SVS Ultra Bookshelf Speaker Review

  • Sunday, Dec 4, 2022

Foreword / YouTube Video Review

These speakers were loaned to me by SVS directly. I was not paid for this review and SVS has not seen the review prior to public release.

Apologies for the stock photo. I don’t have the means to take my own photos at this moment but will update when I do.

The review on this website is a brief overview and summary of the objective performance of this speaker. It is not intended to be a deep dive. Moreso, this is information for those who prefer “just the facts” and prefer to have the data without the filler. The video below has more discussion.

< coming soon >

Information and Photos

Manufacturer’s information can be found here.

These are sold in singles at $599/each making the approximate retail price for a pair $1200 USD.

CTA-2034 (SPINORAMA) and Accompanying Data

All data collected using Klippel’s Near-Field Scanner. The Near-Field-Scanner 3D (NFS) offers a fully automated acoustic measurement of direct sound radiated from the source under test. The radiated sound is determined in any desired distance and angle in the 3D space outside the scanning surface. Directivity, sound power, SPL response and many more key figures are obtained for any kind of loudspeaker and audio system in near field applications (e.g. studio monitors, mobile devices) as well as far field applications (e.g. professional audio systems). Utilizing a minimum of measurement points, a comprehensive data set is generated containing the loudspeaker’s high resolution, free field sound radiation in the near and far field. For a detailed explanation of how the NFS works and the science behind it, please watch the below discussion with designer Christian Bellmann:

The reference point is at the tweeter. Grille off.

Measurements are provided in a format in accordance with the Standard Method of Measurement for In-Home Loudspeakers (ANSI/CTA-2034-A R-2020). For more information, please see this link.


The On-axis Frequency Response (0°) is the universal starting point and in many situations it is a fair representation of the first sound to arrive at a listener’s ears.

The Listening Window is a spatial average of the nine amplitude responses in the ±10º vertical and ±30º horizontal angular range. This encompasses those listeners who sit within a typical home theater audience, as well as those who disregard the normal rules when listening alone.

The Early Reflections curve is an estimate of all single-bounce, first-reflections, in a typical listening room.

Sound Power represents all of the sounds arriving at the listening position after any number of reflections from any direction. It is the weighted rms average of all 70 measurements, with individual measurements weighted according to the portion of the spherical surface that they represent.

Sound Power Directivity Index (SPDI): In this standard the SPDI is defined as the difference between the listening window curve and the sound power curve.

Early Reflections Directivity Index (EPDI): is defined as the difference between the listening window curve and the early reflections curve. In small rooms, early reflections figure prominently in what is measured and heard in the room so this curve may provide insights into potential sound quality.


Early Reflections Breakout:

Floor bounce: average of 20º, 30º, 40º down

Ceiling bounce: average of 40º, 50º, 60º up

Front wall bounce: average of 0º, ± 10º, ± 20º, ± 30º horizontal

Side wall bounces: average of ± 40º, ± 50º, ± 60º, ± 70º, ± 80º horizontal

Rear wall bounces: average of 180º, ± 90º horizontal


Estimated In-Room Response:

In theory, with complete 360-degree anechoic data on a loudspeaker and sufficient acoustical and geometrical data on the listening room and its layout it would be possible to estimate with good precision what would be measured by an omnidirectional microphone located in the listening area of that room. By making some simplifying assumptions about the listening space, the data set described above permits a usefully accurate preview of how a given loudspeaker might perform in a typical domestic listening room. Obviously, there are no guarantees, because individual rooms can be acoustically aberrant. Sometimes rooms are excessively reflective (“live”) as happens in certain hot, humid climates, with certain styles of interior décor and in under-furnished rooms. Sometimes rooms are excessively “dead” as in other styles of décor and in some custom home theaters where acoustical treatment has been used excessively. This form of post processing is offered only as an estimate of what might happen in a domestic living space with carpet on the floor and a “normal” amount of seating, drapes and cabinetry.

For these limited circumstances it has been found that a usefully accurate Predicted In-Room (PIR) amplitude response, also known as a “room curve” is obtained by a weighted average consisting of 12 % listening window, 44 % early reflections and 44 % sound power. At very high frequencies errors can creep in because of excessive absorption, microphone directivity, and room geometry. These discrepancies are not considered to be of great importance.


