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Bowers & Wilkins 600 Series Anniversary Edition Speaker Comparison
Bowers and Wilkins (B&W) is one of the most world-renowned speaker companies on the planet. You’ll find their speakers in recording studios and mixing facilities around the world. The BBC, Abbey Road, and Skywalker Ranch are just a few of the places that rely on their truthful sound. The B&W 802 Loudspeaker has been a coveted speaker for music lovers since its introduction over 30 years ago. B&W also spends more on R&D than any speaker company we know of with a huge facility in Steyning, England, home to a 50+ team of engineers and all kinds of exotic speaker measuring equipment.
The real beauty of B&W for the vast majority of music lovers comes from their trickle down technology. When they design a new $30,000+ speaker, the tech they come up with eventually makes its way into their less expensive models. If a speaker company never really pushes the limits, they don’t really invent new things but use off the shelf generic components. B&W has developed more new types of materials to push speakers further than any company we know of. They pioneered the use of Kevlar, diamonds, and more in the speakers over the years.
The new 600 Series Anniversary Edition from B&W has actually been around in one form or another for decades. We have always felt this Series was one heck of a great value, offering honest true sound for a modest price. To celebrate 25 years of the 600 series, B&W is launching an improved Anniversary Series.
The new 600 Series Anniversary Edition offers two bookshelf speakers, a tower speaker, and a matching center channel. All of these employ technology in the speaker components that just a few years ago could only be found in their $6,000/pr and up speakers. B&W has always had a top of the line 800 Series. These are the speakers recording studios around the world use day in and day out. Every few years, B&W will update the lineup and incorporate all the new tech they have learned. This happened to the 800 Series in the fall of 2015.
It took a few years, but much of the new technology from the completely revamped 800 Series made it into the previous 600 edition late in the last decade. Now with the Anniversary Series, they add even more new tech from the 800 studio quality line with some serious improvements to the crossovers used in the new 600 Series Anniversary line. You can now get even more of the similar technology from the 800 Series from speakers starting at $700 a pair, almost 1/10 the price of where the 800 Series starts!
While you don’t get the beautiful matching wood veneer curved cabinets of the 800 Series that take almost 100 hours to create, you do get superb sound quality for a price that is hard to beat.
First, let’s talk about some of the great speaker technologies all of the new 600 Series Anniversary Edition models share.
Features and Technologies Shared Across the New 600 Anniversary Series
Continuum Driver Material
B&W had used Kevlar for its midrange speaker drivers in the 800 Series for decades. Their engineering team was given the task of inventing a better material that would offer significant improvements over their Kevlar drivers. It took over eight years, but they came up with a new material called Continuum. Continuum was totally developed by B&W and is only found in their speakers. When we first heard it in the new 800 Series, to say we were blown away would be an understatement! The improvement in midrange transparency was just stunning. Continuum, when used in a midrange driver, does not need the typical surround you see in most midrange speakers either, which contributes a lot to this new level of openness. Another factor is a great reduction in distortion. If you ever get a chance to visit their R&D facility in Steyning, you’ll see all kinds of lasers used to analyze speaker cone distortion. They used this high tech in the development of Continuum.
Decoupled Double Dome Tweeter
Many years ago, B&W invented a tapered tube that sits behind the tweeter. In the original 800 models, it sits proudly on top of the speaker. As years have passed this design has been refined and in the 600 Series it shows up as their Decoupled Double Dome. If you were to take the tweeter apart, you would see this is a very accurate description of the tweeter. The combination of the decoupled dome and the tapered tweeter tube for the rear wave of the tweeter result in a tweeter that can extend out far beyond most tweeters on the market before any distortion or break up occurs. The range actually goes out to 38khz which is twice as high as anyone under about 20 years old can even hear. The sonic improvement is a more open top end that is very smooth and sweet with never a hint of harshness.
Great Cabinet Construction
B&W has always paid a great deal of attention to reducing cabinet resonance. B&W engineers use their laser systems to measure the cabinets and design ways to make their speaker cabinets as inert as possible. They don’t make a big deal about this in the 600 Anniversary Series, but we have to say, the cabinets are extremely solid and dead. The front of the cabinet is a matte-finish composite material about ½” thick. By mounting the speaker drivers to this material, then coupling it to the cabinet, resonance virtually goes away. When we rap our knuckles on a 600 Series Anniversary cabinet, it has that feeling we have learned to love when a designer gets the cabinet right! We also like the fact, B&W has upgraded the grill system to a hidden magnetic design.
