Review: Snell K.5 Monitor

Category: Speakers

This is an update of a review I did more than a year ago and posted elsewhere.

This is a two-way, shielded monitor. Dimensions: 18 x 8-1/2 x 12", 26 lbs. Cross over adheres to an "in-phase" or Linkwitz Reilly design. Bass driver is 6-1/2" (165mm) unit. Tweeter is a 1" (24mm) black-anodized aluminum dome. Product literature indicates that frequency is 48-20,000Hz (±3dB.

This is a very well-designed and made speaker. It is equipped with a heat sink, baffle, as well as a placement switch for selecting different equalization for free space and near-boundary location. The speaker grill consists of a perforated metal cover. The speaker is bi-amping/wiring capable.

I use these speakers exclusively for music. I wasn't too happy with the speakers when I first brought them home. They almost seemed muffled--although that is probably too strong a word. Perhaps restrain in the upper mids is a better description.

After about a month, they sounded better. It took some time and a bit of work finding the right placement. Not difficult but it just takes time. And I happy to say that I am very satisfied with how they sound now, and am especially pleased by the bass. They took awhile to break in--about a month. I have also moved them away from the back walls and corners (I didn't want to use the placement switch).

The best and the worst thing I can say about these speakers is that they are very neutral. Perhaps this is due to the Creek OBH-14 passive premap/DAC I use with it. You can definitely tell the good recordings from the bad ones. They are very unforgiving of bad recordings. I believe the speakers are at their best when played a little loud. At normal listening volume, they may seem a little restrained--I certainly wouldn't characterize them as dynamic. But they have a pretty wide soundstage and you get a pretty good sense of the instrumentation. It is definitely worth an audition if you don't have much room, a pretty powerful amp, and prefer a transparent presentation (as opposed to a realistic one).

In summary, these speakers are what I believe "monitors" should be: they don't embellish. They tell it like it is, for better or worse. They also handle the low, mid-range, and high very well and are engaging at louder volumes. I certainly recommend them at the list price. I would highly recommend them if you can find them at a discount. In either case, if it is possible, take them home for a demo. Also, demo them with good and bad recordings to see how neutral they can be.

Associated gear
Parasound mono amps
Creek pre-amp
Toshiba DVD
AudioQuest Slate speaker wires

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I also appreciate what these do well, but they did not work out for me. My time with them was about one month so I may not have put quite enough hours on them to fully break them in. They reveal a great amount of detail and when listening to a vocalist the intonations and emotions are rendered very convincingly. Musical instruments display a good sense of harmonic structure. In short, you get out what went in. Happily, they also don't make imperfect recordings sound wretched.

In my system, the woofers had limited bass extension and power. It could have been my amp, a Bryston or the like may be a better pairing. But the deal breaker was that they lacked that 'musicality' thing. I liken 'musicality' to 'toe-tapping' or 'rhythmn' in Linn-speak.

Previously, I used the musical Paradigm Monitor 5's in this system. The Snells are far more refined and communicative although less musical in the system. Also tried Von Schweickert VS1's which delivered better sounding bass and musicality but ended up swapping them all out for my closeted older Spendor Sp1/2's. They are not as finely detailed but they deliver musicality and also the bass power/drive. I highly recommend this combination of ARC/Spendor.

CD: Audio Research CD2
Amplifier: Audio Research CA50
Cables: MIT Terminator 2 all around (biwired)
Other speakers: Paradigm Monitor 5v2, Von Schweickert VR1, Spendor SP1/2a
I have the K.5mk2 great reviews is AS is what initially attracted me to giving them a try. I've lived with them for over a year and just love them with my CJ preamp / amp and Shanling CD. The only other speakers I've considered is the B&W 805 sig and the DynAudio C1.4. I use these with a nice sub so I'm not expecting them to be full range.
They have been replaced but can be had for a bargain.. Snell's don;t seem to be very popular.. if you find a pair grab then.. if you are looking for ruler flat you won't be disappointed.