Acoustics has a great reputation for producing audiophile speakers, so
it is not surprising to see an impressive line of home theater models.
We had the opportunity to review their Series 7 system built around a
pair of J7 monitors ($1250 each), an LCR7 center channel ($1250), a pair
of SR7 surrounds ($1600), and a Basis 300 subwoofer ($2000). Without a
doubt, these speakers are built to the high standards that Snell Acoustics
is known for with solid cabinet construction and great looks. The heavy
cabinet helps reduces sonic colorations that often come into play on many
less expensive speakers. The Snell Series 7 speakers are designed by legendary
speaker builder and Snells chief engineer, Joe DAppolito,
Ph.D. Dr. DAppolito is well known in the audio community for his
contributions to the field and the famous Midrange-Tweeter-Midrange (MTM)
speaker configuration called the DAppolito array carries his name.
More recently, Dr. DAppolito has been working with senior design
engineer David Logvin to direct new product development at Snell.
Our front left and right channels consisted of a pair of J7 bookshelf
monitors (formerly the M7), which are by far the most impressive bookshelf
speakers we have seen. In fact, it is somewhat of an insult to actually
call them bookshelf speakers given the build and sound quality of these
speakers. The J7 speakers sit 16" tall, 8" wide and 13"
deep and weigh 28 pounds. The J7's are designed around a SEAS 1-inch silk
dome tweeter and a 6.5-inch SEAS treated-paper woofer. Their narrow horizontal
and vertical dispersion of ±15 degrees prevent significant floor
and ceiling reflections and produces a focused sweet spot.
character of the J7 is slightly on the brighter brighter side with excellent
resolution of detail and a wide soundstage. Snell recommends using an
amplifier rated at 100-300 watts. Both the systems we used to test these
speakers met this requirement. The speakers have the ability to produce
high output levels (105dB per pair) even with the rather low sensitivity
of just 87dB (1 watt @ 1 meter). The flared port on the back of the speaker
helps the J7 produce bass extending down to 45Hz. Since we used THX processing
when watching movies, our main channels had a crossover frequency set
The hardware found on the back of the J7 is excellent with all-metal 5-way
binding posts designed to work with bare wire, spades, pins, or banana
plugs. The speakers come pre-installed with conductors that parallel the
woofer and tweeter so that a single pair of speaker wires can be used.
However, the J7 is specifically designed to be bi-amped or bi-wired which
assures very low distortion and optimizes performance. In addition, each
speaker (tweeter and woofer) has their own dedicated printed circuit board
with high quality components including air core inductors. The Normal/Boundary
switch allows the speaker to take advantage of the
boundary tuning features when the speaker is placed close to walls. This
allows the J7 to blend in with the rooms furnishings. For most of
our listening we preferred using the Normal setting since our review
speakers sat on a pair of stands.
design in the J7 is constructed with separate printed circuit boards for
the tweeter and the woofer. This design results in very low distortion,
and optimizes performance when the J7 is bi-amped or bi-wired. The natural
cherry or black painted walnut cabinet with solid metal end caps is as
resonance free as they come.
Since the J7 monitors have the ability to be bi-amped or bi-wired, we
included the impedance for both high and low inputs as well as the combined
input in our chart. The J7's
have a nominal rated impedance of 8 ohms. We found that the speakers had
a minimal combined impedance of 3.9 ohms at around 2kHz. The average impedance
of the speaker was approximately 10 ohms over the entire frequency range.
Most amplifiers should not have difficulty driving the J7's and in our
case both of our review systems produced exceptional sound with these
Our center channel was handled by an LCR7. Ideally, we would have liked
to have all three front channels the same. The advantage of this speaker
is the driver arrangement makes the woofers and tweeter appear to play
from the same point regardless of listening position. As a result, the
speaker performs exceptionally well from many seating positions in a typical
home theater. The LCR7 measures 19-inches tall, 7-inches wide and 8.75-inches
deep and weighs 21 pounds. The design features high performance SEAS drivers
(1-inch silk dome tweeter and two 5.25-inch paper treated woofers) and
has a frequency response from 75Hz to 22kHz. The lower frequency roll-off
is less steep than the J7 monitors due to the sealed enclosure. The LCR7
can reach sound pressure levels of 110dB with an efficiency of 90dB (1
watt @ 1 meter).
