Better Atmos? Elevation Speakers

Can Dolby Atmos sound AMAZING? Maybe, with a little help from above…

If you are just learning about what Atmos does, it was designed to provide sound from above and in between speakers in an attempt to provide a more immersive experience. Good idea. One particular execution of this, however, maybe isn’t the greatest idea.

Many “Atmos speakers” are intended to reflect off of your ceiling. “Reflecting Technology” has become a red flag to me. I imagine companies who are serious about fidelity will not include reflecting sound off of walls as a desired practice.

I think keeping the signal “line of sight” is a better practice in general, and more reliable (if less novel). Reflections are typically problems that need to be addressed as a matter of consequence.

Most acoustic treatments that I would actually use myself are aimed at reducing reflections. Even expensive treatments that I probably wouldn’t use, like bass traps, are pretty clear in their intent: Reduce the reflection and absorb the energy.

It’s the same reason that carpeted floors sound better than a hardwood or tiled floor. The reflections wreak havoc on your sound. It’s a nuisance to be dealt with. Simple things can help, like rugs, heavy curtains, cloth seating as opposed to leather, but I try to keep it low profile. When in mixed use rooms like mine, using less obvious acoustic treatments is ideal when decor is a consideration.

While the idea of providing sound from above is a good one, I’m not sure why anyone would seek to use reflection.

Imagine this: An “exposed wood beam ceiling” (google search if you’re not sure what I’m talking about) probably wouldn’t be a purposeful design element in most dedicated theater rooms, but a lot of people have mixed use rooms like mine which also serve as family rooms. I imagine in these cases such beams would chop up the sound waves like a late night knife commercial.

Room correction is nice, but it’s not a miracle worker. Just as it can’t tame a standing wave like dual subwoofers do, neither will it make the train wreck of sonic collisions (as one could imagine ricocheting across exposed beams) coalesce into a well-defined, clear signal. Too many variables for reflection to be a solid solution.

SVS has been supportive of this site from the very early days, when there were only 2-3 pages on this site, and I only had 32 subscribers on YouTube. Now, I’m their first Affiliate, and I feel like I’ve hitched a ride on a rocket. They know their bass, that much is well established, but their drivers are just as exciting to me.

From the Satellite to the Prime Tower, the sound is elegant and smart. To me the sound is clear and distinct without any trace of fatigue that has turned me off from some more expensive brands. I haven’t even heard the Ultra line aside from the Ultra Surrounds, which were fantastic.

One of the benefits of this support is a little insider information. One of the speakers I’ve been looking forward to is the Prime Elevation speaker, designed to take a great idea and give it a brilliant execution.

Rather than trying to design a speaker that would sound good “ricocheted” off a variety of ceilings, they took a more direct route and designed a speaker meant to be aimed directly at you from above, with fewer of the challenges encountered by in-ceiling speakers.

It’s angled so it can be mounted on the wall flush against the ceiling, though it could be used in a number of useful configurations. I’m currently using them for all surround duties, not just height effect.

However, please do SVS “a solid” and avoid using them to reflect off of the ceiling. They were designed to give you a better experience specifically by NOT reflecting the sound. Of course you can use them as you see fit, but if they are used to reflect the sound, some of the benefits will likely be lost.

At $199 delivered for the black oak, and $249 for the piano black and white finishes, it’s nice to see the Prime family staying reasonably priced for demanding enthusiasts who still need to take their budgets seriously.

Having spent a good deal of time with these speakers, I think they have a great execution, especially once you ensure you are getting the full Dolby Atmos and DTS:X signals.

One of things I like is that SVS is fanatical about their sound. I was expecting this speaker in April of 2016, but they needed to make some adjustments to the cabinet. It wasn’t perfect, so they waited until they had exactly what they wanted before shipping them.

They aren’t the first company to do this, but it’s a clear sign of dedication to their craft. They are a forward thinking company, highly concerned about the long-term. Better to lose out on 6 months of sales than to put their name on a product that doesn’t deserve it just yet. They have quite a reputation to protect.

This will be an article with 2 parts, the second part to be published when I have heard them and determined if this new design is a winner or not. I’m hopeful, the design should solve some problems I have with my own surround placement. Theoretically it should be the perfect fix, I’m really looking forward to it! I suspect a lot more people will be happier with their Atmos because of these speakers, but time will tell.

Prime Elevation Product Page

Update: 8-21-17

After getting these speakers installed, not just as height effect, but also as surrounds, I’m surprised to say that they do have a slightly improved sound over the Satellites. I’m not certain whether it’s the slight variation of the crossover, or just the angles that have solved some of my problems, but the overall sound is just a bit nicer. It’s not dramatic, but I noticed.

If you’re on a tight budget, you can achieve the same goals by using the Prime Satellite and angled brackets. But there is something to be said about a cleaner look, and a slightly better overall sound.

With either speaker, I would run a crossover of about 100-120 hertz (set as Small, not Large), even though they are rated to go deeper than that. Any speaker with a smaller woofer like these should shift lower frequency duties to the subwoofers. More on that here.

Overall, I’m very pleased with these speakers. The brackets are easy to use, and the overall look is nice and clean. They even offer ceiling mounting brackets.

As with any SVS product, shipping is free, including return shipping if you decide you don’t like them. So long as you order factory direct you can count on 45 day return policy and 1 year trade up. Dealers may not be able to offer the full Bill of Rights.

If you plan to run Atmos or DTS:X, using speakers overhead rather than reflecting is really the way to go. The Prime Elevations are not licensed through Dolby, but they will work with Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Auro 3D, and any other immersive format that may come about.

If they fit your budget, I highly recommend giving them a shot.

Piano Black without grill
Piano White
Mounting system

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