It Looks Different Because it is. Two channel stereo has served us well for decades but immanent multichannel music formats require something better: a directional control that brings the rooms reflections less into play, but a broad and smooth forward radiation that maintains the purity of music. Snell has achieved this with its new XA Series.
DESIGNED WITH MULTI-CHANNEL MUSIC IN MIND. XA REVEALED. The objective: a design that would optimize multichannel performance while dodging the significant sonic limitations that plague all traditional multi-channel designs, which inevitably sacrifice musicality for "brute-force" directivity control. The solution to this moon and stars proposition is the Snell eXpanding Array.
The physical reality is a loudspeaker whose vertical coverage preserves reference quality for listeners seated on nearly any chair, stool or sofa-or even standing. Yet despite this, the XA's smooth vertical directivity dramatically reduces unwanted reflections from floor and ceiling, reflections that inevitably muddy sound quality and destroy delicate timbral shadings and transient definition. But since the XA system imposes control only over the more extreme off-axis vertical wavefronts, and since its constant-directivity effect remains steady over all upper-octaves frequencies, it yields these dramatic improvements without sacrificing the "air," "life," or "rhythmic drive" of excellent recordings-particularly two-channel ones..
Heat Sink/Terminal Plate
Heat-producing crossover components are mounted to a die-cast aluminum heat sink for stable, consistent performance at high power. This large heat sink also draws heat from inside the cabinet, keeping critical driver components cooler. The terminal plate has two sets of five-way gold-plated binding posts for bi-wiring or bi-amplifying.
It's Furniture, Too Snell's woodworking needs little introduction. Twenty-five years ago we were small enough to select our veneers right at the docks, supervise their milling, and book-match the results ourselves. And then we would hand-select, hand-craft, and hand-finish each enclosure to produce cabinets of unexcelled beauty and quality. Guess what? We still do. The result is the unmistakable value of artistic wood craftsmanship. Look, touch, and feel; you'll understand.
We use premium, book-matched veneers chosen for grain consistency and aesthetics. We even go so far as to veneer the inside of the cabinet, so it won¹t warp or come apart at the edges as humidity levels change.
Parametric Deep Bass Equalizer.
A parametric deep-bass equalizer provides powerful speaker-to-room tuning. It provides unprecedented control over a broader or narrower band of frequencies (as required by room acoustics) anywhere in the deep-bass region. The XA90ps' parametric subwoofer EQ can address such very common defects imposed by room modes as an upper-bass "hump" or a "weak octave." Or it can be deployed at the lowest octave to extend effective response to an honest 20 Hz.
Three Layer "Platform" Baffle
Three-layer "Platform" baffle promotes exquisite sonic focus and detail with its remarkably "dead" structure, killing cabinet vibration at the source to decrease panel resonances, and hence coloration, in the critical midrange. The XA drivers mount to an extremely dense outer layer that floats over a "squishy," energy-absorbing neoprene middle layer, floating in turn over a medium-density inner structural layer. Infra Red Remote
Infra Red Remote controls the Cinema/Reference bass contour, treble boost /cut and subwoofer level. The XA 90ps encourages fine-tuning of subwoofer balance to room acoustics and individual preference, so it can provide genuinely full-range, musically correct, fully integrated bass and treble regardless of room size.
The XA90ps maintains the Snell tradition of legitimate deep-bass power from audiophile-quality systems. Its four active 10-inch low-frequency drivers are equivalent to a 20-inch powered subwoofer. But that's just the beginning: 300 watts of "smart" power drives each woofer-pair in a computer-optimized vented enclosure-the striking cylindrical layout permits the narrow overall width to preserve great imaging. The bottom line is defined, "fast" bass to well below 30 Hz with virtually zero dynamic limitations.
XA 90ps Towers can be placed Freestanding or next to large objects like TVs and cabinets.
Front-Firing Tweeter The 1" (24mm) black anodized aluminum, separate PVC surround.
Dual 2.5 " drivers mounted in seperate enclosure.
2x6.5" (160mm) Distortion-reducing magnetic circut.
2x10"e (250mm) Dual spider, Heatsink.
