After the Klipsch won the first comparison I decided to put SVS's Ultra Bookshelves in the ring.
The SVS arrived and I put them on 24" stands just outboard of the Klipsch and I did one hell of a listening session. Something like 3+ hours switching back and forth between the two pairs of speakers. As a clarification:
Used an SPL to level set the Klipsch with the SVS to within ~0.2dB to reduce "loudness" bias
Initially started with the sub set for an 80Hz crossover
Eventually set the speakers to "Large" so the subwoofer was out of the mix. I did this at Get Lucky and left it off for the rest of the tracks.
Here are my listening notes.
Sylvan Esso - Die Young - Echo Mountain Sessions
SVS had a wider soundstage, one that went wider than the speakers themselves. The Klipsch had a narrower sounstage but individual instruments came from a more discrete direction; this is especially true of the sax and lead vocal. The SVS was fuller but at the expense of being diffuse. Vocals and instrumentation was close, with the Klipsch getting an edge due to its better imaging and more "presence". No clear winner on bass
Yosi Horikawa - Bubbles
This is where the Klipsch really shines. They allowed me to track the bouncing of the balls in 3D space, not only where from left to right but also a little of forward and back. The SVS also did a good job here but the directional nature of the Klipsch let it run away.
Marian Herzog, Chris Jones - No Sanctuary Here feat. Chris Jones
The Klipsch did a much better job at bringing the hi-hat and the vocals to the center stage. And the vocals were better featured. The Klipsch also had a very slightly tighter bass.
Metallica - Nothing Else Matters
Each had their usual strengths and weaknesses. Notably, though, where they hi-hat was a welcome addition in No Sanctuary Here, on this track it was a little distracting. The vocals and high hat together were almost thin, I'd say. I'd also rather be enveloped in Hetfield's vocals and the whole band in general in a wall of sound rather than hear each instrument separately. Here is where the SVS's widened soundstage and poorer imaging actually did itself a service.
Janis Ian - Breaking Silence
This was a surprisingly close one, especially for a track that I thought would showcase the Klipsch. The SVS added a bit of warmth to Ian's voice while the Klipsch did the opposite -- and if anything Ian needs more warmth not less. The Klipsch did a great job of placing the center, left, and right versions of Ian in the beginning of the song. Funilly enough, the Klipsch had a wider soundstage; the guitar noodling on the left channel was further to the left than with the SVS.
Fleetwood Mac - The Chain
This track was auditioned after I received the speaker stands for the SVS and they were placed outboard of the Klipsch with a fairly significant amount of toe. Somehow the Klipsch had a better soundstage than the SVS. Instrumentation was great in both, but with the hi-hat on the Klipsch just barely reaching into that too-bright area. Imaging was good on both (though where the instruments were placed changed slightly).
Daft Punk - Get Lucky
Speakers set to large; I turned the sub to get a sense of the bass capabilities of the speakers. Again, the soundstage seemed wider AND the imaging was better on the Klipsch. Williams' vocal part was front and center and ultra clear with the Klipsch while on the SVS it seemed to float slightly to the right (and was a bit broader) and seemed to be behind something. The details on the guitar noodling were also much clearer on the Klipsch than on the SVS. On this track with the sub off the Klipsch is very much the winner.
Snoop Dogg - California Roll
Speakers set to large; Again no sub in the mix (this goes for the rest of the tracks). Taking away a sub definitely makes a huge difference as is to be expected. Both speakers did very well, with the Klipsch once again bringing the vocals front and center. Not much instrumentation so to speak in the whole track, but the harmonica and keys sounded good on both the SVS and Klipsch.
deadmau5 - Ghosts 'n' Stuff
Without the help from the sub the Klipsch definitely stole this one. The kick drum sounded much more present and contained a "fullness" that didn't exist with the SVS.
Muse - Supermassive Black Hole
Sub off; I toed in the SVS a bit more which seemed so help with soundstage somehow. Imagine was still the Klipschs' domain. Switching from one to the other seemed to "snap" vocals and instruments into place. The Klipsch seemed to introduce a bit of harshness into the S sounds from spaceships, superstar, and super massive.
Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here
Sub off; So this is a tough one. I love Pink Floyd and have listened to this song countless times; it still gives me goosebumps. For that reason I've grown accustomed to hearing it on lower-quality speakers that give it some muddyness and fuzziness -- and I kind of like that. The Klipsch were definitely technically better. Gilmour seemed to be singing in the room with me, and I could hear the fretwork and each pluck of the guitar string. But the SVS brought a warmth to the track and the dispersion of the imaging allowed me to be sort of wrapped up in the song like a blanket of sound rather than feeling like I was watching a concert. This is a tough one. Do you want the "right there" sort of experience or do you want to hearken back to hold memories and feelings?
Pink Floyd - Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Pts. 1-5)
Massive Attack - Angel
The Klipsch rocked the bass -- a clear advantage is had being a tower. It really did everything better (besides soundstage which they both did well in). The drumset felt much more present. Again though, on a track like this you may prefer warmth and dispersion to sort of swaddle you. If you want accuracy then take the Klipsch I think the Klipsch won this one by a lot.
Adam Ben Ezra - Can't Stop Running
For being such a bass-heavy track the SVS really held their own here. I suspect it's because they only need to handle a few frequencies at a time and don't have to blend a lot going on at once. I could hardly tell a difference between the Klipsch and the SVS here. Slightly more tightness on the Klipsch but not by much.
Swedish House Mafia - Greyhound
Tower vs. bookshelf = not a fair fight. The Klipsch ran away with this. I turned the sub back on to try and even the playing field but it was still the Klipsch by far. Whether that's the smaller speakers' inability to blend well with the sub or the cheap sub's fault I'm unsure. That main synth that plays actually sounded way better on the Klipsch as well.
Calyx & TeeBee - Long Gone
There is definitely a sense of "snapping into focus" that occurs on every track when switching to the Klipsch, and that's especially present here. Another high energy dance track that the Klipsch runs away with.
Glass Animals - Gooey
During the chorus there's layered vocals that sound really great on the Klipsch. There's a clear dominance coming from the center and the layered parts coming clearly from either side but somehow blend really well. The SVS somehow doesn't get it as right. It blends them so much that it almost sounds like the center and sides are the same part.
Anne Bisson - September in Montreal
Both speakers did very well here, with the vocals and imaging of the Klipsch edging out a victory.
Norman Greenbaum - Spirit in the Sky
Here is where the "it sounds like your there" ability of the Klipsch really help it shine. The only thing I could fault was that the backup singers had the very slightest "piercing" sound to them. But they -- and the whole band -- was right in my living room with me.
Basement Jaxx - Hip Hip Hooray
The soundstage on the SVS was pretty incredible here. You're enveloped in the sound.
Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox - All About That Bass
The Klipsch is always going to sound better on these simple, well-produced songs with just a few real instruments and a talented vocalist. It sounds like you're there. That said, the SVS weren't far behind.
Vitamin String Quartet - Californication
This was pretty much a tie. Yes the lead violen had a bit more "presence" on the Klipsch but the warmth and blending of the SVS served them well.
Andy McKee - Everybody Wants To Rule the World
Again, very close here with the Klipsch taking a slight lead.
Iron & Wine - Boy With a Coin
One large difference I could hear from the Klipsch was its ability to separate the lead vocal from the high harmony (or is that a full octave?). It was a nice touch. Though the SVS's ability to provide warmth was welcome.
Rodrigo y Garbriela - Hora Zero
Surprisingly the tower vs. bookshelf factor made a big difference here, I think giving the Klipsch a sense of "fullness" that the SVS couldn't provide. There was also a marked difference in bass presence in the palm slaps against the guitars.
Rage Against the Machine - Take the Power Back
Klipsch did the deep bass better as well as the plucks of the bass/guitars. Vocals again were way more present in the Klipsch.
Green Day - American Idiot
This was very close, with even the vocals being very good on both. The Klipsch had the slightest of edges over the SVS when it came to the bass in the kick drum though. I actually liked the subdued-ness of the SVS when it came to Billie Joe's vocals. Though maybe that's due to a bit of listening fatigue? Certainly something to keep in mind...
