Center channel speaker to match Snell Type J speakers?

I'd like to upgrade to 5.1 surround sound. I'm hoping to keep my current speakers (Snell Type J -- the originals, reconed, from around 1981) and subwoofer (Hsu VTF-2).

I've been told that matching the center channel speaker timbre to the main speakers is important. I'd appreciate suggestions for a specific center channel speaker that will match (as closely as possible) my 40-year-old Snells in tone and quality.

Extra thanks for also recommending rear satellite speakers of roughly the same quality as the rest of my stuff (see below). Thanks!

  • Yamaha RX-V679BL 7.2-Channel MusicCast AV Receiver
  • Sony Wega HDTV KD-36XS955
  • Panasonic Blu-ray/VHS DMP-BD70V
  • Saachi All Multi Region Code Zone Free Blu-ray BDP-SA98
  • Motorola HDTV DVR QIP-7216

Hmmm, well given the tweet, want to consider DIY? :)

The LM-1C I posted would probably be a very good match. Tweet from same manufacturer.

Design is free:

Should be used with sub, free standing.


IMO... just go buy them (ideally two used pairs) that you can find used on hifi shark for easy budget money


(1) Mothball / pack up one speaker aside from pair #1 as a future repair backup, and
(2) Hook up the "other" speaker from pair#1 as your new matched centre channel to your LF and RF main set, and
(3) hook up the matched speaker pair#2 for your RR and LR surrounds;

and voila! .. you have a matched 5.1 speaker set sonically and appearance-wise as requested .

I like akg_ca's suggestion. One question: I see that Snell Type J speakers come in four flavors (my originals, II, III, and IV). Can I freely mix and match these? Or do I have to find four original Type J's?

Also, anything else I should consider if I go this route? (I presume it's already clear, but, just in case: I have no audio expertise whatsoever; I'm just a guy who would like to go from 2.1 to 5.1, and I happen to like the Snells I've got. Maybe this is a dumb idea -- feel free to let me know.)


Every brand of audio equipment , including speakers, has its own sonic signature .

Within the available used SNELL model variants -- especially for a 5.1 setup  wherein the CC and RL and RR are a non-critical  manufactured audio track--  , it won't matter to have that identical variant to your main fronts. To identically match them all is a nice-to-have, but not a must need -to-have choice. 

its just more if a speaker appearance matching thing .....  speaker (veneer colour and finish .... IF that is even a hyper-critical issue at all for your 5.1 speaker expansion plan.

in any case, even a slightly different newer/ older variant  of the same SNELL model speaker to serve as your CC, will be a quantum leap closer (if not even identical) then any 3rd party speaker choice, to matching the bespoke sonic signature of your current fronts and blend seamlessly with the fronts , .... full stop.

because the rears in a new 5.1 rig  are just a pure fill-in manufactured sound track , it won't  matter by comparison to try a clone to fronts. 

IMO just go snag a couple of used pairs to flesh out your multi-channel speaker expansion plan.

Option 2....(arguably preferred in the long-run)

depending primarily on
(I) your budget and
(ii) speaker shipping logistics, AND
(iii) assuming that you are still enthusiastically married to the SNELL family of speakers; and you will be able to find an antidote for any contagious "upgrade- itis" affliction going forward, 

THEN here is what I would do....

(1) Upgrade your existing main SNELL speakers (RF and LF) to the best model SNELL available , assuming there are other upgraded models to fill that niche. If so, then this move is an upgrade for your 2-channel audio.
(2) reposition your existing front speakers to serve as the "new" RR and LR rears in a 5.1 setup.
(3) Purchase one used SNELL speaker pair -- matched as close as possible to your rears in (2) -- available in the used market as highlighted in the prior post. This will provide your CC and a mothballed spare.

Everyone is certainly entitled to their opinion, and I do agree with some of what akg_ca says, however not this,

"especially for a 5.1 setup  wherein the CC and RL and RR are a non-critical  manufactured audio track"

This was true in the early days, but 5.1 today is 6 discrete audio channels. Above 5.1 (6.1, 7.1, etc.) is created using matrix processing.

The absolute best sound is created by using 5 identical speakers.

IMHO, I would try to find another pair of Snells like you currently have and use them on the rear, a 4.1 system. Center channel will be set to none creating "phantom center". You don't lose any information as it just splits into the front L&R. This will sound fine unless you are sitting way off axis to the picture. Then find another pair of the Snells to use one as the center and the other as a single back surround, a 6.1 system. The only problem for the center is that you cannot place it too close to your TV. I noticed you are still using an old style TV, and the Snell will cause a problem with its picture because the speaker is not shielded. All dedicated center channels are shielded to prevent this. That's why I suggest 4.1 to start, and maybe by the time you're ready for another pair of Snells, you'll have a new TV. Then placing the center close won't be a problem.

Thanks to all for your advice! I now understand the logistics involved in sticking with my Snells.

Obviously, I haven't bought speakers recently (unless you consider 35 years "recent"), so now I'm wondering if improvements have made some reasonable replacements available. Are their current speakers that are "Snell-like" in quality where I could purchase five for under $2,000? $1,000?

I apologize if this isn't a suitable question for this forum, and I don't mean to start a long debate. I just don't know other places where people have even heard of Snell, much less can suggest something that sounds like them.
FiveBlues - Welcome to the forum - 

I wanted to chime in here since I actually grew up with a pair of Snells and I'm quite familiar with the sound.  

These were my dad's that he powered with separate preamp and amp made by a company called Amber.  Unlike yours, his were the Type E II from the mid-80s and had a second rear-firing tweeter.

I remember distinctly that the Snells had several things that worked against them - the cabinets were lightweight and poorly damped leading to a lot of coloration and that the imaging was also very strange and the sound not at all dynamic or realistic.

This is all, of course, just my personal opinion so take that with a grain of salt if the Snells are something that you really enjoy.

As far as recommending other brands of speakers that will fit in well with your current Snells, that would be difficult as I've yet to hear anything since then that sounded similar.  If you're committed to the brand and want to do a 5 channel setup, I would use one of your existing speakers as a center and then try to hunt down 2 pairs of the larger Snells (like the Type E's I mentioned above) for your main L-R and Surround L-R.

Interestingly enough, I think that the rear-firing tweeter might by fun to try for a rear surround.

As far as recommending another brand in your budget (assuming you want to start from scratch), that's a bit tougher since it all comes down to the sound that you're after - You mention that you would prefer to stay with something within the same quality/ sound as the Snells, but I think that would be difficult as there has been quite a bit of advancement in cabinet, driver and crossover design since the 80s.

Maybe you should go give some other speaker brands a listen and see what suits you, otherwise, if you're patient I'll be you could eventually source a complete set of Snells well within your budget.

As a side note, my dad ultimately let go of the Snells and went with a set of Vandersteen 2Ce's (lots of bang for the buck) and has been very happy with them.  These routinely can be found easily for under $1K / pair and are a huge step up in performance from the Snells in every respect.

Perhaps you could check them out and see what you think?