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post #1 of 59 Old 09-19-2015, 08:42 AM - Thread Starter
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SVS Prime 5.1.4 Atmos Speaker System Review

SVS Prime speakers are a surefire way to get high performance for your speaker-buying dollar. I know this because each time I review a Prime-based system, I have to remind myself that many speakers from other companies—sometimes costing twice as much or more for equivalent models—don't offer the looks or performance of the Primes. When writing reviews of Prime-based systems, I've consistently found myself involved in engaging—and sometimes outright awesome—listening experiences.

The process of evaluating multiple Prime-based systems has resulted in the right speakers being in the right place at the right time to put together a killer 5.1.4 Atmos-capable system. While I already knew the individual Prime components perform at a very high level, I thought it would be a shame to send all those speakers back to SVS without testing an Atmos configuration.


Here's a look at the front channels of the system including one of the Atmos height channels.

I called SVS and asked how I might go about creating an Atmos setup using the Prime Satellites as height speakers. Tech support suggested wall mounting the Satellites as high as I could, just below the ceiling. I took the advice, even though it's technically not an "official" Atmos speaker configuration. Notably, I have attended DTS:X demos that used the same speaker layout. Regardless, what matters is whether the configuration actually worked. Did it? Read on to find out...

Features

The Prime series is the more affordable of the two speaker lines offered by SVS Sound, the other being the Ultra series. It consists of four different models, the Tower, Center, Bookshelf, and Satellite.

The Prime Tower ($600 each) served as the front left and right speaker for this review. It features a 3.5-way design, which assigns a different crossover point to each woofer to suppress lobing. The speaker utilizes the 1" aluminum-dome tweeter that's used throughout the Prime lineup, a 4.5" polypropylene midrange driver, and a pair of 6.5" woofers with a long-stroke suspension. Each woofer operates in a separate vented chamber, isolating it from the other drivers.

The Tower tips the scales at 40 pounds and measures 36.6" x 8" x 11.6". SVS lists a frequency response of 30-25,000 Hz (+/-3 dB), and rated sensitivity is 87 dB/W/m. Each speaker can handle up to 250 watts of amplification and exhibits 8-ohm nominal impedance. There is no provision for bi-amping or bi-wiring, but the binding posts are easily accessible and accommodate banana plugs.

The Prime Bookshelf ($300 each) is a handsome 2-way design that employs the ubiquitous 1" aluminum-dome tweeter. I used it for the surround speakers in this system. It sports a 6.5" woofer and a second-order crossover centered at 2300 Hz. It is an 8-ohm speaker with a rated sensitivity of 87 dB/W/m.

The Bookshelf can handle up to 150 watts of amplification and weighs 15.5 pounds while measuring 13.3" x 8" x 10.3". The cabinet includes a rear-venting tuned port.

The Prime Center ($450) features a sophisticated 3-way design with a vertically aligned 1" dome tweeter and 3.5" midrange flanked by a pair of 5.5" woofers. Each woofer in the Center operates in a discrete vented chamber. The midrange driver handles frequencies between 300 Hz and 2400 Hz. The result is a center-channel speaker that avoids the lobing issues in 2-way MTM (midwoofer-tweeter-midwoofer) designs. The Center measures 7.7" x 18.6" x 9.2".

The Prime Satellite ($175 each in Piano Gloss Black) is a compact 2-way design that uses the same aluminum-dome tweeter as the rest of the Prime line. I used four Satellites as Atmos height channels. This small but gutsy speaker features the same 4.5-inch Peerless driver used as a midrange on the Prime Towers. However, with the Satellites, it handles both midrange and bass.

SVS rates the Prime Satellite's frequency response from 69 Hz to 25 kHz (+/-3 dB) and power handling at 150 Watts with an 8-ohm load. The speaker's sensitivity rating is 85 dB/W/m. Each Prime Satellite weighs 6.5 pounds and measures 8.85" x 4.9" x 6.3" (including the cloth grill and rubber feet), and the cabinet includes a rear-venting tuned port.

The sealed SB-2000 ($800) is a very competent and comparatively compact sub. The enclosure measures 14.6" (H) x 14.2" (W) x 15.4" (D), and it weighs 34.8 pounds. SVS rates the frequency response from 19 Hz to 220 Hz (+/-3 dB) and the company rightly notes that room gain may result in some additional low-frequency extension.

A 500-watt amplifier (1100W peak) powers a 2000-series 12" aluminum-cone driver. The amp offers a set of stereo line-level RCA inputs and outputs, while the right-channel input doubles as an LFE input.


Pictured here are all the speakers that made up the system.

The cabinets on all my demo units—including the sub—feature a Piano Gloss Black finish, and the listed prices reflect that. A Black Ash finish is also available at a lower cost.

Setup

I placed the front channels and surrounds in a 5.1 configuration, with the center of my couch serving as the main listening position. Then, I mounted the four Satellites eight feet up on the walls—as close to the ceiling as possible. Additionally, I pointed the front height channels toward the primary listening position. I tucked the SB-2000 subwoofer into the front-left corner of the room.

The front left, center, and right speakers were each located eight feet away from the sweet spot. The left and right speakers were situated 7'6" apart from each other, with the center directly between them. The surround speakers were located to the sides and just behind the couch. Each surround was about six feet away from the sweet spot.

I used my Pioneer Elite SC-85 AVR to perform all audio processing and room correction. The Elite AVR handled amplification for the height channels, while a Crestron Procise ProAmp 7X250 provided amplification for the other five channels. I chose an 80 Hz crossover for the subwoofer, and set all the speakers sizes to "small."

