Ohio's SVS have a reputation for making phenomenal speakers and subwoofers. But for all their excellence in wired hi-fi, the company has been hesitant to dive into the wireless space – something they hope to achieve with their new SVS Prime Wireless speakers. In this review, we break down the sound, design, packaging and accessories, specs and more of the Prime Wireless. To see how they stack up, check out our list of the best bookshelf speakers.
Balance and Clarity
Wireless audio is harder to get right than you might think. Replicating truly stellar sound through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi takes much more work than simply delivering the signal through a speaker cable. Fortunately, SVS are rather good at building a solid sound signature, which they've proven with multiple releases over the years. With the SVS Prime Wireless system, they continue their unblemished track record using a pair of wireless bookshelf speakers that cost $599.
The dominating sound impression of the Prime Wireless is one of clarity. It's very easy, even with only a few seconds of listening, to pick out the different elements in the track. There's none of the slightly woolly bass or overcooked mids that you'd find in less-expensive wireless speakers. Instead, what you have is a genuine sense of balance, where no element of the song overpowers another. Kick drums, snares, and vocals feel perfectly weighted, in a way that doesn't seem biased towards one particular genre. We put everything from hip-hop and electronica to folk and classical through the speakers, and we rarely came away disappointed. In comparison to a pair of SONOS ONE wireless speakers (full review here), it wasn't even a competition. Admittedly, the SONOS are slightly less expensive than the Prime Wireless, at $199 each ($398 for a pair), but the SVS speakers are a quantum leap in sound quality.
If we did have one criticism, it would be that, every so often, the balance and clarity can become a touch lifeless. Not dramatically so, but enough that we noticed, and wished that there were more liveliness in the sound. You definitely don't get the open, spacious feeling that you would from the KEF LSX (full review coming soon). We compared the two systems directly, and there was no question that the LSX speakers were markedly superior. Then again, they cost a good $500 more than the Prime Wireless, at $1,099 for the pair. Therefore, an increase in quality is not surprising. Simply put, the Prime Wireless aren't perfect, but they still managed to deliver excellent sound that more than justifies the asking price.
Soundstage and Sweet Spot
We were also really impressed with the soundstage that the Prime Wireless speakers delivered. Not only were elements of each song were clear and discernible, we could precisely pinpoint where those individual elements were. The soundstage was wide and engaging, feeling like it filled up the whole room even at low volumes. In addition, we found that the sweet spot – the listening position where we could hear the speakers most effectively – was accommodating. We didn't feel like we had to be in a specific position, with head held at precisely the right angle, to extract the most from the sound. Quite the opposite, as it was easy to wander around the room without feeling like we were missing out on much. In this aspect, the Prime Wireless match up to just about any other wireless speakers we can think of. When we next update our list of the best wireless speakers available, we can almost guarantee that the Prime Wireless will have a spot.
One of the options you have with the Prime Wireless is to connect a subwoofer using the subwoofer out on the rear of the main speaker. In doing so, you'll obviously give the low end a huge boost in energy. Our take? The SVS Prime Wireless don't actually need an additional subwoofer. They work perfectly well without one, and we never felt like we were missing out by not having one connected.
However, there's nothing wrong with connecting a subwoofer if you have a spare. We actually have an SVS model in the office - the superb SB-1000 ($499). We had great fun linking the two systems together, but the bass that the Prime Wireless system delivers through its twin 5" woofers is more than satisfactory, with the level of punch and power that we found surprising. The clear, tight, compact character of the low-end never felt like it needed additional help. Although it must be said, we did wonder what would happen if we still had our review model of the SVS PB16-Ultra (full review here). Sadly, we had to return it, which meant we couldn't experience the combination of the the Prime Wireless partnered with the Ultra's 1,500...
Wired vs. Wireless Audio Quality
Like many other wireless speakers, the SVS Prime Wireless offer the chance to listen both wirelessly (over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi) and through a physical, wired input. An external source like a digital audio player can be connected either through an RCA cable or a 3.5mm jack. There's even an optical connection for TVs and consoles. We tested several different sources, and while we do think that the sound has a touch more polish when wired connections are used, it's not dramatic enough for us to insist on it. For the most part, both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi audio sounded great.
Mono vs. Stereo vs. Multiroom
One of the interesting things you can do with the Prime Wireless system is toggle between stereo, mono, and multiroom operation. The default mode is stereo, with the two speakers connected via a bespoke cable. But if you flick a switch on the rear of the main speaker, you can have it operate in mono mode. Obviously, you won't get the superlative soundstage and spacing that you would in stereo, but overall, the sound quality still felt good enough to use in a pinch.
