I keep two different two-way speaker pairs on hand as sonic reference points. One pair sounds bright, while the other is subtly warmer. Auditioned full-range in stereo, the SVS MTS-01 towers split the difference between those two sounds with wonderful precision, being almost perfectly neutral on the warm-to-cool scale and virtually without character in the ever-sensitive vocal regions. (Lack of character is a good thing for a speaker; not so much for a speaker reviewer.)
When combined with the MTS-01's superb bass, which sounded pretty much unfettered to nearly 30 Hz, this made for an outstanding listening experience. Great recordings, such as guitarist Ralph Towner's classic Solstice, were reproduced with an evenness of timbre and an image depth rarely found in so affordable a speaker. SVS's spiffy tweeter really did shine on the 12-string-guitar-and-drums duet "Piscean Dance," where drummer Jon Christensen's stuttering snare and hi-hat and floating ride cymbals shone with a notably unstressed, no-limit airiness.
While SVS had suggested that I cross the towers over at 80 Hz to let the massive subwoofer do its thing, I found that running them full-range and crossing over the system's center and surrounds at 60 Hz delivered the best, most cohesive sound, particularly on multichannel music. And pretty glorious sound it was, too, on a Telarc SACD of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra playing Stravinsky's Firebird Suite. The system's presentation of massed strings and hall sound was simply first-rate, while brass attacks and inner details like sidewall echoes from the glockenspiel sounded consistently clear and lifelike. Under it all, the PB13-Ultra sub contributed seemingly limitless, but controlled and unexaggerated, bottom end. I've never heard the Cincinnati's big bass drum sound bigger, nor have I heard its climaxes in unison with the tympani during the "Infernal Dance" scene delivered with deeper impact.
Hidalgo isn't a very good movie, but it does offer well-photographed vistas on Blu-ray Disc, a sweeping James Newton Howard musical score, and plenty of action - once you get past the notion of Aragorn as a cowboy. The SVS system delivered wholly cinematic soundscapes, with solid spatiality and effortless dynamics; indeed, this system sounds better the louder it plays. Dialogue was uniformly clear and stable (though maybe not as tightly locked to the screen as it would be with the very best speaker systems), while the L/C/R trio maintained a solid front during the film's countless pans of galloping hooves.
The MBS-01s - located in my usual surround speaker position on high shelves flanking my listening position and angled in somewhat toward the rear wall - performed surprisingly well. I never once felt my attention pulled away from the screen, though my everyday dipoles clearly sounded bigger and more amorphous, which I feel is a virtue with most movie soundtracks.
The PB13-Ultra was quite possibly the best subwoofer I've ever had in my system. It went lower and louder than any single-piece sub I've tried here, and it did so without producing a hint of excessive sound on the middle-bass octaves from 60 Hz on up. Even without exploiting any of its EQ features, the PB13-Ultra easily awoke rattles in my room that only one other sub (the JL Audio f112) has found. And scenes such as the sliding tomb door in the opening moments of the Stargate DVD caused it to deliver truly structural rumbles at cinematic levels.
As with the MTS speakers, the PB13-Ultra has foam bungs for its three cabinet ports. And it produces enough bass that I found employing all three bungs to be an ideal option in my room. Doing so barely tightened the already well-controlled sound, and even with its peak 3-Hz level thus curtailed (a sealed enclosure returns deeper extension but slightly less peak loudness higher up the frequency range), the SVS sub still could play substantially louder than I could ever demand.
SVS's MTS system, complemented by the PB13-Ultra sub, is as impressive a music system as it is a home theater one. Any value-conscious audio seekers who care more for performance than pedigree, and for great sound more than mere style, should look and listen no further.
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