Bowers & Wilkins 600er Review
A really good surround combo can take your breath away. The Bowers & Wilkins 600er series has big power at a small price. Read our test on this.
We’ve seen grown men close to tears. When Bowers & Wilkins’ new Super Series was launched, one product manager struggled with his emotions; he was shocked by the new sonic qualities. Today we know the man was right – B&W has achieved great things in recent years.
The D3 series is one of the best loudspeakers of today; we have secured a copy for our reference chain. But you don’t have to invest a lot because the small 600 series B&W also amazes with sound power. We have already tested almost all of these models in the stereo triangle.
The ASW610 subwoofer thrashes away in the depths. From the outside, the British sound converters fascinate rather limitedly.
This is nice MDF, angular, but fits perfectly and is packed behind foil, either black or white. In addition, there is at least a bi-wiring terminal and a magnetically holding front cover. Unfortunately, the built-in know-how is only available here. For example, we are hooked on the silver-colored midrange speakers. These membranes used to be yolk yellow and braided by Kevlar.
Even today, B&W uses a thread for weaving, but it is made of aramid – the complete membrane is given the name “Continuum.” The average is 15 centimeters; The basses are a bit bigger, here a paper cone vibrates with 16.5 cm. Doubly so on the 603 front.
B&W donated the largest ferrite magnet of this construction class to date as a drive. However, the B&W engineers leave the height to another in-house brand: a double-layered aluminum dome. Officially, the technologists have given this concept the name “Decoupled Double Dome Tweeter.”
The nasty but inevitable break-up frequency is 38 kilohertz, beyond our ability to hear. So the bass energy is not just blown out but directed through a flow port – a calculated construction with many small indentations like in a golf ball design.
Naturally, the subwoofer deviates from the existing chassis rules: Here, a 200-watt class D amplifier drives a membrane made of paper and Kevlar fibers.
THE BASS IS SUBTLE: In the ASW610, B&W packs a powerful digital power amplifier with not only 200 watts but also all sorts of setting options. In addition, of course, the phase can be chosen and the frequency adjustment.
The surrounding change of heart. At this point, readers in a hurry can skip a paragraph and continue reading the sound impressions. However, we want to add another drop to a seemingly endless discussion: is multi-channel something for audiophiles? Surround became acceptable as a sound format in the 1990s. A boom followed, followed by a descent.
At the latest, when the vinyl record returns, people will want to listen in perfect stereo again – multi-channel is something for the cinema fraction. That’s why AUDIO hasn’t tested multi-channel for a long time; this is the first for a while. So why the change of heart?
Firstly, the B&W concept convinced us, secondly, because the multi-channel high-end fraternity is still alive. The Pentatone label, for example, recently dug up the old Deutsche Grammophon Quadro recordings and released them on SACD.
This is a splendid sound experience, compared to which pure stereo always seems one-dimensional. And even the venerable EMI has decided to publish the Beatles’ “White Album” in multi-channel. Only as an encore to the stereophonic luxury edition, but still.
Conclusion so far: multi-channel can be an audiophile experience if the ambitions of the strategists behind it are right.
- Clean, low-distortion sound
- Effortless and precise room imaging
- Deep bass response
- The minimum impedance of the front boxes is too low
Sound impressions of Bowers & Wilkins 600er
The sound engineers at Deutsche Grammophon dared to carry out a really big experiment in the early 1970s: Leonard Bernstein was a guest at the MET for the first time and wanted to record his interpretation of Bizet’s “Carmen.” A high-risk project since the DGG decided to record the spectacle in four channels.
The Quadro tapes were never released: the first LPs were strictly in stereo, and the first CD edition also left the additional information unused. However, the small, fine label Pentatone has just decided to bring a Quadro-SACD onto the market.
One can marvel at the courage of the sound technicians of the time: the children’s choir strides from the front left to the back right, crossing their heads once. And the B&W combo wonderfully conveyed the producers’ playfulness in our test. The space was precise but strangely full.
If you already have loudspeakers behind your back, you want to use the new technology. A few singing voices strayed here and there – it was disconcerting but entertaining. The 600 chains played out the joy, the desire for the new sound. The strings flowed far over the front axis in the direction of the listening position, in addition to a very vivid panorama.
You listened to the past through a tunnel – and mourned the fact that multi-channel was so quickly shelved back then. How many wonderful musical events from the late 70s and 80s have we missed in multi-channel!
We switched to film and a real chunk for the speakers: Mad Max hurtling down the “Fury Road” and the screen. Again, pure anarchy, also lived out by the sound engineers. The highlight is the racing scene in the desert. But, again, you don’t want to be in the hero’s shoes; you don’t want to have to process this wealth of information as a loudspeaker.
The developers are particularly proud of the new Continuum braid. In the past, the Kevlar mix was woven. Today it is an aramid thread.
We enjoyed it. The B&W sextet gambled the effects into the room with relish, immediately creating a powerful backdrop. The special effects dazzled us not only visually but also acoustically.
We wanted more and cranked the volume up. Now the levels were highly critical. Although the design of the Bowers & Wilkins 600er sets seems rather compact in space, we were greeted by sovereign impulsiveness.
The bass is also powerful – made of a cuboid that only comes up with a 25cm membrane. We never felt like we were set lean, even in the root. There was also the danger that the drivers would scream at us at the extremely high level – but the B&W family stayed on course; everything had power but never a cutting undertone.
The harmony between the membranes seemed ideal at all – that was full and rich in information. But the membranes neither struck nor could they be heard as individual sources – a dynamic celebration of the highest degree of unity.
One step back. We turned the volume control back to high room volume and wanted to experience music. A blurry by Imagine Dragons is super mixed. In 2015, the band introduced their superseller Smoke + Mirrors and went on tour with the songs.
In Toronto, a film team preserved the concert. Here the cameras fly, the sound engineers level out to the limit. This is high mass for fans of bass-heavy hard rock. The 600 families also felt comfortable. It was bass-heavy, powerful – with a certain effect, for example, when the solo guitar flew ecstatically at you.
The presence of the drums was also strong, putting pressure on the pit of our stomachs. But not only the high dynamic pieces were worth listening to; Maybe Imagine Dragons are even the better band when they start ballads and make decent cuddle sounds. Again, the B&W community provided the perfect backdrop for this – you could hear the arena breathing the audience heckling.
That was an acoustically very coherent aura, in the best moments. This abundance of small and fine information was impressive. She managed the set again in a relaxed and natural way. This is how you want to experience your home cinema evening!
B&W is selling the 600 series with the best genes, double-layer aluminum dome, flow port, and bi-wiring included.
Are there limits? Not really. Especially when you consider the price, the deepest bass is perhaps not the ultimate as with larger woofers; the rear information does not sound as full as with full-fledged floor-standing speakers.
But for this still manageable money, especially since B&W packs the best in-house developments here. The profit is high; there is no risk – try it out and enjoy it.