Snell Type C/IV loudspeaker Page 3

My first impressions of the Type C/IVs were confirmed throughout the auditioning: a big, lively presentation with surprising tonal neutrality and excellent low-frequency extension. It was apparent that the Type C/IVs were quite flat; no surprise, considering their designer's priorities. I detected very little coloration that could be ascribed to amplitude irregularities. The critical midrange was free from anomalies that often cause loudspeakers to be called "nasal," "forward," "murky," "hooded," "recessed," "honky," or other such adjectives descriptive of midband colorations. Instead, the Type C/IVs' presentation was smooth, open, and neutral. Instrumental timbres were quite true to the recording.

The standards for midrange accuracy have gone way up in recent years. This is one thing all good loudspeakers seem to have in common: a midrange that doesn't constantly remind the listener he or she is listening to reproduced music. The Type C/IVs exemplify tonal neutrality in loudspeakers.

The treble was exceptionally smooth, with excellent extension. The Type C/IV seemed to have less energy in the range from, say, 6kHz to 12kHz, than the System Two. Consequently, cymbals had a little less sizzle and violins less sheen and edge through the Type C/IV. In this respect, I felt the Type C/IV to be more neutral than the System Two, which introduced a slight fizziness to the top octaves. Despite its softer treble balance, the Type C/IV provided a greater feeling of air and extension in the extreme treble.

However, I felt that the Type C/IV had a somewhat grainy texture, especially through the mids. It just didn't have the purity and pristine delicacy of the System Two. Some instruments and vocals seemed to be overlaid with a trace of roughness that gave instrumental textures a slightly gritty sound. When listening to the Type C/IV, I was reminded of "asperity noise," a phenomenon that occurs in magnetic tape recording. If you listen to certain instruments recorded on a single track on a multi-track tape recorder at a fairly high level, the recorded signal can be heard to modulate the noise floor (modulation noise) and create a fuzziness or roughness that rides on the instrument's envelope (asperity noise). It is most audible on instruments with simple harmonic structures—flute, for example. Similarly, the Type C/IV imparted a slight roughness to instrumental textures that seemed to follow the instrument's dynamic envelope. Joe Farrell's flute on Light as a Feather (Polydor 827 148-2), for example, had a slightly coarse edge to it rather than a round liquidity.

In addition, the Type C/IV had a somewhat bleached or whitish character in the midrange and lower treble. This gave the impression of a livelier—but not more forward—presentation. The result was that the Type C/IV didn't have the sense of ease and velvety smoothness through the mids heard through the System Two. In addition, I felt that the midrange was a bit lacking in warmth, with less impression of fullness and body in comparison with the System Two. Julianne Bard's voice on The English Lute Song (Dorian DOR-90109) tended to have a trace of "lightness" rather than a round, full quality.

If the System Two has a midrange and treble like a crystalline pool of sparkling water, the Type C/IV's mid and treble presentation was like that same pool, but with some sand suspended in it. The C/IV wasn't cloudy, murky, tinted, or otherwise polluted, but there was some grit within the uncolored rendering.

During the auditioning, the Type C/IV played at high levels without a sense of strain or compressed dynamics. The full impact heard at low levels was preserved even at higher volumes than one would normally listen. Consequently, dynamic contrast was exceptional, with a feeling of effortlessness.

I found the C/IV's bass presentation tight, punchy, and well-extended. They didn't have the sluggishness and boom that often characterize ported loudspeakers. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to identify the Type C/IV as a ported design by listening. The bass was well-controlled, free from overhang, and had no annoying peaks that emphasize some notes more than others. I find left-hand piano lines particularly revealing of low-frequency colorations, and the C/IV did well with Dick Hyman Plays Fats Waller (Reference Recordings RR-33CD). The piano's lower registers were smooth, extended, and had a rich body. I listen quite frequently to this disc and found the C/IV particularly adept at conveying the weight and power of the Bösendorfer. In addition, I heard the instrument during the recording, and felt that the C/IVs accurately presented the piano's lower registers. By comparison, the Hales sounded lightweight and thin, failing to convey the instrument's power.

The Dorian organ Pictures at an Exhibition (DOR-90117) was reproduced with stunning weight and authority while at the same time providing precise pitch resolution. The C/IVs effortlessly produced low frequencies that the System Two only hinted at. In fact, the Snells did the most credible job on this recording of any loudspeaker I've had in my listening room, with the exception of the massive $7000 TDL Reference Standard. In comparison with the B&W 801 Matrix Series 2, the Type C/IV's bass was a bit leaner, tighter, and better controlled.

Snell Acoustics
(2009); company no longer in existence
as a separate brand, but website still active (2011)