Greg Handy developed a passion for audio in his early teens when he worked as an installer of car audio systems. This experience taught him about passive and active crossovers, subwoofers, and challenged acoustics, as well as how to troubleshoot persistent bugbears like ground loops and noise.
From there, his interests grew to home audio and home theater systems. Once he bought his own home, he began installing sound systems and theater systems in different rooms, spending much time and money along the way. It wasn't long before he began doing the same for friends and family, then sharing his passion for AV with the HomeTheaterReview.com audience.
SVS, the highly acclaimed online consumer direct retailer best known for its subwoofers, has introduced a new tower speaker that in some ways blurs the lines between its existing loudspeaker lines. The Prime Pinnacle tower, as its name implies, is now the top dog within the SVS Prime speaker line. In some ways, though, Prime Pinnacle sits outside of that series, in a sort of in-between position between Prime and Ultra, both from a price and performance perspective.
Priced individually at $899 high gloss black ($799 if you're good with black Ash veneer), Prime Pinnacle comes in at just $100 less per speaker ($200 per pair) than the high gloss Ultra tower. As such, one can't help but wonder: if you can afford $1,800 for a pair of speakers, why not just push it up a notch and spend $2,000 for a pair that's obviously positioned as a step-up product?
The answer is obvious once you compare the two products: The Prime Pinnacle's smaller footprint and lack of side-firing bass drivers makes it a speaker with fewer placement constraints. SVS makes it clear that in a perfect world, the Ultra tower is the better sounding speaker. However, the owner's manual for the Ultra tower dedicates much more ink to careful placement, especially with respect to the space from the rear and side walls required to achieve that higher performance. We know that not all of our readers have perfect rooms, and as such the Prime Pinnacle may give you similar or better performance than the SVS Ultra due to its somewhat more traditional overall design.
Traditional though it may be, the Prime Pinnacle still builds on years of R&D and speaker design on the part of SVS. Located above the one-inch aluminum dome tweeter, housed in a sealed enclosure, is an all-new 5.25-inch midrange driver that was developed specifically for this speaker. It uses a glass and fiber cone material in conjunction with a cast ABS fiberglass basket and vented voice coil. An aluminum shorting ring helps improve frequency response while reducing gap inductance and distortion.
The tweeter used here comes over from the Prime Tower but integrated in a custom way precisely for the Prime Pinnacle tower. A diffuser, created using Finite Element Analysis (FEA) to simulate and then optimize its performance, creates a broad dispersion pattern to achieve a wide and realistic soundstage for all listeners regardless of their seated position.
Using three bass drivers in one enclosure is an SVS first. However, SVS took it further by implementing separate ported sub-enclosures for each. While this 6.25-inch polypropylene transducer is similar to the one used in the company's existing Prime Tower, it is tuned differently with a distinctive crossover unique to the Prime Pinnacle application. These bass drivers possess a long stroke motor and suspension design along with similar technologies of the midrange driver mentioned earlier.
In part due to its numerous sub-enclosures, the Pinnacle's cabinet is substantially reinforced and inert, while the three ports are voiced to bring the speaker's frequency response to an impressive 29Hz to 25kHz (±3dB).
As I noted earlier, the size of the Prime Pinnacle is quite manageable. At approximately 41 inches tall, and a svelte 8-inch width, with a 14-inch depth, the towers strike a sexy balance that is not so small that it appears insignificant, yet not so large as to be intrusive or obnoxious. At 66 pounds, the tower can easily be positioned and adjusted as needed.
As mentioned above, the finish options include black ash veneer or high gloss black. My review sample was the former and exhibited flawless fit and finish at its price point. Acoustically transparent fabric grills attach mechanically, providing the finishing touch.
The Hook Up
My cozy dedicated home theater room, at 14.5 feet wide and 13.5 deep, also works well as a two-channel audio room and provides the perfect listening space to challenge the SVS close-quarter speaker placement claims.
For the duration of this review, I drove the speakers using a Halcro MC70 seven-channel amplifier rated at 200 watts per channel. Having those extra channels of amplification also allowed me to add a center speaker and surrounds to the mix
(Webern on-wall monitors from Vienna Acoustics' Schönberg speaker line) to test the Pinnacles in a home theater application.
An Oppo BDP-105D served as my primary source, and I used NAD's M17 Version 2 Surround Sound Processor as the brain of the system. All components, as well as the SVS towers, were connected using Wireworld balanced cables and speaker wire. I positioned the Prime Pinnacles a few inches off the rear wall and slightly toed them in toward the center of the room after a bit of experimentation.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...
Diving right into the music, I streamed "Come Together" the Beatles' remastered Abbey Road album. The layering of instrumentation was positively holographic, and at average listening volumes, the weighted bass propelled the track forward with palpable realism.
The speakers were set up to play full range, without subwoofer assistance, yet delivered the bottom end with utter control and authority.
