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svsound

MTS-01 loudspeakers

as reviewed by John Hoffman

 

 

 

 

 

JOHN HOFFMAN'S SYSTEM

LOUDSPEAKERS
Mordaunt Short Performance 880 speakers.

ELECTRONICS
Jeff Rowland Model 5 amplifier and a Jeff Rowland Consummate preamplifier.

SOURCES
Audio Magic Kukama DAC, Enlightened Audio Designs T-1000 transport, Bolder Cable Company modified Squeezebox. Has the full enthusiast modification package. Also the Ultimate IV power supply, with the Nirvana pre-regulator option.

CABLES
Audio Magic Illusion 4D interconnects, speaker cable, and digital cable and Audio Magic Extreme series power cords.

ACCESSORIES
Audio Magic Mini Reference power conditioner.

 

There is no shortage of moderately priced equipment that offers reasonably good sound. Many of these components will offer a glimpse of what exists at the higher planes of audio reproduction, but can never really transport the listener to this auditory Shangri-La. Audio components that offer authentic high-end sound quality, yet are priced within the reach of the every day hobbyist, are a rare occurrence.

SVS Audio has released a revision of the MTS-01 speaker that does far more than tease the listener with visions of musical bliss, but instead offers a pathway for the frugal audio enthusiast to experience high quality sound reproduction.

The SVS MTS-01 is a medium sized floor standing speaker, which at first glance does not appear to possess any attributes that distinguish it from any other current production speaker. The average hobbyist would find the $1499 price tag of the MTS-01 to be palatable, though it would not be considered an inexpensive purchase. Upon closer inspection, a pair of 7" Nomex woofers, and a set of Scan Speak Air Circ tweeters hint at the MTS-01 not being a run of the mill speaker. These are high quality drivers, which are not usually found in speakers located at this price point. The cabinets are a combination of polymer panels, and attractive wood accent pieces. The enclosure is CNC machined, and heavy internal bracing minimizes box resonance issues. SVS uses an innovative combination of materials and construction techniques, which really aren't available on speakers that reside at this price point The MTS-01 is a bass reflex design, and dual 2" ports are located on the rear panel of the cabinet. A bi-wire installation can be accomplished through the two sets of 5-way binding posts. There is no doubt that the SVS speaker is brimming with high quality parts, yet the real secret to its outstanding performance is the passive crossover network.

The principals at SVS felt that additional improvements could be coaxed out of the first iteration of the MTS-01 loudspeaker. The services of Philip Bamberg were retained, and he was charged with the task of redesigning the crossover network. Philip specializes in crossover network design, and he maintains a stellar reputation for his deft touch with coils and capacitors. A typical Bamberg design is first created, and then refined on an electronic crossover network. Once the crossover points and slopes are selected, then the real work begins. Philip then designs a passive network to emulate the sonic signature of the electronic crossover. This is not a simple task, since the passive network has to blend the sonic signature of the parts, deal with impedance issues of the drivers, and maintain phase relationship throughout the design. Few audio hobbyists understand or appreciate the contribution of the crossover network to the performance of a speaker system. SVS clearly got their money's worth when they hired Philip Bamberg. Audio hobbyists who chose a pair of these MTS-01 speakers will be able to experience the work of a designer who is one of the best kept secrets of the audio world.

Over the course of several weeks I played the SVS speakers for 300+ hours before doing any critical listening. I sneaked a peek from time to time, although I refrained from any critical listening sessions. With the break in complete, I then experimented with room placement. I ended up placing the MTS-01 speakers 8 feet apart, with a moderate degree of tow-in. The cabinets are 36 inches off the front wall, and the listening position is 9 feet away. I removed the jumpers from the binding posts, and ran two pairs of Audio Magic silver ribbon speaker wire. Since these cabinets are 42" tall, I did not find it necessary to tilt the speaker back in order to increase the soundstage height.

