Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click this link.
It’s not my intention to go full-blown “get off my lawn” on you here. But when I was growing up, it wasn’t difficult to know what to call a component with volume control, source selection, and built-in amplification. Did it have an AM/FM tuner built in? It was a receiver. Did it not? It was an integrated amp. That’s hardly helpful with a product like the new SVS Prime Wireless Pro SoundBase ($699.99, all prices USD), though. It lacks a radio tuner, sure. But it has so many other features that “integrated amp” hardly cuts it. SVS calls it a “smart integrated amplifier,” and I reckon that works.
But what is it? It’s an updated version of the original SVS Prime Wireless SoundBase ($499.99), which Simplifi’s Gordon Brockhouse originally reviewed in 2020. In short, it’s an all-in-one music player and streaming amplifier built primarily around the DTS Play-Fi wireless streaming and multiroom audio ecosystem, allowing you to add a pair of passive speakers of your choosing, along with perhaps a subwoofer, and have a complete sound solution with high-resolution capabilities.
Given the $200 price delta between the old version and new, you’d expect there to be some additional goodies, and you’d be correct. SVS has added HDMI eARC connectivity, making this a promising soundbar alternative if you commingle your A/V and stereo systems. The Pro version now supports AirPlay 2 for iOS users and Chromecast for those in the Android camp, mercifully allowing you to bypass Play-Fi. SVS has also added a remote control (a big omission the first time around), as well as an IR input on the back that will be useful if you have a more advanced universal home-control system like Control4, Crestron, or Savant.
Otherwise, the fundamentals of the amp seem to have remained the same, although it’s difficult to know for sure, given the company’s propensity for focusing on experiences and impact instead of hair-splitting specifications. Rated output is specified as 150Wpc into 4 ohms, and although I’m inclined to bristle at the inflated specs (i.e., rating the output into a 4-ohm load instead of an 8-ohm load as is customary), this thing still delivers more power than most people need in most rooms. Especially if you’re adding a powered sub.
Signal-to-noise is specified as 90dB with a 1V reference, which probably won’t impress the SINAD-obsessed, but that’s still really good dynamic range, and odds are that stray noise in your home (ceiling fans, HVAC, appliances, the sound of wind hitting your windows) will swamp any noise generated by the amp even if you have the volume cranked.
Installing and configuring the SVS Prime Wireless Pro SoundBase
While the physical connectivity of the new SoundBase is impressive for a device in this category and especially at this price, its I/O section isn’t overwhelming, so there isn’t much to discuss in terms of connecting cables and such. In addition to its wireless connectivity and shiny new HDMI eARC port, the amp features line-level stereo RCA inputs and outputs, a 3.5mm stereo line-in, an optical digital in, and a subwoofer output, the latter of which is a full-range mono-summed preamp out. There’s no bass management here, so make sure any sub you connect to the SoundBase has its own low-pass filtering.
In terms of that physical connectivity, I started off my testing by pairing my Paradigm Studio 100 v5 towers to the amp using a pair of Elac Sensible speaker cables, really more as a lark than anything. I know SVS’s rated specs indicate that it should be able to drive such speakers, but I was still skeptical, given that the SoundBase itself weighs close to five pounds (closer to seven pounds shipped). And that’s including the power supply, mind you. Much to my surprise, the amp proved capable of driving my big three-ways to ridiculous SPLs without any thinning of the bass or audible distortion, so that’s how I did most of my listening. I also tried out a 2.1 setup, though, relying on a pair of RSL CG3 bookshelf speakers and an SVS PB-1000 Pro subwoofer.
I plugged my reference iFi Audio Zen One Signature DAC into the line input using its own supplied interconnects, but I did my best to spend most of my time listening to the SoundBase via AirPlay and Play-Fi.
But, of course, the latter meant actually having to set the device up for Play-Fi connectivity, and though I’d hoped that process would have become less of a fit-pitching nightmare than it was the last time I tried it, unfortunately it was not. The Play-Fi app makes it seem easy. Supposedly you can just boop the Wi-Fi setup button on the amp itself, connect to the device via Wi-Fi with your mobile phone, select the wireless network you want to connect to, and you’re done. In practice, I followed the instructions, confirmed the pulsing light on the back of the amp, selected my 5GHz Wi-Fi network . . . then sat and waited. The setup failed. So I tried again. And that failed. Again. Failure. Again. Nothing.
On a whim, I tried my 2.4GHz SSID instead of the 5G. And it immediately took. Victory, right? Well, no. As soon as I switched over to Critical Listening Mode in the Play-Fi app, which is what’s required for network streaming of high-resolution audio, the app started pitching a hissy of its own, demanding that I switch to the 5GHz band that it refused to connect to in the first place.
Let me be clear about something here: none of this is SVS’s fault. This has been my experience with every Play-Fi product I’ve reviewed in the eight years I’ve been reviewing Play-Fi products. In that time, I’ve had three different home networks: a bog-standard Linksys system, an enterprise-grade Cisco solution with Ruckus WAPs, and now an Asus mesh networking system that gives me rock-solid and reliable half-gigabit download speeds all the way to the end of my property. Play-Fi has refused to fully cooperate with any of them.
