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The 1" tweeter is a ferrite-powered damped aluminium dome optimized for controlled dispersion and covered with a black mesh grill. The two 6½midranges are glass-fiber composite with a staggered filter arrangement rather than a D'Appolito configuration. The midranges feature cast aluminium baskets, shorting rings and vented voice coil formers. The two side-mounted 8" woofers operate in phase. SVS uses the term ForceFactor woofer array which claims smoother bass response and higher dynamics. The woofers have long stroke motors with shorting rings and vented voice coil formers. The front drivers mount flush and all fasteners are flush-mounted black Allen hardware. The woofers are protected by black metallic mesh. Terminals are biwire gold-plated five-way bits with gold-plated jumper plates. Removing the latter isolates the crossover's upper/woofer sections. Grills mount via the usual pin/cup arrangement to the front baffle for those who prefer not to see the driver array.

SVS has also taken the unprecedented extra step of supplying two different sets of threaded feet for the speakers. One is the traditional metal spike. The other is an elastomeric and both are adjustable for leveling. That's a very nice touch which anticipates different floor conditions and contributes to the higher-end feel of the product. Since the speaker seems to offer a huge amount for its asking price, I contacted SVS designer Mark Mason with questions.

Q: Mr. Mason, are you working on both speaker and amplifier aspects with SVS?
A: I design, develop and/or optimize every single component in SVS speakers, subwoofers and accessories from the smallest fastener to the largest cabinet.

You’ve accumulated quite a sizeable legacy of respected designs for the firms you worked for. How did SVS pique your interest to join them?
A: With SVS I have greater degrees of freedom and am able to perfect every aspect of the design myself. Task delegation is frequently appropriate as a manager but always difficult when you’re a perfectionist.

Most designers have their hands full realizing a successful two- or three-way system. Why did you opt for the complexity of a 3.5-way design? What were the advantages vs. potential pitfalls?
A: My overall goal was to provide the listener with the best experience possible in any environment with any source material. Achieving this required careful attention to every aspect of the design. A 3.5-way crossover with the Ultra Tower’s driver compliment was the optimal solution. The advantages over a single driver or two-way system are smoother in-room response, a larger sweet spot, lower distortion and higher output capability. Designing an optimal 3.5-way crossover isn’t trivial. Without the proper tools and expertise, poor performance can be the greatest pitfall.

Are the drivers made offshore to your own specs or adaptations of existing hardware?
A: All of the drivers are designed by SVS.

Q: Other manufacturers have started moving towards exotic tweeters like thin foil, beryllium etc. Why did you choose to go with a ferrite magnet aluminum tweeter instead of something more exotic, even a neodymium motor? Cost considerations? Or were there specific characteristics that made your driver more suitable in this configuration?
A: I’ve always used metal dome tweeters in my speakers. Other tweeter technologies/materials may garner more attention but I have yet to find a tweeter that outperforms a well designed aluminium dome tweeter in a system with an optimally designed crossover. A ferrite magnet system acts as a much larger thermal mass relative to a neodymium magnet system. This enables the Ultra Tower to play longer and louder without sound degradation caused by high voice coil temperatures and power compression.

You have chosen a staggered crossover for your two 6½" midranges. Why this over the popular D'Appolito array?
A: The D’Appolito approach isn’t appropriate for our Ultra Tower. The 3.5-way crossover offers superior power response and therefore more uniform frequency response in a listening room. Other benefits are more dynamic capability and reduced distortion.

The 6½" midranges are glass fiber composite. Was this because the material has little inherent resonant character?
A: The glass fibre composite cones offer a high stiffness-to-mass ratio resulting in improved sensitivity and the cone motion is pistonic beyond the upper frequency limit of the driver which ensures uniform sound power and frequency response in a listening room.

In regards to the 8" paired woofer design, why dual side-firing? Space considerations or other?
A: The two opposing woofers and their position in the cabinet more evenly excite the modal frequencies in a room. The opposing configuration neutralizes the mechanical forces the woofers exert on the cabinet. This results in smoother bass response and higher dynamics.

Assuming the dual woofers produce lower distortion due to reduced excursion, isn't there a trade-off with control for the sake of excursion when adding the port?
A: Some listeners prefer the sound of a sealed low-frequency design over a ported design. The customer can easily adjust the character and level of the bass with the foam port plugs. In smaller listening environments, the reduced bass output of the Ultra Tower with the foam plugs inserted may result in a more desirable frequency balance.

Since the cabinet is tapered, was mechanical time alignment considered at any stage?
A: Time alignment is always an important design factor that must be optimized. This is accomplished in the Ultra Tower crossover design. The result is optimal time/phase alignment between the drivers at the listening position and within the large sweet spot created by this optimal alignment.

Mr. Mason, here’s a chicken and egg question. How did you arrive at the price point for the Towers and which came first? Fit the price point to the product or design the product to the price?
A: Our goal was to design the best $2K/pr tower speaker possible. The components ended up costing more than we had estimated. We didn’t want to sacrifice the performance therefore using less expensive components wasn’t an option. Despite this we decided to stay with our original $2K/pr target price.