Hardwood veneer on 3/4-inch MDF for sides and front of cabinet. I-beam internal bracing.
Exposed Layer: 3/4" High-Density Fiberboard.
Damping Layer: 1.5mm Neoprene.
Inner Layer: 3/4" Medium-Density Fiberboard.
5-way gold-plated terminals accept spades as large as 5/16", pins, banana plugs, and bare wire to 12 gauge.
XA 90ps PRODUCT SPECIFICATIONS Frequency Response 32-22,000Hz (±3dB)
Network adheres to an "in-phase" or Linkwitz Reilly design. (Time alignment and coherency are achieved through the transition region from driver to driver.) Each crossover is individually tuned by our technicians to ±0.5dB of the Master Reference.
Custom-perforated cold-rolled steel grille; baked black enamel finish.
Includes four steel spikes, #5/16x18 threaded insert.
125 lbs (57kg)
54-1/2 x 11 x 19-1/2" ; (138 x 28 x 50cm)
Hand-sanded, hand-oiled cherry veneer. Hand-sanded, hand-painted Black Oak veneer.
Purchased At: I dont have these speakers, I have the XA75's
a Audio Enthusiast
Date Reviewed: March 5, 2001
This is a review of the Snell XA55cr Center Channel since it isn't available seperately and is part of the XA series.
The Snell XA55cr sells for $1300 list. Its configured with 2 - 6 ½ ” woofers, 2 - 2 ½ ” mid-ranges and 1-1” tweeter. The Snell XA55cr is rated for 350 Watts at 4 Ohms, weighs 37 pounds and can be bi-wired. The evaluation was done using a Marantz SR-18THX receiver that provides 140 Watts at 8 Ohms. Speaker wire was 12ft. of Kimber Cable 4TC with soldered termination. The connection was standard and bi wiring was not used.
The purpose of upgrading was to obtain a more musical and full range center channel that had more “punch” to it. There are two ways to evaluate a center, one while listening and watching movies and the other while listening to 5-channel music and not watching any video. Something I also feel is important for evaluation is the aesthetic characteristics of a center channel, such as appearance and weight, combined with the ability to place it on top of a RPTV. My budget for a center channel was $2000 and I was initially leaning to the B&W HTM1.
Right out of the box, the XA55cr center channel was smooth and not bright, nor did it show any harshness. After nearly 3 months of use, its characteristics have changed little from the time it was taken out of the box. The XA55cr is very accurate and sensitive. As far as a center channel is concerned, accuracy could best be defined by the ability to reproduce subtle sounds and correlate it to the action in a movie. The best example is picking up detailed sound when a character whispers or when clothing rumples in a movie scene. Its ability to reproduce dialog was one of the best from a center channel at any price below $5000. The low frequency extension of XA55cr is a strong suit where others like M&K have difficulty attaining. Car chases, explosions and deep voices all have a full range sound with a lifelike soundstage. I think the design of the 2 ½” mid-range driver and having two of them with the 1” tweeter really contributes to this wide sound stage. It was first tested with the “Fantasia 2000” DVD, which has a great musical selection, and the instruments were reproduced correctly and the soundstage was lifelike. On this DVD, George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” sounded beautiful and I listened to it repeatedly. The next test was with the DVDs “Toy Story” and “Toy Story II” that have a demanding soundtrack of music, dialog and action. The Snell XA55cr performed without hesitation and it felt like actually being at the movies. A similar test was done with the Revel C30 and it sounded bright and harsh to the extent of distracting from the movie. Another test was done with the DVD “Gone in 60 Seconds” that has a lot of action, car chases and explosions. Again, the Snell performed excellently and I was drawn into the movie and not the center channel or electronics.
Construction is excellent, which should be at this price range, using black ash wood with precise sharp corners. The speaker binding posts are gold plated and can accommodate ¼” spade lug connectors. The binding posts come with gold plated shunt clips that can be removed for bi wiring. The grill is metal that can be easily removed. The speaker has placement and treble toggle switches that can be utilized depending on placement characteristics. These switches were off for the review.
