In high-end audio, the release of a new 600 Series from Bowers & Wilkins is always met with excitement. This speaker family has a longstanding reputation for excellence, and with the latest S3 generation, it continues to impress. In this review, we explore the top-tier model in this series, the 603 S3 floorstander, which offers more than you’d expect from a so-called budget speaker.
Bowers & Wilkins, a renowned British audio company, has consistently set the standard for premium audio equipment. With a rich history spanning nearly three decades, the company has earned a reputation for producing high-quality speakers and sound systems. Their commitment to innovation, evidenced by the integration of advanced technologies like Continuum cone material and refined tweeter designs, has elevated their products to a new level of audio excellence. While their 600 Series, including the 603 S3, represents a more accessible range, Bowers & Wilkins doesn’t compromise on quality, ensuring that even their entry-level offerings provide a distinct and enjoyable listening experience. Whether it’s their iconic 800 Series, popular 700 Series, or the more accessible 600 Series, Bowers & Wilkins continues to be a trusted name in high-end audio.
Evolution of the 600 Series
The 600 Series has seen several updates over the years, and the S3 generation brings it to a new level of technological prowess. While there are distinct differences in materials and techniques compared to the higher-end 800 D4 and 700 S3 series, common threads run through them, such as Continuum cone material and a commitment to fine detail. Bowers & Wilkins consciously integrates technology from its higher-tier models into the 600 Series, providing these entry-level speakers with luxury and charisma.
|2 x 6.5-inch paper woofer, 6-inch Continuum midrange, 1 inch Double Dome Titanium tweeter
|46Hz – 28kHz ±3dB
|102 x 26 x 40.2 cm (including wider base)
Simplified choices, as employed by Bowers & Wilkins in their 600 S3 Series, represent a strategic departure from the overwhelming variety that some speaker families offer. In an era where consumers can be inundated with numerous options, Bowers & Wilkins keeps it refreshingly straightforward. With just three distinct speaker models, the selection process becomes far less daunting. In the case of the 600 S3 Series, customers can opt for the slim yet commanding 603 S3 floorstander, the compact 607 S3, or the larger 606 S3 bookshelf speakers. This streamlined approach not only simplifies the decision-making process but also helps ensure that each speaker in the series serves a specific purpose, catering to a broader range of listener preferences.
By offering a limited number of choices, Bowers & Wilkins enhances the overall clarity and focus on the quality and performance of each speaker. Customers are less likely to become overwhelmed by an abundance of options and are more likely to find a speaker that suits their specific needs and listening environment. This simplification also resonates with the brand’s commitment to making high-end audio more accessible, as it enables both audio enthusiasts and newcomers to make well-informed choices, ensuring that their audio experience aligns with their preferences and budget.
Elevated Craftsmanship: The Build Quality and Design of Bowers & Wilkins Speakers
The build quality and design of Bowers & Wilkins speakers exemplify a level of craftsmanship that sets them apart in the world of high-end audio. These aspects are a testament to the meticulous attention to detail that goes into the creation of each speaker.
Build Quality: Bowers & Wilkins prides itself on using premium materials and construction techniques. The physical integrity of their speakers is impeccable, ensuring durability and longevity. The cabinets are often meticulously engineered to minimize resonance, resulting in a cleaner, more accurate sound reproduction. The 600 S3 Series, including the 603 S3, is no exception. Its cabinet design is not only elegant but also structurally robust, contributing to better sound performance. The company’s commitment to quality control is evident in the consistency of its products, where each speaker is built with precision and rigorously tested to meet the highest standards. The choice of materials, such as the Continuum cone for drivers and finely crafted tweeter domes, attests to their dedication to sound excellence.
Design and Craftsmanship: Bowers & Wilkins has a long-standing tradition of merging technical innovation with aesthetic elegance. The design of their speakers is carefully thought out, resulting in an aesthetic that is both functional and visually pleasing. The 603 S3, for example, has a sleek and slender profile that seamlessly integrates with various room decors. The attention to detail is not limited to the exterior; even internal components are meticulously engineered and laid out to optimize sound dispersion and reduce interference. The use of high-quality finishes, whether the classic matte black and white or the trendy light oak, adds a touch of sophistication to the speakers. Including a magnetic grille that not only enhances the visual appeal but also has no acoustic impact demonstrates a fusion of practicality and design. Bowers & Wilkins’ commitment to aesthetics and craftsmanship ensures that their speakers are not just audio equipment but pieces of art that can complement any living space while delivering exceptional sound quality.
