Reviews

Review: Bowers & Wilkins 606 S3 Bookshelf Speaker – A Harmonious Blend of Tradition and Innovation

Review: Bowers & Wilkins 606 S3 Speaker - A Harmonious Blend of Tradition and Innovation - Discover sonic brilliance with the B&W 606 S3, a compact marvel blending technical excellence, spatial finesse, and versatile functionality for audiophile indulgence.

Introduction

In the world of audio excellence, Bowers & Wilkins stands as a venerable name synonymous with mature craftsmanship and timeless design. The B&W 606 series, renowned for its meticulous evolution, embodies the company’s commitment to sonic sophistication. In this review, we explore the latest iteration, the B&W 606 S3, delving into its technical enhancements, listening experience, and the captivating fusion of tradition and innovation that has become emblematic of Bowers & Wilkins loudspeakers. The British audio giant’s dedication to quality and precision shines through, promising an auditory journey that combines decades of expertise with cutting-edge advancements.

Bowers & Wilkins: A Sonic Legacy Unveiled: For over half a century, Bowers & Wilkins has sculpted an enduring legacy as purveyors of audio excellence. Hailing from the United Kingdom, the company has garnered global acclaim for its commitment to superior sound reproduction. B&W’s speakers have become synonymous with a specific sonic maturity and aesthetic refinement because of their meticulous design and construction. The 606 S3, a testament to their enduring philosophy, encapsulates the essence of Bowers & Wilkins – a harmonious marriage of tradition and innovation, resulting in speakers that stand as technological marvels and resonate with the soul-stirring power of music.

Bowers & Wilkins 606 S3 Specs

Speaker Configuration2-Way
Recommended Amplifier Power30 to 120 W RMS
Drivers1 x 1″ / 25.4 mm Titanium Dome Tweeter
1 x 6.5″ / 165.1 mm Continuum Cone Mid-Woofer
Passive RadiatorsNo
Frequency Response52 Hz to 28 kHz (±3 dB)
Frequency Range40 Hz to 33 kHz (-6 dB)
Impedance.1 Ohms
Inputs/Outputs4x Binding Post Pair Input (Audio)
Sensitivity88 dB
THD (Total Harmonic Distortion)< 1%
Input Impedance8 Ohms
Speaker Configuration2-Way
Drivers1 x 1″ / 25.4 mm Titanium Dome Tweeter
1 x 6.5″ / 165.1 mm Continuum Cone Mid-Woofer
Frequency Response52 Hz to 28 kHz (±3 dB)
Inputs/Outputs4x Binding Post Pair Input (Audio)
Placement & Mounting OptionsTabletop/Bookshelf
Floor ContactsRubber Feet
Dimensions7.4 x 13.5 x 11.8″ / 189 x 344 x 300 mm (without Grille)
7.4 x 13.5 x 12.9″ / 189 x 344 x 328 mm (with Grille)
Weight15.7 lb / 7.1 kg

Build Quality and Craftsmanship:

Bowers & Wilkins’ commitment to unwavering build quality and craftsmanship is palpable in every detail of their speakers, epitomizing a legacy of precision engineering. From the robust enclosure to the intricate driver components, each element is meticulously assembled, showcasing the dedication of seasoned artisans. The durability of materials, such as the precisely machined driver housings and solid speaker terminals, reflects a dedication to longevity. The addition of reinforced internal struts in the B&W 606 S3 further attests to an insistence on structural integrity without compromising elegance.

Design Excellence: Bowers & Wilkins’s design philosophy seamlessly blends functionality with aesthetic finesse. The exterior of their speakers is a testament to thoughtful design, where form complements function. The carefully sculpted contours and the subtle integration of the tweeter and midrange driver in the B&W 606 S3 exemplify the pursuit of sonic perfection without sacrificing visual harmony. The visually striking “flow port” enhances the bass reflex system and adds a touch of modern elegance, showcasing the meticulous design considerations that elevate B&W speakers above mere audio devices.

Aesthetic Refinement: Bowers & Wilkins speakers radiate an understated yet refined aesthetic, embodying a design language that transcends fleeting trends. The attention to detail in the selection of premium finishes, be it the luxurious wood veneers or sleek matte surfaces, speaks to the brand’s dedication to timeless elegance. Even the speaker grille, redesigned for enhanced transparency, merges aesthetic appeal with practical function. B&W speakers are not just auditory instruments but pieces of visual art that seamlessly integrate into any living space, marrying sonic prowess with an aesthetic charm that withstands the test of time.