The midrange and tweeter also delivered vocals and instrumentation with impressive texture while retaining all of the track's warmth.
With the song "Ex's and Oh's" by Elle King, the Prime Pinnacles paraded their ability to convey the artist's raw vocals along with detailed, bumping bass that is characteristic of this track. Equally significant were the subtle differences in instrumentation and vocals that were in large part due to the finesse of the midrange driver.
I went on to play a variety of other tracks, and the Prime Pinnacles continued to impress with all-around imaging, detail, and accuracy. What was most surprising for me is that the speakers delivered this level of performance a mere six inches off the wall and four inches away from nearby furniture. Even with these constraints, the speakers gave my room a more spacious feeling. To shake things up, I temporarily moved the speakers two feet off both side and rear walls and replayed some of the above tracks. In most cases, the results were the same, with an occasional thought that the off-wall placement improved the consistency of the bass. I would then move to another track and think differently. The fact that I had to ponder the difference is proof to me that the Prime Pinnacles work well, as promised, in challenging locations.
The near-wall performance was counterintuitive due to the Pinnacle's ported design. In discussing the phenomenon with SVS Vice President of Marketing, Nick Brown, he explained that due to the three smaller ports, as opposed to a one or two ports of a larger diameter, output loading is manageable. I tested this myself during high audio output levels by cupping my hand on the various ports, only to experience very light turbulence.
During my time with the Prime Pinnacle speakers, I watched many movies and streamed numerous Netflix and Amazon Prime original series. In particular, the movie The Equalizer has one of my favorite fight scenes. The main character, Robert McCall, played by Denzel Washington, confronts a Russian mob boss and his henchmen in their place of business.
Negotiations do not go well, to say the least. Although not an over-the-top superhero scene with futuristic sound effects, this scene has something for everyone: conversation, gunfire, glass breakage, punching, stabbing, and snapping bones. Aggressive left-to-right and tons of dynamic slam gave the speakers plenty to do, but they lapped it all up and begged for more.
Dialogue also transitioned nicely from the non-SVS center channel to the right and left Prime Pinnacle towers. There is a fair share of low bass in this scene, and I was still running the Prime Pinnacles at full range, as I never felt the need for a separate subwoofer. Granted, my room is small, which played a part in not needing the SPLs a subwoofer can deliver, but it is also a testament of the significant low bass capabilities of these towers.
In my recent review of the SVS SB-3000 subwoofer, I mentioned the lack of finish options as a downside consideration. The concern is repeated here, since towers tend to stand in plain sight. I understand the need to limit color options to control costs, but I noticed SVS is experimenting with gloss white on its Prime Satellite monitors, Elevation, and Wireless lines. I hope this trend trickles over to the Prime speaker line.
Lastly, given the sophistication of the Prime Pinnacles, I would have appreciated magnetic speaker grills. However, I can hardly criticize this observation, given the excellent price-to-performance ratio the Prime Pinnacles offer.
Comparison and Competition
While the Prime Pinnacle towers offer an intriguing price/performance proposition, the field is crowded when considering speaker options at the $2,000 price point.
The B&W 603 retails for $1,800 per pair and is the entry-level floor-standing speaker from this legendary manufacturer. I have no personal experience with this exact model, but based on previous experience with other B&W offerings, the 603's are likely a worthy consideration.
Another option would be GoldenEar's Triton Five Tower Speakers, which retail for $1,800 per pair. Due to their reliance on folded ribbon tweeters, the Triton Fives sound deliver different sonic characteristics at the upper end of the audible spectrum as compared with the SVS, but they are very well reviewed speakers and favorites of many on staff here at HomeTheaterReview.com.
Tekton Designs has two models that fit in this general budget range: The Seas Pendragon at $1,980 per pair, and the Enzo XL at $2,000 per pair. These American-made speakers have a distinctly different sound and offer very high efficiency, and as such they have gained a lot of momentum in the enthusiast world today--even beyond the 3-watt triode tube guys. For additional cost and a modest wait, you can get Tekton speakers in custom finishes, too, which is really appealing.
The SVS Prime Pinnacles astounded me with their tight bottom end, impressive midrange, and holographic imaging capabilities, and more so with their impressive placement flexibility. Their well-controlled bass and three-dimensional midrange and treble resulted in a sound that was both authoritative and detailed. When all these qualities are combined, I experienced a large, lifelike presentation that I found compelling.
If you are in the market for a new pair of speakers, and you simply do not have the placement flexibility required to get the most out of so many other speakers, I highly suggest taking SVS up on their 45-day, risk-free audition offer. Be warned, however, that I suspect 99 percent of you who do so won't be sending them back.
• Visit the SVS website for more information.
• SVS Announces Prime Pinnacle Loudspeaker at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Check out our Floorstanding Speakers category page to read similar reviews.