Home-Theater Speaker System
|A good reputation is
important. For enthusiasts who rely on websites such as Home Theater & Sound
for their research sources, nothing is more helpful than an honest review or detailed
feedback from a current owner of a particular product. Many readers live in areas where
access to a wide spectrum of audio brands and products is limited -- and what if
youre interested in a product thats sold only online?
SBS-01 bookshelf speaker
Price: $225 USD per pair
Dimensions: 12"H x 7"W x 9.5"D
Weight: 11 pounds each
Model: SCS-01 center-channel speaker
Price: $185 USD
Dimensions: 20"W x 7"H x 8.5"D
Weight: 19 pounds
Model: PB10-ISD subwoofer
Price: $429 USD
Dimensions: 19"H x 15"W x 21"D
Weight: 60 pounds
Warranty: 45-day money-back guarantee (shipping
costs not refundable); three-year warranty against defects in materials and workmanship.
System Price: $999 USD
- Removable grilles with metal pin retainers
- ClearSilk tweeter
- NBS woofer
- Braced MDF cabinet
- Wall-mountable design
- Five-way binding posts
- Proprietary, SVS-designed, long-throw 10" woofer
- 300W BASH digital switching amp (manufacturers rating)
- Computer-aided cabinet design with 1"-thick front
baffle and internal bracing
- Front-firing design with flush-fit woofer and vent
- Patented 3"-wide flared port fittings
- Six removable, compliant floor-isolation points
- Four finish choices
- Color-keyed fabric grille with chromed steel mounting pins
SVS is one such company. Unless you have a friend who owns
an SVS product, all you have to go on is the companys reputation. More than a year
ago, based on SVSs solid reputation for building some of the best subs on the
market, I bought their PB12-Plus/2. I chose this make and model after reading reviews by
Anthony Di Marco and Jeff Fritz. "The SVS 25-31PC-Plus is a groundbreaking subwoofer
in the under-$1000 price category. In fact, I have not heard a better subwoofer at several
multiples of its price." Did it sound as if Jeff was impressed? Anthony wrote,
"Ron Stimpson and Tom Vodhanel may be close to accurately reproducing the sound of
thunder -- the PB12-Ultra/2 is their lightning in a bottle." After researching more
professional as well as consumer feedback about the SVS PB12-Plus/2, but having never
heard a single dB of sound from one, I wrote a check. To this day, I have never regretted
Now, after years of making subwoofers, SVS has expanded
into the realm of loudspeakers. Their SBS-01 surround-sound system teams their PB10-ISD
entry-level subwoofer with four identical SBS-01 bookshelf speakers and a dedicated SCS-01
center-channel speaker, all for $999. The system is already selling briskly and, although
initially backordered, is finally shipping. I guess consumers trust a good reputation.
The SBS-01 system arrived at my office late one afternoon. I wrestled the
boxes into the back of my truck and eagerly drove them home. I was pleased with the care
with which the speakers had been boxed and shipped. Each speaker was wrapped in a plastic
bag and shielded from its cardboard box with 2"-thick Styrofoam. The five speakers
were easy to unpack and quickly install in my system. The subwoofer was also packed very
well, but its size and weight made it not so easy to remove from its box. On their
website, SVS warns buyers that their subs may not simply "disappear" in a living
room. Prepare your décor-conscious partner.
SVS has built ruggedness into every product Ive seen
from them. Attention to detail is apparent, from what appear to be robust drivers right
down to the grilles heavy construction. One example of quality that belies the
systems low price: steel pins are used to secure the grilles to the cabinets.
Ive seen speakers costing considerably more that make do with plastic.
The two-way SBS-01 measures
12"H x 7"W x 9.5"D, the two-way, three-driver SCS-01 center channel
20"W x 7"H x 8.5"D. Each has one silk-dome tweeter and a crossover with
custom capacitors and air-core inductors. The simple yet substantial-looking cabinets are
solidly built of MDF and seamlessly braced. All five speakers have the same finish: a nice
textured black that looks quite durable.
The front-firing, front-ported PB10-ISD is a beast.
Weighing 60 pounds, this 19"H x 15"W x 21"D "entry-level"
subwoofer will draw attention to itself in any room, and not only for its size. It
contains a BASH digital switching amp that SVS rates at 300W output and claims provides
ample power to drive the 10" long-throw woofer. The driver itself has a rubber
surround and large magnet assembly.
I installed the front two SBS-01s atop my Aerial 10T bass
cabinets, which Ive found the perfect height for bookshelf speakers. The speakers
were 8 apart and 11 from the listening position. I put the SCS-01
center-channel speaker atop my TV, also 11 away from my listening seat. (The SCS-01
comes with a two-piece stand, at no additional cost, that allows you to tilt the speaker
to keep your ears in the middle of the action.) The rear SBS-01s were mounted on my rear
wall with brackets and angled to the listening position.
I positioned the PB10-ISD subwoofer to the left of the left
front speaker, where my reference sub usually goes. The PB10-ISD is big, but its front
port makes it easier to orient in the room.
In the setup menu of my Anthem AVM 20 surround-sound
processor, I set all of the speakers to Small, the subwoofer crossover to 80Hz.
