Dennis Burger is a native Alabamian whose passion for AV began sometime before the age of seven, when he dismantled his parents' brand new 25-inch solid-state Zenith console TV and exclaimed--to the amusement of no one except the delivery guy--that it was missing all of its vacuum tubes. He has since contributed to Home Theater Magazine, Wirecutter, Cineluxe, Electronic House, and more. His specialties include high-end audio, home theater receivers, advanced home automation, and video codecs.
My daughter once jokingly staked claim to my stereo system upon my eventual death, just on the off-chance that my wife outlived me and my last will & testament wasn't crystal clear in the divvying up of loot. Don't judge. We like our humor dark in this family. At any rate, it's a moot point, because as soon as I showed her all of the pieces-parts that she was asking for--the amps, the power cables, the speaker cables, etc.--she changed her tune. "Too much hassle. Too much fuss."
If she comes for a visit while I still have SVS's Prime Wireless Speaker System in my possession, though, I have a sneaking suspicion that she might change her tune right back.
In short, the Prime Wireless Speaker System is everything that she imagines a good stereo setup should be: self-contained, simple, customizable and expandable but not laboriously so, with much better stereo performance than any one-chassis streaming speaker I've ever heard. In other words, if we want to hook future generations on hi-fi, this is the way to do it. Which isn't to say that massive amps and tower speakers and DACs and preamps and such don't have their place. Of course, they do. That's my bread and butter, and likely yours, too, if you're reading this. But as Andrew Robinson put it in his recent review of the Kanto YU6, "the future of audio and video is wireless."
But enough with the philosophizing. Let's talk about the Prime Wireless Speaker System on its own terms. What we have here is a $599.99 two-speaker wireless system available in your choice of piano gloss black or piano gloss white. If you're familiar with SVS's non-powered Prime lineup, you'll certain recognize the aesthetics of this newer system. Its components parts--the powered right-channel speaker with all of the systems inputs, outputs, and amplification; and the passive left-channel speaker--boast the same aesthetic as the company's Prime Bookshelf Speaker and Prime Satellite Speaker, although in terms of height, width, and depth (10.24 by 6.1 by 7 inches), its cabinets falls pretty squarely between those two offerings. The right speaker also sets itself apart with its weight (9.5 pounds, versus 8.75 pounds for the passive left speaker), as well as its LED display and pair of small knobs, which play multiple roles. The left knob serves as the source selection and preset control (an important and distinctive feature we'll dig into shortly), whereas the right logically handles loudness control, as well as play/pause functionality.
Included within the right speaker is a quartet of Class D amplifiers, each of which delivers 50 watts of power to the system's pair of one-inch aluminum dome tweeters and 4.5-inch polypropylene midrange cones. That speaker also houses the system's 192kHz/24-Bit DAC, Bluetooth receiver, physical inputs and outputs (including its subwoofer out, which automatically engages an 80Hz high-pass filter when employed) and network hardware, both wired and wireless.
Despite its wealth of connectivity, setting up the SVS Prime Wireless Speaker System is remarkably straightforward. Its optical, RCA analog, and 3.5mm aux inputs work pretty much in isolation, and can be considered plug-and-play. As can Bluetooth, with support for both aptX and AAC. The star of the show here, at least in terms of input capabilities, is the Prime Wireless System's inclusion of Play-Fi, both for source-to-device wireless streaming of supported services (which run the gamut from Amazon Music to Deezer to iHeartRadio to Pandora, Qobuz, Tidal, SiriusXM, and the list goes on...), as well as its multiroom playback functionality.
Some of you may be aware of my troubled history with Play-Fi, so I approached the setup of the Prime Wireless System with some trepidation. Despite the fact that I run an enterprise-grade Cisco/Ruckus network here at the house, previous Play-Fi systems I've auditioned either refused to identify speakers, randomly kicked those speakers off of the system for seemingly no reason, or just generally infuriated me with dropouts and unreliable connectivity.
