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Snell LCR7 XL 30th Anniversary Bookshelf Speaker

by June 30, 2009
Snell LCR7 XL

Snell LCR7 XL

  • Product Name: LCR7 XL
  • Manufacturer: Snell
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStarhalf-star
  • Value Rating: StarStar
  • Review Date: June 30, 2009 03:40
  • MSRP: $ 6000

Stand-mounted, magnetically shielded, sealed-box, two-way loudspeaker intended for left, right, or center use.

Tweeter: 1" soft-dome tweeter
Woofer: Two 5.25" magnesium-cone woofers.
Crossover frequency: 2kHz
Frequency response: 75Hz–22kHz, ±3dB
Nominal impedance: 4 ohms
Sensitivity: 90dB/W/m
Maximum SPL (pair): 110dB
Dimensions: 19" H by 7" W by 8.75" D
Weight: 26 lbs
Finishes: Cherry veneer or hand-rubbed satin black walnut (most wood and paint finishes available on special order), with silver or black perforated metal grilles and solid aluminum end caps, anodized silver or black.


  • Looks
  • Fantastic high end
  • Ruler flat midrange
  • Build quality


  • Grills very difficult to remove, damage edges
  • Pricey
  • Require sub
  • Packaging substandard


Snell LCR7 XL Build Quality

Snell is not a new name in speakers and is known for high end in-room and in-wall offerings. The LCR7 XLs are one of their premier speakers that feature a design by Snell Chief Engineer Joe D’Appolito memorializing the 30th anniversary of Snell Acoustics. Utilizing a D'Appolito array (or Mid-Tweet-Mid, MTM for short, design) and the renown SEAS XL drivers, the LCR7 XL represent the pinnacle of what you can achieve through components and experience. At $6000 a pair, they certainly seem to be sparing no expense. There is a standard LCR7 version without the driver and crossover upgrades that retails for $2000/pair. Honestly, when I agreed to the review, I thought I was getting the standard version. Talk about a welcomed surprise!

Build Quality

snell_inbox1.JPGMy first impression of the Snell Acoustics LCR7 XL was not as positive as you might think. They were single-boxed encased in a plastic bag with a foam endcap. While my thoughts on the ubiquitous cotton sock are well known to Audioholics readers, let me restate - I hate them. I much prefer plastic as it actually protects rather than just gives some sort of pseudo-impression of quality. With a speaker like the LCR7 XL, you certainly don't need to put on airs. No, my concern was the boxing. While the speaker arrived in good condition despite the shipper's best efforts to the contrary (notice the gash on the side of the box), the box was not sealed. There were only a few staples across the top! I could actually see inside of the box from the top. This seems to be a very convenient way for rain, snow, bugs, and all matter of debris to get access to the speaker during storage and transit. Especially here in Florida where it rains pretty much every day, I'd be concerned about damage. At this price point, components are usually shipped in crates! Luckily, the speakers did not have any damage of that sort as they were in transit during a particularly unusual (for the summer) dry-spell.


snell_grillOn.JPGUnboxing the speakers, I couldn't help but be impressed by their size and weight. The LCR7 XLs are one of the larger bookshelf speakers I've had the pleasure of reviewing and I couldn't help but wonder how they would do on stands. I suspected (correctly as you'll see later) that they'd be fine because of the weight. At 26 lbs, the LCR7 XLs feel solid. Extremely solid. So solid you'll wonder if there is any space left in there for the drivers. The speakers are only 7" wide and a bit over 8" deep but a whopping 19" tall. You'll probably recognize these measurements more resemble a center channel than a bookshelf - and you'd be right. D'Appolito design are optimized for vertical orientation but in the right situations, they can also function well horizontally for center channel duties. The LCR designation should give this away as the speaker is designed to be used as a Left, Right, or Center channel (of course, surround and rear speakers are also on the table but LCRSR is a little cumbersome, don't you think?).

