What exactly do you seek from a wireless speaker system? For some, perhaps it’s enough that the speaker is cute, or that it listens to you all the time. But for others, the convenience has to come with a dose of quality and clarity, in other words there has to be some performance to go with the lifestyle-friendly functionality.
Unsurprisingly, SVS has tackled the challenge by producing a speaker system that offers a blend of form and function that should please audiophiles with its fidelity, while making everyone else happy because it’s so easy to use. So without further ado, here is a hands-on review of the SVS Prime Wireless Speaker System ($599 per pair on Amazon).
Features and Specifications
SVS sells the prime wireless speaker as either a single unit (mono) for $499, or as a stereo pair with a passive second speaker for $599. I’m a big fan of stereo sound, so this review is about the system used in a stereo configuration. Notably, this requires connecting the two speakers with the cable.
The crucial point here is that adding the second speaker only costs $100, because that second speaker is passive. That’s not the case with some of the other lifestyle speakers out there, where you have to pair two to Wi-Fi in order to have stereo sound.
A unique, design element in the SVS Prime Wireless speaker system is the inclusion of six programmable presets on the front panel (akin to station presets on a radio) allowing instantaneous access to streaming services and playlists, which you can set up with the app but then do not need a phone to access.
This speaker comes in piano black gloss with cabinets that measure 10.24″ (H) 6.10″ (W) 7.21″ (D) and the pair weighs 18.28 pounds. Each speaker has a 1 inch dome tweeter and a 4.5 inch mid/woofer. Power is 50 W per channel, or 100 W total using class-D amplification.
This is a ported design. The digital crossover is 12 dB per slope and centered around 2000 Hz. SVS says that the frequency response is 52 Hz to 25 kHz, with +/-3 dB variation.
In terms of physical inputs and outputs, you get analog RCA, 3.5 mm auxiliary analog, and an optical digital-input that can handle up to 24-bit /96 kHz resolution. It can handle the even higher 192 kHz sampling rate through Wi-Fi.
The system also features a subwoofer output with auto-detect and a fixed 80 Hz low-pass filter that turns on when you connect the sub. There are also two Ethernet ports built-in, which make these a viable solution for custom install application.
This is a wireless lifestyle speaker system that can connect to either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. It uses the DTS Play-Fi software platform to achieve multiroom streaming and offer consolidated playback of Tidal, Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music, SiriusXM and Internet Radio.
Setup and Performance
Okay, the reality here is that the performance of the system was not at all a surprise to me. The reason? Because I’m familiar with the quality of SVS Prime speakers. I have reviewed the prime satellite and it is one of my favorite small speakers because it images so well, and when combined with a subwoofer performance is exceptional.|
Setup was simply enough. Install app, put speakers on stands, connect passive unit to active using the provided cord, plug in, connect. I subscribe to Tidal with the HiFi plan that includes lossless streaming, and that’s what I used for all my listening.
SVS Prime Wireless Speakers have six programmable presets you can select from the front panel. Photo by Mark Henninger
Needless to say, depending on your application you may or may not utilize a subwoofer with this system. SVS does offer a wireless connection, if you do decide to add a sub. And here’s the reality of the situation… The limits of what you can get out of this speaker pair are largely defined by bass. If you use them as standalone speakers, there’s only so far that you can turn them up before the woofer runs out of excursion, that’s just physics. But if you engage at 80 Hz crossover by adding a subwoofer, that frees up quite a bit of capability and transforms the nature of the system.
SVS has historically published highly accurate specifications for its products, the speakers are not an exception. In this case, the speakers are good match for a typical residential room, so at the listening position you get a good house curve.
Okay, since it’s a given that a subwoofer is a whole different ballgame, let’s talk about how the speakers do without one. The design, and the shaping of the sound, results in the speaker that provides a engaging listening experience that has enough base to get your feet tapping to most tunes, but falls a bit short in the “BOOM!” department for any sort of a home theater application. ?
If you are an apartment or condo dweller who is seeking compact speakers with high fidelity, but who basically cannot turn the volume up because of their neighbors, then you’ll find that these speakers (without a sub) are an excellent choice, because they do their best work at modest volumes. As long as you’re not over stressing the woofers, the bass they produce is tight and you can even feel it in those chest-thump frequencies.
There’s quite a bit of music where, if listen to you casually, you really don’t need anything more to get a full listening experience. Take, for example, classic rock like The Beatles… For the most part, these speakers reproduce that band’s music as clearly and enjoyably is any that you’ve heard. That’s because they’re really good at imaging, and they can take care of those micro-details that add texture to the instruments and emotion to the vocals.