In essence, Bowers & Wilkins has mastered the art of harmonizing build quality, design, aesthetics, and craftsmanship, creating speakers that sound exceptional and serve as exquisite additions to the visual tapestry of any audiophile’s sanctuary.

Technical Overview: Precision Engineering for Sonic Mastery

Bowers & Wilkins, renowned for their unwavering commitment to sonic excellence, unveils the technical intricacies that define the 606 S3, showcasing a marriage of cutting-edge innovations and time-tested engineering principles.

Two-Way Design and Flow Port System: The 606 S3 is a testament to B&W’s meticulous design approach, featuring a compact two-way loudspeaker configuration. The rear-firing bass reflex system, elegantly communicated through the “flow port,” is a triumph of engineering. This bass reflex tube, secured by screws rather than mere adhesive, exhibits precision in construction. The intricate depressions on the flow port surface, reminiscent of a golf ball, contribute to harmonious turbulence in the escaping air, minimizing unwanted flow noise.

Driver Innovations: Behind the grille, a symphony of driver innovations unfolds. The titanium tweeter, a departure from the previous aluminum iteration, introduces a longer rear tube system tailored to the changed resonance frequency. This adjustment promises a freer and more open sound. The bass-midrange driver inherits a magnet system from B&W’s higher-end 700 series, enhancing stability in the crucial bass-midrange frequencies. Incorporating bypass capacitors from the 700 series into the crossover further exemplifies B&W’s commitment to nuanced audio reproduction.

Upgraded Speaker Terminal and Structural Enhancements: A visible evolution lies in the upgraded speaker terminal, now featuring higher-quality models in the pricier 700 series. The reorientation of the terminals, side by side instead of stacked, reflects a thoughtful design adjustment. Beyond the visible components, internal struts receive reinforcement, a subtle yet crucial enhancement contributing to the overall solidity of the speaker. Remarkably, despite these upgrades, the 606 S3 maintains a weight near identical to its predecessor, showcasing an intricate balance of materials and engineering.

In essence, the B&W 606 S3’s technical prowess extends beyond superficial enhancements, delving deep into driver technologies, crossover refinement, and structural integrity. The result is a harmonious amalgamation of innovations that promise to deliver a sonic experience that is a testament to Bowers & Wilkins’ enduring pursuit of audio perfection.

Connectivity and Surround Room Setup: Seamless Integration for Immersive Soundscapes

Bowers & Wilkins, synonymous with sonic excellence, extends their commitment to user-friendly connectivity and surround room setups with the 606 S3, ensuring audiophiles can seamlessly integrate these speakers into diverse home environments.

Enhanced Speaker Terminals: The 606 S3 introduces an upgraded speaker terminal configuration, showcasing aesthetic refinement and improved connectivity. Higher-quality terminals, reminiscent of those in the premium 700 series, signify a commitment to reliable connections. Now aligned side by side, the reorientation of terminals simplifies speaker wire connections, allowing for a cleaner and more accessible setup process. These thoughtful enhancements cater to both novice users and seasoned audiophiles seeking a hassle-free installation experience.

Bi-Wiring Capability: The 606 S3 continues to support bi-wiring, allowing users to fine-tune their audio experience. This feature separates the speaker’s high and low-frequency signals, accommodating advanced users who seek to optimize their system for enhanced clarity and precision. The inclusion of this capability reflects B&W’s acknowledgment of diverse user preferences and the desire for customizable audio setups.

Surround Room Setup and Acoustic Considerations: Bowers & Wilkins understands that achieving an immersive audio experience goes beyond individual speaker performance. The 606 S3 is designed to seamlessly integrate into surround sound setups, contributing to a cohesive and enveloping auditory environment. The speakers’ compact dimensions (189 x 300 x 340 mm) facilitate versatile placement options, enabling users to optimize their room’s acoustics.

Bass Reflex Tuning Options: Recognizing the impact of speaker placement on bass response, B&W includes foam bass reflex plugs with the 606 S3. Users can tailor the upper bass intensity by adjusting the proximity of the speakers to walls or corners. This intuitive tuning option provides a more personalized sonic experience, accommodating different room configurations and user preferences.

