If you are in the market for a new set of floorstanding speakers and you don’t know what to look for the vast array of brands and models available can make the task daunting at the very least. But if there is one brand that has won the hearts and minds of audiophiles, home cinema fans and casual users alike then this is definitely SVS. And today in our SVS Prime Tower review we will be looking at a floorstanding speaker that may not be new in the market but all these years that is available has managed to become a definite landmark in the affordable HiFi speaker market.
The SVS Prime Tower speaker was actually released in 2014 so in essence it’s been with us for 8 whole years. And while in the speakers market this may not be a very long time with the slower updates we get from speaker manufacturers but it is amazing that it has managed to keep its value and remain a fan favorite even after so many years and so many new models that have released after it. With a price of $1,200 for a pair the SVS Prime Tower may belong in the entry level HiFi speaker market but don’t let this “entry level” definition fool you and we will explain shortly why.
So lets see pretty quickly what we have here. The Prime Tower belong in SVS’s Prime series and is essentially a 3.5 way design with a single 1″ aluminum dome tweeter for the high frequencies, one 4.5″ midrange driver and two 6.5″bass drivers. These have been encased in a FEA-optimized cabinet with carefully placed bracing and comes in the usual Black ash and piano gloss black finish options that SVS speakers are so famous of.
Being so many years in the market the SVS Prime Tower has proved its worth countless times. But it was about time we test it for ourselves and see what the fuss was all about. So without further delay let’s start our analysis.
Design, Inputs and Features
The Prime Towers are not the biggest speakers SVS has in the Prime series as the Prime Pinnacle takes that spot but still they measure a respectable 36″ x 8″ x 11.1″ (914 x 203 x 282mm) and weight a good 40.1 pounds (18.19 kg).
If there is one brand that you can immediately recognize by its looks then this is definitely SVS and the prime Towers have this distinct design that SVS likes to use in many of their releases. Standing like black columns the Prime Towers give you a sense of authority and power just by looking at them.
But it’s not only looks as SVS have put a lot of though into designing these things. They use a FEA-optimized cabinet and bracing that eliminates resonances while the tapered edges on the Prime Tower speaker’s front baffle, known as chamfers, minimize edge diffraction for clear and precise soundstaging. The cabinet’s presence is substantial but it does not take over a room visually and offers a modern industrial feel with acoustic enhancements like shorting rings and a tweeter diffuser.
Inside the cabinet SVS has used separate woofer enclosures with optimized port tuning frequencies for smooth and accurate bass response while separate sealed midrange enclosure shifts standing waves beyond the driver pass band, improving sound quality.
The speakers, as many of SVS products, come in only two color variations. Black ash and piano gloss black finish with the gloss finish definitely looking more premium but also costs a bit more. Unfortunately only black colors are available so you have to decide if these fit your room design or not.
As for the grilles these are acoustically transparent and FEA optimized in order to minimize diffraction. They are not magnetic and use the usual pin system to attach to the front baffle. But to be honest such beautiful speakers loose a lot of their status with their drivers hidden. Without the grilles they look so much better but as always this is a matter of taste and it doesn’t affect performance.
The Prime Tower speakers come packaged with two sets of foot support options that allow optimal placement on a variety of floor substrates. The elastomer isolation feet that come pre-installed on the Prime Towers can be removed (unscrew to remove) and replaced with the included threaded metal spike kit. Both sets of feet are threaded to allow easy leveling of the Prime Towers if they should stand on an uneven surface.
We like the type of stand/feet that the Prime Towers are using. With them the speakers keep their column like looks and also they do not affect the overall footprint of the speakers themselves as many other floorstander stands do.
Closing what we can say is that the Prime Towers are really amazing speakers. Both in terms of looks, design and build quality. SVS knows their art and it shows. Yes, when you go for SVS you know that there are not many options in terms of color variations but this is not why you would choose a speaker from this brand.
The Prime Tower is using a 3.5-way design that uses a single tweeter for the high frequencies, one mid-range driver and dual bass drivers for better low end performance.
The Prime Tower’s 1-inch aluminum dome tweeter comes with a FEA-optimized diffuser for airy and unveiled presentation. The tweeter is light, efficient, and rigid, and plays crystal clear at high volumes.
The single 4.5-inch midrange driver is mounted in its own dedicated and completely sealed compartment to ensure a smooth, precise and clear midrange free from coloration. The cone material, made out of polypropylene, is extremely light and rigid and has a great stiffness/mass ratio and pistonic behavior in order to maintain a flat frequency response with excellent handling across the foundational mid-range frequencies.
There is also a aluminum shorting ring that is used to reduce gap inductance, lower distortion, and enhance high frequency response while the cast ABS-fiberglass composite basket ensures precision component alignment and excellent thermal transfer. Lastly SVS used a vented voice coil former in order to minimize air compression artifacts.
The dual 6.5-inch woofers have many of the same characteristics of the mid-range driver but on a larger scale in order to deliver deep and articulate bass and movie sound effects. Each woofer has a separate internal compartment in the cabinet with its own custom port tuning frequency.