Pioneer's MCACC Pro room correction did a great job of setting speaker distances and levels as well as a good job of taming the peaks in bass response that result from room modes. After running the automated setup, I performed a few measurements using Room EQ Wizard (REW) to confirm its effectiveness. Ultimately, I felt satisfied that the system did not require readjustment.

A Samsung BD-H6600 Blu-ray player served as the source for Atmos content. My formal evaluation used the January 2015 Dolby Atmos demo Blu-ray, which includes several Atmos trailers as well as clips from Transformers: Age of Extinction, Where the Trail Ends, and On Any Sunday: The Next Chapter. The disc also contains Enrique Iglesias' "Bailando" video with the music mixed in Atmos. Additionally, I watched the final chase sequence in Mad Max: Fury Road multiple times. Ralph Potts' recent review of the Fury Road Blu-ray says it possesses the best Atmos mix to date, so I've added it to my review rotation.

Performance

Let's go straight to the point: This system sounded excellent reproducing immersive audio. As far as Atmos 5.1.4 systems go, it offers an extremely high performance/price ratio. None of this came as a huge surprise to me, since I've already reviewed all the speakers contained in the system, except for the SB-2000 sub.

The Prime Tower, Center, and Bookshelf speakers put on a great show. All are capable of clear, loud, dynamic, and precise audio reproduction, and they look good doing it. Indeed, one of the best things about the Prime system is that you do not sacrifice build quality or aesthetics for such a low price.

The power of the Towers takes this system to another level. During action movies, there was a lot of adrenaline rush thanks to the crisp delivery of sound effects and soundtracks. Plus, the Center was no slouch when it came to pumping out great cinema sound. The Center kept up with the Towers in terms of output; thanks to its 3-way design that reduces lobing, movie and TV dialog was very clear.

The Prime Satellites turned out to be an excellent choice for use as Atmos height speakers. The suggestion SVS offered—to mount them on the walls, just underneath the ceiling—worked like a charm. The demos on the Dolby Atmos disc offered immediate gratification in the form of an immersive 3D soundfield. I perceived a superior sense of height—with greater precision in terms of object tracking and an enhanced sense of space from ambient sounds—than what I heard from the Pioneer Elite Atmos speaker system I reviewed earlier this year. I suspect the superior performance is the result of using speakers mounted at ceiling height—instead of reflected sound—for the height channels.

The biggest surprise in terms of performance is how well the single SB-2000 subwoofer handled its bass duties. I must admit, I underestimated the potency of that subwoofer based on its compact size and affordable price; its performance was quite impressive. In-room measurements and ears-on scrutiny from the main listening position revealed audible output down to 16 Hz, useful output down to 18 Hz, and strong output from about 22 Hz on up.

The subwoofer does have its limits; when you push it hard and approach reference levels with content that digs down to 20 Hz or below, you run into the inherent limits of what a single, sealed 12-inch subwoofer can do. As long as your room isn't of palatial dimensions, and you are not watching War of the Worlds nightly at reference levels, the SB-2000 is more than enough sub to reproduce music and movies at very satisfying volume levels. Moreover, you can always double up if you want more (and smoother) bass—the SB-2000 is certainly of sufficient fidelity that investing in multiple units would be very rewarding.

Listening

The main thing I listen for in an Atmos speaker system is whether or not it can provide a complete sense of immersion. An ideal system is one that nails the reproduction of both ambience and discrete sounds, without ever drawing your attention to the speakers. The good news is the SVS system was quite effective at rendering a realistic dome of sound.

The Dolby Atmos demo Blu-ray serves as a very useful reference for subjective comparisons. I've heard the trailers from that disc on over 20 different Atmos-capable systems. Overall, I thought the SVS rig was very successful at creating a complete sense of audio envelopment. The Enrique Iglesias "Bailando" video possessed the same snappy sound and immersive effect that made it a crowd favorite at CEDIA 2014. The catch is the SVS Prime system costs less than any 5.1.4 speaker system I heard at that show.

Perhaps the most outstanding quality of the Prime rig was how it handled playback at low to moderate volume levels. Not only did it preserve crucial details—movie dialog remained clear—but I could also feel the impact of blasts, gunshots, door slams, and other sound effects that have a tactile element to them—even at what I'd consider late-night levels. You don't have to crank the volume to hear deep into the mix. Nevertheless, with this system, there is sufficient headroom to satisfy people who enjoy playing music and movies loud.

In order to get a good sense of how much intensity the system could handle, I played the final chase sequence in Mad Max: Fury Road multiple times, at various volume levels, with and without Atmos activated. Despite my statements in the previous paragraph, there's no question about it—while the Prime 5.1.4 system is notably good at modest volume levels, the greatest satisfaction came from cranking it up and letting it flex its muscles.

The verisimilitude achieved by the Prime 5.1.4 system when watching Mad Max: Fury Road at roughly reference levels triggered an acute case of dropped-jaw syndrome. It also provoked several outbreaks of goose bumps—always a good sign. Ultimately, it was the resolution of the speakers that most impressed me. There are many discrete sounds to keep track of in the midst of the furious Mad Max action; the Primes parsed it all out, which helped amplify the already extreme intensity of the film.

Another Atmos scene that I found quite compelling is the opening scene of The Expendables 3. It features an elaborate chase sequence that includes a train and a helicopter. The helicopter is of greatest interest, providing plenty of opportunity for pronounced overhead panning effects. It's also the sort of scene you watch with the volume turned up to 11! I'm happy to report that the SVS system managed to make the most of the macho mayhem and rendered that helicopter perfectly.

