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SVS Ultra Bookshelf Sound Quality Tests and Conclusion

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SVS Ultra Front LightI tested the SVS Ultra Bookshelf speakers in my 6,000ft^3 Audioholics Showcase theater room utilizing our reference gear such as the Marantz PM-11S3 integrated amplifier, Emotiva XPR-1 mono-bloc amplifier, Marantz TT-15S1 turntable and Oppo BDP-105 Universal Blu-ray player.  Speaker cables were Kimber 8TC and I utilized Bluejeans 1694A interconnects.  The speakers were placed on my 30” sand filled Plateau stands.  I found a moderate amount of toe-in was needed to get the best imaging while still preserving the lateral soundstage.

The SVS Ultra Bookshelf speakers produced excellent clarity and tonal balance.  They treble never sounded harsh or too forward.  The bass didn’t extend down too low like some bookshelf speakers try to achieve, typically with negative consequences at higher output levels.  The Ultras played clean down to the 50Hz region without woofer distress or bottoming even at spirited levels.  The vocals had better purity and articulation than I expected; especially female voices like the great Christina Aguilera in “A Song for You” with Herbie Hancock tickling the ivories.  The Ultras showed off their depth of soundstage and imaging that sounded, dare I say, 3D like.

The SVS Ultra Bookshelf speakers produced excellent clarity and tonal balance.

SACD: Patricia Barber - Café Blue

Listening to Patricia Barber Café Blue on SACD was a real treat on the Ultra speakers.  Track #1 “What a Shame” showed off the excellent Ultra tweeter’s ability to be airy and spacious.  The piano in track #2 “Morning Grace” sounded rich and vibrant and extended beyond the plane of the speakers while Barber’s voice was reproduced with excellent neutrality. The reverb of this close-miked recording came through with the authenticity I’d expect from a high performance speaker system.

 

Patricia Barber Cafe Blue   Sade 180G Vinyl

Patricia Barber Café Blue SACD (left pic); Sade Stronger than Pride 180G LP (right pic)

Bass was well extended and clean, though a powered sub thrown in the mix would have taken it up a notch.  I found the SVS Ultra Bookshelf speakers have a very similar tonal balance to my $3k/pr Status Acoustics Decimo speakers, which is a very good thing.  However, I did feel the SVS’s sounded a bit fuller in the upper midbass region which at times may have been on the side of overemphasis.  Crossing these speakers over at 80Hz to a sub, perhaps an SB13-Ultra would mitigate this issue and provide you full-range sound rivaling most high dollar tower speaker systems from SVS’s competitors.

LP: Sade – Love is Stronger Than Pride (180G)

Buy it Now!

I was fortunate to score myself a copy of this incredibly well produced record from Sade on 180G vinyl from Audio Fidelity.  In fact my copy is marked #0194, so it’s a limited pressing to be sure.  Track #1 “Love is Stronger Than Pride” again showed off how airy the tweeter was on the Ultra bookshelf speaker.  They projected a soundstage larger than their size suggests and were also able to reproduce the delicate plucking sounds of the acoustical guitar.  Track #2 “Paradise” reaffirmed the Ultras were able to play at high volume without woofer distress.  I did detect a slight mid bass emphasis but feel this would be pleasing to most listeners.  Vocals were still rendered with excellent clarity and the Ultra’s just begged to be played louder.

Measurements and Analysis

 

SVS Ultra Bookshelf Frequency Response

SVS Ultra Bookshelf Listening Window Response – 1 meter in-room summed with GP

I measured the SVS Ultra bookshelf at 1 meter in-room on-axis, +-30 deg off-axis horizontal and +- 15 deg vertical off-axis to derive the listening window response.  The curve was then spliced with a groundplane measurement at 500Hz to eliminate room effects below the transition frequency.  Port contribution was not fully captured but I estimate the -3dB pt to be around 50Hz based on this measurement and the impedance measurement.  I confirmed SVS’s sensitivity rating of 87dB was accurate and the speaker measured very linearly throughout the entire audio bandwidth which explained why it sounded mostly neutral in our listening tests.

