SVS Prime Wireless Speaker Review

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The champions of very large subwoofers know a thing or two about speakers as well

by Ed Selley Dec 5, 2018 at 8:00 AM

  • Hi-Fi review

    7

    Recommended
    SVS Prime Wireless Speaker Review
    SRP: £600.00

    What is the SVS Prime Wireless?

    The SVS Prime Wireless is a compact, two way powered speaker that arrives into a category that has been gaining in size and importance for a number of years. Freed from the standard requirements of needing somewhere to accommodate the playback of physical media, the business of simply building decoding and amplification into a speaker cabinet to construct a compact but effective system has grown in appeal.

    With this has come a gradual increase in what we expect these speakers to do. To start with, we had Bluetooth, then a digital input made an appearance, alongside some sort of auxiliary connection. From there, it is a traceable point to what you see here; a speaker that really only needs an internet connection to be a complete system. The Prime Wireless is extensively specced and boasts some technology that first appeared in some rather more expensive SVS products. On paper, it makes similarly priced conventional systems look bulky and rather limited. That’s the promise anyway, how does it stack up in reality?

    Specification and Design

    SVS Prime Wireless Specification and Design
    The Prime Wireless is a member of the wider Prime range of speakers that sit below the flagship Ultra series of components. Intriguingly, it seems to be a product in its own right rather than an adaptation of an existing Prime model. This is a positive sign because, while speakers can be adapted to powered use fairly easy, all of the hardware required to do so will eat into that cabinet volume and alter the performance characteristics. As such, starting from scratch and being able to ensure you have the cabinet volume you need once all the technology has been fitted has benefits.

    In driver terms, the SVS partners a 1 inch (I’d use millimetres but the land of Imperial measures doesn’t) aluminium tweeter partnered with a 4.5inch polypropylene midbass driver. The most notable aspect of this partnership is the manner in which the crossover is implemented. Instead of a passive design - which you would expect to find in a passive speaker, the SVS uses a digital crossover system. This is derived from the technology that crops up in the company’s subwoofers and SVS says is helps to ensure the relationship between the drivers is optimal rather than ‘close enough.’

    The crossover works to allocate signals between four, 50 watt class D amplifiers, each allocated to a specific driver. The amps are all inside one of the cabinets rather than split between them as you would expect in a true active. This is useful in convenience terms because it means that inputs can be grouped in a single location and only the ‘master’ speaker needs a mains connection. Its passive partner connects via an umbilical cable and requires nothing else to function. Both cabinets have their low end augmented by a hefty rear bass port.
    SVS Prime Wireless Specification and Design
    The input selection is impressive too. The Prime Wireless covers off all the basics. There are two analogue connections - one on a stereo RCA and one on a 3.5mm stereo input. There is additionally an optical connection and Bluetooth, which is a usefully up to date design featuring version 4.0 partnered with Apt-X. This is partnered with a subwoofer output because the day that SVS doesn’t ensure you can easily use one of their subs is the day that the devil goes to work in a snowplough.

    The main event in terms of connectivity is a full network audio implementation. This is a 24/192 capable client that can stream from a server over wired or wireless connection. This is backed up by internet radio and native support for a wide selection of streaming services including Spotify, Tidal, Deezer and Amazon Prime Music. The last one is a more unusual inclusion in products of this nature and potentially useful as the Prime Wireless also boasts compatibility with Amazon Alexa for those of you for whom privacy is something that happens to somebody else.

    SVS Prime Wireless
    There’s a ‘but’ coming here and it may or may not be a deal breaker. This network functionality is supplied as part of the DTS Play Fi suite of software and it might be fair to say that this has divided opinion somewhat. Technically, the advantages are clear- a DTS Play Fi product from SVS will work well with a DTS Play Fi product from other companies to form a multiroom system that can be made out of almost anything you want. The catch has been that the Play Fi platform has never truly delivered the sort of flexibility and stability that more closed rivals can demonstrate. This is partly because the remit of products that use Play Fi is very wide and it has to be a best fit for all of them rather than a perfect fit for one.

    The design of the Prime Wireless closely matches the rest of the Prime range and this is no bad thing. Unlike the Ultra models, which have some very striking design attributes, the Prime models look more conventional. This does mean that this is a well proportioned and classically handsome speaker that should look as happy in a lounge full of antique furniture as it will in a fashionable pad of modern gear. Unlike its passive brethren, there is no option to go with a black ash finish and only the piano black is available. As this looks a great deal nicer than the ash, I don’t think this is a huge detractor. Like everything I have ever tested from SVS, the Prime Wireless is extremely well made and combines this with a standard of finish that is entirely competitive for the price. Only the absence of magnetic trim tabs for the grills counts against it a little.

    There are some bugbears though. The master speaker has a small display that shows the input selected and if you are using one of the configurable presets that can be set to go to an internet radio station or similar. At a distance, this is not the easiest thing to see at a glance. There is also no means of selecting the other inputs on the Prime Wireless aside from walking up to them and using the front panel control. This seems to be down to Play Fi not supporting additional input connections. The other curio is that the Prime Wireless appears to have no selectable standby function and is powered on all the time once there is power to it.

    SVS Prime Wireless
    this is a well proportioned and classically handsome speaker that should look as happy in a lounge full of antique furniture as it will in a fashionable pad of modern gear.