Last but not least, I'm a big fan of using the Dolby Surround Atmos upmixer with music. This SVS prime system managed to make the most of the effect, rendering an accurate front stage while performing excellent ambience extraction. When listening to good recordings, I was transported to various venues, from small clubs to concert halls. The system rendered the ambience with great fidelity, and the Satellites were never localizable. The ability to perfectly emulate jazz clubs in live recordings was one of the Prime system's most beguiling qualities.

Conclusion

SVS has achieved a great balance of price, performance, aesthetics, and physical size with its Prime-series speakers. The company also has a reputation for building great subwoofers, and nothing I've heard coming from it contradicts that.

When I put this system together, I was already optimistic about its performance potential thanks to my prior Prime series speaker reviews. Still, it was my first time using standard satellite speakers in the Dolby Atmos configuration. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I quickly discovered that it was as effective as any approach to Atmos immersion I've heard before.

I highly recommend SVS Prime speakers for surround applications, including Atmos. It's fairly amazing that Prime is the least expensive line of speakers I've reviewed this year. When I look at them and listen to them, I tend to forget how affordable they are. There's simply no sign of any cut corners; SVS Prime speakers exude nothing but pure competence with style to match. It is an Atmos-compatible speaker system that I am going to miss listening to.

Check out my other reviews of SVS Prime speakers:

SVS Prime Tower Speakers Review
SVS Prime Bookshelf 5.1 System Review
SVS Prime Satellite 5.1 System Review


REVIEW SYSTEM

Source

Samsung BD-H6600 Blu-ray player

Amplification and Processing

Pioneer Elite SC-85 AVR
Crestron Procise ProAmp 7X250 Amplifier

Cables

Monoprice 12-gauge OFC speaker cables
Mediabridge Ultra Series HDMI cable
Monoprice RCA-to-XLR interconnects

Mark Henninger

Last edited by imagic; 09-21-2015 at 09:34 AM.
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post #2 of 59 Old 09-19-2015, 09:10 AM
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Thanks for the review, Mark.

I'm a little surprised to learn that wall-mounting satellites still delivers a satisfying Atmos experience - I will have to keep this thought in mind for my own living room setup
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post #3 of 59 Old 09-19-2015, 09:27 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the review, Mark.

I'm a little surprised to learn that wall-mounting satellites still delivers a satisfying Atmos experience - I will have to keep this thought in mind for my own living room setup
I suspect it's because the dimensions of my room are amenable to making this kind of speaker configuration work. In a wider room, mounting the speakers on the ceiling could be the best bet.
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post #4 of 59 Old 09-19-2015, 11:43 AM
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Nice. I'm still waiting for good speakers that can be mounted to the ceiling (without cutting holes). It's still good to see other options.
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post #5 of 59 Old 09-19-2015, 01:40 PM - Thread Starter
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Nice. I'm still waiting for good speakers that can be mounted to the ceiling (without cutting holes). It's still good to see other options.
Assuredly, so am I. I rent so no holes in the ceiling for me. Nevertheless, I prefer in-ceiling to reflected Atmos height channels.

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post #6 of 59 Old 09-19-2015, 01:54 PM
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The extra channels of Atmos or Auro are clearly noticeable compared to prior formats. I would still highly recommend actual channels... High dynamic range speakers preferably wherever possible.
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post #7 of 59 Old 09-19-2015, 04:26 PM
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Mark, is that Dr. Dre and The Fugees album i see?

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Quote:
Originally Posted by tezster View Post
Thanks for the review, Mark.

I'm a little surprised to learn that wall-mounting satellites still delivers a satisfying Atmos experience - I will have to keep this thought in mind for my own living room setup
Quote:
Originally Posted by imagic View Post
I suspect it's because the dimensions of my room are amenable to making this kind of speaker configuration work. In a wider room, mounting the speakers on the ceiling could be the best bet.
Great review as usual Mark. I'm a big fan of SVS, so I was happy to read the glowing account of the speakers in your review. I was also delighted to hear that wall mounting the speakers is an option for those of us who may not be able to ceiling mount Atmos speakers. Can you please let us know how wide your room is and at what width you think that ceiling mounting the speakers will be the better option? I'm just trying to figure out what would make sense in my room.


Thanks again for a great review.


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post #9 of 59 Old 09-19-2015, 04:32 PM - Thread Starter
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Great review as usual Mark. I'm a big fan of SVS, so I was happy to read the glowing account of the speakers in your review. I was also delighted to hear that wall mounting the speakers is an option for those of us who may not be able to ceiling mount Atmos speakers. Can you please let us know how wide your room is and at what width you think that ceiling mounting the speakers will be the better option? I'm just trying to figure out what would make sense in my room.


Thanks again for a great review.


Cal68
My room is 11' x 19' x 9'. I actually have no idea at what point the effect would be diminished such that you would not want to take this approach. Perhaps around 14-15 feet wide with an 8-foot ceiling would begin to push it? I wish I could experiment, but I live in a Philly row house so all the rooms are 11 feet wide.

One thing to note is that I've seen/heard DTS:X speaker rigs that use the exact layout I used for this Atmos rig and those worked great.

