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SVS Ultra Bookshelf speaker offers clarity and bass

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

Steve Guttenberg
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 Stereophile.
Steve Guttenberg
2 min read
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 3bookshelf 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.