In summary, the B&W 606 S3 delivers exceptional sound quality and prioritizes user-friendly connectivity and adaptability within surround room setups. Whether connecting via upgraded speaker terminals, exploring bi-wiring possibilities, or optimizing bass reflex tuning, Bowers & Wilkins ensures that users can effortlessly integrate the 606 S3 into their unique audio ecosystems for a truly immersive listening experience.

Listening Experience: Sonic Brilliance Unleashed

The Bowers & Wilkins 606 S3 offers an auditory journey transcending conventional expectations, weaving together an intricate tapestry of sound quality and precision. The listening experience is a testament to B&W’s unwavering commitment to sonic excellence.

Bass Artistry: While the 606 S3 exhibits natural limitations in deep bass, its ingeniously crafted upper bass hump compensates admirably. The compact dimensions of the speaker defy expectations, delivering a perceived bass richness that defies its size. With a nuanced upper bass tuning, the 606 S3 proves its mettle, effortlessly holding its ground against larger counterparts and providing an unexpectedly robust low-frequency response.

Midrange Transparency: The midrange of the 606 S3 is a realm of clarity and authenticity. Vocals and acoustic instruments come to life with realistic timbres, showcasing the speaker’s ability to reproduce intricate details faithfully. The clear midband performance makes classical productions a delight, allowing listeners to discern the subtleties of different brass and woodwind instruments with remarkable precision.

Treble Elegance: True to B&W’s signature touch, the treble range of the 606 S3 is marked by a subtle pinch of freshness. While not strictly adhering to traditional norms, this tonal character works harmoniously to create an engaging listening experience. The treble, characterized by its almost sensational resolution in this price range, perfectly unveils fine details. From the twang of a guitar string to the delicate nuances of a piano ballad, the 606 S3’s treble articulation is a sonic revelation.

Resolution and Detail: The resolution of the B&W 606 S3 is nothing short of impressive, offering a fair to very good performance across the frequency spectrum. Lower mids exhibit typical resolution for this price range, while the upper mids showcase a higher level of differentiation. The treble, as highlighted, stands out with exceptional detail retrieval, exposing subtleties and tonal intricacies that might go unnoticed by other speakers in the same category.

Comparative Sound Test: In a direct A/B comparison with its predecessor, the 606 S3 reveals notable differences. The low tones exhibit contour, with envelope curves tracing more accurately and producing a powerful, punchy bass. Although slightly subdued in level, the treble retains its resolution, creating a more seamless connection between the treble and midrange. The S3 incarnation emerges as tonally more homogeneous and coherent than its predecessor, with added contour in the bass.

The B&W 606 S3 offers a listening experience that transcends its price range. From the precise contouring of bass to the transparent midrange and elegant treble, these speakers capture the nuances of music with finesse. The spatiality, resolution, and refined tonal balance make the 606 S3 a sonic marvel, inviting listeners to immerse themselves in a world of auditory sophistication.

The Spatial Prowess and Dynamic Balance

Spatial Prowess: Unveiling Sonic Dimensions

Bowers & Wilkins elevates the auditory experience with the 606 S3’s remarkable spatial prowess, transporting listeners into a three-dimensional sonic panorama. The speakers showcase an unprecedented ability to detach the sound image from the physical housing, creating an immersive and authentic soundstage that surpasses expectations for its price range.

The 606 S3, with its adept spatial capabilities, offers an enthralling sense of depth and dimensionality to soundscapes. Whether it’s a well-captured chamber music recording or a dynamic rock ensemble, the speakers effortlessly reproduce the subtle nuances of reverberations and early reflections. This spatial precision makes listeners feel like they are within the recording room itself, a testament to the meticulous engineering and design considerations.

Moreover, the improved ability to locate sound sources within the panoramic spectrum enhances the listening experience. The 606 S3 strikes a delicate balance, providing precision without appearing dissected or static. This unique quality allows listeners to perceive the spatial dimensions of a recording with heightened accuracy and realism, immersing them in an audio journey that transcends traditional speaker capabilities.

Dynamic Balance: A Symphony of Nuanced Power

The dynamic balance of the B&W 606 S3 is a finely tuned performance, navigating a middle path between raw power and gentle finesse. The speakers exhibit a balanced and controlled approach to dynamics, ensuring an engaging auditory experience across various musical genres and audio sources.