It's also possible to stream to more than two speakers at once using a multi-room setup. This is handled using the Play-Fi app – more on this below – and it works relatively well. If you want, you could quite happily buy multiple Prime Wireless systems and group them together, but the advantage of Play-Fi is that other speaker brands are compatible.
Setup and Play-Fi App
Connecting the SVS Prime Wireless system is relatively simple. Both speakers need to be connected to a power outlet, and the two need to be joined together with a cable. While this is a far cry from more advanced speakers, like the aforementioned KEF LSX which communicate entirely wirelessly, it's relatively painless to set up. Unfortunately, once you've actually got things connected, you have to use the DTS Play-Fi app, and this is where things get a little annoying.
Play-Fi, if you aren't aware, is a method for speakers from different manufacturers to communicate over a wireless network. Think of it like Bluetooth – a method which doesn't care who makes the devices at either end, but just gets them talking. Play-Fi works via a smartphone app, and SVS use it to help set up the Prime Wireless speakers, and get them connected to a network. You can stream almost anything you want through this app, including high-res services like Tidal. The problem is, the Play-Fi app simply isn't very good. The design is clunky and unintuitive, and doesn't feel like it's improved in the couple of years that the app has been around. It simply feels slower than it should. For the record, we never experienced any glitches or dropouts in the app, but it's just not up to speed with its competitors.
This is all very puzzling. SVS have already proven that they can build excellent apps themselves – their subwoofer app is one of the better examples we've tried. It's intuitive, simple, and effective. Perhaps it simply wasn't feasible at the design stage, but we really felt quite disappointed when we couldn't use one of the company's own apps to control the Prime Wireless speakers. Using the Play-Fi app felt like we were settling, rather than extracting the best from our experience. If we had one wish for the next version of the speakers, it would be that SVS sucks it up and builds another app. On the other hand, the Play-Fi app does come with a critical listening option, which allows you to take full advantage of the Prime Wireless system's excellent DAC, and its 192kHz/24-bit audio. That we did like.
Looks and Build Quality
SVS definitely have a house look and it's fully present here. Our speakers came in a piano black gloss housing. They were a magnet for fingerprints, but since we weren't handling the speakers all that much, it wasn't too big of an issue. The company's trademark design elements still look great – the rivets around the tweeter, the driver that doesn't quite sit flush with the housing, the lightly-chamfered edges. In size terms, these speakers sit between the smaller SVS Prime Satellite and larger Prime Bookshelf, at 10" high. It's clear from looking at all the speakers that they share the same design DNA.
The biggest addition to the design is the control panel. It's located under the driver of the main speaker. A knob on the left of the panel controls the source and presets – more on these below – and a knob on the right controls volume and play/pause. In the middle is a very simple display that shows which input you have selected. It works fine, but we just couldn't help but think that it was a bit too simple. While these speakers probably don't need a full digital display, like the Bose Home Speaker 500, it didn't stop the existing panel from feeling distinctly old school in a way we couldn't quite put our finger on. Again, there's nothing wrong with the operation, which is easy enough. It's also clear that SVS mean for the majority of control to be handled with the Play-Fi app, which, as we've seen, has its own problems.
Inputs and Outputs
We've already touched on the number of inputs and outputs these speakers offer, all of which can be found on the rear of the main speaker. A credit to SVS is that, while there are enough inputs and outputs to potentially be bewildering, they are all clearly labelled and easy to intuit. We liked the included ethernet connections for moments when the Wi-Fi struggled. We also appreciated the fact that the USB port can be used to charge phones and tablets, although it would have been nice to let us plug in a USB drive loaded with music. Next time, baby.
One other nifty feature worth noting is that the SVS Prime Wireless work with smart speakers like the Amazon Echo Dot (full review here), meaning you can play music on your network using voice commands. All you have to do is connect the two. This is done by downloading the Play-Fi skill from the Alexa skill library - a job of a few seconds. It works well, although it doesn't feel essential to use the speaker. It's a nice-to-have, rather than a key feature.
One of the interesting things you can do with the Prime Wireless is program six specific presets, toggled with the left control knob. The presets allow you to play a specific set of songs on a specific streaming service, all at a single touch. That means, for example, you could have preset one play your work music, and preset two handle some background tunes for dinner. In practice, it works well. Although, there is a slight delay between selecting a preset and having the music play. That aside, we really enjoyed this feature, as we didn't have to pick up a phone to press play. As long as we had a Wi-Fi connection, everything went smoothly. It's not something we've seen on wireless speakers (to our knowledge), and we found it to be a genuinely interesting feature.
