Bowers & Wilkins 606 S2 Review
For the 25th series anniversary, Bowers & Wilkins is renewing the 600 series. The bookshelf loudspeaker Bowers & Wilkins 606 S2 Anniversary Edition wants to pour the highest hi-fi virtues into a compact form. We tested it.
For more than 25 years, the 600 series from Bowers & Wilkins has been the gateway to the hi-fi world of the British loudspeaker legend. For the anniversary, B&W presents the 600 S2 Anniversary Edition. The speakers promise to put your music in the spotlight with know-how and revised components. With the B&W 606 S2 Anniversary Edition, we have chosen the larger of the two bookshelf speakers. In our test, you can determine whether it is suitable for every type of music and listening style.
- Harmonious and musical sound
- Suitable for living room
- Chic, bright design
- High-frequency brilliance sometimes tilts into the analytical
The B&W 606 S2 AE is currently available from hi-fi clubs:
- Anniversary edition – Light Oak
- Anniversary edition – Black
- Anniversary edition – White
B&W 606 S2 AE in the sound test
You know that there is no one way to listen to music as well as we do. One would like to lean back and relax while the other leans forward and feels every beat. And a third person might not be able to stay on the sofa anymore because he wants to dance – or tidy up the house. And for each of these types, there is a suitable loudspeaker. A fight can quickly break out over the question of which speaker is ultimately the right one. The B&W 606 S2 AE could bring about a truce here.
Because the sound converter combines relaxed character traits with solid party sound in its compact housing, depending on the music played, the 606 S2 AE can meticulously reproduce every detail and immerse you in action on stage. Or throw you back to reality with a well-aimed bass beat. In this respect, it resembles the powerhouse Dali Oberon 3, which also featured decent bass pressure.
The richness of detail is not only in the heights.
It has often been shown that resolution is primarily the task of the tweeter. The 606 S2 pleasantly surprises with great precision in the middle and especially in the low-frequency range. The plucked double bass in Sophie Ramsay’s The Song I Never Wrote to You rarely separated itself so clearly from the rest of the bass foundation. At the same time, the clear voice with the slight Scottish accent stands impressively and realistically between the two boxes. Every syllable is a statement.
“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Even if the hi-fi world is committed to unadulterated reproduction, many brands are proud of their characteristic sound. You can also see this with B&W speakers. Even in our test of the B&W 702 S2, the tweeter had an enormous penchant for details. While the floor-standing speaker from the higher-quality 700 series focused more on brilliance, the 606 S2 AE manages to strike a good compromise here too.
Interestingly, both loudspeakers set different priorities in the midrange. And this is even though both use the patented Continuum membrane. The almost euphemistic curtain that the 702 S2 puts over voices and instruments were pulled away on the 606 S2. Instead, especially concise female voices like Natasha Khan, Bat for Lashes, seem extremely solid and grounded. She caresses your ear silky but remains tangible in deeper regions.
Large orchestras also benefit from the bass-midrange driver. Each instrument is given the right weight from the first violin to the French horn, which harmonizes perfectly with the higher sound components. In 1979 the great Leonard Bernstein recorded Beethoven’s ninth symphony with the Vienna Philharmonic. In the opulent finale, the Bowers & Wilkins 606 S2 AE ensure that you believe you are seeing stars – or sparks of the gods.
Impressively mature, the loudspeaker builds up row after row of choirs and musicians in front of you. Even if the stage of the State Opera does not protrude too far beyond the loudspeakers, the image in the depth gradation captivates. Nothing is superimposed; all parts interlock to form a large whole. The box doesn’t care whether you stream via Spotify or rely on high-res recordings. The 606 S2 AE gives every track the right kick.
Structure – Inherited quality
The double-layer aluminum dome is responsible for the great attention to detail of the 606 S2 AE. Compared to the last version of the 606, this has been further improved. It decoupled from the rest of the loudspeaker housing. So even the strongest cabinet resonances should not affect its timbre.
Its low weight and high stability particularly characterize aluminum. Then, it has outstanding properties for the part of the speaker that has to oscillate in extremely high frequencies without warping. In this way, the speaker should be able to reproduce sounds up to 28 kHz cleanly, far beyond the limits of human hearing.