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post #10 of 59 Old 09-19-2015, 04:34 PM
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Quote:
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My room is 11' x 19' x 9'. I actually have no idea at what point the effect would be diminished such that you would not want to take this approach. Perhaps around 14-15 feet wide with an 8-foot ceiling would begin to push it? I wish I could experiment, but I live in a Philly row house so all the rooms are 11 feet wide.

One thing to note is that I've seen/heard DTS:X speaker rigs that use the exact layout I used for this Atmos rig and those worked great.
Thanks Mark. I'll need to get out the measuring tape now!


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post #11 of 59 Old 09-19-2015, 04:40 PM
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The biggest surprise in terms of performance is how well the single SB-2000 subwoofer handled its bass duties. I must admit, I underestimated the potency of that subwoofer based on its compact size and affordable price; its performance was quite impressive. In-room measurements and ears-on scrutiny from the main listening position revealed audible output down to 16 Hz, useful output down to 18 Hz, and strong output from about 22 Hz on up.
Yep. Alot of people say this. I get 95db at 15hz and over 100db at 20hz and up in my room without EQ. The sub is definitely keeping me satisfied.

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One thing to note is that I've seen/heard DTS:X speaker rigs that use the exact layout I used for this Atmos rig and those worked great.
That is because the layout of your system resembles a DTS:X placement more than an Atmos placement. While your system may have been immersive, it is not following Atmos guidelines for speaker placement. This review resembles a ham-fisted attempt for SVS to cash in on Atmos without having the correct products to do it with. "Atmos made easy!" except it's not really Atmos.
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post #13 of 59 Old 09-19-2015, 05:23 PM - Thread Starter
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That is because the layout of your system resembles a DTS:X placement more than an Atmos placement. While your system may have been immersive, it is not following Atmos guidelines for speaker placement. This review resembles a ham-fisted attempt for SVS to cash in on Atmos without having the correct products to do it with. "Atmos made easy!" except it's not really Atmos.
If it works, it's not all that important if it meets the guidelines. What matters is if it achieves the desired effect, which it does. Seriously now, you can buy any speaker system and add reflective sound modules from the companies that make 'em and get an inferior result while still meeting Dolby's guidelines. And with brackets you can mount any satellites you want to the ceiling, including these Prime Satellites—which would meet the guidelines.

Going forward, I think you'll see more and more speaker Atmos configurations that are "outside the box"—so to speak—that still work in the sense of producing the desired result of immersion with height. Indeed, I know that to be the case because I've already done some experimenting, and I've talked to other testers/reviewers and speaker designers about the topic. Suffice to say, I would not have done this if it was "ham-fisted." Indeed, it was my suggestion to do this, not SVS.

Crucially, I'd argue that it is ridiculous to have front height in-ceiling speakers that fire straight down. That's not going to give the listener an optimum experience, you are listening to off-axis response. It's much better for the front heights to be aimed at the listener. The SVS rig sounded better than at least some reflected-sound "Atmos Enabled" rigs, which (as noted) technically meet guidelines. So there's that.

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I haven't seen brackets meant to mount bookshelf speakers facing down from a ceiling. You could probably accomplish that result by using projector mounts on the speakers though. As for 'desired effect', it has to be said here that desired effect is not the same thing as intended effect. Your system might grant you as a consumer the effect you desire, but it will not be the effect intended by the film makers.
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I haven't seen brackets meant to mount bookshelf speakers facing down from a ceiling. You could probably accomplish that result by using projector mounts on the speakers though. As for 'desired effect', it has to be said here that desired effect is not the same thing as intended effect. Your system might grant you as a consumer the effect you desire, but it will not be the effect intended by the film makers.
Lol. I am not a consumer and that's not my system per se. It is a system put together from various systems that I requested, so I could review them. I mentioned that in the original post.

I've done my leg work, I know that I'm hearing what the filmmakers intended because I can compare this system to both an in-ceiling rig and a reflected sound rig, since I have all three on-hand.

Luckily I've also heard many Atmos rigs in multiple locations (including CEDIA), talked with Dolby engineers, visited Dolby's labs, chatted with well-known speaker designers about their Atmos systems, and have set up multiple Atmos speaker systems from various manufacturers in my studio. Crucially, I use the same demo loops/trailers to judge consistency and effectiveness. Basically, I've been on top of Atmos from day one.

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Thanks for your review, Mark.

I'd like to ask, what were the exact positions you assigned to the Atmos Satellite speakers? Front Height and Top Middle? Front Height and Top Rear? Something else?


Thanks!
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post #17 of 59 Old 09-19-2015, 08:54 PM
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SVS Prime speakers are a surefire way to get high performance for your speaker-buying dollar. I know this because each time I review a Prime-based system, I have to remind myself that many speakers from other companies—sometimes costing twice as much or more for equivalent models—don't offer the looks or performance of the Primes. When writing reviews of Prime-based systems, I've consistently found myself involved in engaging—and sometimes outright awesome—listening experiences.

The process of evaluating multiple Prime-based systems has resulted in the right speakers being in the right place at the right time to put together a killer 5.1.4 Atmos-capable system. While I already knew the individual Prime components perform at a very high level, I thought it would be a shame to send all those speakers back to SVS without testing an Atmos configuration.


Here's a look at the front channels of the system including one of the Atmos height channels.

I called SVS and asked how I might go about creating an Atmos setup using the Prime Satellites as height speakers. Tech support suggested wall mounting the Satellites as high as I could, just below the ceiling. I took the advice, even though it's technically not an "official" Atmos speaker configuration. Notably, I have attended DTS:X demos that used the same speaker layout. Regardless, what matters is whether the configuration actually worked. Did it? Read on to find out...