This is one of the major changes from the previous series to the new 600 Series Anniversary models. The crossover boards have been upgraded to a multilayer, much higher quality circuit board. The capacitors have also been changed from stock models to a special Bevendi metalized polypropylene film capacitor.
The crossover is somewhat like the conductor of an orchestra, as it decides which frequencies go where, and how loud they play. It is an invisible part of any speaker, but supercritical. The upgrades to the new 600 filter down directly from the crossovers developed for the 700 Series Signature B&W recently released.
Flow Port Technology
Another technology found in all the new 600’s is B&W’s Flow Port system. Most speakers are vented in some way. The way the air escapes the speaker cabinet can have a pretty big impact on the sound and how you must position the speaker for best performance. B&W has been addressing this for years by analyzing designs to come up with the type of port that gives you the best performance. The port used in the 600 Series uses their patented Flow Port system which just like Continuum was originally designed for their 800 Series.
The rear of all the speakers have very solid connections capable of either bi-wiring or single wiring. These types of connections are not very common on speakers in this price range, normally found on models costing far more.
Three color options
The 600 Anniversary Series offers three beautiful cabinet finishes. You get black, matte white (which comes with a gray grill), and oak (which includes a gray grill). B&W stepped up the quality of the cabinet finish a lot on the new Anniversary Series. The oak finish is especially stunning and we feel the matte white would look fantastic in a contemporary environment.
600 Anniversary Series Model Comparison
Bowers & Wilkins 607 S2 Anniversary Edition Bookshelf Speakers - $700/pair
The 607 S2 Anniversary Edition is the smallest model in the new Series. Here we have the Continuum driver material used for a combination midrange/bass driver that is 5” in diameter. The 607 is about 12” tall, by 6 ½” wide and about 8” deep. Amazingly the 6db down point for the bass is 40hz which is just astounding for a speaker this size. The port is on the rear, but if you put them on a typical 12” deep bookcase, you will be ok with the distance the port is off the back wall. For better performance, we recommend the STAV24 stands. This is a very solid stand from B&W that will put them at an ideal height and sells for $200/pair.
We do feel you need a decent amp to power the 607. Their efficiency rating is 84db, which is a tad low. A good amp like a Rotel or Cambridge Audio will do very nicely to bring them to life. If you are not sure if your amp has the right power, just chat or call us or swing by our Raleigh or Charlotte showrooms and we would be happy to help you out.
The 607 has a very extended, yet smooth top end. Bass is just stunning for the size and if you position them properly, they will throw out a huge image. It's really interesting how you can hear every nuance of the treble with never a sense of a trace of harshness. You’ll be able to pick out bass lines very easily too as these never blur things together.
Our only complaint is in the area of dynamics. While the sound is beautiful, it does not come to life on big dynamic swings like the next step up, the 606.
- Main Speakers in a Small to Medium Room
- Main Speakers Coupled with a B&W Sub for more low-end extension (we suggest ASW608 or ASW610)
- Left and Right Speakers in a Home Theater System if used with a Subwoofer
- Surround Speakers in a Complete 600 Anniversary Series Home Theater
Bowers & Wilkins 606 S2 Anniversary Edition Bookshelf Speaker - $900/pair
The 606 S2 Anniversary Edition is one of the best sounding bookshelf speakers we have heard in years. Like the 607, it is a two-way design but steps up to a 6” Continuum midrange/bass driver. The cabinet is slightly larger at 13 ½” high, 7 ½” wide, and almost 12” deep. Their extra depth means you’ll need a bookcase about 16” deep for best bookshelf performance. Just like the 606, we think they will sound best on B&W’s STAV24 stand, pulled out away from the walls a little bit.
Efficiency is greatly increased on the 606 Anniversary compared to the 607 Anniversary. We still like to see a good amp driving them as they really will come to life when you supply them with great power.
The sound is very similar to the 607 in terms of tonal quality, with an extended lower end. What you get in dynamic improvement though is not subtle. The sound explodes into the room on big passages drawing you further into the music. The combination of the extended bass and improved dynamics in our opinion makes them well worth the extra $200 for the pair. Heck, you’ll probably have them for 10-20 years so why not step up!
Having the extra low end also makes them sound even smoother and sweeter across the musical spectrum. And just like the 607 Anniversary, if you spend some time positioning them, you’ll get a big, 3-dimensional image.
