SVS SBS-01 Home Theater Speaker System Page 2

The Short Form
Price $1,149 (AS TESTED) / / 703-845-1472
These plain-looking but terrific-sounding speakers put your hard-earned dollars where you can hear them.
•Great bang-for-buck value •Warm sound quality •Earth-shaking, deep-bass sub
•Zero cosmetic points •Some tonal coloration in sats
Key Features
SBS-01 •($225/pair) 1-in tweeter; 5.25-in woofer; 12 in high; 11 lb SCS-01 •($185) 1-in tweeter; (2) 5.25-in woofers; 20 in wide; 19 lb PB12-NSD •($599) 12-in driver; 325-watt RMS amplifier; 20.5 x 17.5 x 25 in; 74 lb •Finish: Black, white, or silver vinyl
Test Bench
Our tests of the SVS system suggest surprisingly good performance for this price class, but with a few rough edges. The SBS-01 has a narrow, on-axis midrange notch at 3.3 kHz (obscured by our averaging technique), though it's unlikely to be significantly audible, and gently rolling highs above 14 kHz. The sub offers world-class dynamics, hitting max SPL of 109 dB at 32 Hz, and 102 dB or greater from 25 Hz up. - Tom Nousaine Full Lab Results
I set up the four satellites on stands and the center channel on a shelf below my display. I powered each speaker with 150 watts, but you could probably drive them to their limits with less. The sub ended up in my usual spot along the front wall, between the TV and left satellite. After initially crossing over the satellites to the sub at 100 Hz, I notched it down to 90 Hz - just shy of the 80 Hz recommended by SVS. This seemed to provide the smoothest transition in my room.

MUSIC PERFORMANCE To check out music quality, I auditioned the multichannel R.E.M. releases Green, New Adventures in Hi-Fi, Monster, and Automatic for the People, as well as their biggest hit, Out of Time, where the boys from Athens (Georgia, that is) moved into mainstream musical philosophy with songs that matched their yearnings to those of millions of listeners.

On "Losing My Religion," Michael Stipe's lead vocals are feeding all three front channels. To correctly reproduce the spatial soundstage, the center speaker needs to be spectrally matched to the front left and right. This proved all in a day's work for the SVS system: The vocals were spatially anchored in the center, and the stereo soundstage produced on either side by the satellites offered a wide stretch. The surround speakers had different fish to fry - catchy acoustic guitars and synth strings. Since I had identical SBS-01s front and back, the dispersion patterns meshed well for good spatial continuity.

I was pleased with the SBS-01 speakers' essential sound. They had a welcoming quality, with mellow high-frequency reproduction (which I much prefer over crunchy) well-suited to their lower-frequency warmth. Songs like "Low" were appropriately sparse and dark but not muddy. On "Endgame," the overtones of the guitars sounded distantly snappy but not harsh. On the other hand, vocals were slightly pulled back, lacking the up-front detail and über-clarity of some speakers. Our measurements detected a small notch in the midrange response that might account for this (see Test Bench), and it might also stem from the mellow mid/high end, which tended to soften some sibilants. Either way, it wasn't particularly troublesome. If you prefer deep-fried crispy high-end, the SBS-01s might sound a little soft to you, but don't get me wrong - there's plenty of air here. The sound is just laid-back.

I also liked the blend between sub and sats. The sats' decent bass extension means the subwoofer won't have to push high frequencies, which can contribute to it sounding "loose." No such problem here. The song "Half a World Away," for example, has tremendous musical density packed into the upper bass, and this system didn't miscarry a note of it. And "Belong" is propelled throughout by bass guitar and kick drum, which need seriously percussive energy behind them to cut through heavily processed vocals, backup singing, and a wash of guitars. The PB12-NSD was highly musical on this track, sounding much more like a bass guitar than a subwoofer playing a recording of a bass guitar. This sub beautifully marries power and finesse.