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SVS Prime Tower review: Audiophile performance for much less

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The Good The SVS Prime Tower is a well-built and great-sounding speaker for the money. The "3.5-way" design offers significantly more detail than standard two-way offerings. The speakers are capable of quite deep bass and work well in a home theater context. They're available in a stunning high-gloss black finish.

The Bad The sound's highly detailed character can lack warmth. The rear panel's twin bass ports need a foot or more of clearance from the wall behind the speaker.

The Bottom Line The SVS Prime Tower's highly transparent sound will appeal to audiophiles hankering for big-speaker sound at a price they can afford.

8.3 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Sound 9
  • Value 8

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 the Klipsch RF-62 II towers or B&W 685 S2 bookshelves might be a better alternative.

Design and features

Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

Performance

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.

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