SVS Ultra Bookshelf speaker offers clarity and bass

SVS packs high-end sound and looks in a compact speaker with the Ultra Bookshelf.

SVS Ultra Bookshelf speakers SVS

I had a good feeling about the SVS Ultra Bookshelf speaker even before I heard it. First, the high-gloss black finish was perfect, and the heft of this 19-pound beauty left no doubt about the speaker's build quality. It seemed solid.

I've confessed many times on this blog my fondness for big speakers , but if you don't have the space for a set of tower speakers, so-called bookshelf speakers are the way to go. I said so-called because the last place you'd ever want to put a set of bookshelf speakers is in a bookshelf cabinet. The sound would be muddy and the stereo imaging wouldn't be at its best. Placement on a low, 24- to 36-inch-high bookcase would be a little better, but for best sound bookshelf speakers should used with metal floor stands.

A close-up of the Ultra Bookshelf's aluminum tweeter. Steve Guttenberg/CNET

The 14.9-inch-by-8.5-inch-by-10-inch speaker has a 1-inch aluminum dome tweeter and a 6.5-inch composite carbon fiber woofer. Around back it has two sets of high-quality binding posts for bi-wiring and a bass port. My samples' black gloss finish is superb, but if you prefer a more traditional look, the Ultra Bookshelf is also available in black (real) oak wood veneer.

The Ultra Bookshelf makes a lot of bass. SVS claims that it goes down to 45Hz, and that's deep bass territory, but not subwoofer-deep, so unless you really need to feel the floor shake, or play movies or music really loud, you won't need to add a sub. I used the Ultra Bookshelf speakers sans sub with a Denon AVR 1912 receiver and was mightily impressed with their sound; they made more bass than Aperion's skinny 4T Intimus tower speakers. Bass aside, it was the Ultra Bookshelfs' clarity and poise under pressure that made the strongest positive impression when I used them in a two-channel home theater. When the Ultra Bookshelfs are spread 6 or 7 feet apart, no sound bar will provide as precise stereo imaging. Sound quality with music was also well ahead of what's possible from even the best of today's sound bars.

I wished I had a set of GoldenEar Technology Aon 3 bookshelf speakers ($500 each) on hand to compare with, but if memory serves, that speaker has a more refined treble and even more spacious imaging than the Ultra Bookshelfs.

SVS sells direct; the Ultra Bookshelf speakers run $499 (each) MSRP, shipping is free, and there's a 45-day home trial period. You will get a 100 percent credit on your original purchase if you trade up to a more expensive SVS product within a year of purchasing the Ultra Bookshelfs.

About the author

Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Home Theater, Inner Fidelity, Tone Audio, and Stereophile.


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