Features

The Prime series is the more affordable to the two speaker lines offered by SVS Sound, the other being the Ultra series. It consists of four different models, the Tower, Center, Bookshelf, and Satellite.

The Prime Tower ($600 each) served as the front left and right speaker for this review. It features a 3.5-way design, which assigns a different crossover point to each woofer to suppress lobing. The speaker utilizes the 1" aluminum-dome tweeter that's used throughout the Prime lineup, a 4.5" polypropylene midrange driver, and a pair of 6.5" woofers with a long-stroke suspension. Each woofer operates in a separate vented chamber, isolating it from the other drivers.

The Tower tips the scales at 40 pounds and measures 36.6" x 8" x 11.6". SVS lists a frequency response of 30-25,000 Hz (+/-3 dB), and rated sensitivity is 87 dB/W/m. Each speaker can handle up to 250 watts of amplification and exhibits 8-ohm nominal impedance. There is no provision for bi-amping or bi-wiring, but the binding posts are easily accessible and accommodate banana plugs.

The Prime Bookshelf ($300 each) is a handsome 2-way design that employs the ubiquitous 1" aluminum-dome tweeter. I used it for the surround speakers in this system. It sports a 6.5" woofer and a second-order crossover centered at 2300 Hz. It is an 8-ohm speaker with a rated sensitivity of 87 dB/W/m.

The Bookshelf can handle up to 150 watts of amplification and weighs 15.5 pounds while measuring 13.3" x 8" x 10.3". The cabinet includes a rear-venting tuned port.

The Prime Center ($450) features a sophisticated 3-way design with a vertically aligned 1" dome tweeter and 3.5" midrange flanked by a pair of 5.5" woofers. Each woofer in the Center operates in a discrete vented chamber. The midrange driver handles frequencies between 300 Hz and 2400 Hz. The result is a center-channel speaker that avoids the lobing issues in 2-way MTM (midwoofer-tweeter-midwoofer) designs. The Center measures 7.7" x 18.6" x 9.2".

The Prime Satellite ($175 each in Piano Gloss Black) is a compact 2-way design that uses the same aluminum-dome tweeter as the rest of the Prime line. I used four Satellites as Atmos height channels. This small but gutsy speaker features the same 4.5-inch Peerless driver used as a midrange on the Prime Towers. However, with the Satellites, it handles both midrange and bass.

SVS rates the Prime Satellite's frequency response from 69 Hz to 25 kHz (+/-3 dB) and power handling at 150 Watts with an 8-ohm load. The speaker's sensitivity rating is 85 dB/W/m. Each Prime Satellite weighs 6.5 pounds and measures 8.85" x 4.9" x 6.3" (including the cloth grill and rubber feet), and the cabinet includes a rear-venting tuned port.

The sealed SB-2000 ($800) is a very competent and comparatively compact sub. The enclosure measures 14.6" (H) x 14.2" (W) x 15.4" (D), and it weighs 34.8 pounds. SVS rates the frequency response from 19 Hz to 220 Hz (+/-3 dB) and the company rightly notes that room gain may result in some additional low-frequency extension.

A 500-watt amplifier (1100W peak) powers a 2000-series 12" aluminum-cone driver. The amp offers a set of stereo line-level RCA inputs and outputs, while the right-channel input doubles as an LFE input.


Pictured here are all the speakers that made up the system.

The cabinets on all my demo units—including the sub—feature a Piano Gloss Black finish, and the listed prices reflect that. A Black Ash finish is also available at a lower cost.

Setup

I placed the front channels and surrounds in a 5.1 configuration, with the center of my couch serving as the main listening position. Then, I mounted the four Satellites eight feet up on the walls—as close to the ceiling as possible. Additionally, I pointed the front height channels toward the primary listening position. I tucked the SB-2000 subwoofer into the front-left corner of the room.

The front left, center, and right speakers were each located eight feet away from the sweet spot. The left and right speakers were situated 7'6" apart from each other, with the center directly between them. The surround speakers were located to the sides and just behind the couch. Each surround was about six feet away from the sweet spot.

I used my Pioneer Elite SC-85 AVR to perform all audio processing and room correction. The Elite AVR handled amplification for the height channels, while a Crestron Procise ProAmp 7X250 provided amplification for the other five channels. I chose an 80 Hz crossover for the subwoofer, and set all the speakers sizes to "small."

Pioneer's MCACC Pro room correction did a great job of setting speaker distances and levels as well as a good job of taming the peaks in bass response that result from room modes. After running the automated setup, I performed a few measurements using Room EQ Wizard (REW) to confirm its effectiveness. Ultimately, I felt satisfied that the system did not require readjustment.

A Samsung BD-H6600 Blu-ray player served as the source for Atmos content. My formal evaluation used the January 2015 Dolby Atmos demo Blu-ray, which includes several Atmos trailers as well as clips from Transformers: Age of Extinction, Where the Trail Ends, and On Any Sunday: The Next Chapter. The disc also contains Enrique Iglesias' "Bailando" video with the music mixed in Atmos. Additionally, I watched the final chase sequence in Mad Max: Fury Road multiple times. Ralph Potts' recent review of the Fury Road Blu-ray says it possesses the best Atmos mix to date, so I've added it to my review rotation.

Performance

Let's go straight to the point: This system sounded excellent reproducing immersive audio. As far as Atmos 5.1.4 systems go, it offers an extremely high performance/price ratio. None of this came as a huge surprise to me, since I've already reviewed all the speakers contained in the system, except for the SB-2000 sub.