SVS Ultra Bookshelf Impedance

SVS Ultra Bookshelf Impedance and Phase

SVS applies NRC science, not to cheapen the product, but to improve its measured performance and subjective sound experience.

The Ultras are rated at 8 ohms but in reality they are 4 ohm speakers.  There is no hiding this fact.  I suspect SVS rated them 8 ohms for marketing purposes and because of their high sensitivity making them an easy load to drive.  Notice how both speakers track very well in this measurement indicating parts tolerances are very tight. 

Conclusion

SVS Ultra GrilleBased on our listening tests and objective analysis, the Ultra Bookshelf speakers live up to the SVS badge.  There is so much to like about these speakers and so little to complain about.  They offer a very balanced sound, with great dynamic capabilities.  They look as good as they sound.  No cheap parts were used to skimp or cut corners and they proved the sum of the parts really does matter in making excellent loudspeakers.  They apply NRC science, not to cheapen the product, but to improve its measured performance and subjective sound experience.  If you’re looking for a high performance, attractive bookshelf speaker that can truly deliver on that “better than being there” experience for around $1k/pair, then you owe it to yourself to try these out risk free for 45 days.  I believe the SVS Ultras are among the best value in high performance bookshelf speakers and I think you may agree if you give them a try.

SVS Ultra Bookshelf Speakers Review
SVSound

MSRP: $998/pr

The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor
MetricRating
Build QualityStarStarStarStarStar
AppearanceStarStarStarStarStar
Treble ExtensionStarStarStarStarStar
Treble SmoothnessStarStarStarStarStar
Midrange AccuracyStarStarStarStar
Bass ExtensionStarStarStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStarStar
ImagingStarStarStarStarStar
SoundstageStarStarStarStarStar
Dynamic RangeStarStarStarStar
PerformanceStarStarStarStarhalf-star
ValueStarStarStarStarStar
About the author:
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Gene manages this organization, establishes relations with manufacturers and keeps Audioholics a well oiled machine. His goal is to educate about home theater and develop more standards in the industry to eliminate consumer confusion clouded by industry snake oil.

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Recent Forum Posts:

Asif1980 posts on December 01, 2018 17:40
Hey all- after being in LCR for almost 2 years, I'll be adding surrounds. My LR are Tekton design Double Impacts and SVS ultra center, should I go SVS Ultra bookshelves or SVS Ultra Surrounds?? I don't see that many reviews for Ultra-Surrounds but Ultra Bookshelves has some many reviews.
Pogre posts on July 26, 2017 20:20
phxrider, post: 1200738, member: 83168
Well, the girlfriend and I moved in together a few months ago and I'm finding myself with a nice jump in disposable income from combining expenses, lower insurance in the new zip code, eating at home more, etc. Since she had the speakers on the ceiling, I used that to justify upgrading my pre-pro from a Onkyo PR-SC885P to a Yamaha CX-A5100 for Atmos and converted her old receiver into an amp for them, and I'm actually pretty shocked at the improvement in the overall sound. Now I'm getting that “voice that won't stop” you mentioned… It's been quite a few years since I've upgraded anything, so what the heck…. BTW, Atmos is REALLY cool if you haven't tried it - better than I expected.

A friend of mine has Hsu and his system sounds terrific - but these Ultras are getting SUCH good reviews, I'm really leaning that way, plus between Ed Mullen responding personally to pretty much any issue I've ever had, sending me a new woofer with “running improvements” when I mentioned I heard some bottoming, and giving me a Sledge amp at cost when the original BASH one died, SVS has provided me amazing customer service over the years - it's really hard to go with someone else when I know they have something top notch to sell me at a reasonable price.
Mention that stuff if you contact them. They'll probably offer a discount, especially if you order in multiples.

