Here is one thing that made me really feel previous: The groundbreaking Toy Story debuted in 1995, and there have been three sequels since. That yr additionally noticed the debut of one other fashionable sequence: the Bowers & Wilkins 600s. The loudspeakers are actually of their seventh iteration — the 600 S2 Anniversary Collection reviewed right here — and very like Pixar, B&W retains the profitable system going.
LikeSuperb end and constructed qualityHigh-end transparency and dynamicsEasy to drive with a midrange receiver
Do not LikeCan expose harsher sonic components in some materialMore costly than related audio system from Q Acoustics and Elac
The Bowers & Wilkins 606 S2 Anniversary Version seems to be loads just like the speaker it replaces, however most of the adjustments are on the within. The outcomes are an actual sonic improve that brings to thoughts the costlier 700 sequence: These audio system convey transparency and slam in equal elements.
For those who discover that your motion pictures and music lack vibrancy and affect, and also you wish to spend money on one thing higher-end than the Elac Debut 2.zero B6.2 or Q Acoustics 3030i, these peppy B&W audio system look good and sound nice. If, then again, you already personal a pair of 600 audio system — and particularly ones with Continuum cones — then there may be in all probability no tearing hurry to improve. The variations between the 606 and the older 685 have been audible, however a brand new receiver may make a greater funding, for instance.
The Bowers & Wilkins 606 S2 Anniversary Version is obtainable now for $900 (£599, AU$1,299).
What’s within the field
A couple of years in the past, B&W launched a alternative for its iconic, yellow Kevlar driver, a proprietary materials it calls Continuum. It took a while for the drivers to make it to the 600 sequence, however now that it is in its second iteration, it is what you may name a tried-and-tested know-how.
Like the unique 606, the Bowers & Wilkins 606 S2 Anniversary Version makes use of a 6.5-inch Continuum Cone mid-bass driver. The speaker field can be ported in the identical means on the rear, which leaves the fascia wanting clear. The entrance is topped with a decoupled double-dome aluminum tweeter, which comes with a mesh guard and a commemorative stamp. The 606 S2 additionally consists of an upgraded crossover inherited from the latest 700 Collection Signature line that, in my testing, did make a distinction.
The audio system are generously sized for a stand-mounter at a top of 13.5 inches, a depth of 11.eight inches (or 12.eight inches together with grille and terminals) and seven.5 inches in width. They arrive in a alternative of matte-black (the one I obtained), matte-white or white and oak. Whereas I had some misgivings concerning the end on the final speaker — the white entrance plate did not match the field’s colour — I had no such points with the pattern I reviewed. The audio system include magnetically hooked up grilles.
The specification sheet lists a comparatively excessive 88-decibel sensitivity, which means they’re going to go fairly loud with most midpriced receivers or amplifiers. When it comes to frequency response they’re going to attain right down to about 40Hz (-6dB) in a fairly sized room and as much as a claimed 33kHz.
When you can place them on a credenza or shelf, I would suggest shopping for devoted stands — I used them with the STAV 224 ($200), but when that is a bit spendy then the Monolith by Monoprice 28-inch speaker stand seems to be first rate for $120 a pair.
How do they sound?
Because the “Official Audio system of Abbey Street Studios,” Bowers & Wilkins has a status to uphold for making merchandise that sound extremely revealing and involving. The 606 S2 lives as much as the billing by bringing the hi-fi preferrred to life, whereas additionally making music you’ll be able to dance to. I’ve owned B&Ws myself and over time I discovered that, like earlier variations, the 606 S2 likes to play loud but it surely was additionally capable of play at quieter volumes with out sounding too ahead. At instances, the brand new 606 dropped at thoughts the 707 S2 with its skill to let the listener peer right into a recording.
Whereas I did not have a set of the unique 606 audio system available, I did have a pair of the older 685s alongside the brand new Elac Uni-Fi 2.zero UB5.2. I powered the setup with the Marantz SR6015 and our reference Oppo UDP-205 disc participant.
Normally I discovered that the extent of stereo imaging and focus have been related between each the Elac and the 606 S2, however the B&W pulled away in its skill to sound good with a better vary of music than the Elac UniFi. In fact, just like the 606, the newer model will expose issues with some “poorly” combined music.
I began with a dwell recording of Ryan Adams enjoying Oh My Candy Carolina — a tune I keep in mind listening to on the 706 — and the advantages of the 606 got here instantly to the fore. In comparison with the laid-back 685, the 606 S2 supplied a greater digital picture of Adams on stage, capturing his voice because it bounced off the partitions of the massive room. The phrase that got here to thoughts was “crystalline,” and the speaker confirmed a bit extra dynamic heft as soon as the guitar got here in. The harmonica was proper there, and I may hear extra of the singer’s breath passing by the reed.
In the meantime, the Elac Uni-Fi was essentially the most cavernous sounding of the three audio system and was capable of make the group appear monumental as they cheered the singer’s entrance. Equally the guitar’s echo was simple to discern, as was the press of the participant’s fingers on strings. Whereas the 606 highlighted the metallic nature of the guitar and harmonica, the Elac pulled again a bit and wasn’t as steely. The Elac was capable of seize his tenor voice but it surely did not supply as a lot bass as the 2 B&Ws, and likewise sounded the least dynamic.
I then turned to one thing much more abrasive: the bass synth stomp of Way forward for the Left’s You Want Devil Extra Than He Wants You. The 606 S2b supplied a better sense of energy than the 685, with the pounding drums sounding extra current and alive whereas additionally accentuating the metallic fringe of the distorted bass guitar. This can be a monitor that must be heard loud, and in contrast to different songs I listened to, the 606 did not open up fairly as a lot because the 685 did at quantity. Most shocking of all was the Elac: As a substitute of sounding bloated, it activated the room’s pure bass response and have become essentially the most entertaining of the trio with this monitor. The tune’s chanted backing vocals additionally appeared bigger on the Elacs.
It wasn’t all excellent news for the Elac although, and it began to unravel with complicated music. The dwell model of The Remedy’s A Evening Like This compressed considerably and have become midrange-heavy, whereas the B&W 606 S2 sounded extra balanced. The B&W stored the bass guitar current, even when the amount was turned up.
I spent a variety of time watching TV and films with the B&W’s and located the vocal articulation to be crisp, particularly when in comparison with the 685s. This speaker makes an amazing addition to a house theater setup and I used it together with Klipsch and SVS audio system. I discovered the 606 S2 was extra thrilling than the Elac when watching the Thanator chase scene from Avatar — the beginning of the sequence begins with mumbled dialogue and buzzing bugs, and the brand new speaker elevated these sounds, making them extra current. It additionally supplied a weightier sound on male voices and the thump of the shell vegetation as they retreat from Jake’s contact. The Elac was equally thrilling on this scene, but it surely was a contact extra measured and relaxed; the falling bullet casings and clinking of weapons weren’t as metallic-sounding.
Do you have to purchase them?
Like Toy Story, the know-how behind the Bowers & Wilkins 600 sequence solely will get higher with age. If you wish to hear each final element in your music then upgrading to the 606 will convey a few of the advantages of hi-fi with out an exorbitant price ticket. The speaker’s not all about transparency although — there may be nonetheless a good bass basis for extra forceful kinds of music.
Whereas I personally favor the older, gentler 685, the 606 S2 provides a style of the high-end in a means that the previous speaker does not, and it does it for beneath a grand. For those who’ve had your eyes on the 700 sequence however haven’t got the money, the brand new 600s are nearer to them in sound high quality than they ever have been. Dangerous downside for Bowers & Wilkins, good downside for the remainder of us.