SVS Ultra Center Review

SVS Ultra Center Review

The center channel speaker is one of the those components in audio that tends to be simultaneously both heavily underrated and very useful. For aficionados of multi-channel audio and surround-sound video it might even be the most important part of the entire system.

So it makes sense to take a very close look at the speaker that will be the literal and metaphorical centerpiece of your audio soundscape. Otherwise you might struggle with muddled vocals, or unclear dialogue in movies, a lacking balance in the general feel of the sound, or a bass line that just falls flat.

The Ultra is one of the top end choices that SVS has to offer, being the bigger brother of the SVS Prime Center. But does it perform under pressure?

The Technical Specs

Frequency Response / Acoustic Data

The Speaker

The Drivers

1” Aluminum Dome Tweeter

4” Midrange Drivers

6.5” Woofers



SVS Ultra Center Review
SVS Ultra Center Review

Who is the Ideal Customer for the Ultra Center?

This center channel speaker is somewhere in the upper middle of the price range. It’s aimed at anyone who has the money to spend on a fairly high end speaker system while still being cost-conscious enough to want something with good price-performance ratio.

Still, the ~800 USD price tag keeps this outside of the range of the casual hobbyist.

The Pros

When considering buying the SVS Ultra Center the first question is always: Why would I? What does this piece of equipment have going for it?

Let’s examine what I found particularly well done by the SVS Ultra Center.

Just the Sound, All Around.​

I don’t know where that rhyming mood just came from, but there you go.

The sound of the Ultra Center is five out of five. A wide sound field with excellent details, a crystal clear presence. The highs come out clear, the mids smooth as silk, and the bass is as punchy and tight as you could want out of a speaker in this price range.

Of course any speaker needs to match the timbre of the rest of your setup, and even the best speaker might sound mismatched if paired with an ensemble of other speakers that have different settings and audio goals.

But judged by itself, this speaker can rival the sound quality of many other center channel speakers well north of the 1000 dollar mark. And I don’t say this lightly.

Good Off-Axis Performance

Alright, after just praising “the sound” I didn’t leave myself a lot of room to go. You might rightfully point out that the off-axis performance is also included in a speaker’s “sound”.

I still feel I should specifically mention this point as the off-axis performance seems considerably better than that of other similar speaker brands in comparable price-range.

That is not to say that it doesn’t sound excellent on-axis as well. It’s just very forgiving in a wide area.

Frequency Response

Yes, yes. Also part of “the sound”. We’ve been over that.

The SVS Ultra Center is advertised with a frequency response range of 45 Hz on the low end and going up to 32,000 Hz, which I can confirm. Especially the low point is noticeable in the above-rate bass it can produce.

Again, be careful that this matches the range of your other speakers as it’s an important part of matching the timbre. In general, as I’ll state again separately below, I highly recommend having at least the front three speakers from the same brand and series. Spoiler warning for other reviews – The SVS Ultra L/R speakers, both bookshelves and towers, are also excellent.

Build Quality

Just one word here: Excellent. Except for one nitpick I’ll list with the cons, the grille, I’m thoroughly satisfied with the quality of the materials and the workmanship.

Sturdy wood, well-fitted drivers, good connections. Quality 5-way binding posts that won’t loosen anytime soon.

SVS Ultra Center - 5 way binding posts
The 5-way binding posts are well crafted.

Beautiful Optics

Plus, in the same vein, both the premium grade piano gloss black oak as well as the black oak veneer seem a work of art. Not overstated by any means, but gorgeous even when examined up close.

Leaving the grille off, you might even find yourself looking more at the speaker than the movie you’re trying to watch.

SVS Ultra Center - Piano Gloss, front side

The Cons

When considering buying the SVS Ultra Center the first question is always: Why would I? What does this piece of equipment have going for it?

Let’s examine what I found particularly well done by the SVS Ultra Center.

Not Wall-Mountable, No Bracket Included

Not that you’d necessarily expect that out of a center this size. Still, it’s a feature that some other brands offer and SVS does not. You’ll have to get your own shelf for it.

Large & Heavy

And while we’re on the topic of shelves, make sure it’s a sturdy one.

I’ve referred to the SVS Ultra Center as “this beast” multiple times in this review and not only because of it’s growl. It’s size and weight is considerable, especially if you’re just upgrading from a lower quality system that usually comes with more light-weight speakers.

Also make sure you measure your shelf space to ensure it’ll fit. The Ultra Center is 22″ wide, 8.2″ high, and 10.9″ deep. If you take off the grille, that shaves .3″ off of the depth.

Thin Bass Compared to High-End Choices

Above I’ve praised the punchy, tight, and penetrating bass that this center can emit and I stand by that.

I do want to point out though, that when you’re looking for that rumble in your chest you’ll have to go up a few rungs on the ladder of quality and price. Or just get a separate subwoofer for your system, as I’d recommend. The SVS PB16-Ultra fits nicely into the soundscape.

The Grille. Come on, SVS…

While all of the nit-picks above weren’t really things that I would have reasonably expected to be different before getting the SVS Ultra Center, this one kind of is.

It’s the metaphorical small stain on the vest that makes you cringe and say “it would’ve been perfect if it weren’t for that…”.

So, let’s talk about the grille. Plastic pin-type attachments, while even lower quality options already use magnetic connectors. And with the rest of the love that went into the details of the build quality, I’m left wondering whose idea at SVS it was to cut costs there of all places.

SVS Ultra Center - Piano Gloss, with grille

The Bottom Line

The SVS Ultra Center is without doubt one of the best choices you can make when shopping for a center channel speaker. The pros easily and massively outweigh the cons.

The amazing output clarity of vocals and a balanced, wide sound field, excellent off-axis performance, and a beautiful design make it an all-around powerhouse. This speaker can easily pick a fight with speakers a fair bit above it’s own price range and come out on top.

The major thing to consider whether it’s right for is simply: Does it fit my existing setup? Both in size, weight, and timbre. If that’s a yes and it’s approximately 800 USD price point is within your range, I’d give it a go. Listen for yourself. With most online shops these days you can always give it back, though I bet you won’t want to.

If you want something a little less price intensive but featuring a similar timbre, consider the SVS Prime Center instead. When compared side by side there is still a noticeable difference in quality between the two (with the Ultra being clearly on top), but on a budget it’s a decent alternative.

Frequently Asked Questions

Well, from a purely technical standpoint you could. Yes.

But we do not recommend it. In order for a sound setup to really shine you have to match the timbre of the partial components.

The easiest way to do that is just stick with one brand, and in general also a single series within that brand. At least for the front three speakers.

The timbre between the Ultra and Prime is similar enough that you can consider  doing that.

When compared directly, both the tower and the bookshelf variants of the Ultra left & right sound noticeably better than the respective Prime speakers. But the contrast is not as stark as between the Prime Center and the Ultra Center.

So, our recommendation is still to use all 3 front speakers from the Ultra series. But in a pinch, the Prime left & right will do.

Yes. The timbre of the Prime series surround speakers matches the Ultra’s well enough and the ambience being of slightly lower quality isn’t too noticeable.

So, in contrast to the answers to the above two questions we don’t even recommend against this setup.

Absolutely, yes. It’s not an active speaker.

The official recommendation for amp wattage is 20-225 watts.

Curated Review: We compile data based on research from multiple
sources. Please click the "disclosures" link at the bottom of this
page for more information on the process.
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