The first thing I watched was Saw II. Although the
two Saw movies are not my favorites, I enjoy both for their effective use of sound
effects. In chapter 7, when a heavy metal door at the back of the shot is suddenly
unlocked, the SVS PB10-ISD subwoofer delivered a precise wave of sound that meshed well
with the rear speakers. The speakers imaged perfectly at the rear soundstage, and the sub
didnt draw attention to its location at the front. Ive owned several speaker
systems that cost around $999 and have heard dozens more, but never have I been as
impressed as I was during that first listening experience. The SBS-01 was off to a great
24 is one of the most intense shows on television.
Delivered in high-definition, the episodes also have dynamic soundtracks that blow
away anything else on network TV. One of my favorite parts of each broadcast is the
heart-pounding bass that accompanies the action. Theres nothing like really deep
bass for creating a pulsating effect that adds more tension to a scene. Again, the
PB10-ISD "disappeared" from the room, as a good subwoofer should. Kiefer
Sutherlands voice was reproduced stunningly clear from the center speaker, present
and deep. Never during the review period did I feel that the SCS-01 center sounded thin or
For a true test of overall system capabilities, I popped in
Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones and cued up chapter 28,
"Asteroid Chase." This scene has a bit of everything: deep bass, lots of
surround-channel activity, and sound panned from and to every direction. The scene begins
with the bounty hunters ship coming out of light speed, followed by Obi-Wan
Kenobis ship. As Obi-Wans vessel approached from far right and moved to the
left of the screen, the sound panned seamlessly along with it, with just the right amount
of bass as the ship approached. As the scene progressed, the bounty hunter releases sonic
charges from the bowels of his ship. Each detail was easily made out and in perfect sync
with the images. I could hear the gears shift, the charge drop, then its flyby from right
front to right rear. What really sold this effect was the right rear SBS-01 holding the
sound long past the time the charge disappears from the screen.
Some systems seem to leave a
dead spot in the middle of the pan at the beginning of this scene, but the four identical
SBS-01s and the SCS-01 center held solid throughout. The explosion from the sonic charge
is one of my favorite sound effects of any action movie. In the movie theater, I remember
preparing myself for impact as I saw the flash of the explosion, and ever since have held
this effect in the highest regard. The sounds of the meteor fragments screaming from the
front speakers to the rears were so realistic that it was like being hit in the face with
debris, and the SBS-01 system took me back to that first time I saw the scene. This system
delivered in every way.
Nor was the SBS-01 system a slouch when it came to music.
To test the systems limits in stereo, I chose Silver Judass new CD, Bleed
the Sky [SilverJudas 2005]. "Miracle" really jams. A minute into the song,
the drummer takes over with a powerful drum lead. In stereo, the sound of each drum note
danced between the speakers. This really impressed me; it was as if I could see the
drumsticks strike each individual drum. As the song progressed, the volume level increased
with the songs intensity. The sound remained clean and accurate, the bass fast and
undistorted, the highs laid-back and not harsh. This kind of music screams to be played
loud; the SBS-01s unleashed the sound and never held it back.
The final challenge was multichannel music, so I tapped the
DVD-Audio version of Becks most recent release, Guero [InterScope
INTR-11373-9DA01]. "Farewell Ride" explodes right out of the box. The
deep bass rattled the loose screws in my head as it attacked my senses. This sort of bass
can overload average subwoofers, but the PB10-ISD almost brought the house down. Time
after time, deep waves of bass plowed through the room, shaking lamps in the living room
and even in the adjoining kitchen. The tracks multiple layers of sound took
advantage of every channel: the full, rich vocals, the smooth and laid-back guitar, the
handclaps in the surround channels -- all were mixed together in a powerful performance.
Although SVS offers attractive finishes for some of its
products, the company has never built anything whose visual appearance took priority over
its sound quality. This has led to big, massively built subs. SVSs well-built
speakers arent all that big, but theyre made only with the textured-black
finish. Other companies offer speaker systems at or near $999 whose cabinets may be
smaller and more streamlined, with a greater choice of finishes, but the tradeoff is that,
in my experience, they lack the ability to re-create a powerful home-theater sound.
Which means that the list of true competitors for the
no-frills SBS-01 system is short. Energy and Paradigm make speakers that are comparable to
the SBS-01, but there is no direct comparison to the PB10-ISD, which for $429 is a great
subwoofer. When you throw in the SBS-01s and the SCS-01, you just cant touch this
system for $999.
Reputation well earned
It recently occurred to me that every individual
speaker I own costs more than $999. I thought about that for a while. Because for the
weeks Ive had the SVS SBS-01 speaker system in my home theater, I havent
missed any of those speakers. The SBS-01 excelled at bringing topnotch movie sound into my
home at a very reasonable price. In the next couple of years, SVS plans to release two
more speaker systems, each a step up in price and size from the last. If youre
looking to upgrade your home-theater speaker system, or if youre planning your first
home theater and want to begin with an outstanding purchase, you cant go wrong with
the SBS-01. Once again, SVS has delivered the goods. The SBS-01 home-theater speaker
system represents one of the very best values in the market.
|Speakers - Aerial Acoustics
10T (mains), Aerial Acoustics CC3B (center), Energy Veritas V2.0R (surrounds), SVS
- Anthem MCA 50
|Processor - Anthem AVM 20
- Denon DVD-2910 universal audio/video player
|Cables - Nordost, Monster
- Sony KV-36HS420 direct-view monitor