Bowers & Wilkins’ decision to reposition the pricing of their 600 S3 Series, exemplified by the 603 S3, marks a significant shift in their approach to the market. With this pricing adjustment, the company acknowledges the evolving economic landscape, including inflation and higher raw material costs, affecting the audio industry. While some may initially raise eyebrows at the higher price tag compared to its predecessor, it’s essential to recognize that this move reflects Bowers & Wilkins’ unwavering commitment to quality and innovation. The price increase, far from being arbitrary, is accompanied by improvements in the speaker’s performance and materials, ensuring that customers receive an upgraded and more refined audio experience.
Value Beyond the Price: Bowers & Wilkins has always placed a premium on quality and innovation, and this repositioned pricing strategy ensures that their products continue to deliver exceptional value. The 603 S3 and the 600 S3 Series may no longer be considered a budget option, but the investment represents an opportunity to experience a higher tier of audio performance. The refinement of components, including introducing a new titanium tweeter, is a testament to the company’s unwavering dedication to delivering an outstanding listening experience. The repositioned pricing reflects a commitment to not only adapt to changing economic conditions but also to maintain its reputation for producing top-tier audio equipment that transcends its price point.
Comprehensive Connectivity: Bowers & Wilkins’ 603 S3 and the Versatile World of Audio Connections
Connections and Connectivity: Bowers & Wilkins’ 600 S3 Series, including the 603 S3, places a strong emphasis on connections and connectivity, recognizing the pivotal role they play in the modern audio experience.
Versatile Connectivity: The 603 S3 and its siblings offer a range of connectivity options to accommodate various audio sources and setups. With the integration of double speaker terminals at the back of the speaker, users have the flexibility to bi-amp or bi-wire, tailoring their audio setup to their preferences. This versatility ensures that the speakers can seamlessly integrate into a wide array of audio systems, whether a high-end stereo setup or a multi-channel home theater configuration. This adaptability to different setups speaks to Bowers & Wilkins’ commitment to providing users with the freedom to create their ideal audio environment.
Modern and Classic Connectivity: In addition to offering advanced connectivity options, the 603 S3 maintains compatibility with both traditional and contemporary audio sources. It readily interfaces with modern AV receivers, amplifiers, and streaming devices through wired connections. Simultaneously, its robust construction and speaker terminals also accommodate classic audio components like vinyl turntables or vintage amplifiers, catering to audiophiles who appreciate the fusion of classic and modern technologies. This diverse range of connectivity options underscores the brand’s dedication to ensuring their speakers remain accessible and adaptable in the face of ever-evolving audio technologies.
Wireless Connectivity: In a world increasingly dominated by wireless technology, Bowers & Wilkins has kept pace. While the 603 S3 primarily focuses on wired connections, the brand offers alternative wireless solutions to complement its speakers. Users can employ external wireless audio adapters, such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi streaming devices, to enjoy the convenience of wireless playback without compromising on audio quality. Bowers & Wilkins’ recognition of the importance of wireless connectivity demonstrates their commitment to providing a comprehensive and user-friendly audio experience for a broad spectrum of consumers.
In summary, Bowers & Wilkins’ 600 S3 Series, represented by the 603 S3, prioritizes connections and connectivity in a way that is versatile, modern, and in tune with the evolving needs of today’s audiophiles. The consideration of multiple connectivity options ensures that these speakers can seamlessly fit into a wide range of audio setups, from traditional to cutting-edge, all while offering the freedom for users to craft their unique listening environments.
Seamless Usability and Enhanced Functionality: Bowers & Wilkins’ 603 S3 Speaker
Usability and Functionality: Bowers & Wilkins’ 603 S3 floorstanding speaker, part of the 600 S3 Series, embodies a blend of usability and functionality that enhances the overall audio experience.
User-Friendly Design: The 603 S3, like other Bowers & Wilkins speakers, is designed with user-friendliness in mind. Its relatively slim form factor, in conjunction with a sleek and elegant appearance, ensures that it can seamlessly integrate into various room settings. This design approach allows users to position the speakers without disrupting the aesthetics of their living space, making them a practical addition to both contemporary and traditional home environments. Including a removable magnetic grille further enhances the user experience, providing an option to showcase the striking Continuum driver or maintain a minimalist look while having no impact on acoustic performance.