Abbey Road is my favorite Beatles album, and it’s hard to ignore the great production, despite its age. The key is that nobody back then thought you’d have a subwoofer in your system, so the mix is easy-going stuff for these SVS Prime Wireless speakers. So, getting right into it, track one… “Come Together” when reproduced right, puts Lennon in the room with you. Well, in real life he’d probably be a bit louder, but as far as the holographic illusion goes, these speakers put the voice right where it should be, front and center, and render it at the right size. Meanwhile, drums and bass and guitar sound “exactly” as they should. But a really good system will also tease out the reverb on Lennon’s voice, giving the presentation an added dimension, which is subtle but undeniably there.
Pink Floyd’s stereo system demo classic “Money” from Dark Side of the Moon is cliche beyond description, but STILL a great way to see if a system will give you what you need, and maybe what you want. Here, the difference between no subwoofer and subwoofer was slight, but noticeable in the bass. Not really an issue for the rest though, if you hid these Prime Wireless in large “fake” tower speaker cabinets, behind a grill, you’d fool folks with ease.
Of course classic rock is not in the same league as modern electronica when it comes to bass, so once I queued up the Datsik, Bassnectar, Deadmau5, etc. it was subwoofer time and the speakers simply disappeared. Now, if you use the SVS Subwoofer Matching Tool, you’ll see the company recommends a SB-1000 or SB-2000 sub to go with these speakers, and as far as putting a balanced rig together goes, makes sense to me. For $1100-1300, you’re getting full-range hi-res sound that looks great and takes no prisoners.
But in my world, bigger subs are not about louder, they are about digging deeper. Maybe even deep enough to handle the new The Orb album, No Sounds Are Out Of Bounds. So, using a different sub that can hit hard in the infrasonic realm, I pressed play and let the 3D soundstage wash over me. The experience would be similar if I was using a sub like the recently-reviewed PB4000. Or the boss of SVS subs, the PB16-Ultra (reviewed here). Now, I admit it would be odd… perhaps daft to mix such small speakers with monster subs, but the point I am making is the quality of the Prime Wireless system is sufficiently high that if you do, they deliver a performance that is not constrained aside from peak output.
I love music with eccentric mixes that put you in a 3D world of sound, even with just two speakers. Boards of Canada are masters of the art of trippy ambient IDM and the album Geogaddi is their piece de resistance. Good speakers and Boards of Canada… will put you in a trance faster than a hypnotist. The bass is not too demanding in the deep end, but requires precision because the percussive sounds are all “tight”, but the synth work is the real star of the show here, with lots of upper bass and midrange drones and processed vocals layered on top. Heady stuff, expertly executed in the studio, and deftly unfolded by these SVS speakers. The first track, “Music is Math” lets you know what sort of trip you are in for—sit centered, pay some attention, and you’ll visualize the music. It’s excellent, but needless to say adding a sub can make it even better.
“1969” is a masterpiece of studiocraft, delicate clicks and squishes adorn the beat; lots of sounds that give the tweeters a workout, a listening experience that could turn fatiguing on speakers that are sibilant. The Prime Wireless manage to render the track properly, with all the crystalline detail intact. Sometimes I forget that upper treble can be as fascinating as deep bass, these speakers—perhaps because they are so minimalist and the amplification is tailored to the application—deliver a crisp sound that lets you listen deeply into the mix.
So, subwoofers fired up, volume at a level that’s robust, a nice Belgian triple in hand… time for Plastic Beach by Guerrilaz. It may not be your style of music, but it definitely is an album I respect. Plenty of guest artists here, doing the chilled-out thing, including Snoop Dogg, Lou Reed, and De La Soul. Nice to hear these excellent voices and plus you get orchestral strings and funky beats and just… if you don’t know, have a listen, what else can I say. If you don’t love, it that’s cool, we can still be friends. Anyhow, track two “Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach” puts that smile of your face, gets your feet tapping right quick. In this instance, the benefit of a subwoofer is fairly apparent, but even without the (definitely there) deep stuff, there’s plenty in the mix to keep your head nodding.
These speakers are a viable alternative to a soundbar! The optical-digital input makes connecting a TV a no-brainer and if you put one speaker on each side of a TV, on stands, it looks great and sounds amazing. That’s the setup I used, and really the only thing missing was the receiver. And all the cables associated with a AV receiver. The fidelity was there.
