Monday, 5 September 2016

SVS Prime Elevation Speakers - A Great Alternative To Ceiling Speakers for ATMOS and DTS:X




I took my time to leap into ATMOS, mainly to wait for the format to stabilize and also for DTS-X to be fully available, hardware wise and also software. While there are a few of HT aficionados in Malaysia that took the leap into ATMOS a few years back, most of the HT crowd faced the challenge of installing additional ceiling speakers in their existing set up. This is also true especially for those without a dedicated HT room.  For yours truly, I face the same challenge as my HT is set up in the second floor living room. I have went through various options of setting up surround back and ceiling speakers but it remains a challenge due to some obstruction above the ceiling.

The notion of using upfiring speakers first came out at the same time ATMOS came out about 2 years back. Not many options were available at that time and most of the design, did not get an acceptable performance review by the industry. Nevertheless, if we are to refer to the maker itself, Dolby, they did mention that upfiring speakers is one of the options that ATMOS can be experienced at home. So, technically, this option should work if we follow the recommended guideline by Dolby. There are soooooo many people out there that gives out recommendation that confuses a lot of HT enthusiasts that in turn, put them off to experience  ATMOS at home. I have decided to just refer to Dolby to start the leap. 

One of the main concern for me is the effectiveness of the sound reflection with upfiring speakers. Dolby recommendations are as follows and luckily, my hall fits in nicely in these recommendations.

Ceiling Height and Materials 

The ideal ceiling height is between 7.5 and 12 feet, and the maximum recommended height is 14 feet. The ceiling should be flat and made from an acoustically reflective material, such as drywall or plaster.

THE SVS ELEVATION SPEAKERS

After I have decided to take the leap, first I had to upgrade my Yamaha RXV2067 AVR to an ATMOS/DTS:X capable AVR. After discussion with Max Loh from Maxx Audio, I have decided to purchase the Denon X6200W AVR. Once confirmed, I started to think about which upfiring speakers to get. There is no point upgrading the AVR without purchasing the ATMOS speakers.

As I currently using an SVS Prime Satellite as my rear speakers and SVS subwoofer that matches quite well (sonically and aesthetically) with my PMC twenty.24 and Centre channel, I asked Max whether I can use another pair of Prime Satellite as ATMOS speakers....... and to my surprise, SVS now have a new elevation add on speakers called Prime Elevation. Recently debuted in CES show, Maxx Audio was getting a few pairs for the KLIAV show in July. At the time this review was written, these Elevation speakers are still not available on the SVS website. But nevertheless, you can find a few reviews of it online.

Being the trouble-maker I am, I requested Maxx to have a pair of these after the show. And sure enough, these babies were in my house a week after the show (end of July).

 

This speakers are designed to fulfill the following options:
  • As a down-firing height channel speaker, easily mounted high on a side wall 
  • As an up-firing height channel speaker for the same formats, placed on stands or atop tower speakers 
  • As an up-firing or down-firing front or center channel speaker with projector screens or where level placement at ear height is not possible 
  • As a side or rear-firing surround speaker, when placement on a side or rear wall is not optimal for the most convincing side or back surround effects 
  • A pair of Elevation speakers can be wall-mounted and wired to become a bipole or dipole surround speaker.

The Prime Elevation is rated at  69 Hz – 25 kHz (+/- 3dB), and uses a 1" aluminum dome tweeter and a 4.5" polypropylene cone woofer. It comes with its own four position wall bracket and will also include a 1/4" 20TPI brass insert for compatibility with other mounts. The Prime Elevation comes in three colors, Gloss Black, Gloss White, and Black Ash. For me, of course I took the Gloss Black to match with the entire speaker systems that I have.

One interesting fact to note is that, although named as Elevation, it does not really want to rely on ceiling reflection but more towards sending the height effect directly to the listener.

PERFORMANCE

First of all, ATMOS and DTS:X is a totally different experience compared to standard Dolby TruHD or DTS MA. I was an early adopter of BluRay back in 2007 and have gone through a number BD players and AVR. But the leap in sound distribution with ATMOS or DTS:X is just insanely engaging. With this Elevation speakers, my system is now moved from 7.1 (front height, not surround back) channel to 5.1.2.

Now, specific to the PRIME Elevation, it was first automatically calibrated using the Denon Audyssey calibration. Playing Transformers Age of Extinction, the Elevation speakers gave a new experience of how the vehicles, tankers, ships were falling from the sky and also the swooshing sound of the Dinobots (Swoop) flying across the scene. Even when the giant space craft was sucking up all the vehicles, I can experience the uplifting sound of with a touch spatial definition across my listening position. Out of curiosity, I increased the volume on these Elevation speakers in the audio setting, and voila, it sounded even more immersive. The level of immersive however stops at my listening position as I do not have an 'rear' Elevation installed. This is quite noticeable. I am curious to hear how another pair of these speakers installed in the rear will enhance the experience further.

With the movie Batman vs Superman DOJ, its just insanely enveloping especially the swooping effect each time Superman flies down or Batman drops from the ceiling. Also for scenes where building collapses, the rumbling from the top to bottom of the collapse can also be experienced in a more 'visualistic' manner. The battle scene between Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman against Doomsday also provided a very wholesome experience where the right effect of top-bottom can be experienced with the installation of the Elevation speakers. However, again the level of immersive stopped at where I sit without the presence of the surround back upfiring speakers.

It also somehow elevate the centre channel for dialogue clarity. On Zoolander 2 DTS:X, the soundstage of dialogue seems to be more spatial and elevated around the main front and centre channel. This gives me a very upfront experience with the movive characters.

For non ATMOS or DTS:X movies, with the Denon providing a Dolby Surround and DTS:X neural upmix option, these Elevation speakers still provided a good step up in providing a more uplifitng soundstage experience at home.

DOES IT WORK?

In essence, it does! Although SVS is not relying on ceiling reflection, but I do believe the guideline given by Dolby should be followed. Upfiring speakers does the job neatly IF.... only IF.... your HT area meets the limitation set in the Dolby guideline. You need to have the right ceiling height and also material that can properly reflect the sound coming from the upfiring speakers. This ceiling requirement actually is also a challenge for ceiling speakers. I have seen where the ceiling height is quite high (more than 15 ft), the ATMOS effect is so thin and at times, non existence. I also believe your listening position is very important. The distance from the Elevation speakers must be at the right distance for you to experience the sound reflection reaching you. If you are too far, you might feel that the immersive height sound drops in front of you rather than enveloping you.

CONCLUSIONS

SVS have come up with a rather neat alternative to ceiling speakers. A non fussy-multi functional pair of PRIME Elevation speakers that recreates the ATMOS and DTS:X effects by upfiring the sound directly towards the listener. Easy to install, calibrated within minutes before you can experience the ATMOS in your home.

With the design that is independent of the ceiling reflection, this must be the easiest step up to ATMOS/DTS:X for any HT enthusiasts.

At the time of review, the RRP have yet to be finalised. But Max Loh, you ain't getting this pair back. Its permanently in my system now. The question is more on how can I install another pair at the rear?

Contact Max Loh or Benjamin for further details of these PRIME Elevation speakers.

​M: 017-6778820 (Max) & 016-3229428 (Benjamin)

NOTE: I am trying to figure out a better way to provide the sound effect via Youtube. Stay tune for video samplers.








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