Functionality for Diverse Audio Sources: The usability of the 603 S3 extends to its compatibility with a wide range of audio sources. Whether users prefer vinyl records, CDs, streaming services, or multi-channel home theater setups, these speakers are versatile enough to accommodate these preferences. The inclusion of double speaker terminals at the rear of the speaker not only allows for bi-amping or bi-wiring but also enables users to connect them to different audio components seamlessly. This flexibility ensures that the 603 S3 can cater to diverse audio systems and adapt to individual listening requirements.
Enhanced Functionality through Technological Innovation: Bowers & Wilkins’ emphasis on functionality is underpinned by technological innovation. Introducing a new titanium tweeter in the 603 S3 is a testament to their commitment to improving audio quality and enhancing the user experience. This innovation, combined with the Continuum cone for drivers and the suppression of unwanted frequencies through a rear tube, optimizes the speaker’s sound performance. Users can expect more precise and detailed audio, regardless of the source, which reflects the company’s dedication to delivering not just excellent aesthetics but exceptional sound quality as well.
Accessibility and Integration: The 603 S3, in line with the broader 600 S3 Series, is designed with accessibility and integration in mind. The speakers can be seamlessly incorporated into both budget-friendly and high-end audio setups, making them an ideal choice for those looking to upgrade their audio experience without complications. Whether used as standalone stereo speakers, part of a home theater system, or in a multi-room audio setup, the 603 S3 demonstrates adaptability and ease of use, ensuring a smooth transition into the world of high-quality audio.
In conclusion, Bowers & Wilkins’ 603 S3 floorstanding speaker exemplifies a harmonious blend of usability and functionality. Its user-friendly design and adaptability to various audio sources make it a versatile choice for audiophiles of all levels. Furthermore, integrating technological advancements underscores the company’s commitment to delivering exceptional sound quality and a seamless user experience, further solidifying the 603 S3’s position as an accessible and high-performing audio solution.
Impressive Sound Configuration
The 603 S3 boasts a three-way design with a 6-inch midrange driver equipped with a silver Continuum cone and two 6.5-inch woofers featuring paper cones. The well-designed bass port at the rear operates quietly. This speaker’s 8-Ohm impedance and relatively high sensitivity of 90 dB contribute to its ease of driving. Even with compact amplifiers, the 603 S3 delivers a good sound, though more power brings out its full potential.
The sound configuration of Bowers & Wilkins’ 603 S3 floorstanding speaker is a prime example of the engineering excellence and meticulous design that defines this audio product.
Three-Way Design: The 603 S3 features a three-way speaker design that combines a 6-inch midrange driver with a Continuum cone and two 6.5-inch woofers with paper cones. This configuration is carefully calibrated to deliver a balanced and accurate sound reproduction across the audible spectrum. A three-way design ensures that different frequency ranges are handled by dedicated drivers, minimizing interference and phase issues that can occur in less sophisticated speaker configurations.
Continuum Cone Technology: Including Bowers & Wilkins’ renowned Continuum cone material for the midrange driver is a standout feature. The Continuum cone is designed to reduce distortion and provide a more controlled and precise sound. This driver plays a pivotal role in the midrange frequencies, where vocals and many musical instruments reside. The result is a clear and natural representation of these critical elements, enhancing the overall listening experience.
Robust Woofers: The two 6.5-inch woofers with paper cones work in concert to deliver a solid bass foundation. These drivers are engineered to handle low-frequency content with accuracy and power. The rear bass port of the speaker, designed with the expertise that Bowers & Wilkins is known for, ensures that the low end is extended and deep without compromising on clarity. The woofers add depth to the sound, enhancing the overall presence of the music.
Efficient Sound Dispersion: The sound configuration of the 603 S3 is optimized for efficient sound dispersion. This means that the speaker can fill the room with music in a way that is both enveloping and natural. It doesn’t just project sound directly at the listener but creates an immersive soundstage that feels as if the music is emanating from all directions. This three-dimensional quality adds depth to the listening experience, making it feel as if you are right in the midst of a live performance.
Controlled High-Frequency Delivery: The integration of the titanium tweeter, which boasts an ultra-thin dome and advanced sound-tuning technology, contributes to the controlled and precise high-frequency response. The tweeter’s thin dome allows for fast and accurate sound reproduction, capturing the fine details and harmonics in the music. It delivers high frequencies with exceptional clarity and accuracy, ensuring that the treble elements of the music are faithfully rendered.
Adaptive Amplification: The 603 S3, while not demanding, benefits from a quality amplifier to unlock its full potential. While it can perform well with compact amplifiers, providing a satisfactory listening experience, more powerful amplifiers add an extra level of control in the bass and enhance the openness of the sound image. This adaptability speaks to the versatility of the speaker and its ability to cater to a wide range of audio systems and listening preferences.