That said, I have to be fair and admit that DTS is making improvements and advancements. One of the biggest is that its latest version kinda adds support for gapless playback on select devices, including the SVS Prime Wireless Pro SoundBase. I say “kinda” because there’s still a fraction-of-a-second “doot” between what should be seamless track transitions—if, for example, you’re listening to a live Grateful Dead record—but that’s a big improvement over the prolonged pauses of old.
Play-Fi also has some cross-brand integration functionality that’s just wicked cool. If you have a Play-Fi device like the SVS Prime Wireless Pro SoundBase in one room and another Play-Fi device—like an Anthem A/V receiver, a Klipsch soundbar, a McIntosh MB50 streaming audio player, or a Sonus Faber Sf16 wireless speaker—in another, you can send audio from one of the connected devices to the other.
I can, for example, send the output from my iFi Audio DAC connected to the SoundBase in my stereo listening room to the Paradigm PW 800 wireless speaker in my wife’s office, and listen to both simultaneously. Or you could use that feature to make your turntable a whole-home source. That sort of ability to beam connected sources around the home is normally the function of very closed ecosystems, such as Sonos, or much more elaborate custom multiroom audio systems. The ability to mix and match brands and device types is really cool.
Another big improvement: In the past, I’ve always found that Play-Fi would just forget devices from one day to the next, requiring me to go through the setup process from scratch all over again. With the SVS Prime Wireless Pro SoundBase, I only had to do the setup once. It has remembered the SoundBase for weeks now, which is frankly almost shocking.
Bottom line, Play-Fi still isn’t quite there yet as a streaming and multiroom audio ecosystem, but it’s getting better by leaps and bounds. And the reality is, you really don’t need to employ Play-Fi functionality at all to get a ton of usage out of the SoundBase. It should be considered an added bonus and not much else.
There’s one other big improvement here that deserves mentioning. Custom Presets are a function of SVS’s Prime Wireless ecosystem that I’ve always appreciated in theory but never quite found a way to work into my daily routine. In short, you have six presets, each of which can be assigned to a specific music streaming service, a playlist thereon, an Internet Radio station, what have you. With my old Prime Wireless bookshelf speakers, accessing these presets involves a sort of secret handshake with the source-select knob that I can never quite remember. With the Prime Wireless Pro SoundBase, there are six buttons on the front of the amp to access these presets. But better yet, there are buttons on the bottom of the compact and beautifully laid-out remote that practically beckon the finger.
Frankly, I set this feature up just to reaffirm that it works. But given that access to the presets is so simple and intuitive this time around, I found myself using them without really thinking about it, even when I wasn’t actively testing the amp. The tricky thing, of course, is remembering what all your presets are, but I’ve found that what works for me is assigning them to playlists or radio stations that I’m likely to want to access at different parts of the day and arranging them in that order. P1 accesses the HD version of one of my local public radio stations via Internet Radio so I can listen to Morning Edition. P6 is a wind-down playlist I have saved on Spotify. In between, I’ve arranged playlists and radio stations that I’m likely to go to in the course of the day.
This, in my opinion, is an excellent feature, and the fact that SVS has made it so easy to access is a big boon.
Listening to the SVS Prime Wireless Pro SoundBase
As I’ve mentioned a few times now (above and in my unboxing blog post), I had no intention of actually using my big Paradigm towers as the main load for this review, but that’s how things started, and I began my critical evaluation with a selection that I had no intention of writing about, because I assumed it would be the thing that would make the SoundBase whimper: “Rods and Cones” from Blue Man Group’s Audio (16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC, Virgin Records / Qobuz). This is, admittedly, a dangerous game, as I’ve sent much heavier amps (and, frankly, amps with much higher rated output) into clipping with this song and these speakers, especially at right around the 39-second mark, when the first real unadulterated onslaught of bass slams through the mix like the Kool-Aid Man through a prop wall.
Not only did the new SVS SoundBase take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’, but it didn’t struggle in the slightest to provide enough current to eke every ounce of bass out of my Studio 100s that I know they’re capable of delivering when driven by the right amp.
Fast-forward to the quieter passage starting at around the 56-second mark, and the SoundBase proved itself more than capable of handling the delicate dynamics of each PVC percussion hit spot-on, no matter which input or type of connection I relied on. Bluetooth and AirPlay from my iPhone, Chromecast from my PC, Play-Fi from both, and a line-in connection from my iFi Audio DAC all resulted in a delightfully poppy presentation with accurate attack and decay, and of all the inputs, only Bluetooth failed to render the little shakers and hi-hats with the utmost in precision, image specificity, and soundstaging. The Bluetooth sounded amazing, mind you, but the other inputs added an extra level of refinement, more sense of space, and more precision.
