SVS' newly revamped Ultra Series line of loudspeakers includes tower, center, surround and bookshelf models. The Ultra Bookshelf, reviewed here, retails for $499 each ($998 per pair) and is sold direct via SVS' own website. While SVS may be better known for its subwoofers, one shouldn't overlook the company's loudspeaker endeavors, as SVS has been making quality loudspeakers for years. Still, the sub-$1,000 loudspeaker market is a competitive one, so how well the all-new Ultra Bookshelf stacks up against the competition is what I wanted to find out.
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The Ultra Bookshelf is a two-way monitor, featuring a one-inch aluminum dome tweeter mated to a single six-and-a-half-inch woofer. The Ultra Bookshelf is on the larger side for a two-way bookshelf speaker, measuring nearly 15 inches tall by eight-and-a-half inches wide and 10 inches deep. It's also quite hefty, weighing an impressive 19 pounds, no doubt a result of its fantastic build quality. The cabinet, like all Ultra Series speakers, features a wedge-shaped design that, coupled with its internal bracing, not only reduces cabinet resonances, but also combats edge diffractions. There is but one finish option available for the Ultra Bookshelf: a high-gloss, piano black lacquer. The Ultra Bookshelf has a reported frequency response of 45Hz to 32kHz, with a nominal impedance of eight ohms and a sensitivity rating of 87dB. All these attributes add up to a speaker that should be relatively easy to drive and enjoy via a swath of modern electronics, including AV receivers and/or budget separates.
In terms of sound quality, there is a lot to like about the Ultra Bookshelf, starting with its bass prowess. While not full-range, the Ultra Bookshelf is capable of surprising bass response, offering up a low end that is not only deep but musical, with tremendous impact. In certain environments and/or setups, I could envision not needing a subwoofer. Moreover, the Ultra Bookshelf's bass is one of speed and finesse, two things that, when coupled with deep, rich bass from a two-way monitor, you're likely to want, especially if you're not going to be employing a sub. The Ultra Bookshelf's midbass response is also very good and incredibly articulate on up through the midrange, which possesses a full-bodied sound without coming across as bloated, but rather within the realm of neutral. Vocals sound weighty and rich and carry with them terrific presence and scale at virtually all volume levels. The high frequencies are also very nice, though they lack that touch of air at the extremes that keeps their extension from developing fully. Still, for a loudspeaker retailing for less than $1,000 per pair, the Ultra Bookshelf's tweeter is a solid performer. Speaking of extension, the Ultra Bookshelf's soundstage is one of breadth, but is also nicely appointed and delicately detailed. It seems to favor width over depth, but nevertheless, its soundstage is very nice indeed, with the speakers aurally disappearing into it when set up properly. Dynamics are also good, though largely dependent on the strength and quality of your amp, as I did find the Ultra Bookshelf responded favorably when stepping things up to more up-market amplifiers, such as my Parasound Halo amps. This shouldn't scare you into thinking perhaps your AV receiver or budget separates aren't good enough - they are - but the Ultra Bookshelf responds to higher-quality components, meaning it can grow with you over time.
Read about the high points and low points of the SVS Ultra Bookshelf on Page 2.