The Prime Tower, Center, and Bookshelf speakers put on a great show. All are capable of clear, loud, dynamic, and precise audio reproduction, and they look good doing it. Indeed, one of the best things about the Prime system is that you do not sacrifice build quality or aesthetics for such a low price.

The power of the Towers takes this system to another level. During action movies, there was a lot of adrenaline rush thanks to the crisp delivery of sound effects and soundtracks. Plus, the Center was no slouch when it came to pumping out great cinema sound. The Center kept up with the Towers in terms of output; thanks to its 3-way design that reduces lobing, movie and TV dialog was very clear.

The Prime Satellites turned out to be an excellent choice for use as Atmos height speakers. The suggestion SVS offered—to mount them on the walls, just underneath the ceiling—worked like a charm. The demos on the Dolby Atmos disc offered immediate gratification in the form of an immersive 3D soundfield. I perceived a superior sense of height—with greater precision in terms of object tracking and an enhanced sense of space from ambient sounds—than what I heard from the Pioneer Elite Atmos speaker system I reviewed earlier this year (((link))). I suspect the superior performance is the result of using speakers mounted at ceiling height—instead of reflected sound—for the height channels.

The biggest surprise in terms of performance is how well the single SB-2000 subwoofer handled its bass duties. I must admit, I underestimated the potency of that subwoofer based on its compact size and affordable price; its performance was quite impressive. In-room measurements and ears-on scrutiny from the main listening position revealed audible output down to 16 Hz, useful output down to 18 Hz, and strong output from about 22 Hz on up.

The subwoofer does have its limits; when you push it hard and approach reference levels with content that digs down to 20 Hz or below, you run into the inherent limits of what a single, sealed 12-inch subwoofer can do. As long as your room isn't of palatial dimensions, and you are not watching War of the Worlds nightly at reference levels, the SB-2000 is more than enough sub to reproduce music and movies at very satisfying volume levels. Moreover, you can always double up if you want more (and smoother) bass—the SB-2000 is certainly of sufficient fidelity that investing in multiple units would be very rewarding.

Listening

The main thing I listen for in an Atmos speaker system is whether or not it can provide a complete sense of immersion. An ideal system is one that nails the reproduction of both ambience and discrete sounds, without ever drawing your attention to the speakers. The good news is the SVS system was quite effective at rendering a realistic dome of sound.

The Dolby Atmos demo Blu-ray serves as a very useful reference for subjective comparisons. I've heard the trailers from that disc on over 20 different Atmos-capable systems. Overall, I thought the SVS rig was very successful at creating a complete sense of audio envelopment. The Enrique Iglesias "Bailando" video possessed the same snappy sound and immersive effect that made it a crowd favorite at CEDIA 2014. The catch is the SVS Prime system costs less than any 5.1.4 speaker system I heard at that show.

Perhaps the most outstanding quality of the Prime rig was how it handled playback at low to moderate volume levels. Not only did it preserve crucial details—movie dialog remained clear—but I could also feel the impact of blasts, gunshots, door slams, and other sound effects that have a tactile element to them—even at what I'd consider late-night levels. You don't have to crank the volume to hear deep into the mix. Nevertheless, with this system, there is sufficient headroom to satisfy people who enjoy playing music and movies loud.

In order to get a good sense of how much intensity the system could handle, I played the final chase sequence in Mad Max: Fury Road multiple times, at various volume levels, with and without Atmos activated. Despite my statements in the previous paragraph, there's no question about it—while the Prime 5.1.4 system is notably good at modest volume levels, the greatest satisfaction came from cranking it up and letting it flex its muscles.

The verisimilitude achieved by the Prime 5.1.4 system when watching Mad Max: Fury Road at roughly reference levels triggered an acute case of dropped-jaw syndrome. It also provoked several outbreaks of goose bumps—always a good sign. Ultimately, it was the resolution of the speakers that most impressed me. There are many discrete sounds to keep track of in the midst of the furious Mad Max action; the Primes parsed it all out, which helped amplify the already extreme intensity of the film.

Another Atmos scene that I found quite compelling is the opening scene of The Expendables 3. It features an elaborate chase sequence that includes a train and a helicopter. The helicopter is of greatest interest, providing plenty of opportunity for pronounced overhead panning effects. It's also the sort of scene you watch with the volume turned up to 11! I'm happy to report that the SVS system managed to make the most of the macho mayhem and rendered that helicopter perfectly.

Last but not least, I'm a big fan of using the Dolby Surround Atmos upmixer with music. This SVS prime system managed to make the most of the effect, rendering an accurate front stage while performing excellent ambience extraction. When listening to good recordings, I was transported to various venues, from small clubs to concert halls. The system rendered the ambience with great fidelity, and the Satellites were never localizable. The ability to perfectly emulate jazz clubs in live recordings was one of the Prime system's most beguiling qualities.

Conclusion

SVS has achieved a great balance of price, performance, aesthetics, and physical size with its Prime-series speakers. The company also has a reputation for building great subwoofers, and nothing I've heard coming from it contradicts that.

When I put this system together, I was already optimistic about its performance potential thanks to my prior Prime series speaker reviews. Still, it was my first time using standard satellite speakers in the Dolby Atmos configuration. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I quickly discovered that it was as effective as any approach to Atmos immersion I've heard before.

