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Snell K

Guest energyandair

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Guest energyandair

Snell K, Audio Note K, B&W N805

Today I had the opportunity to listen to my “new” Snell K speakers along with current Audio Note K and current B&W N805 speakers (805s ?). The Snell K’s are the original version, recently re-foamed. The AN –K’s were one of their less costly versions. If you are not familiar with them, they are a direct descendant of the Snell with the same dimensions, driver sizes and driver spacing.

All were powered from a Linn Classic with the same music (mainly jazz instrumental) on the same stands and in the same room in one fairly brief session.

The room was about 18' x 12' with high ceilings carpet and some wall treatment.

The stands were massive Audio Note steel stands about 24” tall with the legs filled with sand and/or lead. I also listened to the Snells and Audio Notes on Skylan stands that were filled plastic and slightly taller.

All of the following comments are based on how things sounded to me. (obviously!)

The Speakers

All speakers sounded enjoyable to listen to but there were differences in clarity, dynamics, the sense of spaciousness and the width and depth of the soundstage.

In all of these respects, the Audio Note had a noticeable advantage over the Snell and the Snell had a substantial advantage over the B&W. I didn’t notice any areas of trade off where one was better on one thing and another was better at something else but maybe with a longer session and different music something would have come up. The differences seemed large enough that I would be surprised if someone else listening to the same session would have reached different conclusions.

This raises some interesting questions.

Would my conclusions always be the same?

• Would a different CD player and amplifier change my order of preferences?

• Would really loud rock or complex orchestral music change things?

Based on what I heard, I would be surprised, but without listening, I can’t be certain.

Why did the Audio Note sound better than the Snell?

• Better original components?

• Changes in the crossover?

• Plywood instead of MDF?

• Degradation of components with time?

• Even more careful matching of components and speakers than the original Snells?

I’d really like to know if replacing a few capacitors would bring the Snell to where the Audio Note is.

The Stands

As for the stands, I wasn’t expecting much difference but I sure heard one.

The speakers sounded much clearer, with much better bass, on the heavy, rigid (and expensive) steel Audio Note stands. I suspect that the primary reason was the much greater rigidity.


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Guest Dake13

Thanks for doing the comparison - very interesting. It'd be great to have some discussion of Snell tweaking. Snell's are one of those speakers about which many people say not to tweak them or you'll lose the magic.

I'm currently playing around with a pair of original Ks. I replaced the stuffing with Acousta Stuff and I replaced the stock wiring with silver wire. I also bought a new pair of tweeters, since these are available cheaply from Madisound. I consider these speakers to be 'stock,' since I haven't played around with the xover.

I don't think the original drivers on the K are as good as those on the J and E. It looks to me like AN use the same tweeter, but a different woofer. I'm not sure whether it's possible to get the last bit of resolution out of those Snell woofers, so the Snells might be handicapped from the get-go.

Re: cabinets. The K front and back are chipboard, the sides are some other kind of wood (anyone know? Same goes for the JII). It's not MDF. Basically these are somewhat 'lossy' cabinets like the AN. I don't think birch ply like the ANs would make a substantial difference. And the Audio Notes have changed in construction over the years, so it might be hard to tell whether the pair you listened to was exactly like the Snells or substantially different - I know AN also used chipboard at one point.

If you were to try to get your Snells to perform better, more like the AN - and I'd love to hear the results of your experiments - I'd recommend starting with the crossover. The Snell crossovers are screwed to the back of the cabinet, so you should be able to remove it pretty easily. (That being said, _I_ couldn't get the xover out of my Ks, and I'm not sure why - I didn't really try to muscle it, for fear of damaging the cabinet.) Provided you can get the xover board out, you could make a duplicate of the Snell board, matching the original values, for comparison. This is what I did with my E. The caps in the K are the poorest quality of all the Snells I own. I think this would probably make a huge difference. I would keep it so you could reverse the mods, however. You might also need a capacitance meter to check values.

My experience w/the Ks:

I listen to my Ks with a modified Dynaco ST 70, a Bottlehead Foreplay, a Rotel 955 cd player with a Tentlabs jitter clock installed, and Atlantis stands. Cheapo radio shack speaker wire. This is my second system.

Changing the wiring was a nice improvement in my Ks. I also put a new tweeter on one of the pair. The new tweeter, of course, is not 'matched' to the crossover, whatever that means. Still, the new tweeter sounds sweeter to my ears. It's not a night-and-day difference and at this point I would say it wasn't necessary.

The most interesting tweak might be to remove some of the stuffing from the cabinet. From my understanding, the K is a sealed box design and thus theoretically should have a lot of stuffing - more than the J or E. I've listened to them filled with Acousta Stuff for a few weeks. Yesterday I opened them up and removed A LOT of the stuffing. I wasn't too careful about what I left in there, but I tried to leave a layer of lining on the sides, etc. When I listened to them again, which I did one at a time, they sounded much dynamic and natural. Some resolution seemed to have been lost, but the music had greater texture. I am personally very skeptical of people on the web making great claims for different modifications, so take this with a grain of salt; I should listen to them some more, with different kinds of music, and also experimenting with exactly how much stuffing to have in the box. I will say, however, that the difference with the stuffing removed was greater than the new tweeter, the new wire, and the Acousta Stuff. And best of all, this mod would be free. So you might give it a try.

