HOME THEATER & SOUND -- www.hometheatersound.com



April
2006

Reviewed by
Randall Smith
REVIEWERS' CHOICE


SVS
SBS-01
Home-Theater Speaker System

Features SnapShot!

Description

Model: 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


Features

Speakers:

  • Removable grilles with metal pin retainers
  • ClearSilk tweeter
  • NBS woofer
  • Braced MDF cabinet
  • Wall-mountable design
  • Five-way binding posts

Subwoofer:

  • Proprietary, SVS-designed, long-throw 10" woofer
  • 300W BASH digital switching amp (manufacturer’s 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

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 you’re interested in a product that’s sold only online?

SVS is one such company. Unless you have a friend who owns an SVS product, all you have to go on is the company’s reputation. More than a year ago, based on SVS’s 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 it.

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.

Description

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 I’ve seen from them. Attention to detail is apparent, from what appear to be robust drivers right down to the grille’s heavy construction. One example of quality that belies the system’s low price: steel pins are used to secure the grilles to the cabinets. I’ve 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.

Setup

I installed the front two SBS-01s atop my Aerial 10T bass cabinets, which I’ve 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.

Listening

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 didn’t draw attention to its location at the front. I’ve 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 start.

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. There’s 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 Sutherland’s 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 hollow.

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 Kenobi’s ship. As Obi-Wan’s 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 system’s limits in stereo, I chose Silver Judas’s 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 song’s 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 Beck’s 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 track’s 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.

Others?

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. SVS’s well-built speakers aren’t all that big, but they’re 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 can’t 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 I’ve had the SVS SBS-01 speaker system in my home theater, I haven’t 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 you’re looking to upgrade your home-theater speaker system, or if you’re planning your first home theater and want to begin with an outstanding purchase, you can’t 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.

Review System
Speakers - Aerial Acoustics 10T (mains), Aerial Acoustics CC3B (center), Energy Veritas V2.0R (surrounds), SVS PB12-Plus/2 (subwoofer)
Amplifier - Anthem MCA 50
Processor - Anthem AVM 20
Source - Denon DVD-2910 universal audio/video player
Cables - Nordost, Monster Cable
Monitor - Sony KV-36HS420 direct-view monitor
 

Manufacturer contact information:

SVSound LLC (factory and showroom)
6420 Belmont Ave.
Girard, Ohio 44420
Phone: (703) 845-1472
Fax: (703) 997-2603

E-mail: sales@svsound.com
Website: www.svsound.com


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