Editorial Note on the D'Appolito Design by Gene DellaSala
A D’Appolito driver topology can only be truly optimized for vertical orientation. The crossover network is usually designed for flat axial response as opposed to flat power response (which is only the same when the speaker is an infinitesimally small point in space). This can never be true for a D'Appolito Array for obvious reasons. If you have your front L & R at 30 degrees, then having a smaller horizontal dispersion window will cut down on inter channel interference and likely result in better stereo imaging. Using a speaker like this as a center channel oriented horizontally is a special case. For the most part, people have to locate the center channel above or below the screen, so by having a larger radiation angle top to bottom (vertical), instead of left to right (horizontal) makes a lot of sense. Now for a Left or Right channel speaker, since this is far more likely to be at or near optimum level (height) for listening, you want a wider horizontal dispersion, and a narrower vertical dispersion, as side wall reflections are better spatial cues for imaging than are ceiling and floor reflections which tend to be more likely to detract from the sound quality in a normal room than do side wall reflections. This is why you would orient this speaker vertically for the front channels and NEVER horizontally.

snell_grillTop.JPGThe review samples have a cherry veneer (gloss black is also an option as are custom finishes for those interested) and a black metal mesh grill (silver is also available). I had a bit of a time getting the grills off at first before I figured out that you needed to pull out from the sides. There are thin strips of rubberized tape around the tabs at the top and bottom of the grills. The sides of the cabinet have an indentation where the end of the grill snaps in to keep them in place. They were never as secure as I'd like as I noticed a little movement of the grills with some nudging. However, there was never any noise from the grill during playback (when the grills were one which wasn't often with speakers as good looking as these). I was surprised to see Snell go with this grill design especially considering how popular (and well implemented) magnetic grills have become. For a speaker in this price point, this grill seems unnecessarily cluncky.

Underneath the grill you'll notice the copper highlights of the woofer phase plugs and ring around the tweeter. The front baffle is black and the drivers are inset. The woofers are 5.25" with magnesium cones. The tweeter has a Sonotex dome (a proprietary fabric from SEAS) and a neodymium magnet. As mentioned, the drivers are all manufactured by SEAS, a Norway based driver manufacturer known for some of the highest quality transducers and in business since 1950. If you think Snell is skimping on the drivers, you're sadly mistaken. These are components of the highest order which is reflected in the retail price of this product.

snell_term.JPGThe edges of the speaker are all rounded and the sides and back sport the cherry veneer. The tops and bottom are capped with a black bushed aluminum plate (silver, again, also available). The aluminum obviously adds to the weigh of the speaker but also allows for worry-free stand placement. Unlike veneered surfaces which can scratch, ding, or dent, the aluminum is practically invulnerable. The back of the speaker has a small, inset housing with two pairs of binding posts with an included jumper bar. The copper motif is not carried through to the back of the unit with the binding posts and jumper having a brushed steel look. There is also a boundary compensation switch for placement close to walls. I actually like the more industrial look of the binding posts. It gives the LCR7 XLs a bit of a different look from the more traditional binding posts you see on every other speaker on the market.

The fit and finish of the speaker overall was very good. The only problem I noted was where the grills met the cabinet. As I mentioned, the way the mesh grills work is that they slide between the aluminum top/bottom plate and around the sides of the baffle. The problem was where it met the veneered sides, it had damaged the veneer. This was clearly visible on close inspection on both speakers (before I tried getting the stubborn grills off). While the edges of the grill are bent over and not at all sharp, moving the speaker (like taking it from the box to the stand) generally pushes on the grill. This in turn pushes on the edge of the veneer which causes it to split. I don't see how this damage is going to be avoided given the grill design. My advice upon receipt of the speaker is to check those edges carefully for damage. If there is none (or not enough to make you send them back), make sure not to put too much pressure on the grill when you are moving the speaker around. This seems to me to be a bit of a slip in a speaker at this price point. For $6k, you shouldn't have to treat your speakers with kid gloves. Honestly, these speakers are so good looking without the grills that I wish Snell would just put a small screen over the tweeter and leave it at that. The phase plugs protect the most vulnerable part of the woofer by eliminating the dust cap and the only point that draws little fingers left is the dome tweeter.

