SVS and the New Ultra Evolution Pinnacle

Ever since the announcement some two weeks ago, I’ve been eager to hear the SVS Ultra Evolution Pinnacle loudspeakers, which, at $2499 each—or, you guessed it, $4998/pair—are cheap in high-end terms but quite expensive for SVS. Coming from such a high-value company, I’m thinking, this could be a serious assault on audio’s high-end. Stereophile has already lined up a review.

When I walked into SVS’s two-channel room—they also had a home theater room, something you don’t see much of at AXPONA—the first thing I noticed is that in every chair taken was a younger human—under 40, let us say. That’s evidence—extremely anecdotal—that if you want to reach younger folks, you need to focus on value. Close to half were women. I don’t know what that’s evidence of.

The Ultra Evolution Pinnacle is tall. Each weighs about a hundred pounds. It has four 8″ woofers—two facing forward and two to the rear, in force-balanced pairs, ported out the back; that’s a lot of bass-producing surface area. Each speaker has two proper 5 1/4″ midrange drivers; all these drivers—midrange and bass—have glass-fiber composite cones. The tweeter—just one on each speaker—adds a vapor-deposited layer of diamond to the previous-generation’s tweeter. There’s a diffuser that should help keep the tweeter from sounding edgy or harsh.

Perhaps the most surprising design feature, considering the price point, is time alignment. All five front-panel drivers are positioned in an M-T-M (which I suppose makes it a W-M-T-M-W alignment). The front baffle tilts back to tweeter level halfway up then forward again, aligning the drivers so that so that they … what exactly? Precisely what SVS means by time-alignment isn’t clear. Their literature calls it “Acoustically Centered Time-Alignment Architecture,” which “maximizes phase coherence and renders pinpoint accuracy and convincing soundstage.” Probably, the drivers are aligned to produce a wavefront in which all frequencies line up as they radiate out—but it could also mean that the wavefronts converge at a particular point, which presumably would lie somewhere along the tweeter axis.

But never mind that—how did they sound?

The first thing I noticed—and it’s not surprising in a big speaker from a company known for subwoofers—is bass. Lots of bass. Good bass. Then again, they were playing Massive Attack (“Angel”), so of course you heard bass. I, too, would play Massive Attack if I were presenting a demo of these speakers.

At first, I noticed big midbass. Then the deep bass came in—also big. Awesome, in the less jaded, more literal sense of provoking awe. The soundstage was restricted by the size of the small room, but there was a good bit of depth. I was very much aware of the bass carving out the shape of the room; I still don’t understand how that works, but it does.

SVS’s Larry McGough, who was presenting, then served up Angelina Jordan’s take on “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I was sitting on the front row in an outside seat. her voice seemed unfocused. Someone left and I moved toward the center, still in the first row; then Jordan was precisely centered. I don’t know this recording, but the timbre seemed good.

The ultimate test of a pair of speakers like this will be whether they can reproduce something dry and natural, like a well-recorded piano, in a way that seems natural: all wood, wool, and steel. Apparently, there was nothing like that on the playlist. I’m confident that Sasha’s upcoming review of the Ultra Evolution Pinnacle will test this.

The big SVS speakers were powered by an Emotiva XPA-2 Gen3 2-channel amplifier ($1199). The preamp was Emotiva’s PT2 (available now at a sale price of $599), and the source was the Cambridge Audio CXN2 network player ($1099). Cabling was by SVS. The value in this system was off the charts.

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