Will SVS speakers make as big a spash as their subs?

Discussion in 'Speakers' started by Rory Buszka, Jun 14, 2004.

  1. Rory Buszka

    Rory Buszka Supporting Actor

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    As you all know, someone would have to be completely deaf not to hear the enormously loud word-of-mouth for SVS subwoofers. A product has to be good in order to develop the sort of cult following (people who will instantly rush to the defense of the product when its detractors speak) without massive marketing campaigns, etc. SVS subwoofers provide everything anyone could ask for in the realm of bass - tightness and definition, deafeningly loud levels, and near bottomless extension, with exceptionally low distortion. The accolades and loyal customer following SVS products have acquired are no doubt very much deserved.

    It was only a matter of time before someone asked the question, "when will SVS begin to make speakers?" In typical SVS fashion, the reply came quickly and from one of the company's founders - SVS will someday stand for Stimpson-Vodhanel Speakers, instead of just Subwoofers. Instantly, there were shouts of praise and "I'll bet SVS Speakers become the best speakers in the world!" from the SVS supporters. But I have to wonder whether SV Speakers will ever really live up to the hype that surrounds them.

    The world of speakers is a very different world from the world of subwoofers, and there are very different considerations. It is easy to make a good subwoofer, because there are a definite set of characteristics that people ascribe to a truly good subwoofer. It will have good bass extension. It will be able to provide pants-flapping, hair-waving output levels in a room up to and including a certain reasonable size. It will track the signal accurately, without boom or overhang. Total harmonic distortion will be low, and frequency response through its operating range will be maximally flat. It would help if it wasn't huge, either. If you can design a subwoofer that can do all these things and not break the bank, it's going to do very well in the market. SVS has done all these things, and as a result their product line has become a hit.

    It is true that some of these ideal characteristics can be applied to designing speakers. It would be nice if the speaker had a flat frequenct response. It would be nice if the bass wasn't boomy, and the treble didn't ring. It would be nice if the speaker didn't distort the audio signal too badly. It should be able to play loud. The thing is that there is a less definite formula for achieving all of these ends. You first have to decide whether you want your speaker to be a two-way or a three-way, or perhaps a two-and-a-half-way. A two-way is simpler but you can't use an appropriately large midbass driver for bass all the time because the midbass driver has to be small enough not to be beamy through the upper end of its range. Or you could cross over a little lower and use a tweeter with a lower resonant frequency. But the tweeter needs to have a diaphragm with low enough mass to be able to have high frequency extension without a supertweeter, in which case the speaker would become a three-way. Also, when you lower the crossover point to the tweeter, you lower the power handling in the treble. This is generally negligible untill you start talking 200 or 300 watt amplifiers because a very small amount of the amplifier's power is actually needed for the treble. The vast majority is necessary for the bass (which is why subwoofers have massively powerful amplifiers). The midbass driver is usually the limiting factor in power handling, unless a really marginal tweeter is used or unless the amplifier is driven into clipping (or both). A bigger voice coil can be used, and a bigger magnet, but these things increase price and affect transient decay characteristics. In the subwoofer range, slight deviations in transient decay characteristics are much more obvious (sometimes brutally so), and they contribute to what is called the voicing of the speaker. SVS has developed subwoofers that are extremeny accurate through their bass range but even with the wide array of considerations involved in building subwoofers, there are still others added on to that when you move into full-range speakers. Cone materials change the sound. Kevlar, aluminum, polypropylene, aerogel, woven carbon fiber, solid graphite, paper, wood pulp, solid wood, etc. have their own properties of sound transmission through the diaphragm material itself. Then the damping of the cone's edge becomes an issue, to prevent the sound from traveling back to the center of the cone and causing distortion. Diaphragm mass needs to be kept low, and the power of the motor structure will also play a part in transient accuracy. That's assuming you even use dynamic drivers for the midrange and the treble. Planar ribbon drivers are another option, one that has been widely embraced by a company called Veritone Minimum Phase Speakers (VMPS) which I mentioned before in the "Speakers dat don't get no love" thread. VMPS uses a driver built by a company called Level 9. This planar transducer is also found in the highest model of computer speakers made by Monsoon, but the driver is of such special capability that VMPS found it to be superior to every other planar midrange available, which is why they use it. The planar midrange extends cleanly and smoothly down to 166 Hz, and a similar driver would be an option for SVS, even if they decide to use the ones made by Bohlender-Graebner, as Martin-Logan does. (The ATF transducers are actually the Neo8 and Neo3 drivers by Bohlender-Graebner.) That's just a small sampling of what considerations SVS would have to make in designing a full-range speaker. And furthermore, because sound-affecting imperfections in drivers become more and more apparent as the drivers are called upon to reproduce a higher-and-higher portion of the audio spectrum, it is inevitable that whatever speaker SVS produces, it will have a voice of some sort. The tradeoffs that speaker designers make will have a greater effect on the speaker's overall sound. The thing is that everyone will prefer different voicings that come from different sets of tradeoffs that the designers made. That's why we home theater fans haven't whittled all the speaker manufacturers in the world down to a select two or three that we can conclusively say provide the 'best' performance, or even all subjectively agree is the 'best' like we have in the world of subwoofers. Even if SVS manages to water down their speakers' sound as much as possible in order to escape their 'voice', even by doing that they will have simply given their speakers a different voice. (Just like how when people say that there is no such thing as religious truth, they have just stated what is, for themselves, a religious truth, one they live their life by. I guess one could say that a speaker's 'voice' is like their religion.) That is why I say that SVS Speakers won't be as earth-shattering in the world of loudspeakers as SVS subwoofers have been in the world of subwoofers. And if our hearing in the bass range was just as good as it was in the upper ranges that a full-range speaker must produce, then we'd probably be a lot more hesitant to buy a subwoofer we've never heard, just from word-of-mouth.