    How was the Prime Wireless Tested?

    The SVS was placed on a pair of Soundstyle Z60 stands and initially took a wired feed passing through a Melco N1A NAS drive that acts as the server. An LG55B7 OLED was connected to the optical input and a Pro-Ject Primary E Phono turntable connected to the line input. The Bluetooth was tested via an Essential PH-1 Smartphone. Some additional testing was also undertaken via a wireless connection to determine stability. Material used has included lossless and Hi-Res FLAC, streaming services such as Tidal, Spotify and Deezer together with broadcast and on demand services such as Netflix, iPlayer and ITV Hub. Some vinyl was also used.

    Sound quality

    SVS Prime Wireless Sound quality
    SVS is best known for their subwoofers. This is no surprise because they are one of the big dogs in that particular field and have turned out a succession of excellent products. This does tend to overshadow that their conventional speakers are generally very good too. My experiences with both Ultra and Prime offerings have consistently shown them to make very capable and entirely ‘no nonsense’ type offerings that do their best to objectively deliver what the devices in the signal path tell them to.

    Giving the Prime Wireless the ability to act as its own source, the decoding and amplifier don’t significantly change this perception of honesty. The Prime Wireless is not a studio monitor and neither does it set out to be but the simple tonality test of Regina Spektor’s Consequence of Sounds shows that it delivers a commendably neutral and tonally honest performance. Spektor’s vocals are all over the point where any speaker is going to have to crossover from tweeter to midbass and the digital system present in the SVS works well in that it draws no attention to itself. The Prime Wireless manages to do a good job of presenting a wide and cohesive soundstage that places Spektor and her piano smack, bang in the middle of it.

    Increase the complexity and select the fantastic new offering from Dead Can Dance, Dionysus and the Prime rises to the challenge well. SVS quotes a lower frequency roll off of 52Hz and this feels entirely achievable in the real world. The use of a large rear port ensures that the Prime can be sited fairly close to a wall without audible interference and this lends a degree of low end reinforcement that takes the response down below 50Hz. What this means in reality is that the SVS doesn’t struggle to deliver a bass response which is partly felt as well as heard - and with the happy proviso that if you really want to feel things, there’s a clutch of hefty subs waiting to be connected.
    SVS Prime Wireless Sound quality
    The Prime Wireless is a Hi-Res device and moving on to the 24/96 download of Massive Attack’s Safe from Harm does show that it can reap some of the benefits of this version over the original CD rip. Voices are beautifully defined and there is no feeling that a huge amount of processing is going on to create the music. At the other end of proceedings, a Spotify session enjoying my Discover Weekly playlist was also something that the Prime Wireless deals with well. SVS has struck a good balance of ensuring that the Prime Wireless will get day to day stuff done while letting you dip a toe in higher quality media at the same time.

    The only downside to this is that the bit that SVS has no real control over - the DTS Play Fi section - still doesn’t feel as slick as I’d like. Little quirks of the interface like displaying your albums as a list rather than giving the option of a grid, which is quicker to search and more visually appealing while it does so, can be annoying. More irritating is that although it is listed as a supported format, I have had issues playing AIFF files and there have been times when the move between tracks has been some way adrift of gapless. It is only fair to also say that this iteration of Play Fi is the best I have seen but when compared to some of the competition, it just doesn’t feel as good and with software like BluOS seemingly being offered to other companies to buy into, DTS’s window to get their platform truly bulletproof is starting to close.

    The other inputs however are extremely good. Used as a booster for the sound of my B7 OLED, the SVS does a very good job. That honest tonality and decent soundstage are always going to be useful when listening to broadcast TV and the Prime Wireless is going to keep most soundbar rivals at a similar price honest. The analogue input is also a faithful representation of what goes in and while it lacks the interesting, if fringe, functionality of the Klipsch R41 PM where a phono stage is built in, it works well with a turntable that has a phono stage on board. There is more than enough gain to ensure that an impulse purchased copy of Mike Oldfield’s Five Miles Out sounds punchy and entertaining. Last, but by no means least, the Bluetooth functionality is stable and offers performance with 16/44.1 material that is extremely close to that available via the network player.

    SVS Prime Wireless
    SVS has struck a good balance of ensuring that the Prime Wireless will get day to day stuff done while letting you dip a toe in higher quality media at the same time.

    Conclusion

    The Prime Wireless sits in a new product category for SVS but they have approached it with their customary level of engineering integrity and the result is a capable and entertaining speaker to listen to. £700 gives more scope to assemble a conventional system that might keep it honest in performance terms but it would take up more space, use more mains sockets and lack the simple plonk and play attributes of the Prime Wireless. The only annoyance for me is that the bits that are identifiably SVS feel rather better than the bits that aren’t. Interfaces are subjective things and it is possible your experiences might find you feeling I come across as a whinging git - and it wouldn’t be the first time. Even so, the assurance that the Prime Wireless brings to its performance is consistently impressive and ensures it earns our Recommendation.

    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £600.00

    The Rundown

    Build Quality

    9

    Connectivity

    9

    Sound Quality

    9

    Ease of Use

    7

    Features

    8

    Value for Money

    8

    Verdict

    8

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