Like the J7 monitors, the LCR7 also has the capability to be bi-amped
or bi-wired. The same Normal/Boundary switch found on the J7 speakers
are available on the LCR7. The speaker has a nominal impedance rating
of 8 ohms. The speaker had a minimum impedance of 3.1 ohms at around 3kHz.
The average impedance of the speaker was approximately 5.4 ohms over the
entire frequency range. Some amplifiers lacking sufficient current drive
may have a more difficult time driving the LCR7 due to the lower impedance
found at certain frequencies. However, our Denon AVR-5308CI receiver and
Parasound HCA-2205AT amplifier easily handled the LCR7 without any issues.
Our rear channels utilized the wall-mounted SR7 surround speakers made
from real wood and solid aluminum. The SR7 measures 11.75-inches tall,
10.38-inches wide and 5.63-inches deep and weighs 12.2 pounds. The speakers
include a set of mounting clips that attach to the wall with screws, making
it easy to hang the speakers during the installation. Due to the weight,
it is important that the clips/screws are firmly attached and don't pull
out, especially for those of us who live in earthquake-prone areas like
Los Angeles. The SR7 surrounds are available in black or white with end
caps made from solid aluminum plates. The shallow cabinet design contains
a single 5.25-inch woofer mounted below a 1-inch cloth dome tweeter on
the front. A pair of 2.5-inch cone tweeters are mounted and angled into
the room on both sides of the speaker cabinet. However, all tweeters are
not active at the same time.
all metal 5-way binding posts provide the user with a flexible and high
quality speaker connection. The switch on the back of the SR7 selects
the front (Direct) tweeter or the side (Diffuse) tweeters. In the Direct
mode, the speaker is configured as a wide dispersion direct radiator,
which is perfect for localized surround effects. In this mode only the
front speakers (tweeter and woofer) are active and the side speakers are
disabled. If users want a more diffused surround, the Diffuse setting
directs energy away from the listening area, performing like an array
of theater surround speakers for a diffused soundfield. Here the side
tweeters are active with the main bass driver and the center front tweeter
is disabled. This flexibility allows the SR7 to be used in different setups
depending on the user's needs. Regardless, the timbre is well matched
and blends in well with other Series 7 Snell speakers. Interestingly,
the impedance characteristics of the speaker changed significantly when
switched between the two different modes.
drivers used in the Snell Series 7 speakers are among the best available
to audiophiles. Having built my own speakers in the past there is a certain
appreciation for high quality drivers and components. Snell has taken
these parts and incorporated them into some of the best enclosures we
have seen. The result is a neutral sounding set of speakers with virtually
no coloration, yet able to reproduce subtle detail not often heard in
many home theater speakers.
The Direct mode has a minimum impedance of 4.8 ohms at 4kHz, while
the Diffuse mode has a minimum impedance of 2.9 ohms at 300 Hz.
The average impedance in the diffuse mode over the entire frequency
range is approximately 6 ohms. This mode may pose challenges to some cheaper
amplifiers especially since many of the receivers have less powerful amplifiers
driving the surround channels. Our Denon AVR-5308CI receiver and Parasound
HCA-2205AT amplifier had no problem driving these surrounds. At least
we did not hear anything that would suggest the amplifier was struggling.
The frequency response of the SR7 is from 80Hz to 20kHz in the Direct
mode and 80Hz to 15kHz in the Diffuse mode.
The Basis 300 subwoofer is a nice complement to the impressive sounding
Series 7 speakers. This subwoofer provides the bottom-end that is missing
from the main front channels and rear surrounds and seamlessly blends
in with the system. The Basis 300 features a long-throw 10-inch driver
powered by a 300-watt A/B amplifier. A flared port sits below the bass
driver in the lower left corner. The construction of the cabinet is impressive,
measuring 17.0-inches high, 15.25-inches wide and 15.25-inches deep and
weighing 70 pounds. The Basis 300 driver uses a neo magnet with a cast
frame and is constructed from 3/4-inch MDF with full length bracing for
rigidity. The solid enclosure design prevents colorations that often plague
subwoofers by creating boomy, uncontrolled bass reproduction. The unit
provides bass as lows 26Hz (23Hz at -6dB) at levels as high as 105dB in
a typical 3000 cubic-foot room. We placed the Basis 300 in the front corner
of our listening space.