Best I can tell, by the way, the line input goes through ADC on the way in, elsewise I don’t think you’d be able to route its input into the output of a wireless speaker all the way on the other side of the house. But the digitizing doesn’t have any audible effect on the signal that I can hear, except for the occasional very quiet tick at the beginning of a song or when skipping tracks, or a weensy bit of completely unpredictable (and unrepeatable!) scratchiness when adjusting the volume that I’m not hearing with any of the network inputs.
With “Bag of Hammers” from Thao & the Get Down Stay Down’s We Brave Bee Stings and All (16/44.1 FLAC, Kill Rock Stars / Qobuz), I really loved the way the amp rendered the odd sort of mix of beat-boxing and click-consonants that form the bulk of the rhythm section until after the first verse. That’s a subtle little feature of the mix that can get lost on lesser systems, but it stood out here. I also go to this song when I’m evaluating cheaper gear because I sometimes find that the outro, starting at around 2:35, can be a little biting. Thao’s voice can pierce through the receding music a little too sharply. That wasn’t the case here. The SVS SoundBase handled the tune like a proper hi-fi amp.
With “Short Tales of the Black Forest” from Friday Night in San Francisco by Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin, and Paco de Lucía (24/176.4 FLAC, Columbia-Legacy / Qobuz), I particularly dug the way the SoundBase rendered the harmonics at around the 35-second mark, the rather cluttered burst of percussive notes that follows, and the fade to tape hiss shortly thereafter. The sense of space was really nice, and the fact that the subtle noise of the recording wasn’t in any way masked or overwhelmed by whatever slight, imperceptible (though I’m guessing measurable) noise created by the amp allowed the recording to breathe and waft out into the room.
What are the SVS SoundBase’s stiffest competitors?
It may be getting kinda long in the tooth, but I still think there’s a lot to like about Yamaha’s WXA-50 MusicCast wireless streaming amplifier ($579.95). As its name implies, this one relies on Yamaha’s own MusicCast multiroom and streaming audio platform, so you can’t mix and match it with products from other brands. It also lacks the Wireless Pro SoundBase’s HDMI connectivity, and its power output isn’t quite as robust at 105Wpc into 4 ohms or 55Wpc into 8 ohms.
I also think if I had a Bluesound Powernode of my own, I would hug it and pet it and squeeze it and name it George. This is another streaming amp built for a specific company’s streaming and multiroom ecosystem—in this case, Lenbrook’s BluOS ($949). Mind you, a number of non-Lenbrook companies are now supporting BluOS, so it’s not quite as closed a system as it used to be. The Powernode also has HDMI eARC connectivity, and unlike with the SVS, plugging in a subwoofer activates an 80Hz crossover in the Powernode. It also supports network connectivity with the Bluesound Pulse Sub+. I don’t like that its 3.5mm aux analog input also doubles as its optical digital input by way of an adapter, though.
TL;DR: Is the SVS Prime Wireless Pro SoundBase worth the money?
I’m going to go out on something of a controversial limb here, because if you compare the original Prime Wireless SoundBase to the new Pro version, on paper it doesn’t seem like you get a whole lot for the extra coin ($500 vs. $700). Paying $200 for an HDMI eARC input, a remote control, AirPlay, and Chromecast connectivity seems steep.
Until, that is, you use it. Features like Custom Presets, which have always been nice in theory but quickly forgotten for me, suddenly became a thing I used daily. Although I didn’t detail any of this in my review, I also connected the amp to the TV in my bedroom and plugged in a pair of RSL bookshelf speakers and an SVS sub, employing the SoundBase as a soundbar, effectively. Frankly, it whipped the snot out of any soundbar I’ve ever installed in that room.
I do have some reservations about the continued reliance on Play-Fi, mind you. I still think that ecosystem is awful. It’s simply not as awful as it was the last time I was forced to use it. Setup is still a violation of the Geneva Conventions, but in day-to-day use it’s getting more reliable, and we’re inching ever closer to what I would consider real gapless playback. (Technically, there’s no gap now, but there is an audible sound between tracks. So . . . close, but no Arturo Fuente.)
But as I said above, you could get a ton of usage out of this net-connected integrated amplifier without opening the Play-Fi app once after initial setup. The AirPlay and Chromecast connectivity work great, and the Bluetooth receiver supports both AAC and aptX.
Plus, something I’ve completely glossed over in all of the above is the itty-bitty form factor. You could plop this thing behind a TV or on a computer desktop and get a whole lot of sound without having to give up much space. That’s pretty darned cool. All in all, I think SVS has got one hell of a connected/smart/streaming integrated amp on its hands here, no matter what you call it.
. . . Dennis Burger
Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click this link.
- Speakers: Paradigm Studio 100 v5; RSL CG3.
- Subwoofer: SVS PB-1000 Pro.
- Speaker-level connections: Elac Sensible speaker cables.
- Sources: Maingear Vybe PC; iFi Audio Zen One Signature DAC; iPhone 12 Pro Max.
- Power protection: SurgeX XR115 power conditioner.
SVS Prime Wireless Pro SoundBase Streaming Integrated Amplifier
Warranty: Two years, parts and labor.
260 Victoria Avenue
Youngstown, OH 44515
Phone: (877) 626-5623