I highly recommend SVS Prime speakers for surround applications, including Atmos. It's fairly amazing that Prime is the least expensive line of speakers I've reviewed this year. When I look at them and listen to them, I tend to forget how affordable they are. There's simply no sign of any cut corners; SVS Prime speakers exude nothing but pure competence with style to match. It is an Atmos-compatible speaker system that I am going to miss listening to.

Check out my other reviews of SVS Prime speakers:

SVS Prime Tower Speakers Review
SVS Prime Bookshelf 5.1 System Review
SVS Prime Satellite 5.1 System Review


REVIEW SYSTEM

Source

Samsung BD-H6600 Blu-ray player

Amplification and Processing

Pioneer Elite SC-85 AVR
Crestron Procise ProAmp 7X250 Amplifier

Cables

Monoprice 12-gauge OFC speaker cables
Mediabridge Ultra Series HDMI cable
Monoprice RCA-to-XLR interconnects

Thanks for posting another great review and your room situation and showing, what one can do without spending super big money to have nice speakers
Just show, you do not have to spend the super big money to have a quality system, unless you are like me and few others who are chasing the white rabbit


For me, I lost the tracking trail of the white rabbit so I am contend where I am.


For Atmos, DTS-X and ?
It is all new territory in the word of audio.


I love my audio
But until the storm is over, I will learn and read before running speakers wires in the ceiling and adding new speaker, an extra amp for the ceiling speakers and new processor.


Ray

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post #18 of 59 Old 09-20-2015, 12:27 AM
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Great prices, awful aesthetics. Personal thing, of course. For one, I see no point in any manufacturer to still be producing speakers with ugly looking grille holes on the front facia. There is such a thing as hidden magnets, even for speakers of this price. Come on.

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post #19 of 59 Old 09-20-2015, 03:51 AM
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I personally don't see this taking off in most residential dwellings. I think in time it will go the way of the doo doo bird.

I know many at AVS will be into this but Joe and Jane general public will not. I have to throw myself into that camp as well.

I just don't have the space nor desire to get into that many speakers or even modules. I'm sure the results are awesome but for many including me who have one room for audio, video and entertaining it ain't happening. Think folks in San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Miami etc.

In the video forum there are threads on the slowdown of selling new displays as well as the minute window of folks even buying a 60 inch or larger display. I just don't see this taking off enough to be sustainable and will suffer the same fate as 3D.

I would rather stuff every penny I could into better 5.1 or 5.2 speakers. You already have guys asking what's the best 5 speakers I can buy for $500. Ugh. Soon to be what's the best nine speakers I can buy for $500. Even worse.

I bet it sounds great but in my personal opinion only is doomed to fail.

Rick
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post #20 of 59 Old 09-20-2015, 03:55 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mr.softdome View Post
i personally don't see this taking off in most residential dwellings. I think in time it will go the way of the doo doo bird.

I know many at avs will be into this but joe and jane general public will not. I have to throw myself into that camp as well.

I just don't have the space nor desire to get into that many speakers or even modules. I'm sure the results are awesome but for many including me who have one room for audio, video and entertaining it ain't happening. Think folks in san francisco, new york, chicago, miami etc.

In the video forum there are threads on the slowdown of selling new displays as well as the minute window of folks even buying a 60 inch or larger display. I just don't see this taking off enough to be sustainable and will suffer the same fate as 3d.

I would rather stuff every penny i could into better 5.1 or 5.2 speakers. You already have guys asking what's the best 5 speakers i can buy for $500. Ugh. Soon to be what's the best nine speakers i can buy for $500. Even worse.

I bet it sounds great but in my personal opinion only is doomed to fail.

Rick
OK

But, one size does not fit all. It may be that only a few people take full advantage of immersive formats, but they will persist because that's where the money is. The profit margin on new/premium electronics (high-end TVs and AVRs) is unbelievably larger than it is on commodity TVs and receivers.

Atmos and DTS:X are backwards-compatible and they also render surround-sound to regular 5.1 and 7.1 configurations. DTS and Dolby have a practical duopoly in terms of movie sound. You can expect these formats to persist.

Yes, it does sound good! Indeed, I feel that a certain point speaker upgrades don't contribute as much of an improvement in overall sound quality as the upgrades to Atmos. I mean, you do need a good foundation.

Anyhow, now that Yamaha has announced the first Atmos soundbar, the cat is out of the bag. You can expect to see the format marketed to the masses in short order, whatever the method is that's used to get those overhead sounds into the mix.

As for 3-D, last I checked most high end TVs support it (with the exception of Vizio) and there are plenty of 3-D Blu-rays available for purchase at my local Best Buy. Whatever the fate of 3D it is you're alluding to, it persists.

But unlike 3D for video, Atmos and DTS:X will be the de facto standard formats for cinematic sound. It's up to consumers to decide if they want to add height to the equation. At its most basic, Atmos only needs two reflective sound modules to work, hardly a huge impediment and certainly not the same as asking people to put on funky sunglasses at night, so to speak.
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post #21 of 59 Old 09-20-2015, 07:08 AM
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Understood and perhaps 3D was not the right example. I guess what I was trying to elude to is physical media is dying. I was so thrilled to get my display and player for 3D. It was fun but to sustain buying media for some subpar movies didn't continue for me and it's probably been well over a year if not more that I purchased any disc for 3D.

Atmos, I know we are not talking 3D and yes I much prefer media, especially for a blockbuster but I see a shift in my patterns here as well. Not buying nearly as many as I used to. Now Jurasic World upcoming, perhaps San Andreas and a few others probably but much less than when it all started.

I would love to see downloadable options greatly improve and in the audio dept as well . Downloads will need to be Atmos ready or it's a fail.