Velvety mids thanks to the Continuum cone
The Continuum cone comes from the company’s own high-end 800 Diamond series, which we were also able to test in the form of the B&W 803 D4. This membrane is now being used successfully in other Bowers & Wilkins loudspeakers. The driver is also suspended without beading in its original function as a pure midrange driver. However, the manufacturer uses a thick surround in the low-midrange version to give the driver the necessary stability for large excursions in the bass range.
The back of the loudspeaker is dominated by a generous connection terminal and bass reflex tube. Interestingly, it looks the same as the component used in the B&W 702 S2. As with this floor-standing speaker, the terminal offers you the option of connecting not just one speaker cable but two directly. The B&W 606 S2 AE is also suitable for bi-wiring operations. But even with simple cabling, the speaker is convincing.
However, speakers from Bowers & Wilkins have a special feature with the bass reflex tube. Its funnel-shaped end has many small dents. Like a golf ball, this surface creates small air turbulences. As a result, the bass reflex tube should work even more efficiently due to the lower air resistance, and the bass should sound even cleaner.
The placement of the B&W 606 S2 is quite uncritical despite the bass reflex tube in the rear wall. Of course, just like all loudspeakers that you place too close to the wall, the B&W 606 S2 AE also loses control in the low-frequency range. However, Bowers & Wilkins thought along with you and included foam plugs. With their help, you can partially or completely seal the reflex tube.
The loudspeaker loses a bit of depth, but it appears more contoured than without plugs. This way, the speakers will complain less if you have to put them on a shelf. But, of course, the speakers sound best with plenty of air on all sides, preferably on suitable stands.
Slightly angled in your direction, the B&W 606 S2 Anniversary Edition depicts what is happening most realistically. However, since your living situation also greatly influences the sound of your loudspeakers, the proof of the pudding is definitely in the eating. The relatively high efficiency of the speaker will help you. With a characteristic sound pressure of 88 dB, even with smaller amplifiers, you can achieve a lot.
Design – Classy and Friendly
The two drivers of the B&W 606 S2 AE shine silvery at you. They did that in the previous series, but the shine fits the silver series anniversary all the more. The color of the tweeter comes from the double-layer aluminum dome, while the mid-bass driver comes from the light fabric of the Continuum cone. The white front of our test pair made the loudspeaker appear even brighter and friendlier.
The speaker’s aspect ratios deserve special mention here. The housing of a bookshelf speaker often ends just below the woofer. This saves you material and – often decisive for shelf placement – height. Not so at Bowers & Wilkins. The 606 S2 AE proudly carries the mid-bass driver right in the middle of the front panel. In this way, the loudspeaker gains in housing volume. Sound and efficiency can only benefit from this.
Beautiful details, also in the entry area
The remaining surfaces are covered with a foil intended to imitate oak wood. Alternatively, the B&W 606 S2 AE is also completely white or black. As with the 702 S2, the “wood grain” gives the speaker a classy look and is well made. Bowers & Wilkins also includes self-adhesive rubber feet with the speaker to keep it that way. These also decouple the case a little from the ground.
Bowers & Wilkins also has a special eye for detail with the protective grille for the tweeters. Even with the still quite inexpensive 600 series, the British use the same grid with a star pattern used in the 800 Diamond series. You have to decide whether to use the magnetically adhesive fabric cover.
Bowers & Wilkins 606 S2 Anniversary Edition – a musical all-rounder
With the B&W 606 S2 Anniversary Edition, Bowers & Wilkins has made an enormously coherent entry into the world of hi-fi. This is because this speaker combines all the properties that a bookshelf speaker needs to be fun. Brilliant tweeters ensure excellent resolution, while instruments, voices, and space form a harmonious whole. Moreover, where other loudspeakers are ahead in stage width, the 606 S2 skillfully compensates with its depth gradation and good bass control.
The anniversary model also cuts a fine figure in almost every living room with bright colors and fine quality. Great efficiency and practical accessories increase this impression. There are as many listening styles as there are tastes in music. And while the Bowers & Wilkins 606 S2 Anniversary Edition is certainly not a hi-fi panacea, it is a solid compromise that lives up to its motto: “For the love of music.