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SVS 2.1 Prime Wireless Speaker System Listening Tests

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Bluetooth Outdoor

SVS Prime Wireless.JPG
 

I tested the speakers in a variety of environments and used a variety of the available inputs. However, I could not exhaust all the input options. On an outdoor porch, I placed the speakers 3 feet off the floor on a metal grate shelf approximately 4 feet apart. This location did not allow the testing of the Wi-Fi connectivity due to its location but did allow for Bluetooth connectivity from an iPhone. I chose this spot since I was planning on doing some work and wanted to hear the SVS system in a poor listening environment with lots of background noise and inconsistent reflections off walls. These little guys could really put out the sound.

During this test, I was less listening for the quality of the sound, but mostly trying to see if they could fill an outdoor-like space. The playlist I was using had a large variety of songs from the 70s and funk hits like the Spinner’s “Rubber Band Man” to Bruno Mars’ “Finesse” and Queen’s “Killer Queen.” These speakers delivered robust and clear sound at volume levels that cut through the background noise with ease. The bass was not prevalent, but I chalked this up to being on an outside porch with cement floors and masonry walls or screens all around. The mids and highs were precise and at loud listening levels there was no discernible muddling of the midsection or breakup of the highs. Adding the SB1000 subwoofer in this scenario is the perfect way to compliment the bass for those wanting more.

Bluetooth Indoors

To really get a feel of how these speakers sound, I brought them in the house and set them up on a buffet table 4 feet apart and 3.5 feet from the ground. The goal was to try out both the Wi-Fi setup and the Bluetooth set up to compare the sound and see if there was any discernable difference.

Using the three songs: Killer Queen, Here Come the Girls, and Finesse, I prepared to listen first to the songs through Bluetooth, specifically through the Spotify app to give me an apples to apples comparison between Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. I set Spotify to stream at its highest setting which is supposed to be 320 kbits/s.

Killer Queen (2011 Remaster) by Queen

killerqueen.jpgWhen you hear the hand snaps and piano paired with Freddie Mercury’s vocals that start this song you can’t help but smile. The SVS Wireless Speakers were precise and vibrant with clear highs and mids, but the song immediately adds the bass and percussion. Here, there is a noticeable drop-off that pairing with a subwoofer would be of great benefit. Although the frequency response is said to rolloff below 52Hz, the lack of deep bass from these speakers was noticeable. At first, I thought this was merely the song I’ve chosen so I continued to listen, but since I have a variety of other speakers from which to choose, I was able to switch the song from one to the other on the fly. The first thing I noticed is that every other speaker I tried provided more bass response. They may not be able to produce the mid and highs that the SVS can, but they all could produce a bottom end that was more defined and present.

Here Come the Girls, by Trombone Shorty

The drums start this track with a marching band like riff, a clear kick drum setting the beat and straight-ahead snare drum attack. This is immediately followed by the trombone chorus and vocals. Again, the horn section sounded like the trombones were in the room, but I couldn’t make out the kick drum at all. When the bass guitar came in I could clearly make it out since it is a higher octave baseline, but it wasn’t anything like what I would have expected. As the song continued and gets to the trombone solo, I was amazed at how the speakers disappeared and all that was left was the clear melody. The SVS speakers really demonstrated to me the advantages active speakers can have with crossover integration when designed correctly.

trombone shorty.jpg    finesse.jpg

Finesse by Bruno Mars

If there’s going to be a way to hear the bass, it’s going to be with the expensive overproduced pop song like Finesse. It begins with a mushy synthesized bass line that is at once groovy and over the top. The SVS Wireless play it well, but not as completely as many other less expensive speakers. It was clear at this point that these speakers are meant to be part of a system with a subwoofer. Bruno’s vocals and the snap of the snare were perfect, but there was little bottom to the sound with a clear roll-off before the stated 52Hz rolloff.

Wi-Fi Indoors

Spotify and Apple music gives you very little control over tone settings, especially over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Since the SVS Wireless system requires an app in order to set up the Wi-Fi, I thought maybe I’d be able to have more options to increase the bass output of the speakers.

Earlier when I was outside, setting up the Bluetooth connection was simple, but not obvious. The included instructions did help, but it is clear that this is the last way that SVS wants you to connect , since this is the last set of instructions in the manual. Although not difficult, you must make sure that both the device is in Bluetooth pairing mode (indicated by the flashing blue light on the back) and that the speaker has Bluetooth selected as a source.

When I moved inside, I was going to be pushing sound from a tablet instead of my phone, but I knew that I was going to have to set the speakers up on the Wi-Fi first. To set up the Wi-Fi connectivity you have to download the Play-Fi app from the app store for your device. The Google Play store and Apple App store both carry the app as well as the Amazon App store. Setting up the Wi-Fi requires that you switch your phone or tablet to the speaker’s default Wi-Fi after you’ve downloaded the Play-Fi app. Then the Play-Fi app will get your device onto your network. Like other active Wi-Fi speakers I’ve reviewed, this worked perfectly the first time, but on subsequent tries, I had to unplug the speaker and plug it back in for the device to come back up on the Wi-Fi and be detected by the app. Play-Fi's customer support was exceptional and they gave me several troubleshooting ideas to help me out.  Part of the problem was operator error, so it's nice to know that customer support had my back!

