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Snap AV Episode ES-700-TWR Review

An aesthetically pleasing loudspeaker for residential or high-end corporate environments. 8/16/2010 8:00 AM Eastern

Snap AV Episode ES-700-TWR Review

Aug 16, 2010 12:00 PM, By John McJunkin

An aesthetically pleasing loudspeaker for residential or high-end corporate environments.




On occasion, contractors and integrators worrking in commercial AV find themselves in need of loudspeakers that would be more likely found in a suburban home theater environment. Of course, some contractors do not limit their practice to just commercial or business-oriented clients; many specify audio and video technology to home¬owners in residential settings. But even in the commercial environment, there are certainly applications for attractive, furniture-quality loudspeakers—in particular, imagine an ultraposh urban office for an advertising executive, a stadim VIP suite, or an architecturally significant museum. For this type of application, high-quality traditional loudspeakers can be a better choice than in-wall or in-ceiling loudspeakers, largely for aesthetic reasons.

To serve this type of application, Snap AV offers the Episode ES-700-TWR, which is the tower version of the company's 700 series loudspeakers. I evaluated a pair and discovered a good-quality loudspeaker that is appropriately priced and hence a great choice for a contractor tasked with specifying an aesthetically pleasing traditional loudspeaker for either residential or upscale commercial applications.

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The loudspeaker is a little more than 12in. deep, 7.5in. wide, and 37in. tall. It is constructed of 3/4in. MDF, and it features substantial internal bracing. The purpose of the heavier construction is to arrive at a solid cabinet that does not resonate or otherwise suffer alterations to its shape or integrity. The loudspeaker weighs in at a little over 39lbs.—not super-heavy, but still a nice, solid foundation. The loudspeaker features a gorgeous glossy black finish that results from multiple applications of paint and clear coat—again, a very good choice for applications that call for a handsome loudspeaker to complement attractive furniture. Both rubber feet and spikes are delivered with the loudspeaker to facilitate use with virtually any kind of floor.

Topologically, the ES-700-TWR is a bi-ampable, dual-woofer, single-tweeter ported loudspeaker design. The woofers are 6.5in., with cones formed of a paper/Kevlar hybrid material and sporting a Nomex spider. Snap AV states in its specifications that these cones are created in a "multistep drying process" to arrive at a "natural, open-cell structure" for "well-damped, natural acoustical characteristics."

In my listening to these loudspeakers, I would describe the low end as solid, if a little uneven over the range of bass frequencies. I've heard plenty of woofers that wobble and flop away in a manner that doesn't bear a perfect resemblance to the input signal by any stretch. Fortunately, these loudspeakers do not exhibit the tubbiness that results from a lack of damping, something that's very important to my ear. The loud¬speakers exhibit a relatively long throw, enabling them to move a lot of air—an important attribute for a smaller woofer like this. The choice of two 6.5in. woofers versus one larger one contributes nicely to the aesthetics. Two 6.5in. woofers have nearly as much surface area as a single 10in. woofer. Large subwoofers connote high-power, high-volume, concert-level sound, which is not likely the intended visual imagery in the office or residential setting. Visually, I perceive loudspeakers with smaller woofers as delivering fidelity versus SPL, and I believe that most people subconsciously make this same connection. But on the other hand, to deliver a quality flat response, there must be sufficient low end, and the two 6.5in. woofers in the ES-700-TWR largely accomplish this, assisted by dual tapered, downward-firing ports.


Snap AV Episode ES-700-TWR Review

Aug 16, 2010 12:00 PM, By John McJunkin

An aesthetically pleasing loudspeaker for residential or high-end corporate environments.




