It’s a safe bet that unless you’re a dealer for SnapAV, the company’s name is new to you. And I feel pretty confident making that wager, because SnapAV doesn’t focus its energies on sweeping advertising campaigns. Its products aren’t on the shelves at the big-box stores. No one from SnapAV has ever treated me to dinner during the CEDIA EXPO. Rather than pouring money into the marketing machine (and sustenance for me, not that I eat that much), the company— founded five years ago by Charlotte, N.C.-based custom installer Jay Faison—devotes its resources to building rock-solid products based on tried-and-true principles, with the ultimate goal of keeping costs reasonable and passing those savings on to custom installers, who can do their own word-of-mouth marketing.
The cabinet on SnapAV’s Episode 700 Series Speakers is so thick and inert that you just can’t help but rap a knuckle on it every time you walk past.
It’s not exactly the sort of business plan that lends itself to press releases sprinkled with adjectives like “magical” and “revolutionary,” but if you think about it, SnapAV’s approach is a bit of a quiet revolution, and unquestionably a smart plan for success in this still-ridiculous economy.
Take the new Episode 700 Series Speakers as a perfect example of what the company is doing right. Sporting a gorgeous, glossy, piano-black finish and a cabinet so thick and inert, so deliciously heavy that you just can’t help but rap a knuckle on it every time you walk past, the newest addition to the line— the aptly but simply named Tower Speaker— sports a gorgeous but simple aesthetic and a bulletproof (if intentionally unflashy) set of drivers and components hand picked by lead designer Rune Karsbaek, formerly of Jamo.
The woofers are simple Kevlar and natural paper, with a wonderfully raw, natural look. The tweeters are titanium with a catenary dome shape instead of the typical half-sphere. None of that really tells you what the speakers sound like, though. That’s my job, right?
In pure two-channel mode, with an Anthem system providing the oomph and no subwoofers for support, the pair of Episode 700 Towers delivers a rich, robust soundstage with oodles of polite-but-assertive bottom end, assisted by a pair of downward firing ports; tame, even-handed treble that more than holds its own off-axis; and a rich, butterysmooth midrange that really defines the overall sonic character of the speakers.
In addition to being beautifully balanced, tonally speaking, the Towers also image wonderfully. “Dog Walkers of the New Age,” the second track from Breathe Owl Breathe’s sophomore release, Magic Central, bursts forth with a gloriously wide soundstage, whereas the previous track, “Own Stunts,” sits intimately between the pair with tight, controlled precision from just about any seat in the room.
Building a surround sound system around the Episode 700 Towers is also a snap (cue groans here), given that SnapAV sells all of its speakers individually—even bookshelf speakers. The rationale for that is simple: in real-world installations, compromises sometimes must be made. Perhaps the left side of the room requires an in-wall surround channel, while only an inceiling point speaker will work on the right side of the room. All speakers are timbre-matched by series, so whatever weird combination you have to put together should be sonically coherent nonetheless.
For the sake of review, though, SnapAV sent me a pair of Episode 700 Series Monitor Speakers as surrounds, and another to serve as the center channel. (Unfortunately, for the time being, the only center channels in the 700 Series are an inceiling LCR and an in-wall LCR. A standalone center designed to mate with the Tower and Bookshelf is in the works, though.)
Everything positive that could be said about the 700 Towers alone applies equally to the 700 Series in surround mode, as well: imaging is beautiful, the soundfield is wonderfully tonally balanced and exceedingly cinematic, and dialogue boasts laudable presence without any throatiness or chestiness. When the action gets really dense, granted, the Bookshelf-as-centerchannel struggles ever so slightly to keep pace with the Towers to its left and right. But that’s the only significant complaint I could come up with in a month of beating the living hell out of these speakers and enjoying everything that came out of them.
And when you consider the price— let’s just say that if these beauties were sold on Amazon, you’d have to add them to the cart to see the sticker—even that complaint seems like nitpicking. I find myself hesitating to tell guests who drop by for a listen how little the 700 Series speakers cost, for fear that they’ll be unduly written off as a budget offering.
So, yeah, maybe you’ve never heard of SnapAV. But you owe it to yourself to hear these speakers.
SnapAV’s 700 Series speakers are as fun to listen to as they are to look at, and they’re an amazing deal for consumers and dealers alike. Plus, the mix-andmatch- ability of the line is a strong selling point.
The line really needs a standalone center channel speaker. Other than that, a lack of brand recognition is the only downside.
■ Episode 700 Series Tower Speaker:
■ Woofer: Dual 6.5-inch paper reinforced with Kevlar NCS Cone and Nomex Spider and High Temp Voice Coil
■ Tweeter: 1-inch Titanium Catenary Dome and Neo- Magnet Ferrofluid Cooled Tweeter
■ Power Handling: 200W RM S, 500W Peak