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Interview with Mark Mason and Gary Yacoubian of SVS
1) Avrev.com: Mark, can you tell our readers about some of the tools used to design SVS speakers, and what your design goals were with the Ultra Bookshelf?
Mark Mason: Our most valuable tools are our ears! There’s no substitute for final voicing of the speaker in multiple environments. Canada’s National Research Council facilities in Ottawa allowed us to reach a high level of refinement and performance. Those facilities include an IEC calibrated listening room with the ability to audition speakers in an unbiased manner using the principles of double blind screen testing. We were able to switch between up to four speakers at any time during the test track. The anechoic chamber at the NRC allows us to measure frequency response and distortion of the speaker. Multiple frequency responses taken from many different angles around the speaker are then used to calculate listening window, frontal lobe and sound power graphs. Measuring distortion in a low noise environment is critical especially when the distortion is extremely low as is the case with the Ultra speakers. The chamber’s noise floor is below the threshold of human hearing and this low noise floor allows us to accurately measure distortion down to about 0.1%. Long before the speaker is ready for final voicing, much of the initial frequency response testing is performed in typical listening environments and outdoors. Cabinet vibrations are tested using an accelerometer located on multiple surfaces of the speaker. Drivers are tested using PC based audio measurement equipment. The cabinets and drivers are designed, simulated, and optimized in 3D CAD and FEA software. Initial crossover designs were also created using simulation software.
The Ultra speaker design goals were to provide a high end experience at affordable price points. We wanted customers to be surprised and delighted when they hear these speakers… and very surprised when they hear the price.
Part of the high end experience includes:
- Neutral frequency balance
- LF extension
- Low distortion
- Dynamic capability
2) Avrev.com: What is the typical time frame from product concept to final prototype?
Typical is about 9 months but the Ultra speaker development was far from typical. The entire development process time frame was just under two years.
3) Avrev.com: Can you tell us about new developments at SVS?
We’re always developing new products at SVS I’ll answer that question by saying that new products are on their way.
4) Avrev.com: What are some the challenges of selling direct to consumers?
Gary Yacoubian (President and Managing Partner) - I love the model of having direct relationships with our customers, and I think in many ways, it may be the future of high performance audio. That being said, there definitely are challenges. The first issue is that you have to earn the credibility yourself in establishing a new relationship with a customer, instead of the old model where a dealer recommendation gives you instant credibility. This is one reason we extensively submit our products for reviews, and also extensively feature our user reviews on our site. We know they are great products, especially when the reviewer takes price into consideration, and the positive reviews build our credibility. By the way, we do not edit or omit any user reviews from our site, so potential customers get the unvarnished truth; good, bad or indifferent.
The other issue is the lack of the ability to demo our products prior to purchase. We overcome this with our 45 day audition period, which allows the customer to experience the product in the best possible environment for evaluation risk-free: the exact location where it will be if the customer keeps it!! We think spending 45 days living with our products in far superior to 10 minutes in a noisy, distracting store environment.
SVS Ultra Bookshelf Speaker: $499 each
β Rated bandwidth: 45 Hz-32 kHz (+/-3 dB).
β Nominal impedance: 8 ohms.
β Sensitivity: 87 dB (2.83V @ 1 meter full-space, 300-3kHz).
β Recommended amplifier power: 20-150 watts.
β Dimensions: 14.9" (H) X 8.5" (W) X 10" (D).
β Weight: 19 pounds.
β Real black oak veneer and piano gloss black finish options.
β Dual gold-plated 5-way binding posts
β 1.7" wide-flared rear-firing port.
β Cloth grille with pin/cup retention system.
CD Transport: Musical Fidelity M1 CDT
Server: Squeezebox Touch w/ CIA VDC-SB power supply
via Ethernet to MAC Mini w/ Western Digital & Seagate
DAC: Bryston BDA-1
Headphone Amp: Pro-Ject Head Box II
Headphones: Grado SR60
Preamp: Audio Research SP16, Music First Audio Classic Pre V2
Amplifier: Audio Research VS55, Bob Carver Black Magic
Speaker: Thiel CS2.4
Cables: Stager Silver Solids, Darwin Ascension (IC), Transparent MM2 Super (IC), Transparent Plus (Speaker) Acoustic Zen Tsunami II (AC),Transparent (AC).Shunyata Venom (AC) Element Cable Red Storm (Digital AC), DH Labs TosLink, DH Labs AES/EBU, Audioquest, Forest, WireWorld Ultraviolet, DH Labs USB(USB) DH Labs (USB)
Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks, Shakti Stone, Audience Adept Response aR6 power conditioner,Salamander rack
CD Player: Onkyo C7000R
Music Server: Squeezebox Touch via Ethernet to
MAC Mini w/ Western Digital & Seagate external drives.
DAC: Musical Fidelity V-DAC II, Rein Audio X3-DAC
Integrated Amplifier: McIntosh MA6600, Electrocompaniet ECI3
Tape Deck: Revox A77
Speaker: Harbeth Compact 7ES3, Opera Mezza
Cables: Darwin Cables Silver IC, Kimber Hero HB, DH Labs White Lightning (IC),QED Transparent MusicWave (Speaker),PS Audio (AC), Mojo Audio (AC), DH Labs TosLink, Audioquest Forest USB, Wireworld Ultraviolet USB
Accessories:Cable Pro Noisetrapper, Sound Anchors Stands, Wiremold, KECES XPS