snell_damage1.JPG snell_damage2.JPG

snell_apart.JPGOpening up the speakers, it is easy to see that the quality did not stop with the choice of drivers. Under each driver is a thin rubber ring to reduce any physical noise. The woofers have a cast basket, the tweeter is in a sealed backbox, and the crossover spans nearly the entire back of the cabinet encompassing two separate boards. There is a center brace directly behind the tweeter. The box is constructed out of 5/8" MDF and is absolutely stuffed full of polyfill. I don't think I've ever seen so much polyfil in a box this size before. The cabinet construction and bracing explains the overall inertness of the box as the "knock" test practically hurt my knuckles. The connectors on the drivers are the snap on rather than soldered which is a bit unexpected at this price point. While it made it easier for me to get pictures, I expected a more permanent connection. Actually, I wouldn't mind seeing some sort of "lug" attachment to allow for easy service while providing a more robust connection than the snap on type. I've seen more than one snap-on connector bent and nearly broken in speakers in the past. The crossover appears to be constructed of quality parts with high tolerance big yellow poly caps, ceramic resistors. The wiring is a bit thin and I was surprised to see they didn’t use twisted pair to reduce coupling and noise pickup.

snell_drivers.JPG      snell_stuff.JPG

snell_cross1.JPG     snell_cross2.JPG


LCR7 XL Setup and Measurements

snell_grillOff.JPGAs I mentioned, the one thing I was really worried about with the Snell Acoustics LCR7 XL was their height. Looking at them, I thought I might have to worry about them falling off my Studio Tech stands. While I can mass-load the stands, I haven't simply because I have to move them so often. While the Snells only weigh 26lbs, they are solid and well balanced. When I placed them on the stand, it was as if they became part of the stand! I honestly forgot they were bookshelves as I was climbing behind them to get to cables and other gear (and thrown Legos). Never once did they falter, tip, or even hint that they might go over. This is surly an interaction between the sturdy stand construction and the Snell even weight distribution.

I set the LCR XLs about 8 feet apart and 8 feet from my prime listening position. The were wired with Ram Electronics HS series cables and powered by either a Denon AVR-2307CI pushing Seymour AV Ice Block 5001 500 Watt Ice Block Monoblocks or the Emotiva RSP-1/RPA-1 combo. Source was either a Denon DVD-3910 via analogue to the Emotiva combo or HDMI to the Denon or PS3 to the Denon. Digital cabling was provided by Impact Acoustics and analogue by Blue Jeans Cable.

snell_mid.JPGThe first thing I do when I set up a pair of speakers is play with positioning. Even before I did any measurements, I knew that the LCR XLs should be placed off axis. Pointed directly at me, the high end of the speakers was piercing and bright. Way too much for my taste. With the speakers off axis, I found the sound much more pleasant and remarkably accurate (I'll reserve the rest of my comments for the listening section). I ended up with the speakers pointed nearly directly forward with just a slight toe in of maybe 5 degrees. The sweetspot of the LCR XLs was frankly amazing with a very wide but defined center image that could be discerned from a number of seats in my home theater.

I was definitely glad that I had external amplification with the Snell Acoustics LCR7 XL as they did seem a bit power hungry. While their efficiency was the main culprit, part of this was because I couldn't get them to distort and therefore could turn them up higher without thinking they were too loud. I've experienced almost immediate listener fatique with other speakers of lower quality. I’d turn them up to a "reasonable" level and within a few moments I'd have to turn them back down because of ear fatigue from screeching tweeters and compressing woofers. With the Snells, I could turn them up to reference levels and beyond without any hint of fatigue or compression. While your midlevel receivers may be able to technically power these, I'd suggest springing for an amp. Of course, anyone spending $6k on a pair of speakers probably has already done so but just in case.

snell_tweeter.JPGWhile I was reviewing the Snell Acoustics LCR7 XL in a 2-channel configuration, I couldn't help but wonder what they would sound like in a full surround setup (or at least three across the front). While I've often used review speakers in conjunction with my reference speakers, rarely do I find them so outclassed as I have with the Snells. My RBH 515C center channel has melded well with most other speakers. In fact, the only time it hasn't is when the other speakers couldn't keep up. With the LCR7 XLs, it was obvious that my RBH center channel speaker was outclassed. Of course, with the RBH a fraction of the price, you'd expect that. But I've reviewed speakers in this price range before and never noticed so much of a difference. The LCR7 XLs were just so much clearer and more dynamic.

