My pair of SBS-01s had been sitting at my buddy's house over the weekend, as I was away on business. I hooked them up last night and we listened for about 3 hours before I packed them up and brought them home. I'll post more details later, just thought for now I'd post a few early comments for those anxious folks who are thinking of ordering these.
First impressions? I LOVE THEM. We crossed the SBS-01s over to my buddy's PB12 Ultra/2 at 100 Hz (80 sounded a tinch thin in his 22' x 12.5' room) and we spent about 3 really pleasant hours enjoying a variety of music on them, in 2.1 stereo. I previously had brought over my BIC DV62CLR-S pair with Ed Frias' excellent crossover mods to try in the same room, and at the time we had thought they were pretty good for the low price I paid, but we weren't motivated to spend more than a few minutes listening to them. They wouldn't play loud enough without distortion to fill his room sufficiently and the sound quality was not bad but definitely not magical. We had to force ourselves to put the SVSs away after 3 hours (so I could take them home) because they sounded that good -- and they have the Magic. Any true audiophile knows what I mean by that; if you get it, you get it.
For reference, we used my buddy's new Rotel RSP-1068 pre-pro and his Rotel RMB-1095 200 watt/chan. 5-channel amp to power them. We sat them on stands that are too low, probably only about 2' high or less since they were designed for my buddy's older DM602s which are very tall, and we basically sat them in front of and inwards of his 802s, maybe 6 feet apart and at least 5-6 feet out from the back wall and probably 3-4 feet from the side walls -- about 1/3 of the way in from each side. We toed them in slightly. The left speaker had a large leather chair sitting too close to the front of it which definitely had a negative affect on the imaging.
We played a lot of smooth jazz and acoustic music along with some pop, rock, funk, and some singer-songwriter folk stuff. Material included Norah Jones, Diana Krall, Patricia Barber, Gavin DeGraw, Fourplay, David Lanz, Destiny's Child, Filter, Counting Crows, Dishwalla, Eric Clapton, Eve 6, and some mixes I've done of live recordings of funk/horn bands I work with (so you might say I'm rather familiar with what those mixes should sound like
. Fourplay in particular is a fantastic artist for really hearing the sound of your speakers; there's incredible detail, excellent stereo positioning, and a full range of very cleanly recorded instruments. Track 6 on their Heartfelt record really shows off a speaker's abilities or shortcomings, and we were really impressed with how the SBS-01s handled this track. Everything from the most subtle percussion to the natural piano, the acoustic bass (lot to do with the sub here of course), and even the sound of the piano's footpedals being released at the end of the song were reproduced in beautiful lifelike detail. Very sweet. On lesser speakers, reverb tails on this kind of material lose their realism and make the mix sound messy; on the SBS-01s, reverbs sounded just as they should, very natural, sweet and spacious.
Now keep in mind my buddy's main L/R speakers are B&W Nautilus 802s (with the aluminum tweeter, not the diamond), which retailed at $8,000 new. Let's just say they're not bad speakers.
Being used to listening to those, we both agreed that if we were stranded on a desert island with nothing but the SBS-01s and the sub to listen to, we'd definitely survive and be quite happy with them. As pro sound engineers we're a bit particular about our speakers so that's serious praise from us. We didn't bother trying them as surrounds in his system, though we probably will at some point and we were both very confident they'd perform beautifully.
Of course in his largish room, the sound wasn't anywhere near as "big" or full as his N802s or his DM604s they replaced and of course not as dynamic, but naturally we expected that. They were definitely capable of playing at very solid volumes without audible distortion (and WAY louder than the BICs); even when we deliberately pushed them too hard, they never really distorted so much as they lost dynamics and started sounding a bit "hard" and compressed. In other words, they began showing in a very polite way that they were approaching their limits, rather than just losing it. Very nice.
We were especially impressed with the tweeters, which had a very clear, detailed, airy, open, and pleasant sound. We experienced no fatigue whatsoever in our 3 hours of listening at pretty decent volumes. The mids were extremely natural too, and surprisingly full for such small midrange drivers. Acoustic instruments like piano, guitar and sax sounded right and very natural, and vocals were really clean and natural on them. We thought the soundstage and imaging were very good, though we acknowledged that they weren't properly positioned in the room and would probably sound better if we took the time positioning them correctly.
The main thing we kept thinking (and expressing to each other) as we listened was, these should NOT cost $225!!!! Of course there are plenty of better speakers available, but for that price range??? I've never heard anything close for that price. If you told me these cost $400 or more, it wouldn't surprise me in the least. I recently auditioned a set of Paradigm Signature S4s which I could have new for $2,200, and I thought they were really impressive. Considering their beautiful cabinets and big (for their size), natural sound, I thought that price was a bit high but not completely out of line. Their bass response was outstanding for their size, and of course they were capable of playing LOUD without distortion. But if you will be crossing your bookshelf speakers to a good sub in a small to medium-sized room, and you compared those S4s to the SBS-01s under those conditions, I would have to seriously question why you would ever pay that much for the S4s (besides of course the great looks). Side by side or in a blind test, who knows, I might prefer them to the SBS-01s, but just the fact that I'm not SURE I would definitely says something.
What I'm most excited about is not even these speakers, but what SVS's upcoming mid-size and full tower speakers will sound like!!!!!! If they perform proportionately to their size and price like the SBS-01s do, I want on the pre-order list right now for the full towers.
I'm confident the reviews of these speakers will soon silence the cynics who complain about all the SVS hype, and who opine that just because you make a great sub doesn't mean you'll do as well with speakers. Shoot, at this point if SVS announced they were introducing a line of cars and minivans, I'd be outside in 10 minutes getting my minivan ready for trade-in!