SVS Prime Wireless Soundbase Review

A couple of years ago, to get all the technology that the $499 USD SVS Prime Wireless Soundbase packs into its chassis you’d be spending considerably more. Today, the availability of high-resolution wi-fi/Bluetooth streaming and Class-D amp modules has brought future-fi technology to not only hi-fi, but also more ubiquitous electronic devices (Hey Alexa!).

The SVS lies in the middle of that bandwidth, situated as it is in the ‘affordability’ zone for entrance into the wireless world of home audio. Diminutive it may be, SVS has done a nice job of making the Soundbase look good with its black-plastic and metal-backed chassis design.

Design, build and data sets

Small, but plenty of technology included.

This little amplifier is spec’d out with enough tech for most who are looking for an entry level one-box, wireless-music playback solution. I would classify the Soundbase as a next step up the audio chain for someone wanting new-school connectivity without dongles, or portability. This is an amp with enough Class-D power (300 stereo watts, 150Wx2) to drive my reference Harbeth M40.1 loudspeakers (85dB/W/m, six-ohms nominal impedance) without having to (virtually via the Play-Fi app) spin the volume dial past the equivalent of 10~11 o’clock for suitable listening levels.

Hardware connectivity on the input side consists of Toslink digital, Ethernet, 3.5mm stereo minijack, unbalanced (RCA) stereo, USB (for firmware updates and device recharging). Outputs include unbalanced (RCA) stereo, mono subwoofer output, 3.5mm headphone (plugging in headphones automatically mutes the speaker outputs) and an Ethernet output as well. An AC/Mains receptacle is also included for those wanting to use third-party cables (a standard AC cable is supplied). Wireless connectivity features include dual-band wi-fi (2.4/5GHz) and Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX/AAC.

No USB 2.0 input for those who need, or prefer it to Ethernet.

I used the DTS Play-Fi application for the Soundbase because, that’s what it needs to work – more on the app later. App support includes Spotify Connect, Pandora, Deezer, Amazon Music Unlimited, TIDAL, SiriusXM, Qobuz, Napster, iHeartRadio, etc. and “thousands of free internet radio stations (subscription required for some services).” Voice command is available with Amazon Alexa. Users can play the same music in multiple zones simultaneously or select music for individual zones. File codecs supported include MP3, M4A, AAC, FLAC, AIFF, and WAV with sampling rates up to 24-bit/192kHz (downsamples high-resolution PCM files to 16-bit/48kHz). “Critical Listening Mode allows streaming of high-res files up to 24-bit/192kHz in native resolution for a single zone at a time.”

The DTS iPhone interface to enable 'Critical Listening' mode.

From what I could gather online, the Play-Fi app will support lossless audio up to 24-bit/96kHz bit perfect, but higher sample rates get downsampled. The thing is, DTS works by sending all audio that you want to stream to a Play-Fi device (like the Soundbase) through whatever mobile device you’re using to control it. So, in my case, even though the Soundbase was hardwired via Ethernet, the stream had to go to my iPhone via wi-fi and then from the iPhone on to the Soundbase. This applies to any device you’re using unless you use the Play-Fi desktop application or are on Spotify (which I am not).

This means I had to set up the app to not interrupt playback with SMS messages or phone calls because it was too sluggish to use with my (admittedly) aged iPad Mini2. Through which the volume control kept lagging, causing all kinds of either LOUD or quiet hiccups when adjusting the software output-level slider. After 20 minutes of searching online and trying every button I could see to access on the app, I also could not find any way to enable gapless playback. *Note: my iPad Mini2 works quickly and flawlessly with Aurender’s Composer and Roon or the TIDAL and Qobuz apps.

Listening

Capable of driving 85dB loudspeakers.

I ran the gamut from A cappella to xylophone jazz through the Soundbase and was surprised at the mid-bass grunt the unit was capable of through the big Harbeths. It was lean grunt, not the deepest or most detailed, but grunt nonetheless. Tonal and timbral coloration was not what I’d describe as subtly hued, but it was acceptable and the overall presentation was linear and neutral. Imaging (when it was on the recording) was nicely settled between the speakers with a relatively wide soundstage, but not as much depth as I’m used to from my reference McIntosh pre and power amps – keeping in mind this is an entry-level unit with a sub-$500 USD price tag. While it may not be the last word in texture on drum skins, felted piano hammers on wire or blaat on trumpet, it always held up its end of the bargain and made a guitar sound like a guitar, a stand-up bass sounded like a stand-up bass and Eartha Kitt sound like Eartha Kitt. It handled dynamic swings without fuss, had reasonable speed on attacking notes, and enough air and space around upper-register notes to give a believable rendition of the recording space on appropriate tracks.

Conclusion

With the Soundbase, SVS has created a window of wireless opportunity for the budget-conscious individual looking to enter into the streaming-music game with a one-box solution to hook up to existing passive loudspeakers, or to connect to an AV receiver. At $499 USD, this is not an end-game wireless streaming integrated amplifier, but it is what could be that first step up the ladder of home audio for many newcomers to the hobby, or for those looking at an affordable second system for the bedroom, cabin or office. I’d be hard-pressed to fault anything about the unit – it was a cinch to set-up and get working – especially at this price point. The Soundbase just plain worked, which is not always the case with higher-priced (or lower priced) equipment I’ve encountered over the years where software or hardware issues can still strike. If I was pressed for a fault, I’d have to say I’d like to see Roon integration so I could listen to all my review playlists, and because the Play-Fi app having to be routed through whatever mobile device the app is loaded onto before making its way to the connected hardware is not what I’d describe as ideal software implementation.

Further specifications

  • Cabinet Dimensions: 76.20mm (H) X 231.07mm (W) X 197.80mm (D)
  • Overall Dimensions: (includes feet, knobs, rear in/out jacks, speaker terminals): 82mm (H) X 231.07mm (W) X 223.80mm (D) 3.23" (H) X 9.10" (W) X 8.81" (D)
  • Weight Unboxed: 2.22kg / 4.89lbs
  • Rated Bandwidth: 10Hz-20kHz (±1 dB)
  • SN Ratio: 90dB @1V input, 2 x 150W output
  • Power Amp: 300 watts RMS (150 watts x 2 into 4ohm)
  • Left/Right RCA Input: Input Impedance: 20K
  • 3.5mm Aux Input: Input Impedance: 20K
  • Toslink Optical Input: Input Impedance: 75Ω
  • Subwoofer output: 2V MAX
  • Left/Right RCA Output: 2V MAX
  • Front 3.5mm headphone output: 1V@32Ωmax
  • Switch Mode Power Supply: Auto Switching 100 – 120V / 220 – 240V, 50/60Hz

COMPANY INFO
SVS Sound
1-877-626-5623

COMMENTS
agb's picture

No additional comment

X