The first complaint has less to do with the Snell XA55cr and more of a complaint about my receiver not having the ability to adjust crossovers. Not having this ability can be a significant drawback if someone is using full range speakers. Secondly, on some high female voices and tenors, the Snell XA55cr does not perform as well as the M&K-150 and 5000 series speakers. In comparison, the voices seem slightly muddled and attenuated. Some people claim the M&K speakers are bright, but M&K deliberately designs a speaker primarily for movies and I feel that this may be a matter of personal taste; however, the M&K design of the 1” tweeter is probably the best 1” tweeter available in any speaker of any price.
The Snell XA55cr matches well to Snell Type C/V and D main speakers, although its best timbre matched with the newer Snell XA series. To get the best out of this Snell center channel, it would be a good idea to give lots of clean power and it will most certainly sing. For the money, it is reasonably priced and a good value.
I was able to listen to the Snell XA 90ps at a dealership in New York on a recent trip. The front end that fed the Snells consisted of Rogue Audio tube amp and preamp (3-4K total) and a 1K CD player. The set up in the room was decent, but not ideal. First impressions were good. These speakers with their powered 12-inch subs (2 twevles per side embodied within the main speaker) were very dynamic --- with symphonic music that was well recorded and extremly dynamic, these Snells presented fine inner detail at quiet moments and then simply exploded, effortlessly, into loud and musically realistic crescendos. Many systems lose their stereo image and suffer from compression of the instrumental seperation in space when music goes from near quiet to extremly loud in a short time frame (like in some symphonic music, big band, etc.) --- these Snells do not! They really are impressive for large scale works. More generally, they are fairly transparent, are emotionally engaging as music transmitters, lively and utterly listenable. More impressive still is that even when the source material is only modestly well recorded, the sound is still suprisingly good. Also impressive is the stability of the sound field generated from these speakers --- walk anywhere in the room and they sound good. Placement WRT walls is not the issue it is in other speakers --- again they play nicely even 1 foot from the wall (they are better 2.5 feet out --- but still impressive at even 1 foot). The range of music I listened to went from jazz to symphonic, to solo quitar and piano, to electronic music, to funk and rap --- it all sounded good!
Good however is a relative thing. Good compared to what? Compared to the Vandersteens, Theil 3.5, Alon Centris, Alon II's, and the 3 different Mirages (3-10K) that I have recently compared them to, the Snells are the clear winners. Now I have a pair of 16 year old Magnepan MG3's with an old audiopro powered subwoofer as my home speakers. I have loved them for years and am beginning to look around for a change of pace --- to see whats out there that everyone is raving about. How do the Snells, as an overall speaker, compare to the Maggie/sub's I own? I would'nt trade them even up (well maybe... hum.. no)! The Maggies (generations old now!) are more transparent and throw a much larger (taller, wider, and deeper)soundstage (soundstage size is ever so critical in the illusion of real music --- as a Maggie man and having listened to the huge lifelike stage for years, especially the realistic image height, I find it hard to listen to the conventional driver-based systems, even large ones like these Snells that project midget musicians before you.). The Snells are much more dynamic and more versitile (the Maggies are sweet-spot sensitive, tough to position in the room, are not able to play really rhythem-section driven hard rock/jazz fusion as realistically, and run out of dynamic head space whereas the Snells do not), but the Maggies, at what they do best (sitting in the sweet-spot and listening to acoustic music and symphonic music) are better. So it's what trade off do you live with --- but with my system paid for years ago, no way i want to accept ANY tradeoff's in a 7K upgrade (I don't mind the $ --- if I can find a 10K system worth moving to, I will).
All this is to say that despite the hype, and despite the rheteric, the 6 or so speakers I have occasioned to hear (ranging from 2K - 10K) these past months --- SPEAKER QUALITY IS NOT PROPORTIONAL TO COST.
That leads to my final analysis --- these Snells are nice, versitile speakers --- but at 7K? Listen to the new Maggies, the MG 36's with a good powered sub, and at 3-4K you will blow the Snells away. At the same time, the Snells better many of their comparibly priced compitition. Bottom line --- fine speaker but at a price point that makes it only a reasonable value. If this were a 3K speaker, then you'd have something to rave about --- at 7K, as good as it is --- it's only a 3 star!