I don't know if it's just SVS' specific implementation of Play-Fi or a general maturation of the platform, but I never encountered any of those issues with this system. Since the day I pulled the Prime Wireless System out of its box, network connectivity has been rock-solid and drop-outs have been non-existent (and no, nothing has changed about my network since my last Play-Fi review). The Play-Fi app also now supports a feature that is, at the very least, new to me: Critical Listening Mode, which is accessed via a button at the top of the Play-Fi app. Engaging this mode disables network synchronization, but it enables direct-path digital decoding of high-resolution local files or streaming services like Tidal and Qobuz, at resolutions up to 192/24.
All of this is merely to say that if you've avoided Play-Fi in the past due to reading about my experiences with the ecosystem, it may be time to take another look. In terms of both setup and day-to-day use, the SVS Prime Wireless Speaker System has been pretty much a breeze.
I say "pretty much" there because there is one aspect of setup that I think most users will need to dip into the instruction manual to fully understand: Custom Presets. As I alluded to above, the presets allow you to lock in your six favorite music services, playlists, or Internet Radio stations, and instantly access them without pulling out your phone or tablet. Simply push the left knob on the right speaker, select from preset one through six, and your music starts streaming. Configuring these presets involves starting your stream of choice, holding the left knob of the right speaker for a few seconds, and waiting for numbers to flash on the LED display. I'll admit, it took me a few attempts to figure out the right combination of button presses and holds and such before I could reliably assign my preferred streaming sources to the preset number of my choice, but once I got it down pat, it was locked into muscle memory.
And it was worth the effort. Whether you agree likely depends on how you choose to deploy the Prime Wireless Speaker System. If it's generally within arm's reach and you don't want to whip out your phone every time you want to listen to your favorite Spotify playlist, it's a super handy addition.
And that pretty much describes my initial implementation of the system to a T. I first decided to install the speakers in place of my usual computer monitors: a pair of older Paradigm Shift A2 powered bookshelf speakers. Since the SVS system includes a handy optical input, I removed my desktop DAC from the equation and went straight from the optical output of my Maingear Vybe desktop media/gaming PC into the right speaker.
Given that you use the same knob for preset selection and source selection, a setup like this could have been a navigational nightmare, but SVS has made the task of hopping back and forth between physical sources and streaming sources super snappy thanks to its source memory. What I mean by that is that I only ever needed to twisted the knob to select the optical input once. When I wanted to listen to my favorite Spotify playlists or other streaming sources, it was as simple as bumping the left knob on the right speaker, opening up the Play-Fi app, or selecting the speakers via Spotify Connect. Close the Play-Fi or Spotify or Qobuz app, and the speakers automatically switched back to the OPT input.
Since both speakers in the Prime Wireless System are rear-ported, my chosen setup configuration did result in the need for a bit of finessing in terms of placement. In my typical setup, my desktop monitors reside pretty close to my monitor, flanking it on either side with perhaps an inch between speaker and bezel. When I simply plopped the SVS speaker into the same position, I noticed a bit of unevenness in the bass performance, including a dip in response between roughly 180 and 200Hz that made the low-end sound ever-so-slightly disconnected from the lower midrange.
Spacing my desktop setup out a bit to give the speakers a little more room to breathe, toeing them in slightly, and moving them a little closer to the wall behind them just a scooch evened out the bass performance appreciably and resulted in a much more open, spacious, enveloping system. Otherwise, physical setup was a cinch: Only the right speaker in the system requires power, and the included proprietary cable that connects the right and left cabinets is, at ten feet, sufficiently long to accommodate most any stereo setup.
(If you need to spread your speakers apart further than that, SVS is currently in the process of adding longer replacement interconnects to inventory.)
I also added a pair of Auralex monitor isolation pads simply to give the speakers a bit of lean-back, since the surface of my desk is a little low, which resulted in the tweeters blasting straight into my chest when left to their own devices. If you're using the Prime Wireless Speaker System in a larger room, or in any other non-nearfield application, that last step will likely be unnecessary, as I discovered when I moved the system into my bedroom for some additional listening.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...