There is very little to get excited about with the 'extras'. The box is identical to just about every other speaker package on the planet and the accessories are minimal. You get a pair of speaker grilles, a basic set of cables, and some stick-on feet for the bottom. That's it. Then again, the Prime Wireless don't feel like they need any additional whizbangs to convince us of their quality.
What We Like
- The sound quality of the SVS Prime Wireless is excellent, with terrific balance and clarity.
- The Prime Wireless speakers have superb design and will fit in just about any scenario you can think of.
- We really appreciated the preset system, which allowed us to play music instantly without the use of a phone or tablet.
What We Don't
- Setting up the Prime Wireless speakers relies on the DTS Play-Fi app, which feels clunky and poorly-designed.
- The speakers' control panel works well, but feels very basic.
- At $599 for the system, the SVS Prime Wireless may be a little too expensive for casual users, but are perfectly suited to anyone looking to jazz up their system.
|SVS Prime Wireless||$599||Yes||Yes||Alexa||200W||52Hz-25kHz|
|SVS Prime Wireless Soundbase||$499||Yes||Yes||Alexa||300W||10Hz-20kHz|
*Wattage figures are all RMS - the average power output at a reasonable volume, rather than pushed to the max.
**Freq. = Frequency Response
SVS might dominate the passive speaker and subwoofer world, but they're up against some stiff competition if they want to do the same in the land of wireless speakers. Their big challenge comes from SONOS. In our opinion, that company makes the best wireless speakers in the world – not because of the sound quality, which is passable, but because of their simplicity and ease-of-use. Using a SONOS speaker is flat out fun. Their flagship right now is the SONOS ONE, a $199 smart speaker. It definitely doesn't offer the sound quality that the Prime Wireless system does, that's for sure. What it does offer is full voice control, a beautifully simple app, and blissful ease-of-use. Even buying two of these will be much more affordable than a Prime Wireless system, and that's before you talk about purchasing the additional Amazon Echo Dot to activate voice control. This is a great alternative if you want a simpler, less technical option for your wireless speaker setup.
If you want to really lean into the sound quality aspect, then we strongly recommend checking out the KEF LSX. We have a pair of these in for testing right now, and they are outstanding. They are a smaller, friendlier version of the company's flagship LS50 Wireless speakers, and we have been blown away by how good they sound. The audio quality is rich and airy, with real lushness – easily better than the Prime Wireless. They do cost significantly more, however – $1,099 for a pair – and like the SVS speakers, they have their own issues. For one thing, you have to download two separate apps to make them work, which is a design decision we will be puzzling over until the end of time. Still, they are fantastic speakers and we recommend them to anyone who can afford it.
If you want a pair of speakers that match the SVS in terms of sound quality, but aren't ready to commit to their price tag, then we recommend the Kanto YU6. These $400 speakers don't operate over Wi-Fi, sticking strictly to Bluetooth, but we absolutely adore our pair. They are amazingly simple to use, and while they don't have the balance and precision of the Prime Wireless, they compensate with some fantastic color. If you don't need the bells and whistles of the SVS system, these are an excellent alternative.
At the time of writing, SVS have only just started producing wireless audio products, and they only have one other model than the Prime Wireless system. This model is called the SVS Prime Wireless Soundbase. Full disclosure: we haven't tested this one yet, so we can't make a firm judgement on how it compares to the bookshelf speakers. What we can tell you is that it's essentially a streaming amplifier, designed to work with an existing pair of bookshelf or floorstanding speakers. It comes with an intimidating range of features, and we've heard good things about it. What we don't like is the name. In our opinion, a soundbase is a speaker system placed under a TV, which the SVS base clearly isn't designed to function as. We'll be sure to write more once we've had a listen.
A last word on the Prime Wireless: after spending a couple of months with them, we've come to see them as a pair of solid, if slightly technical, wireless speakers. Their sound will satisfy just about any demanding listener, and there are elements to their control scheme and design that we really like. Having said that, the issues with the app and the slightly clunky front-end really do need to be worked out for these speakers to have a major impact. For now, consider them an excellent choice if sound quality is what matters to you. If SVS can work out the kinks for version 2.0, they will have an absolute monster on their hands.