They use long stroke motors and suspensions for high output, their polypropylene cones have once again excellent stiffness/mass ratio and pistonic behavior, their aluminum shorting rings reduce gap inductance, lower distortion, and enhance high frequency response and the cast ABS-fiberglass composite baskets ensure precision component alignment and excellent thermal transfer. They also use vented voice coil formers to minimize air compression artifacts.
But the drivers themselves are not much without the use of a good crossover and here SVS has used the innovative SoundMatch 3.5-way crossover. Its tapered array is designed so each woofer has its own discrete crossover to minimize the potential for beaming. This creates an expansive, yet focused and precise soundstage, with accurate frequency response at all listening positions in the room. The precise tuning of the SoundMatch crossover also ensures pinpoint accuracy while maintaining pristine signal purity.
The midrange-to-tweeter crossover has been set at 2.1 kHz (12 dB/octave slopes), the top woofer (combined woofer) to midrange crossover frequency at 350 Hz (12 dB/octave slopes) and the bottom woofer low pass frequency at 165 Hz.
The combination of the aluminum tweeter along with the mid-range driver and dual 6.5″ bass drivers give the Prime Tower a frequency response of 30 Hz-25 kHz (±3 dB) with 8 ohms of nominal impedance and 87 dB of sensitivity.
All Prime Speakers, including the Prime Towers we have here, include terminals with convenient gold-plated 5-way binding posts, which will accept wires terminated with banana plugs, speaker pins, spade connectors and of course, bare wire. The choice is yours but to be honest we always preferred bare wire for most uses.
Unpacking the speakers was relatively easy as you don’t have to assemble anything as the speakers don’t have any kind of stand. You only need to choose between the rubber feet and the spikes depending the floor you will place them on.
Now as far as positioning, SVS suggests they are positioned at a 30 degrees angle each (60 degrees total between the two) and also allow for a 5-10 degrees toe-in for better imaging. In general if the speakers are placed too close to the walls the bass will increase but may be boomy and indistinct. If the speakers are placed away from the walls this can improve stereo imaging and spaciousness by attenuating and delaying boundary reflections, thus optimizing direct sound and helping to preserve spatial information in the recording.
We usually try to follow the manufacturer’s advice when placing the speakers in our test room but as always this is more of a trial and error process and you have to place them the way they sound best to your ears. As we always do in these tests we left about 2 feet from the back wall in order to give them slightly more breathing space. Distance between the two speakers was around 9 feet.
The speakers we had for testing had already worked a lot of hours so they were past their break-in period. Most manufacturers do suggest between 50-70 hours of break-in time before speakers can reach their peak performance but we always suggest to wait until around 100 hours if they are new to be completely sure that what you hear is what the speakers can ultimately give you.
Now as far as our testing is concerned, for our movies we like to use a simple 4.0 channels surround system with only two front channels and a couple of surrounds and the reason for this is because we can easier determine how the front speakers can cover the omissions of a center speaker and a subwoofer. Weaknesses become more pronounced and although this would not apply to any real home theater system as almost all of them would have both a center speaker and a subwoofer we are here to determine specifically the characteristics of the two front channels and at least for us this is the best way to do so.
On the other hand when it comes to our music testing, as always we like to go for a pure 2.0 channels system with only the two front channels as this is the way that most music purists tend to go with. Now after all necessary connections and calibrations with our Marantz AV receiver we were ready to begin.
In this review we began with the 4K UHD of Pacific Rim: Uprising with its gargantuan Dolby Atmos mix. One of the first things that immediately strikes you is the clarity and rendering of even the tinniest of details in the mix.
It’s quality as a sequel may not be up to par with the first one but such an effects driven film has very carefully engineered audio design and the Prime Tower take full advantage of this. The front soundstage really exploded in front of us with the film’s wide stages and grand battles and especially during the city battles there is so much information with building crumbling, debris flying all over the place, metal clashing, projectiles fired and the list goes on and on.
It felt like the Prime Towers were meant for such a mayhem and they were able to reproduce the mix with pinpoint accuracy both in terms of imaging and tonality. Our setup was missing a center channel but even so the front speakers managed to keep the dialogue very much contained at the center. It felt so good that we could close our eyes and almost believe there was a center speaker there.
But the Prime Towers were not only very capable at rendering lots of details but also proved to have nice dispersion which makes them ideal for bigger rooms and for areas where they sit far for the listener and mostly off axis. The bass was good and the dual 6.5″ drivers proved capable enough at capturing all the low end activity although to be honest we were expecting just a bit more out of them.
Next test and we popped our Alien: Covenant 4K UHD which again uses a very nice Dolby Atmos track. In contrast to Pacific Rim, Alien: Covenant has a more atmospheric tone and is not all out mayhem and destruction. When the landing party enters for the first time the Alien ship you can hear a lot of reverbing sounds produced with precision that travelled across our testing area making the scene so much more believable.