After I got the hang of the app, I realized that these speakers are not compatible with Apple Music through Wi-Fi. In fact, several of the services that you might want to use must be played through the Play-Fi app. So, music I’ve purchased and downloaded from iTunes would play, but anything downloaded to my device from Apple Music would report an error, stating the file is unsupported. Although this is to be somewhat expected of the lofty megalomaniacs of Apple who don’t like to play nice with others, it was still disappointing.

I switched to Spotify through the Play-Fi App which had the added advantage of making sure that I was providing a consistent listening experience between Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. The Play-Fi app sets up the SVS Wireless as a Spotify Connect device. This is handy since this takes the phone or tablet out of the streaming equation and lets the speakers receive the signal directly. You can’t make any tonal adjustments, but you can use your phone for calls while the music continues to stream to the speakers.

There is some tonal difference between streaming using Bluetooth and Spotify connect. I have always found that Spotify connect is a little flatter than going through the Bluetooth connection, but I believe this is mostly due to the equalization applied to tracks that go through Bluetooth vs Spotify Connect. The sound still suffered in the low end but was bright and precise in the mids and highs.

Using the Play-Fi app you can also setup presets. Presets are accessible from the front panel of the active speaker. By just pushing in the left knob you can cycle through up to 6 presets. In the Play-Fi app, you choose a streaming service and playlist (or podcast, etc…), then from the left knob on the speaker, you can save what is currently playing to one of the presets. It’s a little convoluted that you can’t assign the preset from the app directly, but once set up, you can begin playing music from just tapping the left knob on the speaker. These presets are also saved in the Play-Fi app and can be started quite quickly by firing up the app and selecting your preset. The app allows for a very wide variety of sources to be set up as presets. Although the front of the speaker only allow 6 different presets to be selected from the speaker itself, the app allows what feels like a limitless number of available pre-selects.

Play-Fi.jpg    Play-Fi2.jpg

The presets are actually a little more advanced than I originally imagined. When I first set up the speakers I was a little frustrated having to switch the input from WiFi to line-In to optical input. I thought that every switch required you to stand up and go to the speaker itself to make the selection. With a little research I found that the Play-Fi app allowed for different inputs to also be set up as presets. This suggests that the app itself can act as a remote control to allow you to switch between different input methods. Moreover the app allows these inputs to have somewhat advanced setting pre-selected. For example, you can have one preset for your television speaker output, but you can then switch to another preset for your Spotify to play across multiple connected speaker systems. The speaker have to be Play-Fi compatible, but this gives you a lot flexibility to set your system up in a variety of ways. Also, Prime Wireless will switch back to the last used input after a streaming session is ended.  So if you connect the Prime Wireless to the Optical input for the TV, it will switch back to that input after a streaming session has ended.  With a little research I began to see the full potential of the Play-Fi app. The Play-Fi app doesn’t always review well. It requires a little patience to understand the full flexibility of the app and how it integrates different streaming systems and speaker systems.

Television and Movie Playback

Any upgraded sound from the television's speakgame-of-thrones-character-poster.jpgers is going to be an upgrade. The SVS Prime Wireless was no different. Even without a subwoofer, all television content benefited from having the SVS Wireless Speakers. However, since I plugged the optical out from my Samsung television panel directly into the optical input of the SVS, it meant that I had to control the volume using the Play-Fi app. It is possible that if I had used the RCA input or the 3.5mm input I would have been able to use the TV’s remote to control sound, but other companies like Polk and their MagniFi Mini have software built in to learn your television’s remote volume control.  The sound still suffered at the bottom end, but my television speakers have none either. Game of Thrones sounded great. Some would say they sounded better than the end of the show, but I digress…

SB-1000 Subwoofer Add-On

When asked about the lack of bass extension from the Prime Wireless system, Ed Mullen, the Director of Technology and Customer Service for SVS responded:

There is only so much bass extension/boost that the 4.5” woofer can tolerate while still delivering a subjectively clean and dynamic delivery.  Excessive cone excursion will hurt midrange imaging and soundstage, which were priorities with Prime Wireless.    

And yes – pairing Prime Wireless with something like our SB-1000 will deliver the full-range audio experience without taking up much additional space.  This pairing is so common we now offer it as a package We like 90-100 Hz as the low pass setting on the SB-1000 for a seamless transition.

The 2.1 system is offered from SVS for $1,100 with the inclusion of the SB-1000 subwoofer which would make a killer 2.1 minimalist looking system. SVS was generous enough to immediately ship me the SB-1000 subwoofer for comparison.

 SVS Box.JPG

The SB-1000 sub arrived promptly double boxed in sturdy cardboard boxes.  The sub itself was wrapped in a soft cloth covered in a plastic bag. The SB-1000 has the same luxurious gloss piano black finish as the prime wireless speakers, but also comes in black ash, and piano gloss white finishes. It is an extremely well made sub, using materials and electronics found in subs that cost twice the price.