The manufacturer's published frequency response is 35Hz to 23kHz. I might buy the top figure, but these loudspeakers do not reproduce 35Hz sound in any meaningful way. I would guess that in terms of the technical specs, this probably refers to the -10dB down point. The curve crosses 0dB a bit north of there, probably more like 60Hz to 70Hz. (I'm only guesstimating here. These loudspeakers were not RTA analyzed in an anechoic chamber; this is strictly my subjective approximation.) In my experience, ported loudspeakers can add unwanted artifacts to the low end, and result in some unevenness through the bass frequency range. These loudspeakers suffer a bit from this problem, which is virtually impossible to avoid when using ports. The bass delivered by these loudspeakers is reasonably solid.

Snap AV's tweeter is unique from most others in that it features a catenary (oblong) titanium dome tweeter, as opposed to the typical hemispherical dome. The result is that the high end is dispersed over a wider area than that of the hemispherical dome, which is perfectly even in all directions, theoretically. My concern would be that distributing more energy to the sides than directly on-axis would result in a bit of a hole in the pattern on-axis. Snap AV even admits as much in its documentation, explaining that more of the energy is distributed off-axis—but the company touts it as a positive, creating a "wider, more engaging soundstage with an open, forward sound." I am a huge fan of broadly dispersed high end, especially when it's very evenly distributed, and I found that for home-theater applications, broadcast and prerecorded alike, I enjoyed the wider soundstage that the loudspeaker imparts, in spite of the fact that I perceived the phantom center as being down a few decibels when listening in studio monitor mode (basically in an equilateral triangle). I followed the manufacturer's recommendation to toe the loudspeakers inward a bit to improve the image, and that helped a bit, but it still felt like the phantom center was pushed back into the mix somewhat. This may be an illusion; it may very well be the case that only the high end is diminished in the center, but if that is the case, it psycho-acoustically fooled my ear into hearing an attenuated phantom center.

Otherwise, the high end is pleasant, just the tiniest bit hypey and a tiny bit brittle as well. The stereo image created by the catenary dome tweeters truly is wide. I listened to recordings with which I'm very familiar, and hard-panned elements emerged from even further out into the stereo image. In regard to my listening choices, I divided my time into two segments: music and broadcast. I watched a broad variety of television, ranging from local news channels to movies in 5.1 surround. One thought that emerged clearly in my mind was that the slight emphasis in the mids and upper mids of this loudspeaker works quite well for most broadcast applications (particularly speech) but can pose some problems with music reproduction in some cases. This is not always true, but there were some music recordings that suffered a bit of nasal honk from the loudspeakers. In many other cases, however, the energy dispersion was perfectly fine for music. I listened to quite a range of music, including hard rock, orchestral, jazz, and electronic pop. These loudspeakers deliver a reasonably accurate representation of the recording. Probably the only one issue that caused me concern was some audible distortion in the mids to high mids, but this was only at high SPLs. At quiet to moderate listening levels, no distortion was audible.

The Snap AV Episode ES-700-TWR loudspeakers are intended for residential AV or commercial AV applications that call for an aesthetically pleasing traditional loudspeaker. They're reasonably priced, but deliver solid performance. I would definitely consider specifying these for the applications I've stated prior; they're unquestionably worth a listen.


John McJunkin is the principal of Avalon Podcasting in Chandler, Ariz. He has consulted in the development of studios and installations, and he provides high-quality podcast-production services.


Product Summary

  • Company: Snap AV
    www.snapav.com
  • Product: Episode ES-700-TWR
  • Pros: Aesthetically gorgeous.
  • Cons: Some distortion at higher SPLs.
  • Applications: Residential or commercial AV scenarios that call for aesthetically pleasing loudspeakers that deliver good-quality sound.
  • Price: $749 each

Specifications

  • Power handling: 200W RMS, 500W peak
  • Nominal impedance: 6§Ù
  • Frequency response: 35Hz-23kHz
  • Sensitivity (-2.83V/1M): 90dB
  • Crossover frequency: 1.9kHz
  • Dimensions: 37"x7.5"x12.5" (LxWxH)
  • Weight: 39.25lbs.


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