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DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
Foxcatcher Blu-ray Review
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Comedian Steve Carell turns in a remarkable, darkly dramatic performance as multi-millionaire John du Pont in director Bennett Miller's Foxcatcher, which has... Read More
The Theory of Everything Blu-ray Review - Recommended
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The Boxtrolls 3D Blu-ray Review - Recommended
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Dracula Untold Blu-ray Review
Mar 03 2015 01:15 AM
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SVS Ultra 5.0 speaker review.Subwoofer SVS Hardware Ztagtest
SVS Ultra 5.0 Speaker Review
Finally getting to writing out the review. Hopefully you all have been patient. Very pleased to do the review, and pleased to say I enjoyed the Ultra while I had them. Start off with a couple caveats...
1. I tend to not like "bookshelf" speakers.
2. Loath(as a personal thing) di/bi-pole speakers.
Looking at the website for SVS, you'll see that is what I got, for the rear channel.
I would have preferred 4 Ultra Towers, but I digress. Let's get to it:
Spectacular. The piano gloss they use is what I remember from a Kimball Grand as a kid. Yes, that good. All the speakers are stout, not a rattle/vibration/noise to report. I even had to use the center speaker to sit a 50" Hitachi plasma on. The center is big, not the biggest center out there...but is bigger than many here own. The only center I have bigger(that I didn't build) is a DCM SurroundScape. The SVS outweighs it by almost double. You even get little rubber "bulb-feet" to put on the center and surrounds. I put them on the center, did not on the surrounds.
I'll cover the towers and surrounds. The center isn't as "capable" as these surrounds, but there aren't very many centers, by anybody, that are the equal to the rest of the 4(6) anyway...so it is a moot point. I think if I was given the Ultra bookshelf, I might be saying the opposite...but...I don't like bookshelves anyway.
Very deep, but not overpowering in the low end. Spent lots of time in Onkyo's Pure Audio mode. These come with a foam port insert, and it isn't just for show. There is a prodigious enough amount of bass, you can actually tell when plugged and un-plugged. I preferred them plugged...but that is just me. I did have a 13 Ultra sub, but I'm not reviewing it here, but it is all it is cracked up to be...and the Cracker-Jack box. The Ultra speakers and it worked well together.
Interesting tricks up its sleeve. Di or Bi-pole...and the "single point stereo"(Duet Mode). I even found a new use for this speaker, which I will get to at the end of the review. For the sake of use here, it performed flawlessly, and I hooked it up all three ways. When in 4/5 and 6/7 setup is it as convincing as 4 actual separate speakers? No. But it solves many a rooms quandary on whether they can attempt 7.1. If you need the compromise...it is there.
Setup and calibration:
The room I chose is huge and my primary speakers in the room are DCM TF600 and TF350 with a SurroundScape center and DCM KX "wides". I did not connect wide in this review. As stated earlier, the surround is usable three ways. I moved it from the right and left walls of the room and the back wall, directly opposite of the towers. Speaker setup depended on what I was listening to. I also got an Oppo 970 around the same time these showed up, so I played a few Hi-Res with BD/DVD. I prefer a "square" setup for SACD/DVD-A and the traditional "triangle" for surround sound. I had around 65 feet of wire running to these so I could place them wherever I wanted in the room. The Towers stayed in one spot. Audyssey set all the speakers at 40hz. Yes, it wanted the center and surrounds at 40. I changed it to 60 for the center and 80 for the surrounds. The primary spot for the speakers was triangulated in the room. These are conservatively rated at 87/88db. These had no problems filling up the room with sound from an Onkyo TX SR707 running 7.0 with the surrounds in "Duet". At times I had the towers ran, using the pre-outs on the 707, from an Adcom GFA, Kenwood M2A and Technics SU G90. I did, on a clear day, take them outside and ran them on a HK 3490 during a cookout.
Elton John Madman Across the Water Mentioned before, I listen to SACD/DVD-A.
In many cases, the true test of an audio system is when you have it turned up and there is a silent passage. Silence in this case was golden. The high points of the disc are Platinum.
I waxed prophetic about this disc in the "Ultra are available" thread. They must have used this disc fine tuning this speaker set. Absolutely Mo$*@$ Fu$(!*$ incredible. I spent the better part of one afternoon listening to nothing but this disc.
This disc on a subpar system makes you weep for the wrong reasons. Turned up to 105db peaks, this speaker set makes you weep for the right reasons.
Without aid of the subwoofer, the towers handled this well. There is no tower speaker under $10,000 that is going to cope with Felix Hell. I listened to Felix Hell backed up by an Adcom GFA 5800. The speaker would chuff(when not plugged) well before the two woofers would be anywhere close to bottoming out. Well done trying to pull off the impossible. The only speaker I own that bettered these at Felix Hell are the Infinity Crescendo. Those that know the Crescendo...know that is exalted company for speakers(at today's adjusted inflation prices) in the $3000 range.
Just lovely, that is all.
Bruno Mars Unorthodox Jukebox(Target exclusive)
It was a party. These front two speakers during this disc really, really, made me wish I had 4 Ultra Towers so I could run party mode.
Lots of Banco de Gaia, Daft Punk and the like. These speakers, particularly the Tower, can do anything.
Movies. I'll keep this short, cause if it can do music...it can do anything...
Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The center is more than up to the task here. Everything was where it should have been. Immortal Beloved. Historically accurate? Not a chance, but with a sound stage this good...you don't care. Ran the surrounds in Duet Mode on this disc with "fake" 6/7. Engaging.
Underworld Awakening (actual 7.1 in Duet) was fabulous. Was the 4/5 and 6/7 as convincing as it would have been with 4 speakers? No. But it accomplished the intended goal very nicely.
These, within the construct of a $3700 package, can do anything. The towers exert a prominence the center and surrounds keep up with. For those with a penchant for listening in 2.0 and are looking for a speaker set for that...where the rest of the speakers aren't "lost"...here you go. Step right up.
Once SVS gets up and running with these, it would be nice if the "package" was extended to include the normal bookshelves in a set of 4, or bookshelves with the towers. Where you don't have to get di/bi-pole in the bargain. There are enough of us into SACD/DVD-A, we would like the option. Maybe even offer a 7.0? New set of speakers...lots of things to figure out in their lifetime...which deserves to be a while.
Interesting idea I came up with. Maybe by word of mouth here we can create the buzz and get it made. I'd like to see the surround speaker "dumbed down" and sold as an "audiophile's single source stereo speaker". Especially for outdoor use. The only "single source stereo" outdoor speaker I could find is one from OSD. What would lead credence to this?
I took one of them one afternoon and used it off a Panasonic SA-EN17 mini-system whose original speakers had long died. Currently use it with a pair of Polk Mini Monitors(from an elder RM set). Anyway, I was listening to various things on Spotify. Very nice speaker...in its "not intended for it" situation. There are many people here(and on other forums) who would buy a really good single source stereo speaker. Make it a plastic cabinet with a handle so it can be carried? Make it where a T-amp can be mounted to rear and still carried?
Reviewed by: Sam Chandler