Bowers & Wilkins 607 S2 Anniversary Edition Loudspeakers Review
Bowers & Wilkins
607 S2 Anniversary Edition
Stand Mount Loudspeakers
AUD $995 RRP
Maybe it’s my inner geek, but loudspeaker design fascinates me. There’s lots of fun to be had comparing and contrasting the wildly varying shapes, sizes and types of speakers on the market, but it’s even more interesting when you factor in the historical aspect. Have things actually got better as the years go by?
My answer to this is a qualified yes. Speakers that were brilliant in the nineteen seventies and eighties are often still great now, but average ones have dramatically improved. Indeed, when you listen to something like B&W’s new 607 S2 Anniversary Edition, it’s a pretty stark demonstration of how iterative modifications to budget designs have delivered serious upgrades in sound. At the risk of beginning this review with its conclusion, this affordable standmounter is a lesson in honing and polishing.
Bowers & Wilkins launched its entry-level 600 Series loudspeakers one-quarter of a century ago. Aside from making me feel old, this fascinating fact tells us that only the iconic 800 Series has lasted longer. So when the company introduces a tweak to its popular budget line, the hi-fi world should sit up and listen. The Anniversary model sports technology cascaded down from the company’s high-end designs. Lest we forget, the original 600s started by borrowing Kevlar mid/bass drivers from the company’s pricier products, and most recently in 2018, the (then) new sixth-generation 600 Series got the latest Continuum cone.
The new model of two years ago was to my ears, a step change upwards. I’d never been a huge fan of Kevlar as a cone material, even though I could hear its plus points. To me, it’s always sounded a bit synthetic and unnatural, despite being decently punchy and fast. Like its predecessor, the Continuum cone is a woven composite but breaks up in a much more controlled and predictable way. B&W doesn’t just claim this; it has extensive laboratory testing data to show it in real-time. This laid the groundwork for the new technology which the 607 S2 Anniversary has now built upon.
The Anniversary tweaks centre around three things – finish options, driver improvements and crossover upgrades. First things first, and this small two-way reflex-loaded standmounter now gets the option of cherry and oak (the former for Asian markets, and the latter for the rest of the world), to go with the existing matt white and black. Added to this is an Anniversary Edition script on the new bright tweeter surround, which makes the speaker look swisher than its predecessors.
The 25mm aluminium dome tweeter is retained from the previous model, but gets an improved assembly with an upgraded neodymium magnet from the 700 Series, and the latter’s good looking grille mesh. Behind this, the dome is repositioned within the diaphragm mounting plate to improve time alignment. B&W says this results in a first break-up mode of 38kHz, which is well beyond the hearing range of anyone or anything who has an opinion on such matters! At 4kHz, the speaker crosses over to its mid/bass driver, a 130mm Continuum coned affair that uses the chassis, motor and anti-resonance plug seen in the 700 Series.
Finally, the crossover of the 607 S2 Anniversary Edition gets what Bowers & Wilkins calls “greatly improved” bypass capacitors, specially treated by Mundorf. These are the same items used to great effect in the 700 Series Signature editions, where – to my ears – they delivered real sonic gains. So this new Anniversary speaker isn’t radically changed but has been subtly tweaked to get the best out of B&W’s existing hardware.
In every other respect, things stay the same, and there’s not much wrong with that. You still see the company’s familiar Flowport reflex port around the back, along with a brace of bi-wirable gold plated speaker binding posts. The cabinet feels similar to earlier such B&Ws; there’s a fairly dull thunk when you hit it with your knuckles – although we’re not quite in 800 Series territory here, all the same! The finish is good at the price and the 607 S2 Anniversary Edition is pretty solid thanks to its 4.7kg weight; overall, it feels like a classy product.