    Flame Suit [ON]

    I should be a columnist in an audio magazine.[​IMG]
     
  2. Craig Chase

    Craig Chase Gear Guru

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    Rory... You could have saved a LOT of words and just posted.... "Buy VMPS... tell them Rory sent you"...[​IMG]
     
  3. Michael R Price

    Michael R Price Screenwriter

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    Just like you, I think it's far more risky for SVS to move into speaker production. If SVS builds speakers, no matter how good they are, they will only cater to the tastes of a certain group of people who like their tone and agree with the design priorities.

    How do we know they're going to do that? Did Ron hint at when they'd start to announce their new products, or what kind of products we're going to see? I'm awful curious..
     
  4. Craig Chase

    Craig Chase Gear Guru

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    It will be tough for SVS, of course, everyone thought they were nuts to enter the already crowded subwofer market...... and Rory, I was just teasing you. I have owned both original and larger subwoofers and Tower II Se's and Supertower's...

    I like their old stuff better than the newer... I tried to see about the Supertower Se's... and was told they were no longer made....[​IMG]
     
  5. Rory Buszka

    Rory Buszka Supporting Actor

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    Or rather, buy whatever it is that you decide after listening that you like, and tell them Rory sent you. It would be funny. Honestly though, there is something that VMPS speakers have going for thim in the voicing area that other speakers do not. Mr. Cheney has designed into the crossovers a high-quality L-pad implementation, allowing the owner to adjust the level of the mid-panels and the tweeter (whether you opted for the dual spiral-etched ribbons or the free-swinging ribbon). That way, you can adjust the treble and midrange levels with respect to the bass drivers. In addition, the bass section of all VMPS floorstanders and all VMPS subwoofers feature an adjustable-damping passive radiator. The amount of mass you add or remove from the passive radiator(s) is so negligible that the tuning itself is virtually unchanged. What you do change are the parameters of the suspension, and thus the damping effect the suspension has over the PR's cone. If you prefer a "dry" (overdamped) bass sound, or a "full" (underdamped) bass sound, you can have whichever one you choose. Thus, the VMPS speakers do more than other speakers do in order to let you make them the speakers you want them to be.
     
  6. Craig Chase

    Craig Chase Gear Guru

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    Rory... My first pair of VMPS was in 1979... You could say we go back bit... Brian makes some great equipment.

    Remember the Super Towers... I think it was the II/ARs ? ... Twin active 15 inchers, and a passive 15... and 6.5 feet tall for $4000 ...

    The RM-30's are too... audiophile for VMPS...

    Taking pieces of putty off the PR's with a thumbnail... to underdampen... good stuff !
     
  7. Rory Buszka

    Rory Buszka Supporting Actor

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    I've seen pictures of those speakers but never heard them. Somehow I think VMPS didn't really begin courting the high end until the release of its Focused Field speakers, the FF-1 and FF-3, which Anthony Cordesman (writing in Audio Magazine, about the FF-1) called an "assault on the state of the art". Perhaps you may not remember VMPS as the most audiophile-oriented company, but there has been a very major change of character at VMPS over the years. Most notable is the usage of ribbon transducers throughout the current model range. This approach has made VMPS products become true audiophile products. With the RM-30, it has become clear that it's time for home theater buffs to seriously consider VMPS as a major contender in the home theater area. Even though SVS probably takes the performance crown in the realm of subwoofing, VMPS technology and the philosophy of still providing the most bang for the buck (which we are reminded of by Brian's occasional jabs at the pricing schemes of the traditional "high-end" market ("Add a zero to make it sexy!") could potentially make VMPS the SVS of speakers, if people would give their speakers a fair shake. (I think that there is a lot of politics involved with getting a magazine to review a certain speaker. Maybe Brian has shot himself in the foot when it comes to getting reviews from some of the major magazines due to his outspokenness if he discovers any inconsistencies in the way the magazine operates.) There are many places across the country where one can go to hear VMPS speakers and decide for themselves if they like the sound. As for myself, I've got my eye on a set of Ribbon Monitor 1 with Megawoofers. When I have the money.