The Basis 300 has an elegant looking illuminated level control embedded
in the top of the black anodized aluminum cover. The lighting comes from
four LEDs below the control and is subtle enough not to distract viewers
while watching movies in the dark. We liked having the control on the
top of the subwoofer where it is easy to access. For those manually setting
the level it provides a quick way to change it without having to adjust
knobs on the rear panel. On the downside, curious children find the knob
interesting and with the backlight it is not easily missed. We set the
control near the middle position and let our processor adjust the level
during its calibration process.
The back of the Basis 300 has a variable crossover (50-150Hz) that is
fully adjustable. The low-level in inputs route all frequencies
below the manual crossover frequency setting to the subwoofer. All frequencies
above the setting are routed to the high-pass outputs. The sub
in and sub out connections have a fixed crossover frequency
of 80Hz with a 12dB/octave slope. The phase switch changes the
phase of the bass frequencies by 180 degrees. This can help in cases where
sound cancellations are occurring due to the subwoofer placement. The
main power switch controls the incoming power to the subwoofer. The power
mode switch on the back of the Basis 300 allows the unit to be always
on when place in the on mode. In the standby mode, the auto sense
circuit is active. When an audio signal is detected, it will power on
and stay active for at lease 10 minutes from the time it sensed a signal.
This can save power when the subwoofer is not being used for extended
periods of time. High level speaker inputs are also supported for receivers
that do not offer line level outputs. However, it will be rare that speakers
of this quality would be mated with a set of electronics lacking this
The Snell Series 7 speakers are by no means a typical multi-channel system
especially at a combined cost of $7350. Build quality is exceptional and sets it apart from most of the multi-channel speaker systems we have seen over the years, especially when paired with some of the best stereo receivers at OneCall. We were very pleased with the performance we experienced
with music as well as movies. Our first system included our Parasound
AVC-2500u controller mated with a Parasound
HCA-2205AT five-channel amplifier. Both products are THX-Ultra and
the amplifier has plenty of power to drive these speakers. Our second
review system took advantage of Denon's highly regarded AVR-5308CI
receiver. This THX-Ultra2 rated unit has amazing sound from an all-in-one
unit. In both systems the crossover frequency was set to 80Hz.
particularly interested in hearing how well multi-channel audio sounded
with these speakers. We played several high resolution audio tracks from
DTS's Surround 9 demo disc provided to us at one of the recent trade shows.
Movie samples included Hero, Master and Commander, Lord
of the Rings, I. Robot, The Day After, and Kill Bill.
Virtually all of the movie clips included lots of action with aggressive
surround material that exercised the audio system vigorously. We found
movie dialogue to be pleasantly transparent with a smooth midrange on
the front channel (J7's & LCR7). The timbre was closely matched across
all front and back speakers making them a great match for multi-channel
audio and movies. The subwoofer blended seamlessly with the main channels,
providing deep, controlled bass when needed. Vocals and sound effects
moved seamlessly across the front of the screen without any distractions.
Moreover, playing the system at louder volume levels for extended periods
of time didn't cause fatigue that often occurs with many systems. We particularly
enjoyed The Blueman Group video Sing Along where simple
sounds had fine textures with extraordinary detail.
One of our favorite multi-channel audio discs is Steely Dan's Gaucho,
offered in dts 5.1. Our Denon AVR-5308CI did a great job reproducing this
recording. As mentioned earlier, the surround speakers (SR7's) have a
switch (Direct/Diffuse) on the back that changes the high frequency radiation
pattern. In most cases when listening to music, we preferred using the
Direct mode. This was certainly the case for all of our 5.1 music
recordings. The Diffuse mode worked better with ambient surround
material found in many film soundtracks. Placement of the surround speakers
will also determine the best mode.
There is no doubt that the Snell Series 7 speakers offer customers great
sound with excellent build quality, whether the need is for home theater
or purely audio. While the cost of the system ($7350 retail) is significant,
performance and build quality is among the best out there. These speakers
reflect Snell's reputation in building a high quality product with exceptional
performance. If we had to do it all over again with these speakers, we
would have placed a trio of LCR7's across the front of our theater room
and maybe two in the back as well. The Series 7 speakers have left a lasting
impression in my mind of just how well Snell speakers sound. We will miss
these gems when they get shipped back.