Horizontal Frequency Response (0° to ±90°): specs

Vertical Frequency Response (0° to ±40°): specs

Horizontal Contour Plot (normalized): specs

Vertical Contour Plot (normalized): specs

“Globe” Plots

Horizontal Polar (Globe) Plot:
This represents the sound field at 2 meters - above 200Hz - per the legend in the upper left. specs

Vertical Polar (Globe) Plot:
This represents the sound field at 2 meters - above 200Hz - per the legend in the upper left. specs

Additional Measurements

Response Linearity


Impedance Magnitude and Phase


Step Response


Group Delay


Harmonic Distortion

Harmonic Distortion at 86dB @ 1m: specs

Harmonic Distortion at 96dB @ 1m: specs

Dynamic Range (Instantaneous Compression Test)

The below graphic indicates just how much SPL is lost (compression) or gained (enhancement; usually due to distortion) when the speaker is played at higher output volumes instantly via a 2.7 second logarithmic sine sweep referenced to 76dB at 1 meter. The signals are played consecutively without any additional stimulus applied. Then normalized against the 76dB result.

The tests are conducted in this fashion:

  1. 76dB at 1 meter (baseline; black)
  2. 86dB at 1 meter (red)
  3. 96dB at 1 meter (blue)
  4. 102dB at 1 meter (purple)

The purpose of this test is to illustrate how much (if at all) the output changes as a speaker’s components temperature increases (i.e., voice coils, crossover components) instantaneously.


Multitone Distortion

The following tests are conducted at (4) approximate equivalent output volumes: 70/79/87/96dB @ 1 meter. The (4) voltages listed in the legend result in these SPL values.

The test was conducted in (3) manners:

  1. Full bandwidth (20Hz to 20kHz)
  2. 80Hz to 20kHz

The reason for the two measurements is to simulate running the speaker full range vs using a high-pass filter at 80Hz. However, note: the 2nd test low frequency limit at 80Hz is a “brick wall” and doesn’t quite emulate a standard filter of 12 or 24dB/octave. But… it’s close enough.

For information on how to read the below data, watch this video:

  1. Full bandwidth (20Hz to 20kHz)


  1. 80Hz to 20kHz


Parting / Random Thoughts

As stated in the Foreword, this written review is purposely a cliff’s notes version. For details about the performance (objectively and subjectively) please watch the YouTube video. But a couple quick notes based on my listening and what I see in the data:

This speaker presents a reasonably “neutral” response at the listening position when listened to on-axis with the only outliers being a tad bit much in the upper treble, causing cymbal crashes to sound a touch too “shimmery” or some digital music to be a bit “brittle”. Another artifact I found was that the midrange (500-2kHz) region sounded a bit too “full”. Looking at the data I can understand why that is the case because there is a bump of about 1.5dB in this specific range. What you can expect, then, is that - relatively speaking - the lower midrange may not sound as full; it may sound a tad thin. However, I need to emphasize that these are minor gripes in the grand scheme of things. At least to my ears.

This speaker does suffer diffraction effects at approximately 3kHz as well as 6-7kHz, despite the beveled edge. The directivity shows issues around 2-3kHz as well. This coincides with the specified 2kHz crossover (acoustic, I assume). The ~6.5-inch midwoofer is beaming by around 1100Hz meaning the horizontal and vertical radiation is narrowing as you go above this frequency. The tweeter is (practically) omnidirectional this low; the disparity in radiation from woofer to tweeter creates this directivity mismatch. However, the crossover actually seems to be still reasonably implemented with respect to matching the smoothness per the Estimated In-Room Response. At least in regard to horizontal dispersion. This issue that peaks its head out, though, is vertical radiation where the pattern exhibits a null above and below the tweeter line making it where the listening will want to be within ±10° (above/below) the tweeter. As the listener extends beyond this range the crossover mismatch shows up and there is certainly a loss in “detail” and “attack” from the suckout in the 2-3kHz region.

In other words, while the crossover design could use work and the on-axis response isn’t as linear as one would hope for this price, the EIR shows a reasonably smooth response.

Soundstage width is about ±70° until about 10kHz which is typical for a design like this (dome tweeter on a flat baffle).

I preferred listening to this speaker with the grille off and with the speaker turned off-axis a little bit; about 5-10° is adequate to tame the treble just a bit without losing “detail” in the upper octaves.

Distortion is low at less than 1% THD above 100Hz at 96dB/1m. Dynamic range is also OK as long as the speaker is used with a subwoofer and properly crossed over to the subwoofer at - say - 80Hz. Multitone distortion looks good at even the highest output.

Compared to the SVS Prime Bookshelf Speaker (I reviewed here), the Ultra is a noticeable step up in linearity with the aforementioned caveats. The output capability of the Ultra Bookshelf is better but not as significant as the difference in response linearity. So, the area you’re paying more for with this speaker over the Prime version appears to be nearly solely in response smoothness/linearity.

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