Whether I auditioned the speakers in the nearfield or from across the room, one thing remained the same: the deliciously balanced tonality and wonderfully wide dispersion of the Prime Wireless Speaker System. If you tend to like your speakers with a bit of unique character, I might gently point you in the direction of other high-performance wireless stereo speaker systems on the market, because the SVS system adds little to nothing in terms of coloration. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that this is pretty much what it would sound like if someone transmuted Floyd Toole's excellent book, Sound Reproduction: The Acoustics and Psychoacoustics of Loudspeakers and Rooms, into a powered wireless speaker.
Whether I had my head all up in the speakers' business at my desk, or sat across the room and sipped a glass of Warre's Otima 10 Year Old Tawny while listening to Joanna Newsom, what I got from the SVS system was balanced tonality, color-free midrange that rolled off gracefully, and sumptuous detail without any extra bite or sizzle. At any listening distance, imaging was laudable, but it wasn't until I really spread the cabinets apart and backed up a bit that I appreciated just how skillfully these speakers were engineered with room interaction in mind.
You can really hear this in effect with Lyle Lovett's "Bears," from his cover album Step Inside This House (streamed via Spotify Connect). The apparent width of the intertwining acoustic guitars that drive this number sound deliciously expansive via the SVS system, absolutely defying the limitations imposed by the width between the speakers. What's more, the utter clarity of their delivery really allows you to dive into the briar patch and sort out the tangle of notes, shifting your attention from individual six-string to individual six-stream, tracing out their distinctive but harmonious noodling.
That's honestly not why I chose this song as my first critical listening selection, though. Right around the 1:45 mark, when Lovett sings "some to see a bear would pay a fee...," a lot of otherwise fine systems I've auditioned have a tendency to render his voice with a bit harsh sibilance--an edginess to the s-sounds that causes them to leap out of the mix, sometimes disruptively so. Such is absolutely not the case via the SVS system. Even at nearly painful listening levels, I was simply unable to drive the Prime Wireless System into harsh or grating territory, although pushing it to its absolute limits did constrict the soundstage a bit.
For all the talk of detail and dispersion and tonal balance, one thing that absolutely cannot be overlooked is just how much fun this system is to listen to. One evening, after returning home from seeing Captain Marvel, I fired up the system, not for the purposes of evaluation, but merely to rock out to No Doubt's "Just a Girl" via Qobuz (44.1kHz/16-bit, with Critical Listening Mode engaged). For the life of me, I couldn't resist grabbing my scratch pad and taking notes, though. On a weekend, at that.
What poured out of this itty-bitty system was an explosive torrent of synth-pop ska-punk that absolutely blew my hair back. My notes here look like an attempt at re-writing the thesaurus entry for "dynamic." At a glance, I'm seeing the word "punch" three times, "slam" a solid five, and "rocking" is underlined with a hasty scribble. Simply put, these masochistic little minxes take a full-force whipping and beg for more. I've heard many a full-sized tower speaker setup that didn't boast nearly this level of dynamic ferocity.
And yet, throughout all of that onslaught, Gwen Stefani's voice sliced through the mix and coalesced as an object in and of itself, with utter solidity, liquidity, and heretofore undiscovered states of matter that drew me into the music and held me there.
During my time with the Prime Wireless Speaker System as desktop monitors, I also had ample opportunity to audition it with games, although as of late the variety of games I'm playing has been rather limited by the fact that there's a new expansion out for Civilization VI. Despite the addition of several new civilizations, I found myself being drawn time and again to the Aztecs, if only because of the SVS system's delivery of their score music, especially in the medieval era. This score truly emphasizes all of the system's glowing attributes, from its explosive dynamics and wonderfully lifelike decay (illuminated by the Aztec soundtrack's forceful percussion) to its captivating timbres and textures (which can really be heard in the throaty strings that dominate the melody).
