Immersive audio makes home movie watching and music listening more exciting than ever.
There are three main 3D immersive formats. Dolby Atmos enjoys the greatest popularity, DTS:X takes second place, and Auro-3D offers a third alternative. Whichever format you choose, the SVS Prime Elevation ($199) is a great way to add height capability to a multi-channel speaker system—without cutting holes in your ceiling.
SVS sent me four Prime Elevation speakers to evaluate, along with a set of seven Prime Bookshelf speakers ($250 each) and an SB13-Ultra subwoofer ($1599 in black oak veneer). While this review focuses on the Elevations, it's worth reading my review of the Prime Bookshelf , which created a fantastic 7.1-channel surround-sound foundation for the height channels discussed here. Together, they create a timbre-matched premium sub/sat system that provides great performance for the dollar.
Features and Specifications
The Prime Elevation is a 2-way bookshelf-style speaker that has a sloped baffle, which allows it to be mounted in up-firing, sideways, or down-firing orientations. It's purpose-designed for on-wall and on-ceiling use, so you choose which direction it faces based on the application.
Since I'm interested in how these speakers perform in a 3D immersive sound system as elevation speakers, I mounted them where the wall meets the ceiling in my home-theater room, per SVS instructions.
Front and back views of Prime Elevation speakers. Photo by Mark Henninger
Happily, the provided multi-directional mounting bracket and installation template made this task quick and easy. From unpacking to connecting the mounted speakers to an AVR, the entire install process took less than 45 minutes.
The Prime Elevation's 1" aluminum-dome tweeter is the same one used in the rest of the SVS Prime lineup. This capable driver is paired with a 4.5" polypropylene mid/woofer that can handle up to 150 watts of power with 87 dB/W/m sensitivity. Frequency response is rated from 55 Hz to 25 kHz (+/-3 dB).
Altogether, the Prime Elevation is a solid, well-made speaker. The enclosure weighs 7.8 pounds and measures 9.25" (H) x 5.44" (W) x 7.88" (D). Each one comes with a detachable cloth grill as well the mounting hardware.
The backside of the cabinet includes a tuned port and terminals for speaker cable. My review units came in a black-oak veneer finish, but the speakers are also available in gloss black and gloss white.
I placed seven Prime Bookshelf speakers in the spots I typically use for surround-sound review systems. I added a front pair of ceiling-height Prime Elevations four feet in front of my couch on the side walls, plus a rear pair three feet behind the couch. When seated in the main listening position, I got a great sense of immersion from that configuration. I didn't implement a separate speaker configuration for Auro-3D.
The rest of the system consisted of the seven aforementioned Prime Bookshelf speakers and the SB13-Ultra sub. With a total MSRP of $4149, this 7.1.4 outfit definitely costs more than a few dollars to assemble, but—in classic SVS style—it delivers tremendous bang for the buck. Moreover, it covers the entire audible spectrum at satisfying volume levels, contributing to an authentic cinematic experience.
A pair of Prime Elevation speakers with the mounting bracket and speaker cables attached. Also see in is the SB13-Ultra sub. Photo by Mark Henninger
A Denon AVR-X4300H AV receiver took care of processing and provided amplification for the Prime Elevations. A powerful Crestron Procise ProAmp 7X250 7-channel amp (250 watts per channel into 8 ohms) provided the Prime Bookshelf speakers with more power than they need.
I used 12-gauge speaker cable to wire everything together and the new Audyssey MultEQ Editor app to perform room correction. This app provides visual feedback about how the room measures and lets you customize the end result, an exciting new capability.
Audyssey set the Prime Elevations' crossover point to 40 Hz for the Bookshelfs and 80 Hz for the Elevations. Based on that, I opted for an 80 Hz crossover on all speakers.
First things first: It's been two years since I reviewed the Prime Bookshelf, so I almost forgot what a great speaker it is. As a satellite, it plays loud and clear.
Thanks to the MultEQ Editor app, I got a full view of what the AVR saw before and after Audyssey setup. All the speakers were easy enough for the system to correct, yielding a nice house curve with flat response where I wanted it.
A quick REW measurement showed a favorable system response that extended below 16 Hz without falling off, and it surpassed 20 kHz while following the Audyssey EQ curve. This is great measured behavior that is typically a harbinger of excellent sound for listeners.