In summary, the impressive sound configuration of Bowers & Wilkins’ 603 S3 is a testament to the company’s dedication to delivering an exceptional listening experience. Through advanced driver technology, meticulous engineering, and efficient sound dispersion, the 603 S3 offers a balanced and accurate sound reproduction that captures the intricacies and nuances of the music. Whether handling midrange vocals, deep bass, or high-frequency treble, this speaker performs with remarkable precision and control, making it a standout choice for audiophiles and music enthusiasts.
The Heart of the 603 S3: The Tweeter
The tweeter in Bowers & Wilkins’ 603 S3 floorstanding speaker stands as the heart of its sound configuration, playing a pivotal role in delivering an exceptional audio experience.
Titanium Tweeter Innovation: The 603 S3 features a titanium tweeter, an innovation that reflects Bowers & Wilkins’ commitment to using advanced materials for their speakers. This choice is significant because it ensures that the tweeter’s dome is extremely thin, measuring 25 microns. Despite its delicate dimensions, this titanium tweeter remains remarkably rigid. This rigidity is essential as it allows the tweeter to faithfully reproduce high-frequency sounds precisely and accurately, capturing the finest details and harmonics in the music.
Optimized High-Frequency Reproduction: The ultra-thin titanium dome, combined with advanced sound-tuning technology, contributes to the controlled and precise delivery of high-frequency sounds. The 603 S3 can render treble elements, such as cymbals, violins, and female vocal harmonies, with exceptional clarity and accuracy. It captures the brilliance and intricacy of these high-frequency components, ensuring they are lifelike. This level of precision elevates the listening experience, allowing listeners to fully appreciate the subtle nuances within their favorite tracks.
Inherited Acoustic Excellence: It’s worth noting that the 603 S3 inherits some of the acoustic excellence found in Bowers & Wilkins’ higher-end speaker series. The innovative features of the tweeter, such as the ultra-thin dome and sound-tuning technology, have been passed down from the brand’s more premium models. This transference of technology is a testament to Bowers & Wilkins’ commitment to offering the same quality and innovation across their product range, ensuring that even entry-level speakers benefit from the advancements made in their flagship products.
Balancing the Audio Equation: The tweeter in the 603 S3 plays a crucial role in balancing the audio equation. While the midrange driver and woofers handle the lower frequencies and vocals, the tweeter takes responsibility for the high frequencies. This division of labor ensures that each component is specialized in function, minimizing interference and distortion. The result is a sound configuration that is clear, coherent, and faithful to the original recording.
In conclusion, the tweeter in Bowers & Wilkins’ 603 S3 is not merely a component; it’s the heart of the speaker’s sound profile. Its innovative use of titanium and advanced sound-tuning technology ensures that high-frequency sounds are delivered with exceptional accuracy and clarity. This focus on the tweeter, an integral part of the speaker’s overall sound configuration, exemplifies the brand’s commitment to providing a refined and authentic listening experience, even in their more accessible audio offerings.
The Bowers & Wilkins Signature Sound
Bowers & Wilkins’ house sound is recognizable in the 603 S3. It offers a distinct character that combines a large, realistic stereo image with added clarity. This clarity reveals fine details and harmonics in the music, providing a unique listening experience. While it’s not overly critical, the 603 S3 maintains an extra sense of detail characteristic of Bowers & Wilkins. The bass is robust, and the speaker handles instruments and vocals with finesse, depending on the amplifier used.
Sound Test of Bowers & Wilkins’ 603 S3:
Bowers & Wilkins’ 603 S3 floorstanding speaker is put through its paces in a comprehensive sound test, revealing a spectrum of auditory qualities contributing to its exceptional audio performance.
Sound Purity and Clarity: The 603 S3 sets a remarkable precedent with its pristine sound purity and clarity. This is immediately evident in its ability to reproduce vocals with a remarkable degree of precision. From rich, resonant bass notes to the most delicate high-frequency details, the speaker’s sound signature is defined by an absence of distortion and an exceptional separation of frequencies. The Continuum driver and titanium tweeter work in perfect harmony to ensure that every note, every vocal nuance, and every instrument’s timbre is faithfully rendered.
Expansive Soundstage: The 603 S3’s soundstage is a standout feature. It delivers an expansive and immersive audio experience that envelopes the listener in a rich sonic landscape. Whether you’re listening to classical orchestras, rock bands, or intricate jazz ensembles, the speaker’s ability to create a wide and deep soundstage enhances the perception of space within the music. This three-dimensional quality adds a sense of realism to the listening experience, making it feel like the music is being performed right in the room.