- Main Speakers in Almost Any Sized Room
- Main Speakers Coupled with a B&W Sub for more low-end extension (we suggest ASW610)
- Left and Right Speakers in a Home Theater System if used with a Subwoofer
- Surround Speakers in a complete 600 Series Home Theater
Bowers & Wilkins 603 S2 Anniversary Edition Floorstanding Speaker - $2,000/pair
The 603 S2 Anniversary Edition is the floorstanding speaker in the new 600 Series.
While $2,000 is not a small amount of money, we think the new 603 betters all of the speakers B&W has made in the past in the previous CM and older 700 Series, some of them costing $4,000 a pair. The new materials used in this series really shines in the 603 Anniversary.
The Continuum driver is used in the midrange just as it is in the top of the line 800 Series. With it not having to produce any bass, the jump up in sound quality is substantial. The top end is handled with the same tweeter used in the other two models. B&W adds two dual 6 ½” woofers for outstanding deep bass.
We love the plinth included with the 603. This is a large base you attach to the bottom of the speaker that greatly increases its stability. On the plinth, they stand about 41 ½” tall, but are about the same width and depth as the 606 Anniversary, which gives them a nice, slender look.
At Audio Advice, we love to test things to the limit, so we tried these out with a McIntosh MA5300 integrated amp. Yes, at $5K for the amp, it is overkill, but this amp showed us how good these speakers could sound. It made them stand up and pay attention! They are capable of revealing everything about the incoming signal and will get better and better as you improve the front end. However, you can run them very well on a modest home theater receiver as they are fairly efficient at 88.5db.
When you sit down and listen to the 603s on a good set up, they will totally disappear and present a big, full sound that simply draws you in. The midrange on these is by far the best of the 600 Series with an effortless sound that reminds us of the $17K B&W 802 D3’s.
Dynamics are fantastic and those two dual woofers deliver tight, fast bass. We actually think B&W made these too good as they are really close to the much more expensive 703 - although the new 700 Series does have a sweeter tweeter. But there is no question, this is one of the best tower speakers we have in our stores right now for $2,000 a pair.
- Main Speakers in Almost Any Sized Room
- Left and Right Speakers in a Home Theater System (sub is really optional, if you get one, go with an ASW610XP and two is even better)
Bowers & Wilkins HTM6 S2 Anniversary Edition Center Channel Speaker - $799
The HTM6 Anniversary Edition is the matching center channel speaker for the new 600 Series. In home theater, by far and away, the most important speaker is the center channel. If you can not understand the dialog of a movie, the enjoyment is just not there. We love the way B&W used perfectly matched speaker drivers for the HTM6 S2 Anniversary Edition. It has the same tweeter’s used in all the models and two of the 5” Continuum midrange/bass drivers. At only 10” deep it should fit easily into most systems, although it is pretty wide at 18” to hold that great driver complement.
When listening to movie soundtracks that pan from left to center to right, we felt it perfectly matched up with the other 600 speakers, which is exactly what a center channel should do. But the big win comes in the Continuum driver used for the midrange. If you set this upright, you will hear all kinds of subtle nuances in the dialog track.
A movie really draws you in when you can sense the emotion in the performers' voices and the HTM6 Anniversary shines in this regard. Those new Continuum drivers do a remarkable job on the human voice! It also has the ability to handle those center channel explosions without showing signs of straining. The HTM6 S2 Anniversary is the best under $1,200 center speaker we have heard from B&W.
- Center Channel in a 600 Series Home Theater System.
Home Theater Options
We thought it would be fun to put together three home theater systems that offer what we feel is the best combination for your money. All three will also do a great job on music. For this case, we are just showing 5.1 systems, but bear in mind B&W makes a whole Series of in-ceiling and in-wall speakers for full 11.4.4 Dolby Atmos systems. If you want to pursue something even better, give us a call, pop into chat, or drop by one of our stores in Raleigh or Charlotte, NC
Good 600 Series Theater
Total: $3,199.94 or $3,399.92 with two pair of STAV24’s
Left & Right Speakers
Better 600 Series Theater
Total: $4,499.94 or $4,699.92 with one pair of STAV24’s
Left & Right Speakers
Best 600 Series Theater
Total: $6,699.93 or $6,899.91 with one pair of STAV24’s
Left & Right Speakers
Subwoofer x 2
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