Bowers & Wilkins has unveiled its latest speaker lineup, and there are two things to be especially excited about. First, the new speakers — the sixth iteration of the company’s 600 series line — are extremely budget-friendly compared to the brand’s other speakers. Second, thanks to some impressive upgrades borrowed from the splashy 800 series, they sound better than ever. (Thank you, trickle-down technology.) And as of Tuesday, September 18 the new lineup is available in stores.
We got a chance to hear the speaker line, which includes four new speaker models, at an event in Boston ahead of their official release. But before we get to the sound performance, let’s break down what’s changed for the latest models in the 600 Series.
The four new models include the flagship 603 floorstanders, the 606 bookshelves, the more compact 607 bookshelves, and the HTM6 center channel speaker.
The biggest advancement in the new line is the replacement of the speakers’ midrange driver cones, trading their signature kevlar construction for cones made from B&W’s patented material known as “Continuum.” Continuum Cones were first employed in the company’s pricey 800 Series, and later made their way into the mid-range 700 Series.
The name sounds like something you’d find in an X-Men comic, and B&W is more secretive about its makeup than the Pentagon, but from what we’ve heard thus far, Continuum makes a serious difference. Today’s announcement marks the first time it is available in the company’s entry-level speakers.
Other than the new midrange cones, Bowers & Wilkins has also updated the 600 Series’ Decoupled Dome tweeters, adding a more powerful neodymium magnet and repositioning the driver to be closer to the grill. In addition, the brand replaced the speakers’ riveted acoustic screens for magnetically attached screens, and swapped out the black vinyl, faux-woodgrain cabinet finish for new matte black and satin white painted finishes.
The performance was immediately impressive, with the new speakers sounding more organic, less colored, and more accurate, to boot.
The company has also made a few additional changes to the smallest model in the range, the 607, adding nickel plated terminals and swapping the port at the front for a backside location. On top of that, the company has added new paper-cone woofers to the flagship 603 floorstanders.
As fans of the 600 Series speakers will note, B&W has also simplified the 600 Series model numbers to line up with its 700 and 800 lines — essentially just dropping the “68” from the model number — as well as dropping some of the line’s “less popular” models, including the 684 S2 floorstander, the HTm61 center channel, and the DS3 surround satellite model.
You can check out the full lineup with pricing at the bottom of this post.
Better sound for your dollars
We were a bit surprised to get an invite to fly across the country from our Portland headquarters for what might appear to be a minor update to Bowers & Wilkins’ entry-level speakers. After getting some cursory ears-on time with the speakers, however, we realized why B&W is so excited about the new lineup. Shuffled into an acoustically tuned room in the brand’s Boston HQ, we were treated to an impressive demonstration that seemed to prove the brand’s Continuum technology is far from just marketing speak.
With staff on hand to swap between the previous 600 Series models and their upgraded counterparts, we were able to hear the speakers back to back. The performance improvement was immediately impressive, with the new speakers sounding more organic, less colored, and more accurate, to boot.
The most evident difference in our audition came from the middle of the lineup in the new 606 bookshelf speakers. Listening to a gorgeous recording from John Lee Hooker’s Canned Heat sessions, the 606 instantly outpunched their 685 predecessors. The guitar was smoother, warmer, and more natural sounding, while Hooker’s voice had more pepper to its tone thanks to better detail and more easily accessible nuances..
The 600 Series revealed smoother, more detailed sound and better accuracy than their predecessors.
We had a similar experience with the floorstanding 603 speakers. When compared to the 683 on a Bob Dylan track, the 603 offered a smoother, warmer tone to the guitar’s nylon strings, less harshness and bite to the harmonica, and notably better clarity from ambient sounds such as the cicadas at the beginning of the track.
On the next song from deadmau5, the 603 were able to reproduce a massive amount of bass for just a stereo pair, to the point that we could actually feel the bass in the air without hearing a single trace of audible distortion.
Overall, first impressions of the 600 Series revealed smoother, more detailed sound with a broader soundstage and better accuracy than their predecessors. And at these prices, that’s something to be excited about.
We’ll be getting more time with the latest from the 600 Series soon, so we’ll see if our initial impressions translate in a full review. For now, here’s the full lineup and pricing:
- 603 floorstanders ($900 each): Decoupled Dome tweeter, FST Continuum Cone midrange driver, dual paper-cone woofers
- 606 bookshelves ($400 each): Decoupled Dome tweeter, 6.5-inch Continuum Cone midrange driver
- 607 bookshelves ($300 each): Decoupled Dome tweeter, 5-inch Continuum Cone midrange driver
- HTM6 center channel ($599): Decoupled Dome tweeter, dual 5-inch Continuum Cone midrange drivers
The lineup is also supplemented by three previously available subwoofers (now with matching finishes), including the ASW610Xp ($1,200), the ASW610 ($650), and the ASW608 ($500).
You can find out more about the speakers, including order information, at Bowers & Wilkins’ website.
Updated on September 17, 2018: This post has been updated with ordering information as the speakers are now available.