In terms of measured performance, the headline news is this speaker’s lowish claimed sensitivity figure of 84dB (2.83Vrms, 1m), which is poorer than rivals like Q Acoustics Concept 20, with 88dB claimed. Still, in today’s world of powerful solid-state amplifiers, that’s still no big deal. As there’s a trade-off between sensitivity, bass extension and nominal impedance, it looks like B&W designers have opted to maximise the amount of bottom end grunt available from this pretty small (207x300x165mm) box – claimed frequency response is 52Hz to 28kHz (±3dB) with an 8 ohm nominal impedance. Recommended amplifier power range is 30W to 100W (into 8 ohms).
One huge plus is ease of placement. Although foam bungs are supplied, you don’t need them unless the speaker is positioned pretty close to a boundary wall; you can run it as close as 25cm from the back wall without the bass response going postal. Slight toe-in was required, but it’s generally unfussy about placement – a big real-world advantage for a product such as this.
In the great loudspeaker scheme of things, no budget box cuts the mustard. Listen to a Wilson Audio Sabrina X or a B&W 802 Diamond as I’ve been doing recently, and you’ll know that nothing anywhere near this price comes close to the transparency of these top transducers, or their bandwidth. So the challenge for the 607 S2 Anniversary Edition is instead to give a musically engaging sound with just enough clues about what’s really going on in the recording.
In this, it succeeds. What I like about this baby box is that it has no obvious faults, despite its lowly position on the loudspeaker ladder. It has a smooth tonal balance, an impressively extended bass (for a small standmount) and couth treble, plus deft rhythmic articulation and decent dynamics. Indeed, its strength is just where you’d want it to be, in the midband. You can come away from listening to some seriously high-end speakers, then play some music through this and still enjoy it.
The way the 607 S2 Anniversary handles vocals is better than I’d expected. Annie Lennox’s epic cover version of Neil Young’s Don’t Let It Bring You Down proved a joy; her icy and fragile but emotive voice was well carried. This speaker did a decent job at conveying its original tone, but its star turn was the way it imparted her phrasing – the thing that makes her version so good, in my view. At the same time, the complex electronic backing wasn’t allowed to detract from this; the B&W kept everything in proportion whilst really letting the power of the sequenced bass and drums rip. The result was a great listening experience, one that never reminded me how inexpensive this speaker actually is.
Tonally it’s accomplished too; earlier 600 Series designs from a decade ago were brighter in the upper midband, and sounded harder. But here the mix was well lit without being too shiny. I was impressed by the sweetness of the drum machine’s hi-hat cymbal sound, and the 607 S2 Anniversary’s bass was a class act too. Bob Marley’s Smile Jamaica is – as you’d expect – dominated by a bass guitar groove, and this was satisfyingly tuneful and bouncy. Of course, at higher levels it compressed noticeably, but less than anything else I’ve heard at or near the price. This speaker’s decent bass grip, allied to the purity of the treble, made for a taut and propulsive listen with rhythmic music like this.
Soundstaging is as good as you’ll get from a small budget standmounter. Doubtless helped by the fine transient speed of the drive units and B&W’s skills at time alignment, you get a largish window into the musical world and instruments are well located within. Trick of the Tale by Genesis sounded more immersive and three dimensional than it has a right to via a budget box, pulling me into the recording. We weren’t quite at electrostatic dimensionality levels here, but there was no sense of the music struggling to get out. Steve Hackett’s guitar noodling panned hard left and right, giving the intended spacious and airy feel.
This latest entry-level standmount from B&W is better than ever, then. Okay, the 607 S2 Anniversary doesn’t have the lavish finish of higher-end designs from this stable, but it looks neat enough and in sonic terms is right on the pace. Its strength is its basically friendly and engaging sound that makes you want to listen to music, no matter what type or genre.
Sure, it faces stiff price competition from Q Acoustics and Acoustic Energy, but such underlying ability will win it many friends. I await the next quarter-century of the 600 Series with interest.
David started his career in 1993 writing for Hi-Fi World and went on to edit the magazine for nearly a decade. He was then made Editor of Hi-Fi Choice and continued to freelance for it and Hi-Fi News until becoming StereoNET’s Editor-in-Chief.