SVS Sub.JPG SVS SB-1000.jpg

I added the SB-1000 Sub to the Prime Wireless speakers with an RCA subwoofer cable connecting the Sub-out from the speaker to the LFE input of the sub. The volume was adjusted slightly depending on the listening source, but in most cases the 12 o'clock to 1 o'clock positions sounded best.  Phase control was set at zero, and the low pass filter was set at LFE. 

Listening Tests - 2.1 Setup

The 2.1 listening tests were conducted in a 15' wide x 30' long area, most of which was limited to the front half of the room. The SVS Prime wireless speakers do not come with an HDMI input, so an optical cable was run from the television to the speakers.
 

Movie Listening

fury road.jpg 
Mad Max - Fury Road

To test the limits of the SVS 2.1 Speaker System I decided to put in one of my go to movies I have often used in past reviews, the future apocalyptic world of George Millers "Mad Max- Fury Road". Not only are the cinematic displays of live action stunts visually breath taking, but the film was recorded using some of the most sophisticated  technology available so when you finally get your Dolby Atmos setup complete this should be one of your first trials.

In the opening scene Max stares out over an open desert munching on a mutant lizard, the voices inside his head are swirling, enveloping us in an auditory madness. There is a subtle difference here between using the sub and not.  The mids and highs sound slightly clearer and crisper, which is profound considering the high praise the speakers received without the sub. The difference is not truly seen until Max jumps into his car and starts what I consider to be the greatest 2-hour car chase ever recorded. Each rumble of the engines and explosions came through without breaking up and allowed the Prime Wireless speakers to concentrate on the mids and high. Dialogue was easily discernible. Even the fire shooting guitar player strapped to the front of one of the chase cars sounded incredibly realistic.

Music Listening

Pandora

During my music listening tests I switched between using my apple TV through optical out, Bluetooth though my iPhone, and Pandora through the Play-Fi app. I mainly listened to the U2 station which had a good mix of U2, The Police, and other great 80's artists.  Again, I found the inclusion of the SB-1000 to be instrumental in letting the Prime Wireless Speakers really shine. The hard hitting snare of U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday" was crisper, the bass for the background of "With or Without You" was deeper and more resonant. In all the addition of the subwoofer was just what this system needed.

Conclusion

The SVS Prime Wireless speakers had incredibly realistic mids anSVS Hero.JPGd highs, and with the inclusion of the separate SB-1000 subwoofer, made for a full range system to satisfy any critical audiophile wanting a lifestyle type solution. Although I didn't test the new Amazon HD lossless music service, I could only imagine it would take this system to new sonic heights over the streaming from Spotify and Pandora that I used for most of my music listening tests.

At $600 for the pair, you certainly get the flexibility to use these speakers in a multitude of different ways that you won’t find in less expensive active Bluetooth speaker systems and the $1,100 price point adds the sub for an exceptional 2.1 system.  Although it seems expensive compared to the $169 Fluance Ai40 that I reviewed recently, the SVS Prime Wireless Speaker system are a step above in every way. The clarity, precision, and dynamic range of the SVS Prime Wireless system is in a whole different league. Besides this, the SVS Prime Wireless system is one that will grow with you and change to match your needs. The sheer volume of different ways in which this system can be used dwarfs other Bluetooth and wireless offerings I’ve seen, and the soundstage they create is clear and precise. Somehow, SVS has found a way to make these speakers small and unassuming so that will blend into the space in which you place them, yet grand and eloquent enough to be admired as a piece of high-quality furniture.

It would be hard to find a configuration that would not benefit from the SVS 2.1 Prime Wireless System, although they are clearly not the best option for people dedicated to YouTubeRed or an AirPlay home; when paired with an AppleTV and its optical port, 3.5mm port or Bluetooth connectivity you can easily modify them to blend in with your AirPlay devices. On the other hand, the list of supported streaming services is long, including most of the big contenders like Spotify, Tidal, Pandora, Amazon HD Music and more. Although I used Spotify and Pandora for most of this review, I did test iHeartRadio and Amazon Music as well and all worked in the same way. SVS also advertises that their Play-Fi app is Alexa compatible, which is always nice, but with this system there’s always an input that you can use to get your sound going.

SVS products come standard with a 5-year warranty and have one of the most generous return policies in the business which includes a 45 day risk-free in-home trial with free shipping both ways. You owe it to yourself to give this system a try if you're looking for a high quality active speaker system that plays all of your audio sources with pristine fidelity.

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 AccuracyStarStarStarStarStar
Bass ExtensionStarStarStarStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStarStarStar
ImagingStarStarStarStar
SoundstageStarStarStarStar
Dynamic RangeStarStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStarStarStar
PerformanceStarStarStarStar
ValueStarStarStarStar
About the author:
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Tony is our resident expert for lifestyle and wireless products including soundbars. He does most of the reviews for wireless and streaming loudspeakers and often compares soundbars in round ups and helps us cover the trade shows.

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