- Written by John E. Johnson, Jr.
- Published on 25 February 2008
SVSound celebrates a decade of business with the announcement of their new MTS-01 speaker line that includes floor-standers (reviewed here), a center channel, and rear surrounds.
Originally named SVSubwoofers, or just SVS, they made subwoofers in the cylindrical shape we are so familiar with now, and soon moved on to box subs. All of their subwoofers have received rave reviews from us, and from everyone else too.
Their business model is based on a true love of clean, deep bass, not simply a desire to run a business and make a living.
They have always designed and manufacturerd their own drivers, and assembled them in their own factories in Ohio, Of course, like most companies, some of the items are outsourced to Asia, like the enclosures, but in general, SVSound products are built at home.
One result of this deep affection for great bass is that the subwoofers have tremendous output. That was their goal, and it was achieved.
A second goal was to make the products as affordable as possible. That meant keeping them simple, and only selling them on the Internet.
The final tally is that SVSound markets some of the best subwoofers at the best prices on the planet.
- Design: 2-1/2 Way; Ported
- Drivers: One 1" Cloth Dome Tweeter, Two 6.5" Fiber Woofers
- MFR: 60 Hz - 30 kHz ± 3 dB
- Nominal Impedance: 6 Ohms
- Sensitivity: 91 dB/W/M
- Power Handling: 250 Watts
- Dimensions: 41" H x 10" W x 13" D
- Weight: 60 Pounds/Each
- MSRP: $1,499/Pair USA
SVSound started making speakers a couple of years ago, called the SBS-01. They are bookshelf designs. The MTS-01's are their first floor-standers, and the series includes a center channel and rear surrounds. For less than $3,000, you get a 5.0 system that includes a pair of the floor-standers, the center, and two surrounds. Of course, you would want a subwoofer to go with them, to make the system 5.1, and SVSound has plenty to choose from.
Let me get right to the point here. SVSound has carried their business model of using top notch drivers in simple enclosures to the maximum with the MTS-01 series. In particular, they use the ScanSpeak Air-Circ tweeter, which is about $275 each if you buy it from a company that sells raw drivers. It is one of the very best tweeters made, anywhere. Putting such a tweeter in a relatively inexpensive speaker like this is unheard of. The woofers are Peerless, not the most expensive ones, but very good ones nonetheless. The crossover frequency details are proprietary at this point, but I suspect it is a 2-1/2 way design.
The enclosure is braced MDF, covered in black vinyl, except for the top sides, where wooden panels are attached. You can choose from Oak (shown here), Rosenut, or Piano Black.
The rather conservative enclosure is what keeps the price of these speakers down to $1,500/pair. That, plus only selling on-line, and a desire to provide a high performance/cost ratio rather than big profits.
The rear panel has two 2" flared ports. That sounds like a lot of port area for two 6.5" woofers, but remember, SVSound got started making powerful bass. The MTS-01's would get nothing less.
A set of bi-amping/bi-wiring five-way speaker binding posts round out the backside, along with a toggle switch just above the posts that lets you reduce the tweeter output by 3 dB.
A set of metal foot straps comes with the speakers, and you can attach or not attach at your leisure, the metal spikes. I did not attach the spikes because I put the speakers on rugs and didn't want to punch holes in them. However, the straps (minus the spikes) do help to stabilize the tall thin speakers so that they are less likely to be tipped over.
I tested the MTS-01's with a McIntosh MCD201 SACD player, BAT VK-5i preamplifier, and McIntosh MC1201 power amplifiers. Cables were Legenburg and Nordost. I found that music averaged about 10 watts with peaks at 120 watts for room filling volume. These speakers are mirror images, so the tweeter is closer to the right edge on one speaker and closer to the left edge on the other speaker. You can set them up so the tweeters are both on the outside edges or the inside edges left to right, and see which setup gives you the best imaging in your particular room with nearby furniture.