In this regard, it would seem that the recent trend toward better and better subwoofers being packaged with soundbars has created a bit of competition for a set of speakers such as these! Well, obviously no worries since all you have to do is add one of the highly competent subwoofers at SVS sells (or from another brand for whatever reason) in order to turn this speaker pair into something much more.
But, backing off from the subwoofer addiction, the other thing to realize here is that these are great nearfield monitors, so you can use them on a desk and play games, or watch Netflix, or stream Tidal and enjoy headphones-like clarity. Their ability to 3D image is uncanny, so you’ll find yourself appreciating music that’s well produced.
OK speaking of games, any excuse to fire up Red Dead Redemption 2 is a good excuse indeed. Here, if you make the room totally quiet, and sit centered to these speakers, and listen… you’ll hear a lot of details, and you’ll also have a good idea where sounds are coming from, within the limitations of stereo. In this application, the subwoofer is not needed, there’s not much in terms of the game sound the speakers cannot handle on their own. Detail rendition and precise positioning of sounds is the name of the game here, and the Prime Wireless speakers are more than up to the task. It would have been nice had these speakers included a USB input, to make them explicitly PC friendly, but you can still work things work out with optical, analog or Bluetooth.
Obviously, there are limits to what sort of system you’d put together with the Prime Wireless. If you are looking for 5.1 surround (or more) then you are going to want an AVR and a traditional passive speaker system and an active sub. But, if all you need is stereo, and you already live a digital lifestyle (i.e. do not need a phono input) there’s zero reason to bother with a separate receiver. Just get active, wireless speakers and enjoy.
I do not intend to make this a review of DTS Play-Fi, which is perhaps not as intuitive as Sonos, but is roughly on-par with other systems. But what I like about Play-Fi is it is brand-agnostic with a sizeable selection of product from multiple brands. You can have your SVS rig while your “Brand X”-loving spouse can have their system, and yet they can also work in unison as part of a multi-room rig. And, of course, you could have a home full of these Prime Wireless speakers and that would be absolutely badass.
As for the wireless performance, I live in a Philly rowhome where all all my devices work, regardless of where I am, but some become marginal at the extremities. No issues here, the Prime Wireless streamed smoothly whether in my living room, or in the far end of my basement studio, which is the weakest spot for Wi-Fi in my house. Presumably there’s a decent antenna in there, and similarly I found Bluetooth kept a connection, even when I went to another room or another floor. Bluetooth could not reach from the basement to the third floor of the house, but you’d kind of expect that with multiple walls and the distance being over 50 feet. Anyhow, seems the Bluetooth is also really robust but I don’t have an objective measure to offer, just that it works in my residence.
OK here’s a neat trick… I connected the SVS Prime Wireless speakers to an NAD T777 AVR and ran the Dirac Live room correction, exactly as if these were passive speakers. The resulting measurements tells a lot about the underlying performance of these speakers. First things first… -6 dB (equivalent to +/-3 dB) is right where it should be, I’d peg it as 53 Hz, SVS says 52 Hz. Also notice how about the Schroeder frequency of my room (it’s around 350 or 400 Hz) the response stays nice and tight, even uncorrected. I don’t have any special treatments, and this is Dirac Live’s nine measurement cluster (i.e an average across the three seat listening area).
This is good stuff and facilitates a smooth crossover to the sub.
Perhaps more notable is the incredibly good behavior of the tweeter, which is flat up to 20 kHz. Many… and I mean many speakers have all sorts of nonsense going on up there, typically some kind of hump and then roll-off. Want to know why these speakers are so revealing without being fatiguing? Just look at what the tweeter is doing here.
Did you think SVS was going to screw up its debut wireless speaker offering? I didn’t think so. These Prime Wireless speakers are exactly what anyone in the know would expect from one of the price/performance leaders in the world of audio—SVS. With DTS Play-Fi handling the wireless part of the equation, and careful tuning by SVS delivering the clear, transparent, neutral sound that audiophiles should expect and demand from a modern speaker, this is an undeniably easy way to achieve audio nirvana.
Setup is easy, fit and finish is a cut above competing (plastic) products, and as far as I can tell these are genuine SVS quality through and through.
For standing out in a crowded field of plastic speakers that simply do not sound as good, SVS gets a Top Choice for 2018, for its Prime Wireless compact stereo speaker system. It’s a high-performance audiophile-quality lifestyle-friendly solution to adding great sound to any room.
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