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Reviewed by
Jeff Van Dyne


Snell Acoustics
Series 7
M7 / K7 / LCR7 / Basis 300
Home-Theater Speaker System

Features SnapShot!


Model: M7 bookshelf speaker
Price: $1800 USD per pair
Dimensions: 16.0"H x 8.0"W x 13.0"D
Weight: 28 pounds each

Model: LCR7 center-channel speaker
Price: $1000 USD
Dimensions: 19.0"W x 7.0"H x 8.75"D
Weight: 25 pounds

Model: K7 surround speaker
Price: $1250 USD per pair
Dimensions: 11.88"H x 7.0"W x 10.5"D
Weight: 15 pounds each

Model: Snell Basis 300 subwoofer
Price: $800 USD
Dimensions: 17.0"H x 15.25"W x 16.4"D
Weight: 70 pounds

Warranty: Five years parts and labor on speakers, one year on subwoofer amplifier.

System Price: $4850 USD

  • 1" SEAS silk-dome tweeter (M7, K7, LCR7)
  • 5.25" SEAS treated-paper woofer (K7, LCR7)
  • 6.5" SEAS treated-paper woofer (M7)
  • 10" long-throw woofer with neodymium magnet and cast frame (Basis 300)
  • Ported enclosures (M7, K7, Basis 300)
  • Boundary Compensation switch (M7, K7, LCR7)
  • Biwirable (M7, K7, LCR7)
  • All-metal binding posts (M7, K7, LCR7)
  • 300W manufacturer-rated amplifier (Basis 300)
  • Silver or black solid aluminum endcaps
  • Silver or black perforated metal grilles
  • Natural cherry veneer or satin black finish (other finishes available)

Snell Acoustics was founded in 1976, when I was still in high school, and from the outset was known for making high-quality, well-engineered speakers. But unlike some other companies, since then Snell has gone quietly about the business of advancing speaker design and sound, and has been quite successful at doing so. If they’ve built a dud in the three decades since, I’m unaware of it. Today finds none other than Joseph D’Appolito as chief of engineering, which speaks volumes about just how seriously Snell takes the business of sound engineering. If you want to know how to test a loudspeaker, read D’Appolito’s Testing Loudspeakers and you’ll have a better knowledge of how to go about it than most people reviewing speakers do. With such a history and reputation, I was expecting a well-built and solidly engineered surround-sound speaker system in the Snell Series 7.

The Series 7s

The speaker system Snell sent for review comprised two M7 bookshelf speakers for the front, two K7 bookshelf speakers for the surrounds, an LCR7 center-channel, and a Basis 300 subwoofer -- all from Snell’s Series 7 line. Total retail cost: $4850.

Snell’s Series 7 is best described as quietly elegant in appearance. The K7 came in a natural cherry veneer with aluminum top and bottom caps and grille. The LCR7 and Basis 300 were sheathed in the same lovely cherry, but with black caps and grilles. The M7, on the other hand, came in black oak. Normally I have strong opinions about the look of one speaker finish over another, but these were all so attractive that it came down to a coin toss. Other finishes are available.

The vertical edges of the cabinets are all gently rounded with a wide-radius arc. The metal grilles wrap around the front edges of the cabinet before the veneer takes over on the side panels, to wrap seamlessly all the way around the back of the cabinet and up the other side. In some ways it’s a shame that the metal wraps the whole front of the speaker; you don’t get to see much of the cherry veneer from the sweet spot. However, such a design gives sonic benefits in the form of reduced diffraction of high frequencies, so it’s a price I’m willing to pay. Behind the front grille you’ll find drivers made by SEAS, a well-known, well-respected Norwegian manufacturer that’s been around even longer than Snell.

On the back of each speaker are a flared port and two pairs of very-high-quality metal binding posts suitable for biwiring or biamping. Above the posts is a small, two-position Boundary Compensation toggle switch for altering the bass response, depending on whether or not the speaker is placed close to a wall -- a feature I’d like to see in more speakers. I found it particularly useful with the K7s, which had to sit next to the wall in my theater.