Rachmaninoff is probably a favorite of every classical music fan, and certainly me. His music is very difficult to play, and the melodies are very passionate. He was a complex guy, what can I say? In any case, his symphonies are great tests for speakers, and the MTS-01's simply floored me with their ability to present every nuance. Putting that exqisite tweeter in there surely paid off in sound quality. The sound from this Telarc SACD was very focused and detailed, with no hint of boominess or excessive sibilance. The bass was very tight. Yes, the speakers could use a good sub to fill in the lowest octave, but all speakers can use that. However, I was surprised to hear the amount of bass even though these are not really large speakers. You will see why in the bench tests.
They also sounded extremely neutral. No emphasis in the lows, mids, or highs.
Chamber music is probably my favorite in the classical arena, because I usually read the newspaper or a book when I listen to music, and this category is very relaxing. It's not toe tapping music, it's soothing. What I listened for with this EMI disc of Bartok string quartets was the rosin on the strings and definite placement of the instruments across the soundstage. And, that is exactly what I got. That fancy tweeter makes a huge difference, and you are very unlikely to find it in other speakers with this price tag.
Ah, the female voice. It's a killer for many speakers. In this Virgin Classics two-disc set of Italian Opera Arias, Soprano Natalie Dessay is certainly a good test. And, she came through with a perfectly natural tonality (some speakers have problems in the upper bass that cause chestiness, which implies that the singer is a three-pack-a-day smoker), and without sibilance (a 6 kHz problem). The detail presentation gave Dessay a perfect placement in space as well.
Speaking of voices, how about a choir, such as this EMI disc, I heard a Voice: The Music of the Golden Age. A multitude of voices can wreak havoc on speakers because of harmonic distortion. This is because the voice is in a frequency range where the second and third harmonics are still in the midrange area (i.e., the second and third harmonics of 200 Hz are only 400 Hz and 600 Hz, while the second and third harmonics of 10 kHz are at the limits of audibility).
But, the MTS-01's would have none of that. Although the sibilant parts of the voice were from the tweeter, the rest was from the woofers, and the sound quality was, in plain terminology, just terrific.
The MTS-01's come with foam port plugs that, when inserted, will result in the low frequency rolloff being more gradual, but it starts earlier. In other words, it gives you a little more deep bass extension. However, I preferred the speakers with no plugs, because it gives a flatter response to the frequency (50 Hz) where I would have a subwoofer take over. In fact, SVS sent one of their new cylindrical subs to go with the MTS-01's, but they sound so good without the sub, I will review that sub in a separate article.
Below is shown a generic diagram of the effect of plugging the ports on woofers that are designed for such use.
There is also a tweeter toggle that reduces high frequency output by 3 dB. Again, however, I preferred the sound with the toggle set at 0 dB (no rolloff), as I used top notch electronics to drive the speakers. The MTS-01's are very fine sound transducers, so I suggest that if you hear some harshness, you should consider getting new front end electronics so you can listen to your music with a flat response. I have no hesitancy to connect components like the BAT preamplifier and McIntosh power amplifiers to these speakers. They are that good.
On the Bench
I measured distortion within an 80 kHz bandwidth. The microphone was at a 1 foot distance from the drivers unless otherwise specified.
At 1 kHz, THD+N measured 0.39%.
At 10 kHz, less than 0.2% THD+N was measured from the tweeter.
THD+N vs. Frequency showed that these speakers perform very well at all frequencies. Notice that even at 30 Hz, distortion is only 5%. From a little above 100 Hz all the way to 20 kHz, distortion stayed around or below 0.5%. This is most of the audible spectrum and is why the speakers sounded so neutral.
The measured frequency response was excellent. Notice that it drops off below 50 Hz, and this is why I would suggest a 50 Hz crossover to a good subwoofer.
The impedance appears to be nominal 6 ohms as in the spec sheet. Because the electrical phase stays close to 00 when the impedance is at 4 ohms, the speakers will still be easy to drive. The fact that the phase is within ± 200 from 150 Hz to 20 kHz is superb.
SVSound has a real winner on their hands with the MTS-01 floor-standing speakers. Using a top notch tweeter, coupled with their extensive experience in dealing with woofers, has produced one of the best performance/cost speakers I have ever seen.