More than the above, I would really love to see wireless audio for rears become a reality. I'm talking in the mid to high-end. Not something like a computer speaker, sound bar or sub. I am totally alright with the front three wired. No issue there but it's near 2016 and wireless that is dependable, excellent sounding and available from most mfgs should be at the forefront. Either speakers that simply bolt to wall or traditional stand mount. Example: I have two awesome powered recliners. They are battery powered. I just throw the charging cord on when they are low juice or I can leave them plugged in. This works for me as they are in the middle of room. No unsightly wires. I could see the same in a rear stand mount . Yeah I know, why did I buy powered recliners but not the point and example only of what could happen with speakers for rears.

I think until the two areas I mentioned above are strongly addressed additional speakers in a modern living environment, especially in larger US cities and other Countries including all of Asia where space is a premium it's a tough sale. How many are even at 7.1 yet?

I'm all on board with Atmos don't get me wrong but speaking only on what I perceive the situation to be and perhaps I'm totally wrong.

Anyway, didn't mean to derail your nice review but this stuff is on my mind when this subject is discussed.

Rick
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post #22 of 59 Old 09-20-2015, 07:52 AM
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Those speakers sure do look impressive. Glossy is nice but it's a constant tug of war with dust.
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post #23 of 59 Old 09-20-2015, 08:02 AM
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Glad to see the SVS speakers getting some love, they're a company that is really fielding an impressive lineup of products. I have a pair of their prime satellites in my theater as my rear channels and I have been very pleased with them. Prior to moving them back there I tried them upfront as the mains (I've got EMP towers, so this was more just to see how they preformed) and was very impressed by how well they actually handled the task. If somebody is trying to build a theater on a budget, the prime satellites are a fantastic choice! As a side note, the SVS speakers are also available with an oak finish if you're not a huge fan of the glossy finish.

As far as Atmos is concerned, it is something that I'm certainly intrigued by. That being said, I'm not at the point where the expense involved in upgrading to it makes much sense in my mind. I figure with the speaker installations and a new AVR that could handle Atmos (not to mention I have bi-pole surrounds which might be troublesome with an Atmos designed theater) I'm going to need to spend a decently large chunk of change. As of right now I'm just not seeing enough reason to compel me to do that when there are other things in my theater that I would rather do. For me, adding acoustic panels, upgrading the projector, and eventually and new AVR are higher on my wish list. If in a few years it looks like Atmos and DTS X are going to actually become viable things in theaters, I will probably jump on that bus, I just don't see enough out there right now to justify the price to play.
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post #24 of 59 Old 09-20-2015, 02:56 PM
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Thank you for the review, nice read!
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post #25 of 59 Old 09-20-2015, 06:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RickyDeg View Post
Great prices, awful aesthetics. Personal thing, of course. For one, I see no point in any manufacturer to still be producing speakers with ugly looking grille holes on the front facia. There is such a thing as hidden magnets, even for speakers of this price. Come on.

I also do not like grill holes on the facia.
But it would cost to the manufacture extra to make, and the cost would be pass on to the end customer.


My Aperion Verus Grand did something a little bit different.
The grill get wedge all around, so no holes. It work very well for the finishing look but at the price of been a pain to remove the grills.


The magnet is the best method has you mention, but they do come with a price.
Since they are budget speakers that offer good sound for all the other component and SVS is trying to sell for a specific market.
I think most people will live with-it, also most people like the grills on and not the naked look like I do.


Best regard


Ray
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post #26 of 59 Old 09-20-2015, 11:07 PM
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Awesome review, anyone by chance have a torrent setup for the January ATMOS Disc? I have the iso for the older one but this newer one has a few more items that would be nice to have to test with so if someone can rip an ISO of it and put it up on a torrent or if they live in LA near the SF Valley, I can rip it for them and provide a torrent for others, pop me a message or link me. Thanks

Projector: BenQ w1500 + ES Sable 135" Screen AVR: Onkyo TX-NR646 ATMOS/DTSX + Darbee 5000
Speakers: Polk Audio TSX550t (FL/FR), CS2 Series II (C), Monitor40 Series II (RL/RR),
Onkyo THX Bookshelf Speakers (Ceiling L/R), (2) JL Audio 12" Subs + (2) Dayton 15" Subs + (2) ButtKicker LFE
Arrangement: 5.1.2 Source: HTPC, Roku 4, Nexus Player, Samsung UBD-K8500 4k Bluray Player
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post #27 of 59 Old 09-21-2015, 04:22 AM
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Thanks Mark for the awesome write up.

I really enjoyed the Primes when I got to listen to them @ the 2014 RMAF here in Denver.

These are truly nice gems from SVS.
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post #28 of 59 Old 09-21-2015, 10:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by imagic View Post
The Enrique Iglesias "Bailando" video possessed the same snappy sound and immersive effect that made it a crowd favorite at CEDIA 2014.
I feel like there might have been something else that made that video so popular... Hmm, what was it?

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post #29 of 59 Old 09-21-2015, 11:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by javanpohl View Post
I feel like there might have been something else that made that video so popular... Hmm, what was it?

Yeah she is freaking gorgeous but the song is pretty good, so its win win.

Projector: BenQ w1500 + ES Sable 135" Screen AVR: Onkyo TX-NR646 ATMOS/DTSX + Darbee 5000
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post #30 of 59 Old 09-21-2015, 12:40 PM
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Looks fantastic.. UltraSeries review next! thanks!

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