Three-way speakers have been around about as long as hi-fi itself, and divide up the three components of sound -- bass, midrange and treble -- with each frequency range getting its own driver in the pursuit of greater fidelity. They're a lot more complicated to engineer than the more common two-way design, and not every company gets it right.
With the new Prime Towers, speaker manufacturer SVS seems to have nailed it. These are a beautifully finished set of tower speakers that look -- and sound -- a lot more expensive than they are. In the US they're $499.99 each; the company has international distributors, including for the UK and Australia, which can provide pricing information elsewhere.
They are more detailed and more "hi-fi" than anything we've heard at this price before. If you are looking for detail above all else then you could consider the Prime Towers an audiophile bargain.
But this extra fidelity can come with a downside: while we never found the SVSs to be harsh, they could sometimes lack intimacy, particularly with vocals. If you are instead looking for something more "fun" or even "warmer," then thetowers or bookshelves might be a better alternative.
Design and features
Even before we played them for the first time, we knew the SVS Prime Towers were something special. Our review samples' impeccable black gloss finish (an extra $100 per cabinet) gave the speakers a high-end sheen.
The speakers are moderately tall at 36 inches and measure a modest 8 inches wide and 10.8 inches deep (91.5cm x 20.3cm x 27.5cm). The drivers include a 1-inch aluminum dome tweeter with a protective grille, a 4.5-inch polypropylene midrange and twin 6.5-inch woofers.
SVS actually characterizes the speakers as "3.5-way" instead of three-way because the two bass drivers are set up with different crossovers. The bottom is a true bass driver and the second is a bass/mid.
We noted one small caveat: the Prime Towers have dual bass ports, so the speakers need at least 12 inches of clearance from the wall to sound their best.
The Prime Tower is a prime example of the advantages that the better big speakers have over any little speaker: superior bass, power, dynamic range and being capable of filling large rooms without sounding like they're working very hard.