Regarding raw power, the 606 S3 competently delivers impactful dynamics, offering a punchy and well-defined bass, especially with genres that demand a robust low-end response. The attack and stopping of sounds are executed seamlessly, without the intrusion of brake strips, showcasing the speaker’s ability to handle dynamic transitions with finesse.

Conversely, when a more restrained and nuanced playback is required, the 606 S3 provides a delicate touch. This balanced dynamic performance is particularly evident in the midrange and high frequencies, where the speakers maintain a commendable level of finesse. The fine dynamics, especially in the highs, contribute to an overall listening experience that is powerful and intricately detailed.

In summary, the B&W 606 S3’s spatial prowess and dynamic balance are exemplary, setting a benchmark for speakers in its price category. The speakers effortlessly navigate the intricate interplay of spatial dimensions and dynamic intricacies, ensuring that every musical note unfolds with precision and finesse, immersing the listener in a captivating auditory journey.

Usability and Functionality: Seamlessness Redefined

The Bowers & Wilkins 606 S3 not only captivates with its sonic prowess but also raises the bar regarding usability and functionality, delivering an intuitive and versatile audio experience.

User-Friendly Connectivity: Navigating the world of audio setup is a breeze with the 606 S3, thanks to its user-friendly connectivity features. The upgraded speaker terminals, borrowing from the high-end 700 series, simplify the connection process. The side-by-side arrangement of terminals streamlines speaker wire connections, ensuring a hassle-free setup for users of all expertise levels. These enhancements reflect B&W’s commitment to providing a seamless and accessible user experience.

Bi-Wiring Flexibility: Catering to audiophiles seeking customization, the 606 S3 supports bi-wiring, allowing users to fine-tune their audio setup. This flexibility empowers enthusiasts to explore advanced configurations, optimizing their systems for enhanced clarity and precision. B&W acknowledges the diverse preferences within its user base, and the inclusion of bi-wiring capabilities underscores its commitment to accommodating various audio preferences.

Adaptable Surround Sound Integration: Recognizing the importance of immersive audio experiences, the 606 S3 is designed to integrate into surround sound setups seamlessly. The compact dimensions of the speakers facilitate versatile placement options, allowing users to optimize their room’s acoustics for an enveloping auditory environment. This adaptability ensures that the 606 S3 seamlessly complements diverse home audio configurations, delivering a truly immersive listening experience.

Bass Reflex Tuning Options: Tailoring the audio experience to individual preferences is effortless with the 606 S3’s bass reflex tuning options. The inclusion of foam bass reflex plugs provides users with the ability to adjust the upper bass intensity based on their preferences. Whether positioned close to walls or corners, users can fine-tune the speakers to their liking, adding a layer of customization to the listening experience.

In essence, the B&W 606 S3 redefines usability and functionality in high-end audio. From simplified connectivity to adaptability in surround sound setups and personalized tuning options, these speakers are designed to cater to a diverse audience, ensuring that every user can easily unlock their audio system’s full potential.

Technical Excellence and Unique Features: Elevating the Audiophile Experience

The Bowers & Wilkins 606 S3 is a paragon of technical excellence, seamlessly merging innovative engineering with unique features that redefine the audiophile landscape.

Titanium Tweeter with Extended Rear Tube System: A pioneering feature of the 606 S3 lies in its titanium tweeter, a departure from conventional aluminum counterparts. This remarkable material choice is coupled with an extended rear tube system, meticulously calibrated to the changed resonance frequency of the dome. The result is a tweeter that delivers a freer and more open sound, setting a new standard for resolution and articulation in its price range.

Bass-Midrange Driver with 700 Series Magnet System: Transcending boundaries, the 606 S3 inherits a magnet system from B&W’s prestigious 700 series for its bass-midrange driver. This technology transfer enhances stability in the critical bass-midrange frequencies, ensuring a refined and controlled lower-frequency response. Integrating advanced components from the 700 series underscores B&W’s commitment to delivering premium audio experiences across its product range.

Crossover with 700 Series Bypass Capacitors: The heart of the 606 S3’s sonic finesse lies in its crossover, a pivotal component in any speaker system. B&W introduces a subtle yet impactful upgrade by incorporating bypass capacitors from the 700 series. This strategic integration enhances the crossover’s performance, contributing to improved signal purity and ensuring that each frequency range is handled with utmost precision.