The Basis 300 subwoofer follows in the footsteps of the rest of Series 7, and is much more attractive than the basic black box that was the norm only a few years ago. At a little less then 17" on a side, the 300 is also relatively unobtrusive, making it easy to place in various locations in a room, and easy to look at if its final resting place is somewhere out where you can see it. One feature of the 300 I really liked was the recessing of its level control into the top plate. I have a tendency to fiddle with my subwoofer level, and I hate having to find a flashlight so I can figure out which of the knobs on the back is the level control. The downside of this is that the control is too easily changed by curious children, or by the cleaners when they wipe things down each week.

I set up the M7 mains a couple of feet out from the front wall and a few feet from the side walls, the LCR7 center went in its normal spot atop the TV, and the K7 surrounds perched on shelves at the sides of the listening space. The M7s liked a little space around them in order to fully "disappear" into the soundfield, but I used their Boundary Compensation switches to help compensate for frequency aberrations from placement so close to a wall. The K7 surrounds ended up against the wall, and their Boundary Compensation switches also worked to good effect; though this placement may have accounted for the directionality I noted in the surround channels during some of my listening. The K7 is a bit on the large side as surrounds go, but nevertheless, placement away from the wall by a foot or so would probably be preferred.

I have two useful positions I can put a subwoofer in my room. The Basis 300 was a little anemic when placed along the front wall about a third of the way from the left corner; it preferred a position about 18" from the right front corner.


I began my listening sessions with the film U-571, which, in addition to the well-known depth-charging of the submarine, offers a good surround system a tremendous amount of sonic candy. It quickly became apparent that the Snell system was exceptionally good at creating a three-dimensional soundfield. A prime example of this was in chapter 14: the swirling cavitation all around the screws of the German destroyer as it gets under way. On rare occasions, however, the K7s drew too much attention to themselves. In chapter 4, when the S33 submarine switches to battery operation in preparation for diving, the warning bells in the background were clearly anchored to each of the side surrounds. This infrequent effect had much more to do, I think, with the fairly close proximity of the surrounds to the listening position and the wall than with anything else.

Of course, the main reason for using U-571 as a reference disc is still the depth-charge scene in chapter 15. Although the Basis 300 sounded great with music when positioned well away from a corner, it lacked punch in this demanding scene. Moving the sub to about 18" from the corner of the room seemed the perfect compromise, though the Basis 300 had less impact in this scene than have most other large subwoofers I’ve tried in my theater. However, the Snell sub sounded tighter than all but the Thiel SS1, which costs more than three times as much ($2900). For the most part, the Basis 300 performed like a larger, more expensive subwoofer -- I had to keep reminding myself that it was only a mid-size sub with a 10" driver. But Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds gave me a completely different perspective. During the sequence in which the aliens’ giant tripods rise out of the earth, the Basis 300 did a more than credible job of rattling the pictures on the wall.

Dialogue was always clear and intelligible through the Snell system. This is less of an issue today than it was just a few years ago, but through the LCR7, even quiet mumbles were more understandable than through many other center-channels.

The "Echo Game" scene from House of Flying Daggers is as good a test as any of a surround system’s spatial capabilities. The sounds of the beans striking the drums must be placed precisely in a three-dimensional soundfield in order to experience this scene’s full effect, and the Snell Series 7 system was at least as convincing as anything else I’ve had in my theater. Most impressive was the complete envelopment of the beaded curtains as the tinklings of thousands of individual beads came to light. I have yet to hear any other system reproduce this with such intricate detail.

Moving on to music, I dropped Nice ’N’ Easy, by Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops [SACD, Telarc SACD-60532], into the player. In the past, I’ve heard the horns on this hybrid multichannel SACD sound dry and detached or overly warm and bloated, depending on the speakers. The Snell system was right on target. And when I cut loose with the volume control, things really started to cook. The sound at higher volumes was completely effortless, showing no sign whatever of any strain or congestion. The soundstage of this surround SACD was nothing short of spectacular.