The defining attributes of the MTS-01 speaker are transparency and the accurate presentation of the low level detail within a recording. This is achieved without taking liberties with the tonal balance of the speaker, which is a common method of forcing a detailed presentation from a less capable design. The MTS-01 cannot be mistaken for a set of planar speakers, although they are stiff competition for any speaker in the sub $2000 price category. One evening I sat down to listen to " All That Jazz", which is the opening song to the soundtrack of Chicago [Chicago: Music From the Motion Picture; Epic EK 87018]. The song opens with a muted trumpet, and the tonal presentation is exceptional. The warbling created from moving the mute is clearly portrayed, and all aspects of the trumpet are realistically reproduced. Other instruments such as drums, piano, and saxophone are all spot on in regards to tonal balance. In comparison, the SVS speaker is the equal of my Mordaunt-Short Performance 880 speakers, and in some respects outperformed them. The SVS speakers had the edge in overall neutrality when reproducing vocals, while the Mordaunt-Short speaker added a bit of warmth and smoothness to the music. The MS speaker sold for $3600 a pair, and boasts exotic driver and cast resin and rock cabinets. Yet these modestly priced speakers from SVS were able to stand their ground against far more expensive competition.

Since the MTS-01 is detailed and maintains a proper tonal balance, it stands to reason that these speakers will have excellent imaging properties. The SVS speaker casts a large soundstage in three dimensions, and performers are solidly portrayed within its boundaries. The SVS speaker creates a deep soundstage, although it does not extend in front of the speaker to a large degree. This attribute is consistent with speaker's designs that exhibit even tonal balance, especially in the midrange frequencies. Designs with upper midrange peaks tend to project a soundstage into a room, which can be a pleasant listening experience if one is not concerned about overall accuracy. An acoustic recording of "Chuck E's in Love"  by Rickie Lee Jones [Naked Songs; Rickie Lee Jones Reprise 9 45950-2] clearly demonstrates the imaging capabilities of this speaker. This is a live recording, and the audience is an integral part of the performance. The MTS-1 speakers clearly define the venue of the recording, and I could easily hear the contributions of the audience throughout the song. The layering of the soundstage is easy to discern, and at the end of the song several people shout their approval. These exhortations and spontaneous applause define the edges of the venue, and the SVS speakers faithfully present all dimensions of the soundstage.

Given the physical dimensions of the MTS-01, this should be a full range speaker. A pair of 7" bass drivers should allow for bass response into the lower 30-hertz range. SVS provides anechoic chamber measurements showing the 3dB down point at 38-hertz. Room boundaries will reinforce the bottom end to an extent, and placement will play a major factor in how much perceived bass these speakers have. The bass response from the MTS-01 is quick and detailed, although it does not appear to extend quite as deep as I would have expected. The Mordaunt-Short Performance 880 is a very similar design, with a pair of 8" drivers in a slightly smaller cabinet. The MS speaker digs deeper than the SVS speaker, and produces a tactile feel to the bass passages. In contrast the bass from the MTS-01 is lively and articulate, with a high level of detail, although it lacks the physical impact that can be found in the lower registers. This point is illustrated by the opening passages from "Riding With Thunder" by the Native Flute Ensemble [Between Father Sky And Mother Earth; NARADA ND-63915]. The changing locations of the hand strikes to the drumhead are easily heard. The MTS-01 admirably relays all the detail of this passage, and outperforms any mid priced speaker I have listened to. After the initial drum notes, a thunder strike forms at the back of the soundstage. There is a significant amount of low frequency information in this passage, and it comes through in a slightly diminished fashion. The 880's edge out the MTS-01 in this regard, but it is the only area where it clearly bests the SVS speaker.

One point needs to be clarified regarding the bass performance of the MTS-01 speakers. SVS designed this speaker to be part of a high performance home theater sound system. A high quality audio/video system usually incorporates a subwoofer into the speaker package. During the last decade SVS gained recognition for building high performance subwoofers that were attractively priced. Ed Mullen at SVS provided confirmation that the MTS-01 should be paired with a subwoofer, if the owner wishes to achieve true 15 to 20 hertz bass response. The design team at SVS has obviously chosen high quality bass reproduction instead of the deepest possible extension. From my listening experiences, I believe they have successfully balanced the compromises that must be made in an affordably priced speaker.

The SVS MTS-01 speakers are an artful blend of high quality drivers, proven construction techniques, and the skills of a talented crossover designer. The contributions made by Philip Bamberg set this speaker apart from any other $1500 speaker I have listened to. The midrange is far more neutral than one would expect, and the presentation of detail belies the modest cost of this speaker. Bass performance is articulate, even if it doesn't reach subterranean levels. This SVS speaker represents real value to the frugal audiophile, or anyone else who is working with limited funds in their audio kitty. I can easily recommend the SVS MTS-01 to cost conscious audiophiles looking for an articulate and engaging pair of speakers. John Hoffman

MTS-01 loudspeakers
Retail: $1499 a pair

SVSound
web address: www.svsound.com

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