Dialogue was more focused here and the speakers did an excellent job keeping everything front and center with clarity and high definition. The Prime Tower worked in harmony with our surrounds in order to provide excellent transient effects and panning sounds. The Engineers Necropolis was a great example of showcasing the speaker’s excellent capabilities at recreating grand scenes in your room with nice depth and extension in all axis.
The film may not be very bass heavy but it has its fare share of low end action and the Prime Towers take advantage of every single moment they get. When the lander explodes the speakers hit you with a low end wave that may not be on the same level as a dedicated subwoofer can deliver but surely give some weight to the destruction on screen.
Last test for the day and we couldn’t do without some Lord of the Rings action so we popped our Return of the King disc and skipped forward to the siege of Minas Tirith. When the Rohirim gallop towards Sauron’s army you can sense the shaking on the ground from the hundreds of horses rushing to their doom. Again the effect is not as clear or as pronounced compared to what your dedicated subwoofer will do but the bass drivers have a very good workout here.
When the Oliphants arrive the Prime Towers took the performance to the next level. Everything was so carefully handled that it felt like a audio playground for the speakers. From the heavy steps of these giant beasts, the sound of their battle horns, soldiers screaming, weapons and shields clashing everything just sounded right. No excessiveness, no harshness and no sibilance.
The sound was wide and had nice spread in our room recreating faithfully the extensive size of the Pelennor fields in all their glory. Lastly the speakers had noteworthy balance as none of the frequencies felt overexaggerated or overlooked creating a very pleasing audio outcome.
And this marks the end of our movies testing. What we can say about the Prime Towers is that at the price these are right now, which should be considered to be on the low end of a HiFi speaker, it will be hard to find a speaker that has the same virtues and none of its weaknesses at the same cost. The Prime Towers can be an amazing choice if you want to create a new home theater system and have speakers that have amazing quality without burning your pocket.
Last test for the day is all about music so we switched to a pure 2.0 channels audio setup with only the two front speakers connected and we streamed a selection of FLAC music tracks through the front USB port of our Marantz receiver.
The Prime Towers may not be considered as high priced audiophile HiFi choice but the music quality you will get out of them far outpaces the amount of money you have to pay. Keep in mind that they don’t output the most warm of sounds and can be a bit excessive and harsh at moments but the kind of balance they have and excellent composure more than makes for these small nuisances.
The front soundstage becomes alive as the speakers can recreate every music instrument with remarkable precision. Sound imaging was also very satisfying and there was amazing precision and accuracy in space.
With the low end the Prime Towers will prove worthy even though once again we felt that something was slightly missing. Don’t get us wrong, the speakers have powerful bass and even with some bass intensive songs they never had the problem to follow the rhythm and pushing down under as much as their capabilities would allow. It’s just that we were hoping to get this little bit of extra that would make them rise above the competition. But even like this they behaved remarkably well offering clear bass without it being muffled of boomy.
As in all our speakers test we tried a few different genres in order to see if the speakers will behave differently and so this time we tried performances that included Jazz, electronic music, some heavy metal, a bit of pop and we closed with some techno music. The Prime Towers behaved very good in most cases without deviating much from their core performance. In some instances we would like to hear a bit more deep bass while the high end was slightly more bright than what we would love to hear but looking them as a whole they scored high marks across the board and with everything we threw at them.
One thing that seem to play a very important role with these is the kind of electronics you are going to use. The speakers can do well across many genres but because they have a few certain characteristics they need a bit more thought with what these will be paired with in order to create a more balanced outcome. But other than that there is really nothing wrong with them and at the price they are offered nowadays they can be a real steal.
If you are looking for a pair of speakers that really can do well across any kind of genre you favor then the Prime Towers proved to be excellent value for money. You cannot go wrong with them really.
SVS is no stranger to HiFi speakers and although the Prime Towers are not new as they already entered their 8th year in the market they still remain a respectable option in the low $1,000 budget price category showing how much careful thought and design SVS purred into them when they were originally released. And even today in 2022 we can assure you that they can easily compete with much newer speakers that can cost much more than these do.
There are so many good things to say about these speakers that is hard to find new words to describe them. Starting from the design and build quality SVS put all their expertise into them and surely emit a powerful aura when you look at them. In terms of audio they may not offer the warm sound that some other speakers do but the level of detail and overall balance you get is hard to be found in this price. The highs were energetic without being disturbing and the bass was deep, clear and articulated.
Is there anything bad to say about when we loved these so much? Some nitpicking here but if we absolutely have to find something to say them surely the speakers need some breathing space to perform good. When we tried to place them close to a wall we felt the bass overshadowed the rest of the performance but this can happen with most floorstanders with rear ports. Its audio output had amazing detail which came at the expense of warmth as we just mentioned above while the treble felt at some time that was missing the dispersion of some other speakers we had heard.
This ends our review for today and as a closing comment what we can say about the SVS Prime Tower is that it’s a speaker that even with its age it remains one of the top budget speakers you can get at the moment. Its quality is not notch, its performance unquestionable and can be an ideal choice if you are either a home theater fan or an entry level audiophile. SVS is a brand that ensures you get the best for what you pay and the Prime Tower remains a very characteristic example of what they can offer.