If there's a bone to be picked with the SVS Prime Wireless Speaker System, it's that it just doesn't have much in the way of deep bass output. SVS lists the system's rated frequency response as 52Hz to 25kHz (±3 dB), but in practice, anything much below 80Hz or thereabouts gets lost in the mix. That's not such a problem for most rock music, but when listening to Björk's "Hyperballad" via Qobuz (44.1kHz/16-bit), I found the lack of bass a little unsatisfying until adding a subwoofer to the mix. Thankfully, doing so is easy-peasy, as an 80Hz high-pass filter is automatically set as soon as you plug in a subwoofer cable, as mentioned above. One simply needs to adjust the low-pass filter on the sub itself. SVS recommends a setting of 90Hz for the latter, which worked beautifully in my experience.
Any other issues I had with the system really fall on the shoulders of the Play-Fi ecosystem. I mentioned in the Hookup section that Play-Fi, as implemented in the SVS system, works reliably for me in a way that it never has before. But there are still quirks. When using the app, there is a bit of a lag between pressing play and hearing music, unless you engage Critical Listening Mode. So, if you're cueing up Jackson 5's "I Want You Back," you're going to miss that delicious piano glissando at the beginning of the song.
And gapless playback still isn't a thing. Well, it's mostly not a thing. I got gapless playback to work just fine when using Spotify Connect (which bypasses the Play-Fi app), but not when streaming from other music sources or my own music collection on my phone. If you don't listen to a lot of live music, this may not be a concern for you. But I have upwards of 40 gigabytes' worth of Grateful Dead concerts on my iPhone alone, and for me, a four-or-five-second gap between "Scarlet Begonias" and "Fire on the Mountain" is no bueno.
Competition and Comparisons
As hinted at in the intro, wireless speaker systems of this sort are the future of hi-fi, love them or hate them, so it's no surprise that SVS has some pretty compelling competition on the market.
The Kanto YU6 speakers that Andrew Robinson recently reviewed are a prime example. Those speakers sell for $399/pair (versus $599 for the SVS system), and its complementary sub sells for $289, bringing the total Kanto system price up to $688. The YU6 speakers are a little larger than the SVS Primes, and include a built-in phono stage and an extra optical input, but the Kanto system relies solely on Bluetooth with aptX for its wireless connectivity, and as such lacks the SVS system's multiroom capabilities and Critical Listening Mode.
If you dig the sound of horns, Klipsch also has its own wireless speaker system, dubbed The Sixes, which has a list price of $799 but generally sells for somewhere around the $599 mark. It too features a phono stage, as well as a USB input, but its wireless connectivity is limited to Bluetooth (without aptX support, as best I can tell).
Audioengine's HD6 Wireless Speakers are another worthy contender. At $699 retail, the HD6 system is also limited to Bluetooth connectivity, but in this case it's BT5.0 with aptX HD, aptX low latency, and AAC support. The Audioengine system does lack a subwoofer output, although it has variable stereo line outs that could be routed to a sub whose level you can control independently
via remote control (and without the benefit of a high-pass filter for the speakers themselves). The Audioengine system also sets itself apart somewhat in the wireless speaker world thanks to its Class AB amp topology.
Depending on what sorts of music you listen to and what sort of environment you listen in, you might find that the SVS Prime Wireless System requires the addition of a subwoofer to really perform at its best, which is no real shock given the diminutive size of its component speakers.
I daresay, though, that you'll struggle to find another wireless speaker system in its price range that delivers this level of dynamic, tonally balanced, nuanced, and detailed performance while also boasting the level of connectivity found here. The addition of niceties like the six custom streaming presets, along with the system's source memory, really make it a standout in the burgeoning wireless speaker system marketplace.
Fair warning, though: don't be surprised if you pick the system up, only to come home one day and find that it's been moved to your kids' room.
• Visit the SVS website for more product information.
• Check out our Wireless Speakers category page to read similar reviews.
• Read SVS Cuts the Cords with Prime Wireless Speaker System and SoundBase at HomeTheaterReview.com.