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.