is well-known for their subwoofers, so when they recently launched a new line of loudspeakers, many including myself were eager to find out what they had to offer. The company's new flagship loudspeaker called the Ultra Tower offers full range audiophile performance at a price of just under $2000 a pair. The speakers stand 45-inches tall and have a very attractive trapezoidal shape with contemporary cuts. The wedge-shaped front baffle and flush-mounted drivers are designed to reduce edge diffraction and offer an improved on-axis high frequency response. The non-parallel cabinet panels reduce standing waves within the cabinet to eliminate unwanted colorations. Even the easily removable grille design has been FEA-optimized to maximize acoustic transparency. The base of the speaker measures 13.8-inches by 16.25-inches. Each speaker weighs approximately 75 pounds due to the heavy construction and substantial internal bracing. The loudspeakers are available in a black oak veneer or piano gloss black finish. Both rubber and spiked feet are provided. We received the piano gloss version for this review and opted for the rubber feet on our hardwood floors.
Mid/High SVS Drivers
The Ultra Towers use proprietary SVS drivers to provide customers the finest materials and design features that ensure the highest quality sound and performance. The upper section of the speaker has a driver array featuring a single 1” aluminum dome tweeter with dual 6.5" midrange drivers. Each midrange driver is sealed in its own enclosure to optimize performance and minimize any negative interaction with the other drivers.
The drivers are constructed with a composite glass-fiber cone, which provides an excellent stiffness/mass ratio. This improves sensitivity and produces the most accurate reproduction of the incoming electrical signal. An aluminum shorting ring on the midrange and bass drivers help reduce the gap inductance, lower distortion, and improve high frequency response. The midrange drivers also use a cast aluminum basket to better align the critical components within the speaker and enhances the heat-sinking capacity.
The 1" thick front baffle on the tweeter and midrange drivers is FEA-optimized for performance. This robust construction eliminates structural resonances particularly at high volume levels.
The Ultra Towers use two horizontally opposed 8-inch drivers in a vented enclosure featuring a 3.5" wide-flared rear-firing port, capable of moving lots of air without noise. SVS calls this configuration the ForceFactor Woofer Array. The thick 1.5" baffles greatly reduce cabinet vibrations and help to provide cleaner, tighter bass reproduction. The drivers are not exactly 180 degrees opposing, which reduces standing waves within the cabinet and minimizes the affect on the mid/high frequencies for an improved soundstage.
When both pairs of speakers are setup with all four woofers firing in different directions, the acoustical loading and modal density in the listening space is greatly enhanced. In the end, no matter where you sit, the bass response is tight, smooth and accurate with much less susceptibility to room-based anomalies. Each 8-inch driver has a vented voice coil former that minimizes air compression artifacts at high drive levels. This along with the heavy duty design helps enhance power handling and thermal management.
5-Way Binding Posts
The SVS Ultra Tower speakers have dual gold-plated 5-way binding posts
offering the flexibility for bi-amping for improved performance, yet come from the factory with jumpers installed between the woofer and midrange-tweeter inputs.
The Ultra Tower features a unique SoundMatch 3.5-way crossover with a tapered array, which is designed to supply each midrange driver with an optimized frequency band. In this configuration, only the top midrange driver crosses over to the tweeter, while the bottom midrange driver is tapered to minimize the potential for off-axis lobing at the critical midrange-to-tweeter crossover frequency. According to SVS, this results in a smoother in-room frequency response with a larger sweet spot in the vertical axis for a more convincing and stable soundstage. We have to admit that this speaker has the uncanny ability to deliver a smooth and seamless response over the entire frequency range - something that is not always easy to do.
Ultra Tower Impedance
We took 1/3 octave impedance measurements (using a Sencore SP295C) separately and combined to show what the amplifier will see at the terminals of the Ultra Tower. These speakers are rated with a nominal
impedance of 8 ohms. However, our measurements indicate a slightly higher
impedance closer to 6 ohms. Our lowest measurement of 4.8 ohms was around
200 Hz. We measured a peak of 53.3 ohms at 63 Hz. Any capable amplifier should have
no problem driving these speakers.
Our system consisted of a Denon AVR-5308CI A/V receiver mated to a Parasound HCA-2205AT five channel amplifier. Our Parasound amplifier has plenty of power and is well suited to drive lower impedance speakers without a problem. The AVR-5308CI was configured for two full-range channels with no subwoofer. Our OPPO BDP-105 provided the source material from high resolution DVD-Audio and SACD. Walls were covered with Echo Buster sound absorption panels. This helps eliminate slap echo and significantly reduced the RT60 time in the room. As a result, secondary reflections, which often blur the sonic image are largely reduced for a much more focused soundstage.
SVS SoundPath Cables
SVS provided us with a set of their 2-meter premium SoundPath analog audio cables for this review. We used them to carry analog audio between our OPPO BDP-105 and Denon AVR-5308CI as well as the line level preouts on the Denon to our Parasound HC-2205AT 5-channel amplifier. The cables are available in a variety of lengths starting at 2-meters and as long as 15-meters. The SoundPath cables are constructed with the highest quality materials and utilizes cold-fused gold plating on the center pin and the outer contact ring for long-lasting performance and reliability. The multi-strand high-purity copper center and outer conductors provide ultra-wide bandwidth and exceptionally low capacitance for maximizing electrical performance. We found these cables to be an excellent addition to our review system.
The SVS Ultra Tower speakers started out with an outstanding first impression. Upper frequencies were smooth and well defined without any hint of harshness. I found that I could listen to these speakers for hours without feeling any fatigue. Vocals were clear and focused and instruments exhibited transient detail found only on the best loudspeakers. The lower frequencies blended seamlessly with the midrange/tweeter setup in a way that made me want to permanently turn off the subwoofers in my system when listening to music. The 8-inch bass drivers provided fast response and when you have four of them working together, the presentation was phenomenal. These loudspeakers deliver full range audio so well that I do not miss my current system when listing to music. A few tracks from the Eagles' Hotel California on DVD-Audio revealed just how great this classic recording can sound. Vocals were placed right in front with the acoustic guitar sounding very organic.
One of my favorite recordings from Chesky Records is Livingston Taylor's Ink on DVD. It just so happens that he is James Taylor's younger brother and talent obviously runs in the family. The first track Isn't She Lovely is a great example of natural sounding acoustic guitar layered with superb vocals. The recording is captured with 24-bit/96 kHz equipment, so there is plenty of resolution and bandwidth with great dynamic range. Taylor's deep vocals along with his fine acoustic guitar textures makes for a great listening experience. The sounds of the acoustic strings being plucked and the harmonics are complex, but reproduced very well with the Ultra Towers. Two other Chesky discs that sounded great with these speakers were Rebecca Pidgeon's recording of Spanish Harlem on The Raven SACD (SACD329) and the Super Audio Collection and Professional Test Disc DVD (Item# CHDVD171), which includes a great mix of excellent artists recorded in high resolution.
The SVS Ultra Towers are certainly one of the best sounding speakers we have heard in the sub-$2000 (per pair) category. The ability to reproduce subtle details, provide a wide soundstage with excellent and seamless bass reproduction makes this a highly attractive loudspeaker. Best of all, these babies are attractive and do not need a separate subwoofer to satisfy the low-end. My preference goes towards the gloss finish over the black oak. SVS' flagship floorstanding speaker comes with an audition-friendly 45-day in-home trial. They are that confident that you will love these speakers. SVS's customer service and warranty makes it an even better purchase experience. This is one set of speakers that may actually stay just where they are and not make it back home.
- Kevin Nakano