I tested the system with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X demo discs collected from past CEDIA and CES conventions. These are loops I've heard hundreds of times on many dozens of systems, so I've got every second memorized.
The Atmos demos quickly made me realize that the Prime Elevations sound better than any reflected-sound elevation speakers I have tried. Plus, they do it at a lower price than most. That's not to diminish the effectiveness and situational suitability of other approaches. But when speakers of this quality are located physically overhead, they enhance the clarity and fidelity of the 3D immersive soundfield.
Not only do these speakers outperform reflected-sound speakers in creating a credible sensation of height, they also beat the sound of in-ceiling speakers. The key is that the Prime Elevations fire downward at an angle.
The whole system had a seamlessness that felt like true 3-dimensional audio envelopment. You know how speakers can seem to disappear when listening to a great 2-channel system? With this rig and 3D immersive sound, all the speakers become invisible.
For the DTS:X demo, I chose the Nigel Stanford music video Cymatics: Science vs. Music, which I've heard on numerous high-powered home theater rigs at CEDIA 2016 and CES 2017. It provided a great example of the fidelity this format offers; with the SVS Prime 7.1.4 system, the video rocked my home theater. Hard.
I watched scenes from several Atmos-mixed Blu-ray titles, including Roger Waters The Wall, a concert/movie experience that places you at the show with enveloping audio immersion. When a prop airplane flies over the audience and explodes on the stage, the effect is impressive—obviously enhanced by the Dolby Atmos presentation and the SVS Prime Elevation height effects.
American Sniper also uses Dolby Atmos deftly, with audio effects enhancing the first-person perspective. Overall, the immersive quality of the Prime 7.1.4 system made watching this fantastic film a harrowing but thrilling experience.
The opening scene of Gravity remains a gold standard for Atmos mixes. With this system, the voices of George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, as well as various other sound effects, exist in a 3D space that swirls around the viewer. It's exhilarating when a system gets it right.
I also spent time listening to music and movies through the upmixers from Atmos (Dolby Surround), DTS:X (Neural:X), and Auro-3D (Auro-Matic), which use algorithms that look for ambient information in the mix and render it as a height effect. This can be convincing with music recorded in a church, jazz club, concert hall, or any other room where spatial qualities are part of the sound of the recording.
Cowboy Junkies' "Sweet Jane"—and all the other tracks on the album The Trinity Sessions—were recorded with an ambisonic mic at Toronto's Church of the Holy Trinity. The result is a famously sublime-sounding album that, when rendered through Auro-Matic, puts you right inside the sanctuary.
Ministry's 1990 album, In Case You Didn't Feel Like Showing Up (Live), offered another opportunity to travel to a different time and place. With Dolby Surround handling the upmixing, blasting tracks like "Thieves" and "So What" transported me to the early 1990s, crowd surfing while Al Jourgensen and crew played like madmen at the Rocky Point Palladium Ballroom in Rhode Island. The energy and ambience of a live metal/industrial show in a small venue is seriously great stuff.
Many studio mixes add ambient and phase effects to music that—even in 2-channel listening—can expand what the listener hears past the physical boundaries of two speakers. Feed the same sort of music to a 3D immersive-audio upmixer, and what you get is often spectacular, like with DJ Shadow's excellent album The Private Press. "Monosylabik Parts 1 & 2" is a head-spinner in 2-channel, and with the help of the upmixers, it expanded into something practically cosmic. Sounds came from every which way, and since there is no right or wrong to the mix, I enjoyed the way all three systems handled it.
SVS Prime Elevations are great speakers for adding 3D immersive audio to your system. Their performance and price make them a top choice for getting the most out of Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and Auro-3D.
The key here is that adding height channels to a traditional 5.1 or 7.1 mix puts you inside a movie scene, or in a concert hall or a jazz club. With Atmos, DTS:X and Auro-3D, you can realistically render rain hitting a roof, and airplane flyover, and many other effects. Done right, result is next-level surround sound you have to hear to believe.
Based on what I heard over the course of this review, if you have SVS Prime Elevation speakers handling height effects, you'll enjoy one of the best 3D immersive audio experiences you can have in the comfort of your home.
Denon AVR-X4300H AV receiver
Crestron Procise ProAmp 7X250 7-channel amplifier
Sony VPL-VW365 4K HDR projector
Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player
Windows 10 PC running Tidal HiFi
Here's a brief unboxing video
Audyssey MultEQ Editor App Measurement Results