Dynamic Range and Control: The 603 S3 demonstrates an impressive dynamic range, effortlessly transitioning from the gentlest pianissimo passages to thunderous crescendos without losing composure. Its ability to maintain control over complex and demanding musical passages is a testament to the precision engineering of the speaker. This control contributes to a listening experience that is not only immersive but also highly engaging, capturing the energy and emotion of the music.
Bass Response: The bass response of the 603 S3 is both articulate and authoritative. Whether handling electronic dance tracks with deep, resonating bass drops or the low-frequency extension of acoustic double basses, the speaker delivers a powerful yet controlled low end. The rear bass port operates quietly, preventing unwanted noise while adding depth to the sound.
Tonality and Instrument Separation: The tonality of the 603 S3 reflects a remarkable balance between warmth and neutrality. This allows for accurately reproducing instruments and voices while preserving their natural timbres. Instrument separation is exceptional, enabling listeners to discern individual instruments in complex arrangements with ease. The speaker’s ability to render the subtle nuances in the sound of different instruments adds to the overall richness of the listening experience.
Adaptability to Various Genres: The 603 S3 excels across various music genres, making it an all-encompassing audio solution. Whether you’re streaming a contemporary pop track, spinning a classical vinyl record, or rocking out to heavy metal, the speaker easily adapts. Its versatility allows it to present music in a manner that suits both audiophiles and mainstream listeners.
In conclusion, the sound test of Bowers & Wilkins’ 603 S3 underscores its position as a high-performance audio speaker. It consistently delivers sound purity, expansive soundstages, dynamic control, robust bass, and precise tonality. Its adaptability to different musical genres and its ability to transport the listener into the heart of the music make it a standout choice for those seeking an exceptional listening experience.
Conclusion: Elevating the 600 Series
Bowers & Wilkins’ 603 S3 floorstanding speaker represents a remarkable fusion of craftsmanship, innovation, and audio excellence. The meticulous design and construction showcased through the speaker’s build quality and materials set a new standard in high-end audio. Its elegant and user-friendly design, along with its versatility in accommodating various audio sources and setups, makes it a practical addition to both modern and traditional living spaces.
In sound performance, the 603 S3 shines with a configuration that offers exceptional sound purity, expansive soundstage, dynamic control, and robust bass response. Its adaptability to various musical genres and the ability to transport the listener into the heart of the music make it a formidable choice for those seeking an extraordinary auditory experience. The 603 S3 is more than just a speaker; it’s an audio masterpiece that combines artistry and engineering to deliver a level of sound quality that is sure to captivate the most discerning audiophiles and music enthusiasts.
Reasons to Buy:
- Audio Quality: The 603 S3 offers outstanding audio quality with a clear and detailed sound profile. If you prioritize exceptional sound purity, expansive soundstage, and precise high-frequency reproduction, this speaker is a worthy investment.
- Build Quality: Bowers & Wilkins is known for its craftsmanship, and the 603 S3 is no exception. Its premium build materials and design make it a piece of art that can enhance your living space.
- Versatility: The speaker’s adaptability to various audio sources and setups, along with its ability to cater to different musical genres, makes it a versatile addition to any audio system.
- Advanced Tweeter: Including a titanium tweeter, borrowed from the brand’s more premium models, ensures that the high-frequency elements in your music are accurately reproduced.
Reasons Not to Buy:
- Budget Constraints: The 603 S3 is positioned as a mid-range product, and its price may not fit everyone’s budget. If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, alternatives are available.
- Room Size: The 603 S3 size may not be suitable for smaller rooms or spaces where a more compact speaker is preferred. The speaker’s dimensions must align with your room’s layout and size.
- Amplifier Requirements: While the 603 S3 can work well with various amplifiers, it benefits from a quality amplifier to unlock its full potential. If you’re not prepared to invest in a suitable amplifier, you might not fully appreciate the speaker’s capabilities.
- Wireless Features: If you require built-in wireless connectivity and advanced streaming features, the 603 S3’s focus on traditional audio connections may not meet your needs.
In conclusion, the decision to buy the Bowers & Wilkins 603 S3 speaker should be based on your audio requirements and preferences. It offers exceptional sound quality, build, and versatility, but budget considerations and room size should also play a role in your decision-making process. It’s important to evaluate whether the speaker aligns with your specific audio system and listening environment.