Bowers & Wilkins has an extravagant yet theoretical approach towards speaker making that has always been the talk of the audio town. Every product that comes out of the Bowers & Wilkins factory in UK is a stunner. For our HT speaker package special, we review their 600 Series—683s (foorstanding speakers as fronts), HTM61 (centre), DS3s (surrounds) and ASW 610 (subwoofer).
Out of the Box
Just one look at these speakers and you know that you are in for a pleasurable audio experience. The entire 600 Series consists of speakers moulded in a conventional box shape, which is made up of real wood. The yellow from the Kevlar woofer with the silver on the aluminium tweeters are quite refreshing from the otherwise monotonous black baffle of the speakers. The simplicity of the 600 Series speakers will see you having an instant liking towards them. The build quality looks sturdy, and you will almost feel that the speakers will last with you forever.
Towers of power with a deep lower end
The most salient feature of the 600 Series is its drivers. There are several speaker manufacturers that incorporate the famous Kevlar woofers but what makes Bowers & Wilkins stand out among the rest is the way they use these drivers. They don’t just connect the drivers and leave the rest in destiny’s hands. But instead there is a lot of importance given to optimise the use of Kevlar woofers. For instance, FST (Fixed Suspension Transducer) uses a narrow ring of foamed polymer to support the outer edge of the cone. This ring absorbs all the bending waves that travel towards the edge of the cone, and accordingly controls the movement of the cone. The physical significance of this arrangement is quicker response of the heavy Kevlar driver leading to better transients as well as clarity and definition in the overall response.
It can take the pressure
For the tweeters, they have incorporated the revolutionary tapering tube technology. Thoroughly tested and acclaimed for its efficiency to eliminate all the drawbacks of back waves in a speaker, the tapering tube tweeter is known for its smooth and linear high-frequency response. Another salient feature of the 600 Series is the bass reflex port, which is not a driver but definitely an equivalent. In heavy and boxy speakers if the air flowing out of them is not properly directed, the result is boomy and muddled sound. Bowers & Wilkins have devised a concept called the Flowport, which looks and works like a golf ball. The hollows on the surface of the port helps generate a smooth and linear flow of air coming out of the speakers that facilitates a controlled bass frequency response.
Setting up these speakers was a breeze. However, the setup deserves more space to open up and to its best. As we arranged the 683s (fronts) in our 180sq ft studio, we placed them far away from each other in order to make the most of the expansive soundstage that these speakers offer. It is essential that you get the right blend, which is usually a trial and error procedure. The overall sound of the setup is almost perfect. Once we connected the speakers to the Anthem MRX 300 AV receiver and sampled some of our favourite Blu-rays, the Bowers & Wilkins 600 Series generated all the excitement that one would expect from a quality 5.1 HT speaker package.
Well designed for that surround feeling
The opening sequence of ‘The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King’ is known to exhaust even the mightiest of subwoofers. But the ASW610 subwoofer displayed no such pressure. At no point did we feel that the lower-end was getting heavy on the rest of the spectrum. One factor that helped the subwoofer was the deep lower end of the 683 floorstanding speakers that were being used as fronts. With the 683s easily reaching the 80Hz mark, the subwoofer was responsible only for the lower frequency effects that the sub dealt with effectively—an advantage of using floorstanders as fronts. Further the quick transient response of the speakers made us believe that we were sitting in a movie theatre as we thoroughly enjoyed watching 'Transformers: Dark of The Moon’.
The movie's busiest soundtrack is also one of the most difficult to reproduce. There are a number of scenes in the movie when objects start flying in front of you and seem to be travelling right past your ear and farther behind almost in the next room. All these effects were rightfully simulated by the speaker set giving us a fabulous theatre-like experience. One factor that actively contributed to this was the efficient performance by the surrounds. Another characteristic of the sound mix on the ‘Transformers: Dark Of The Moon’ is the slight muddiness particularly during the explosions and weapon-heavy scenes. We are sure that most of you must have experienced the same even in movie theatres. Our assumption is the sound designers have deliberately kept it that way to curb the toll that heavy sonic information (explosions, machine sounds, gun shots and other foley) can take on its viewers.
For when the sound comes right at you
In this course what has suffered the most is the centre channel in the 5.1 sound stream, which tends to get lost amidst all the FX and foley on the screen. One solution to this is to increase the volume of the centre channel on the AV receiver. But we didn't do that as the HTM61 was working to its optimum to maintain the clarity in the dialogues. The entire set brought the fast-paced action, sound of ammunitions and crazy sound FX to life with its quick and powerful sound reproduction.
Verdict and Price in India
Priced at around 2.5 lakhs, the 600 Series is a great deal for its exquisite and outstanding performance as a HT speaker package. It can fit itself in a room as small as 180sq ft and still not sound overwhelming or intimidating. Considering its sheer power, it can also perform in a hall as big as 350sq ft. In this speaker package, the fronts (683) can double up as stereo speakers as well. So you don’t have to shell out extra money on buying a separate stereo set. A good AV receiver is all that this set requires. Bowers & Wilkins 600 Series should be on your list, if you are looking at buying a new HT speaker package.
Right for the price
The Bowers & Wilkins 600 Series HT speaker package is priced at Rs. 2,94,600. Should you wish to purchase them separately or in pairs here’s what they’d cost –
- The 683 front tower speakers are sold in a pair and priced at Rs. 1,19,900
- The HTM61 centre is priced at Rs. 49,900,
- The DS3’s again sold as a set of two are priced at Rs. 54,900 and finally,
- The SW610 Subwoofer, is priced at 54,900
Design: 2-way Bass Reflex
Drivers: 1x1” Aluminium Dome
High-frequency: 2x3” Mid-range/
High-frequency: 1x5” Woven Kevlar Cone Bass/Mid-range
Frequency Response: 85Hz–22kHz ±3dB
Nominal Impedadance: 8Ω
Power Handling: 25W–100W
Drive Units: 1x10-inch
Frequency Response: 30Hz–250Hz
Power Handling: 200W Inbuilt Class-D
Design: 3-way Bass Refl ex
Drivers: 1x1” Aluminium Dome High-frequency, 1x6” Woven Kevlar Cone FST Mid-range, 2x6.5” Aluminium/Paper/Kevlar Cone
Frequency Response: 38Hz–22kHz ±3dB
Nominal Impedadance: 8Ω
Power Handling: 25W–200W
Design: 3-way Bass Refl ex
Drivers: 1x1” Aluminium Dome High-frequency, 1x6” Woven Kevlar Cone FST Mid-range, 1x6.5” Aluminium/Paper/Kevlar Cone
Frequency Response: 49Hz–22kHz ±3dB
Nominal Impedadance: 8Ω
Power Handling: 10–100W
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