the speakers sounded she hated it
) They are about 6ft apart and only 6 inches away from the back wall and maybe a foot away from the side wall. These baby's need more room to breath. When I pick up a new receiver with Audessy XT32 that should help a bit but for now I have an old bottom shelf Onkyo receiver that came with my HTIB system the Ultras are replacing. For now though I'm stuck with this crappy receiver. I fully understand that my room and the receiver are holding these speakers back. Since I only watch TV in my room and listen to music that's what I'll be testing.
These towers make my tiny TV look even smaller!
Right away I noticed that the sound quality was significantly diminished when moved these speakers into my bedroom. They sounded flat and less clear than in the big HT. Needless to say I was disappointed in the sonic downgrade but it was to be expected when putting these speakers in a suboptimal location in a suboptimal room with a fairly low quality receiver and no room correction software. I will update my review when I pick up my Onkyo 818 in a couple weeks. One thing I can say is that these two towers alone pump out plenty of bass in smaller rooms. I was surprised. The towers actually sound better alone than when paired with a 10" SVS PBNSD10. That's probably due to better bass loading I.e. having multiple drivers in 2 locations vs 1. The bass is very tight even though they are back up so close to the wall. I experimented a bit using the foam plugs provided for the rear port but didn't hear a night and day difference. More experimentation is needed.
So far, this is what I perceive:
For Aluminum dome tweeters these speakers are very neutral. I havent detected any sibilance yet. I have my 2 band EQ set to treble -4, bass +2. Remember i prefer speakers with a warm, easy to listen to sound. We will have to wait and see how they sound like with Audessy.
They image very well. I noticed when watching TV it sounded like the TV speakers were on.
They appear to have a great big sweet spot. You can move around and still get great sound.
The cabinet is well constructed and the finish is almost flawless(mine had some slight swirl marks i.e. light scratches, but they aren't visible under normal conditions so it doesn't really matter much).
I wanted to note that Ive called SVS a few times and have noticed the guy who answers their phone(Doug I think?) needs to be a little more friendly. I've only called SVS a handful of times. I've mostly talked to them while I was deciding between the Ultras and the Aperion VGTs. The guy at SVS wasn't quite as helpful as the folks over at Apeion. I found that the guys at Aperion didn't mind chatting and providing me with their opinions where as the guy at SVS seemed to want to get off the phone as quickly as possible. The first time I though maybe he was just having a rough day or they were swamped but I've noticed it every time I've called. I'm not saying this to bash SVS(I love their stuff and I think they are a great company), I'm mentioning this so that it can be taken as constructive criticism. In the end I'm sure SVS would stand behind their stuff and what really matters is the quality of their product but sometimes it's nice to call and get answers from someone who's friendly.
I will update the review as I learn more.