The Bad Plus’s Give [Columbia 90771] has spent a lot of time in my reference audio system lately. Playing "Cheney Piñata," the Snell M7s had a top end a little warmer and smoother than my own reference Silverline Sonatina speakers, but were otherwise a good sonic match. While the Basis 300 sub lacked the punch of the big boys on movies, it fleshed out the bottom end of this bass-heavy album perfectly, with just the right weight, while remaining tight and disciplined. In this respect the Basis 300 behaved more like what you’d expect from a sealed-box design than your typical high-output ported design, which is high praise from me for a music sub.

Whenever I listen to a very neutral loudspeaker, I find myself reverting to my old standby recordings to try to determine exactly what’s going on. The Snell system definitely fell into this category, and on this trip back to the well, I played Holly Cole’s Don’t Smoke in Bed [CD, Manhattan 81198]. Cole’s vocals on "Tennessee Waltz" were dead on, and the considerable air in her voice never took on a harsh edge, even at the loudest volumes. Through all of my music listening sessions, nothing ever presented itself as overhyped, nor did there seem to be anything missing. This went for the entire range of volume levels, from quiet late-night sessions to wake-the-neighbors party levels. If this speaker system compresses in a manner less than graceful, then it would take a much larger room than I have, or higher volume levels than I’m willing to subject these old ears of mine to, to make it do so.


The Snell Series 7 proved a good comparison to my reference Magnepan system of MC1s (mains, surrounds) and CC3 center ($2490 without subwoofer). Both systems have neutral sounds, though the Snells are a bit warmer overall. Whereas the Maggies’ great strength is their expansive soundstage, the Snells excelled at precise image placement in a three-dimensional soundfield. The Magnepans sounded more open at lower volume levels, but the Snells opened up nicely at higher volumes, when the Maggies began to sound relatively constrained. Also, the M7 had a slightly smoother top end than the MC1, but the Maggies were slightly more detailed and open in the extreme upper frequencies. Two speaker systems with very different characters, both excellent.

The Basis 300 proved a more than capable performer; again, I had to remind myself that I was listening to only a 10" cone, not a 12". I’ve found that many of the larger home-theater subwoofers overwhelm my medium-size listening room, producing too much of a good thing, which quickly becomes tiring. The original Hsu Research VTF-3 ($699) is a good example of a sub that, while great in my larger room, was just too much for my current theater. The Basis 300 wouldn’t play as loud or as deep as the VTF-3, but traded ultimate output for improved definition, and a manageable size that gives the user a little more wiggle room in which to fine-tune the placement and further improve the system’s sound. It’s a matter of choosing the subwoofer that’s right for the needs of the listener and the room.


The more neutral a speaker, the harder it is to write about, and the Snell Series 7 system was very neutral. More important, it was neutral without being dry and lifeless, detailed without being analytical.

Snell has produced an accurate, articulate system for movie viewing without shortchanging the artful reproduction of music for which they’ve long been known, but that many home-theater systems lack. A Series 7 system may be just the thing for those who require top-drawer reproduction of both for their mixed-use systems. The fact that it all comes wrapped in some of the most attractive casework I’ve seen is icing on the cake. Highly recommended.

Review System
Preamplifier-Processors - Anthem AVM 20, Outlaw Model 990
Amplifiers - Rotel RB-976, Threshold S/3700e
Sources - Pioneer DV-563A DVD player, Sony SAT-HD200 DirecTV receiver, Hughes DirecTV HR10-250 HD TiVo
Cables - Analysis Plus, Audio Magic, Straight Wire, Monster Cable
Monitors - Hitachi 46F500 rear-projection HDTV

Manufacturer contact information:

Snell Acoustics
300 Jubilee Drive, PO Box 3717
Peabody, MA 01961-3717
Phone: (978) 538-6262
Fax: (978) 538-6266

Website: www.snellacoustics.com

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