Measurements & Analysis

For laboratory measurements I used the Sencore SP395A FFT Audio Analyzer and a Sherbourn 2/75B amp, I measured the Snell Acoustics LCR7 XL's in-room on- and off-axis frequency response with 1/12th octave resolution.


Snell LCR7 XL 1 Meter Frequency Response (1/12th Octave) On Axis
Note - this is NOT a 1 watt measurement

As you can see, the LCR7 XL measures incredibly flat on axis except for a bump around 15kHz with a fairly dramatic dropoff below 80Hz. Snell specs these speakers to 75Hz which seems around right from these measurements. The high end bump was a little disconcerting however. The lighter line is with the boundary compensation turned on. It does a very smooth job of reducing the bass output below 500Hz by about 3dB.


Snell LCR7 XL 1/2 Meter Frequency Response (1/12th Octave)
Pink - On axis, Orange - 15 degrees off axis, Yellow - 30 degrees off axis

What's important in this graph is again how flat the frequency response is between 80Hz and 10kHz but also how it flattens out with the 30 degree (yellow) line. I did a few informal tests with the mic around 4" away from the speaker and at 35-40 degrees off axis, the response was nearly ruler flat all the way up to 18kHz. Off axis is definitely where you want to be with these speakers unless you like a little more high end energy or have lost a little hearing in that range.


Snell LCR7 XL Impedance

The Sencore consistently measures impedance one ohm low. I measured the impedance at the terminals at about 4 ohms which lines up well with the Sencore and Snell's specs.

Snell Listening Tests and Conclusion

snell_front.JPGMy first step was to test the usable in-room bass response of the Snell Acoustics LCR7 XLs. Grabbing my Rives Test CD2, I played a few test tones. It was clear that past 80Hz, the LCR7 XLs didn't have much to offer. In my room, I measured with the Radio Shack SPL corrected tones a 10dB drop between 100 and 80Hz and another 10dB between 80 and 63Hz. Part of the 80Hz is likely due partially to a suckout around that frequency in my room but it shouldn't account for all of it. Including a sub with the Snell Acoustics LCR7 XLs is an absolute must.

I've often claimed that any speaker can do movies (though obviously some better than others) but its music where the quality speakers shine. As a quick aside, with my new AV Rant sponsored PS3, this is becoming less and less true. The high definition surround formats are really showing off with a surround sound system can do. I watched Serenity on Blu-ray along with Rocky Balboa and a number of others. The dynamics of the speakers really played well with the greater dynamic range and fidelity of the DTS HD and Dolby TrueHD tracks. While I'm not sure that I could in good conscience suggest that someone purchase such high dollar speakers just for movies, but you will, in the right room, be able to hear a clear difference between the Snells and many lower dollar speakers.

It was very hard to do an objective analysis of the Snell LCR7 XLs and the Salk SongTower QWTs. The Salks have a lot more bass so I had to try to ignore that in the A/B comparison or add a sub to the Snells. Neither was a very good solution so I just ran them both full range, picked music without much low end content, and focused on the midrange and high end. In the Salk's favor, I thought they occasionally provided a bit better imaging and perhaps comparable soundstage. On every other metric (except bass response) I felt the Snells won hands down. High end clarity and extension, midrange warmth and depth, basically everything was anywhere from a bit to a lot better with the Snells. At over 3x's the price, it better be.

CD: Yello - the eye
yelloI often use this CD for setup purposes. Honestly, it isn't all that great to listen to for enjoyment. It is electronic and contains a lot of high and low information. The high end, in particular, can get a little grating over time. First though, let's talk about the bass. One of the drawbacks of the LCR7 XLs is that they fall off pretty fast after 80Hz. This forces you to use a sub. I expected the bass to roll off much more dramatically than it did. I've heard speakers that have spec'ed bass response much lower than the Snells that didn't have usable bass as low as the LCR7 XLs. In-room the bass response was impressive considering the measurements. While you're still going to need a sub for the low end to reach the lowest octaves with authority, the midrange and high end is fully fleshed out and rich.