When modding my Es, by the way, I noticed very little stuffing in the top of the cabinet around the tweeter. The E is great with drum sounds, there's a real snap to the drums, and I attributed this partly to the lack of stuffing. When I removed the stuffing from my K, the drums sounded much more like they do coming from the E.

Anyway, I would say with some cap substitutions and removing some stuffing you might be able to improve the performance of the K. Whether they could ever be as good as the ANs, I don't know.


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Guest energyandair


Thanks for the info on what you have tried.

I think that when I get to it (which may be a while) I will focus on the capacitors and trying to reposition the fill if it has sagged.

Before I get to the K's though, I'll probably do my E II's. I have a friend who has built Audio Note E Kit speakers and he is interested in seeing how the insides compare. It will be interesting to see how different the crossover is and I guess we can also take some simple electrical measurements on the drivers.

I think (but am not sure) that the sides of both the Snell E II and the Snell K are particle board with an outer timber veneer. I'll check when I have them open.


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Guest Dake13


>Before I get to the K's though, I'll probably do my E II's. I

>have a friend who has built Audio Note E Kit speakers and he

>is interested in seeing how the insides compare. It will be

>interesting to see how different the crossover is and I guess

>we can also take some simple electrical measurements on the


I modified my EII xovers with Black Gates and Alpha Core inductors. I was very careful to match the new parts closely to the ones I was replacing. Let me know if you're interested in hearing more about it, but I listen to these as my main speakers and I'm very happy with them. However, I might be getting a Kit 2 in the next couple of months - finances permitting. What interests me about the Kit 2 is that AN is now offering a Black Gate option.

I'm also going to photograph all my Snell xovers and put them up on the site over the next few days. And, btw, I have photos of AN xovers from the web so let me know if you want me to email them to you.

>I think (but am not sure) that the sides of both the Snell E

>II and the Snell K are particle board with an outer timber

>veneer. I'll check when I have them open.

Yeah, let me know. Now that you mention it, it might be particleboard.


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Guest energyandair


Thanks for the offer. I would appreciate any photos, links, measurements or other info you may have.

Its a great idea putting some of the stuff up on the site.

What difference to the sound did your changes to the E II's make? Have you had a chance to listen to Audio Notes and how did they compare?


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Guest Dake13

David -

>Thanks for the offer. I would appreciate any photos, links,

>measurements or other info you may have.

I'll try to take some snaps over the weekend.


>What difference to the sound did your changes to the E II's

>make? Have you had a chance to listen to Audio Notes and how

>did they compare?

My speakers were much more resolving after the changes. In the three years I've listened to them, I've occasionally gotten paranoid that I screwed them up by skewing the crossover point and changing their balance, or something along those lines. (This is the old to-mod-or-not-to-mod dilemma.) Every time, I've tracked down the problem to something else: a bad tube, an aging cartridge, etc. Peter Q, as maybe you know, says the only way you can modify the Snells is to change the wiring - anything else will mess them up, he says. Overall, I feel it was worth it, but I'm more careful about modding speakers now than I was then. I do think, with the Ks, Js and Es, the lytics give them a slightly grainy sound. My EIIs don't sound grainy at all. The parts I used in the xover were Black Gate ACs, Mill resistors, Alpha Core inductors, and Auricap/Zen caps.

I should say I'm not a 'soundstage' guy, and I don't really think the Snells create a soundstage per se. What they seem to me to offer is openness, balance, speed, and dynamics and texture.

The only AN's I've heard are the AN/Js. They're pretty good speakers, no question. My perspective on the Audio Notes have changed over the last few years however. I admit when I first modded my Snells I wanted to make them into budget Audio Notes. Now I'm looking to buy the Audio Notes, and I just want them to play like pimped out Snells. Which is pretty much what they are.


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As a point of information, removing the stuffing from an acoustic suspension loudspeaker system will decrease the woofer's damping. This can lead to an audible peak in the woofer's response. This can increase the apparant bass heard. The type, amount, and arrangement of stuffing is critical to "tuning" the system. It is not predictable in the general case to know in advance what removing the stuffing will do to the system F3. By lowering the damping factor, you generally increase the F3 by the square of the reduction but in removing the stuffing, you also incraese the volume of air inside lowering the restoring force and the F3 by a proportional amount. These two factors ofset each other and which is more important depends on the specifics of the stuffing. If the speaker system manufacturer did his job well, the system is tuned to "critical damping" which is approximately 0.7. This is the flattest most extended bass response possible for the mass of the moving elements and the amount of air trapped inside. This is the design goal of the best AR speakers. Unfortunately, the system cannot be reliably restored once the stuffing has been tampered with or has changed over time without test equipment. The best and most controllable way to alter the frequency response of an acoustic suspension speaker is with the use of a graphic or parametric equalizer. Response can often be extended linearly by half an octave or more within the woofer's power handling capability this way and of course, other frequency response curves for various purposes are possible as well.

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Guest denmarkdrivers

indeed soundminded, i would not recommend removing insulation from any speaker, if it sounds better with insulation removed its not a good speaker maybe

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