    What I meant to say though, before being diverted on the VMPS tangent, is that while SVS may very well one day release some quality full-range speakers, they won't be the be-all and end-all of speakers in the same way that the SVS name is associated with a product line that is considered by many to be the be-all and end-all of subwoofers.
     
  8. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    You're probably right, but they don't have to compete on the scale of a Paradigm, PSB, Klipsch, etc. If they focus their attention towards a particular market, let's say small bookshelves that are maybe 3 dB down at 40 or so Hz, in order to go after the SAF crowd they might do very well indeed. I think so long as they can define a target area that's soft and in need of some quality products that fit well defined specific needs, they might do surprisingly well.
     
  9. Glenn Shoemake

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    If SVS produces a great quality speaker product at a price far less then its competitors, then I think they will do alright. Speakers are a lot more of a personal preference then subwoofers and the competition for speakers is much greater then subwoofers.
    Personally I would like to see SVS subwoofers for automobiles before home speakers.
     
  10. Craig Chase

    Craig Chase Gear Guru

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    Rory - Relax... You are a VMPS fan, so am I... Brian is loads of fun that this biz needs. As for getting a fair shake... he has had nothing but outstanding reviews...

    deservedly so.
     
  11. Craig Chase

    Craig Chase Gear Guru

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    Rory - Adding to the VMPS thoughts... the Super Tower II/AR was Brian's first assault on the high end. A lot of "audiophiles" dismissed it because it WAS huge, with 16 drivers. I listened to a pair in Boston in 1984... (+/- a year or two...[​IMG] ) ... they were astounding.

    They totally disappeared in the room, and you did not notice the bass... until it hit... and then it was deep and visceral.

    When I say the newer speakers like the RM-30's are too "audiophile" ... it is in admiration for the "old" stuff...
     
  12. Rory Buszka

    Rory Buszka Supporting Actor

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    The reason I say I don't think that VMPS gets a fair shake is that they deserve a lot more publicity than they get. That's why recently I've been talking about them a lot on here. The RM30 represents a great way for VMPS to enter the home theater arena. While speakers as big as the RM40, RM/X, and SuperTower III would be awesomely impressive in a home theater, people really like smaller speakers. The RM30 has the narrowest frontal profile of any VMPS floorstander, and it isn't six or seven feet tall, or however tall the RM40 is. The RM40 is like the successor to the Special Ribbon Edition FF-1 and FF-3. The RM30, however, is more targeted towards the home theater buff with its shorter, narrower tower form factor with the side firing 10" Megawoofer as an option. It has the most configurable bass section. You can opt for the standard RM-30, which has a 10" side-firing Megawoofer subwoofer and dual 6.5" injection molded graphite midbass drivers. You can get the RM-30C with just the injection-molded midbass drivers, if you want to use a separate subwoofer. Then there is the new option, the RM-30M which features dual 6.5" Megawoofers in the place of the injection-molded graphite. This same Megawoofer driver is going to make its way into the QSO626R and Large Ribbon Center, which will allow timbre matching all the way around even in the bass section.
     
  13. Rory Buszka

    Rory Buszka Supporting Actor

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    The reason I say I don't think that VMPS gets a fair shake is that they deserve a lot more publicity than they get. That's why recently I've been talking about them a lot on here. The RM30 represents a great way for VMPS to enter the home theater arena. While speakers as big as the RM40, RM/X, and SuperTower III would be awesomely impressive in a home theater, people really like smaller speakers. The RM30 has the narrowest frontal profile of any VMPS floorstander, and it isn't six or seven feet tall, or however tall the RM40 is. The RM40 is like the successor to the Special Ribbon Edition FF-1 and FF-3. The RM30, however, is more targeted towards the home theater buff with its shorter, narrower tower form factor with the side firing 10" Megawoofer as an option. It has the most configurable bass section. You can opt for the standard RM-30, which has a 10" side-firing Megawoofer subwoofer and dual 6.5" injection molded graphite midbass drivers. You can get the RM-30C with just the injection-molded midbass drivers, if you want to use a separate subwoofer. Then there is the new option, the RM-30M which features dual 6.5" Megawoofers in the place of the injection-molded graphite. This same Megawoofer driver is going to make its way into the QSO626R and Large Ribbon Center, which will allow timbre matching all the way around even in the bass section.
     
  14. ChrisHeflen

    ChrisHeflen Supporting Actor

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    I thought they had. They're called Bazooka.
    I mean really, you could save alot of money getting their Bazooka line and setting them on end in the corner of your room. [​IMG]
    In fact it makes one wonder who came first and if they are related. Bazooka by SAS and then SVS?

    Hmmmm.....
     
  15. ChrisHeflen

    ChrisHeflen Supporting Actor

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    I thought they had. They're called Bazooka.
    I mean really, you could save alot of money getting their Bazooka line and setting them on end in the corner of your room. [​IMG]
    In fact it makes one wonder who came first and if they are related. Bazooka by SAS and then SVS?

    Hmmmm.....
     

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