The high end, especially with this challenging material, was surprisingly enjoyable. Where other speakers compress and get shrill, the LCR7 XLs maintained their composure and actually allowed me to somewhat enjoy this album even at higher volumes. Of course, this was dependent on sitting off axis. As I moved the speaker around, it was obvious that a direct orientation was not to my liking. Even at lower volumes, I found the high end too fatiguing. Once I moved off axis, it was like the Snells were a different speaker. While others might suggest that this is a flaw in the speaker, I personally don't see it that way. People have different preferences especially for the high and low end. Universally, I think, people tend to appreciate a flat midrange. With the drop off of the speaker in the bass requiring a sub and the ability to "tune" the high end by turning the speaker toward you, you have a very versatile and customizable experience.

CD: Speaker Shootout Test Disk
A few months ago we did a $1500-$2000 floorstanding speaker shootout. The participants brought a selection of their favorite tracks and I kept a copy. It includes everything from Seal to Lyle Lovett. A lot of it is bass heavy tracks for testing floorstanding speakers but of course it's got tracks for midrange and high end. Male and female vocals, a variety of instruments… it's just some of the best of the music we've ever used to test speakers. The Snell Acoustics LCR7 XL performed better than any speaker I've ever experienced in my listening environment. The bass was limited in extension, of course, but what was there was linear and accurate. The midrange was clear and full. Actually, if I had to describe the LCR7 XLs in a word, it'd be rich (ironically considering the price). The depth of the soundstage was remarkable, the dynamic range never felt compressed or stunted.

SACD: Various
I pretty much went through my entire collection of SACDs with this review. Of course, the fidelity was excellent with the LCR7 XLs but straight fidelity isn't everything. Two things that I was concerned about with the LCR7 XLs were imaging and soundstage. I'm used to speakers with one great feature having it at the expense of the others. With such an airy and smooth high end, I thought that I might have some deficiencies elsewhere. My fears were mostly unfounded. The width of the soundstage with the LCR7 XLs was nearly as large as any speaker I've had in my room. Side to side pans extended well past the physical location of the speaker and nearly to the wall and beyond. The center image was solid if a bit soft at times. The wide sweet spot seemed to work slightly against the imaging of the LCR7 XLs in this regard. Not irredeemably so, however, but not as crisp as I've experienced. The more I toed in the speakers, the better this central image seemed to get but, of course, at the expense of increasing the energy of the high end. There is definitely going to be a balance here as you experiment for yourself.


snell_logo.JPGIt is clear that I love the sound of the Snell Acoustics LCR7 XL. They are certainly the best sounding speakers that I've ever had in my room. That being said, they are extremely expensive. While you can make an argument that the cost is justified by the upgraded drivers, the lack of bass response (admittedly by design) and a grill that damages the veneer with normal use, I have a hard time rating these at a very high value. Performance-wise, they are tops with a fantastically clear high end and nearly limitless power handling. These are speakers you can drive practically until your amp gives out since they seem to have no real upper limit. I'd love to have an opportunity to compare these to standard LCR7s which cost roughly a third of the XLs. At $6000, they may be extremely well performing, but there are surely a lot of other speakers in the price range that can perform similarly without the limitations. If you have the money, I can't stress enough that you should give these a listen. Heck, even if you don't, you should just so you know how good speakers can sound. Just be sure to give yourself a lot of time because once these start playing, you're not going to want to get up.

Snell Acoustics LRC7 XL


Snell Acoustics
300 Jubilee Drive
PO Box 3717
Peabody, MA 01961-3717

Tel: (978) 538-6262


About Snell Acoustics
For 31 years Snell Acoustics has designed and manufactured high-end loudspeakers, and has earned a reputation as one of the world’s foremost manufactures of custom-built, handcrafted speakers. Based in Peabody, Massachusetts, the company is renowned for its aesthetically pleasing hand-made cabinets, award-winning sound, and pioneering efforts with THX.™ Snell Acoustics is a wholly owned subsidiary of D&M Holdings Inc.

The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor
Build QualityStarStarStarStarStar
Treble ExtensionStarStarStarStarStar
Treble SmoothnessStarStarStarStarStar
Midrange AccuracyStarStarStarStarStar
Bass ExtensionStarStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStarStarStar
Dynamic RangeStarStarStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStarStar
About the author:
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As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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