I've not heard a lot of other very well respected brands but I think I know good sound when I hear it and the Ultras really do sound amazing. They can handle some power, the BS dig surprisingly deep and they both have pinpoint imaging and are very accurate. The tweeters they sourced for them are really, really good. Not harsh or tinny sounding at all and an fea optimized wave guide.

I love mine, if you can't tell…
phxrider posts on July 26, 2017 20:04
Pogre, post: 1200737, member: 79914
For that matter, if you can afford a pair of PBU 16's… I'm jealous. There is better pricing from equally respected manufacturers, so you know. Hsu, Rythmik and a few more. I went with Hsu's VTF-3 MK5 dual drive package and don't regret it. sounds amazing.
Well, the girlfriend and I moved in together a few months ago and I'm finding myself with a nice jump in disposable income from combining expenses, lower insurance in the new zip code, eating at home more, etc. Since she had the speakers on the ceiling, I used that to justify upgrading my pre-pro from a Onkyo PR-SC885P to a Yamaha CX-A5100 for Atmos and converted her old receiver into an amp for them, and I'm actually pretty shocked at the improvement in the overall sound. Now I'm getting that “voice that won't stop” you mentioned… It's been quite a few years since I've upgraded anything, so what the heck…. BTW, Atmos is REALLY cool if you haven't tried it - better than I expected.

A friend of mine has Hsu and his system sounds terrific - but these Ultras are getting SUCH good reviews, I'm really leaning that way, plus between Ed Mullen responding personally to pretty much any issue I've ever had, sending me a new woofer with “running improvements” when I mentioned I heard some bottoming, and giving me a Sledge amp at cost when the original BASH one died, SVS has provided me amazing customer service over the years - it's really hard to go with someone else when I know they have something top notch to sell me at a reasonable price.
Pogre posts on July 26, 2017 19:45
phxrider, post: 1200735, member: 83168
I forget the exact measurements off hand but it's a pretty big room, probably 20'x12' with a 12' ceiling, and it's open to the kitchen and sides… Pretty much an acoustic nightmare, in theory…

However, right now I have 5x Yamaha HS80m studio monitors and the PCU13 for my “real” speakers and it's LOUD and the bass is STRONG. But I'd like something with a little better clarity (and that don't need XLR cables + power + trigger wires and boxes, for improved WAF/GAF) which is why I'm considering the SVSes. I was actually considering going to a single or dual PBU16 for the sub (or running the 13 with a 16 until I can get another 16). The Atmos speakers are Klipsch Quintets that she already had wired into the ceiling when I moved in, and I repurposed the center into a single surround back. (In case you're guessing, I don't already own the MX-A5000, I would get one if I moved away from powered monitors though.)
I would love a pair of PBU 16's, but they're a little out of my price range. I really think you'd be great with another PCU 13. As for the speakers, if you have the money and like the looks by all means get the towers (I did), but you will get very similar performance from the bookshelf speakers when a sub or 2 are in the mix.

For that matter, if you can afford a pair of PBU 16's… I'm jealous. There is better pricing from equally respected manufacturers, so you know. Hsu, Rythmik and a few more. I went with Hsu's VTF-3 MK5 dual drive package and don't regret it. sounds amazing.
phxrider posts on July 26, 2017 19:36
I forget the exact measurements off hand but it's a pretty big room, probably 20'x12' with a 12' ceiling, and it's open to the kitchen and sides… Pretty much an acoustic nightmare, in theory…

However, right now I have 5x Yamaha HS80m studio monitors and the PCU13 for my “real” speakers and it's LOUD and the bass is STRONG. But I'd like something with a little better clarity (and that don't need XLR cables + power + trigger wires and boxes, for improved WAF/GAF) which is why I'm considering the SVSes. I was actually considering going to a single or dual PBU16 for the sub (or running the 13 with a 16 until I can get another 16). The Atmos speakers are Klipsch Quintets that she already had wired into the ceiling when I moved in, and I repurposed the center into a single surround back. (In case you're guessing, I don't already own the MX-A5000, I would get one if I moved away from powered monitors though.)
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