In Flames - Trigger
The double kick drum all but disappeared on the SVSs. Both speakers did well though. Again, do you want a dispersed wall of sound coming at you for your metal tracks or a more focused approach?
Imogen Heap - Hide and Seek
This is a really good example of what each pair of speakers brings to the table. The details of the layering and the breathiness in Heap's vocals came through nicely on the Klipsch, while on the SVS that sense of warmth and breadth really shined.
SOHN - Conrad
Any track with a multiple-octave synth chord and featured vocals is going to go to the Klipsch. Again the "fullness" is there and Taylor sounds like he's right there with you. Listening fatigue is very slightly setting in, though, as it's almost a relief not to have the presence of the vocals so much, as good as they sound.
Propellerheads - History Repeating
The Klipsch was able to capture of the details in the bass better than the Klipsch, but surprisingly that was the only real big difference. Vocals and even imaging were very similar.
Tracy Chapman - Give Me One Reason
While the location of Chapman's voice was more defined with the Klipsch, it was ever so slightly to the left of center, which was interesting. Both speakers did very well, with the details on the reverb coming through a little better with the Klipsch. The Klipsch also achieved better presence and detail in the bass.
Norah Jones - Don't Know Why
This track follows a similar formula as All About That Bass which makes you think the Klipsch would run away with it. But I have to say that there was definitely a piercing quality on the Klipsch that was ever so slightly unpleasant about Jone's voice. That was really smoothed out on the SVS.
Bipolar Sunshine - Major Love
Another demonstration of the strengths and weaknesses of each speaker. The Klipsch provided more bass detail and extension as well as put the vocals front and center. The SVS were a bit smoother and blended the vocals into the rest of the track.
Josh Turner - Your Man
Listening fatigue is setting in. I should also say that I went on a long hike today and am a bit dehydrated so regular fatigue might be setting in as well. Turner's bass voice is almost in your face in the Klipsch. I feel a sense of relief when I switch to the SVS and he takes a step back to blend in with the rest of the track. With a fresh set of ears this would sound great on the Klipsch, though.
Easton Corbin - Lovin' You is Fun
Turning the volume down helped with the fatigue. The presence of Corbin's voice on the Klipsch was welcomed, and when he faded into the background on the SVSs he was missed. The Klipsch also contains a fullness that the SVS don't have. I love the bluesy piano licks on the Klipsch as well.
Barenaked Ladies - Straw Hat and Old Dirty Hank - Live
At this volume and this track the SVS have a real thinness that stems from their lack of bass. It was fairly dissapointing. Vocals were decent, but it just seemed like I was listening to the top 4/5ths of the track on the SVS.
Tiësto - BOOM
Again not even close. The bass on the Klipsch kicked the SVSs' butt.
Five Iron Frenzy - Cannonball - Live
On a live track I definitely want to "feel like I'm there" which of course the Klipsch can dole out. Bass extension on the Klipsch also helps here a lot. I'm not sure why I'm noticing the bass so much more now. I wonder if it's a function of listening for so long. I'm cranking the volumes back up to what they were in some of the previous tracks as well to check if it's a volume thing.
Katy Perry - Dark Horse
Bass extension and clarity on vocals gave the Klipsch a victory here. You could better hear the details of Perry's mouthing and the reverb engineering into the track as well as more fullness across the entire thing.
So the gist of it is that I prefer the Klipsch.
Incredibly clear and present vocals
Incredible sense of "fullness" though that's likely due to the tower vs. bookshelf
"You feel like you're there"
Vocals can sometimes be piercing or harsh
Very little "warmth".
Listening fatigue sets in more quickly
Warm and potentially a bit more balanced
Better for tracks where you want to feel enveloped or you want the instrumentation to blend into each other
Listening fatigue comes in slower
Better for music playing in the background
Imaging not as clear/concise
Sounds more like a recording than a live performance
I will say that the Klipsch reward you for paying attention and punish you for not. During a listening session like this the Klipsch definitely run away with it. But when I was listening to music in the background I found myself often switching back to the SVS.
So what am I going to do? Well I'm going to return both and wait for the next Klipsch Reference Premier line to come out in August! D'oh!
That said, does anyone else hate those copper rings added to the RPs? I think they look awfully gaudy.