Bowers & Wilkins 606 HiFi Speakers Review
I recently undertook a group test on nine standmount HiFi speakers to try and find the best affordable standmount speaker under £650
Reviewing, by its very nature, is a subjective thing and lots of factors can influence perceptions. In order to minimise the external influences, my listening room is heavily acoustically treated with panels from GIK acoustics to manage sound reflections and the rooms behaviour. To take this a step further I use DIRAC Live to manage the frequency response of the speakers I am testing to undo what negatives effects their placement in my room may have. I also take this one stage further utilising Dirac Live as a tool to get the very best sound from the speakers.
In this review I compare the Bowers & Wilkins 606 HiFi speakers with the Wharfedale EVO 4.2, which I have reviewed before as part of this 9 speaker group mega test.
The B&W 606 Bookshelf Speakers are priced at £549 at the time of this review and you get a lot of speaker or sound quality for your money. Bowers speakers are famous for their tweeter on top of the cabinet designs and there are inevitable benefits to having that. However, in their smaller designs, such as the 606, the tweeter is in the cabinet in a more traditional speaker design fashion. This does change the sound characteristics of the speaker slightly, which I will refer to later. What is pretty amazing, at this price point, is that the Continuum bass-mid driver is used, the same technology as the 800 series. This driver has a woven silver finish which gives it a ‘space-age’ look.
There is a rear port which uses B&W’s Flow-Port™ technology.
The build quality is excellent. The speakers look good, understated and very modern. My only gripe is that the rear bi-wireable binding posts are recessed, which makes them a little fiddly to connect speaker cables. That said, the binding posts are very high quality for this price bracket. However, I much prefer the external and angled binding posts on the Wharfedale 4.2 for their looks and ease of use.
Treble in B&W speakers is a key characteristic as can be seen in the differences in the response charts below. The B&W 606 displays a rising curve from the midrange before rolling-off in the treble compared to the Wharfedale 4.2 which is smooth from the mid range through to the treble, its very different.
This design choice gives the 606 a lively crisp overall sound, full of energy and forward in nature. A little like drinking a can of Red Bull™, delicious and sweet but I am not sure I could drink many a day, every day of the week. The treble pushed the sound very forward and was a little splashy depending on the amplifier I used.
This characteristic I decided to focus my attention on as part of the custom Dirac Live calibration process and I managed the sound to better balance the speaker in my room overall. This combined with excellent amplification in the Chord Electronics ÉTUDE resulted in a sound that I classified as impeccable - not perfect but impeccable, very hard to fault.
I felt that the tweeter ‘in the box’ might have been creating some colouration and holding back the Bower 606 ability to fully disappear, however, what small colouration there appeared to be was adding itself to the sound of the speakers in a constructive way and benefitting the sound some.
The mid-range and vocals from the Bowers 606 are excellent at this price point, clean, clear and very fast, noticeable across different musical styles. Whilst they are tight and articulate sounding, they are just a little congested in the lower octaves, not quite as fast as the mids and highs. Nevertheless, they had impressive scale of speed of bass overall for the price and size of speaker. Some audiophiles may like to use the 606 with subwoofers but setup well this is definitely not essential.
The Wharfedale 4.2 sound very different to the Bowers 606, their sound is more relaxed, more delicate overall and more go to rather than the come to you sound of the Bowers.
In terms of soundstage and imaging, the Bowers 606s present a wide, crisp and open sound but not quite as wide or as tall as the Wharfedale EVO 4.2.
In essence the Bowers 606 sound like good stand mounts HiFi speakers, the Wharfedales do a better job of imitating smaller floorstanders. Which of these two would best suit would very much come down to personal preference.
The sound of the Bowers 606s is hard to fault in the main the price and they undoubtedly represent great value for money. They deliver in the bass and mid-range, and are good in the treble, depending on your taste and system but some audiophiles may find them to be a little harsh if the former is not balanced correctly. They certainly follow the B&W mantra of making and keeping customers happy year on year with the 600 range being ever more popular.
Would I buy them? The Wharfedale 4.2 are slightly more expensive and probably have the edge in some key areas that are important to me but they are also much larger and may not suit everyone’s space available. Overall, I found that the Wharfedale did a better job at creating a sound with a deeper, go into the music sound presentation but the Bowers created a more sit up and listen sound and both are very compelling ways to listen to music.
Frequency Response - 52Hz – 28KHz ±3db
Style - Two way vented box
Sensitivity - 88db/1m
Normal Impedance - 8Ω
Power - 30w – 120w
A Special Performer Award is Pursuit Perfect Systems highest accolade and is in recognition of exceptional product performance regardless of price