Reinforced Internal Struts for Structural Integrity: Bowers & Wilkins addresses structural integrity with reinforced internal struts in pursuit of sonic perfection. A seemingly modest enhancement, these reinforcements fortify the speaker housing without compromising its elegant and compact design. The result is a speaker that exudes robustness and durability while maintaining its aesthetic appeal.

Flow Port with Golf Ball-Inspired Design: An emblem of meticulous design, the 606 S3’s bass reflex system is communicated through the “flow port.” Inspired by the dimpled surface of a golf ball, this port minimizes unwanted flow noise with its carefully crafted depressions. The attention to detail in the flow port’s design serves a functional purpose and adds a touch of sophistication to the speaker’s exterior.

In summary, the technical excellence of the B&W 606 S3 lies in its meticulous craftsmanship and groundbreaking features. From the titanium tweeter to the integration of components from higher-end series, each element is a testament to Bowers & Wilkins’ relentless pursuit of audio perfection, ensuring that the 606 S3 stands as a symbol of innovation and sonic brilliance in the world of high-fidelity audio.

Conclusion: A Sonic Masterpiece in Every Note

In the realm of audio engineering, the Bowers & Wilkins 606 S3 emerges not merely as a speaker but as a testament to acoustic artistry. Its technical excellence, marked by innovations like the titanium tweeter, 700 series-inspired components, and meticulous design, positions it as a sonic masterpiece. The seamless integration of unique features, reinforced by a commitment to structural integrity, elevates the audiophile experience and establishes the 606 S3 as a symbol of B&W’s enduring legacy of excellence.

With a nod to its predecessors and an eye toward the future, the B&W 606 S3 exemplifies the harmonious blend of tradition and innovation that defines Bowers & Wilkins. The speaker showcases the brand’s storied heritage in audio craftsmanship and boldly embraces cutting-edge technologies, delivering a listening experience that transcends expectations. In every resonant note, the 606 S3 invites enthusiasts into a world where technical excellence meets aural perfection, reaffirming Bowers & Wilkins’ position as a trailblazer in pursuing sonic brilliance.

Reasons to Buy the B&W 606 S3:

  1. Sonic Excellence: The 606 S3 is a sonic marvel, offering audio fidelity and clarity that surpasses expectations in its price range. With innovations like the titanium tweeter and 700 series-inspired components, it delivers a detailed and immersive listening experience.
  2. Spatial Prowess: The speaker’s spatial capabilities are exceptional, creating a three-dimensional soundstage that immerses listeners in the intricacies of their favorite music. The ability to detach the sound image from the housing and provide precise sound localization sets it apart.
  3. Versatility in Setup: Whether you’re a novice or an experienced audiophile, the 606 S3 caters to various user preferences. The upgraded speaker terminals, bi-wiring capabilities, and adaptability in surround sound setups offer flexibility and ease of integration into diverse audio systems.
  4. Build Quality and Design: Crafted with precision and elegance, the 606 S3 reflects B&W’s commitment to buildinging quality and design excellence. Each element showcases meticulous craftsmanship, from the titanium tweeter to the flow port with golf ball-inspired design.
  5. Innovative Features: The integration of advanced features, such as the 700 series components in the crossover and the extended rear tube system for the tweeter, demonstrates a commitment to pushing the boundaries of audio technology, making it a forward-looking investment.

Considerations Against Buying:

  1. Price Point: While the B&W 606 S3 offers exceptional value for its performance, the price point may be a consideration for budget-conscious buyers. There are alternative speakers available at lower price ranges with commendable performance.
  2. Bass Limitations: For those seeking a deep bass extension, the 606 S3’s natural limitations in the lower frequencies might be a consideration. While the upper bass is well-tuned, users desiring substantial low-end impact may need to explore larger or more specialized speakers.
  3. Subjective Treble: The characteristic freshness in the treble, a hallmark of B&W speakers, may be a matter of personal taste. Some listeners may prefer a more neutral treble response, and it’s advisable to audition the speakers to ensure alignment with individual preferences.

In summary, the B&W 606 S3 is a compelling choice for audiophiles seeking a harmonious blend of technical excellence, spatial finesse, and versatile functionality. While it may not be the perfect fit for every user, its unique features and sonic brilliance make it a standout option.

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