BOW­ERS & WILKINS 603 SPEAKER SYS­TEM

Sound & Vision - - CONTENTS -

By Michael Trei

MAYBE IT’S be­cause our coun­try is still young, but Amer­i­cans tend to think of the Bri­tish as hav­ing lots of long-stand­ing tra­di­tions. Is that im­pres­sion still valid? These days, Jaguar Cars is owned by In­dia’s Tata Mo­tors. Mini Cooper, Rolls Royce, and Bent­ley are owned by Ger­man com­pa­nies. Even Mar­mite, that most Bri­tish of toast top­pings, is half-owned by the Dutch. Fol­low­ing that trend, it should come as no sur­prise to learn that a quintessen­tially Bri­tish hi-fi com­pany like Bow­ers & Wilkins is owned by a Sil­i­con Val­ley, Cal­i­for­ni­abased startup called EVA Au­to­ma­tion. En­gi­neer­ing and de­sign still takes place at the com­pany’s head­quar­ters in Wor­thing, Eng­land, even if most of the ac­tual pro­duc­tion now takes place in Asia.

Bow­ers & Wilkins’ em­brace of old-school tra­di­tion con­tin­ues with the com­pany’s cur­rent ap­proach to sur­round sound. In re­cent years, the mar­ket for home the­ater au­dio has split in two direc­tions. Ded­i­cated en­thu­si­asts are em­brac­ing new ex­panded multi-speaker tech­nolo­gies like Dolby Atmos, while more ca­sual users grav­i­tate to­ward sim­pler one- and two-box so­lu­tions like sound­bars. At one time, B&W of­fered a range of spe­cial­ized sur­round speak­ers plus a sound­bar called the Panorama, but its more re­cent sur­round so­lu­tions have been based on more tra­di­tional stereo speaker com­bi­na­tions. To ex­pand your sur­round setup be­yond a stan­dard 5.1- or 7.1-chan­nel rig (to cre­ate an Atmos setup, for in­stance), you need to delve into the com­pany’s cus­tom in­stal­la­tion lineup, which in­cludes in-wall and in-ceil­ing speak­ers.

Fur­ther sim­pli­fy­ing its of­fer­ings, Bow­ers & Wilkins’ re­cent re­vamp

of the en­try-level 600 Se­ries has pared the line down to the 603 tower ($1,800/pair), the HTM6 cen­ter chan­nel ($599), and the

606 and 607 book­shelf speak­ers ($800 and $600/pair, re­spec­tively) along with three sub­woofers that carry over from the pre­vi­ous 600 Se­ries. This sit­u­a­tion made pick­ing a re­view sys­tem easy. Stick­ing with a 5.1 rig, I used a pair of 603 tow­ers for the front left and right chan­nels, an HTM6 in the cen­ter chan­nel po­si­tion, and a pair of 606 book­shelf speak­ers for sur­rounds. For sub­woof­ing duty I used the line’s top model: the ASW610XP ($1,200).

Vis­ually, the most strik­ing change from Bow­ers & Wilkins’ ear­lier 600 Se­ries speak­ers is the switch from the com­pany’s iconic yel­low Kevlar midrange cones to the sil­very Con­tin­uum com­pos­ite ma­te­rial first seen in the flag­ship 800 Se­ries. Bow­ers & Wilkins claims this ma­te­rial pro­vides bet­ter con­trol over the cone’s breakup modes, re­sult­ing in a more trans­par­ent and ac­cu­rate midrange per­for­mance. Cabi­net fin­ish op­tions have also changed, with smooth matte fin­ish vinyl avail­able in both white and black. (The prior 600 Se­ries came only in a black faux wood­grain vinyl in the U.S., while other fin­ishes were avail­able in some coun­tries. The

The 600 Se­ries uses a re­fined ver­sion of B&W'S De­cou­pled Dou­ble Dome tweeter (see be­low right).

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