REVIEW: BOWERS & WILKINS 607 BOOKSHELF LOUDSPEAKERS

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by Peter Familari

14th January, 2019

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REVIEW: BOWERS & WILKINS 607 BOOKSHELF LOUDSPEAKERS

Bowers & Wilkins

607

Bookshelf Loudspeakers

$949 RRP

New ownership and a fresh broom seem to have invigorated UK speaker brand, Bowers & Wilkins. A theory that is bolstered by its release of the new 600 series of Hi-Fi and home cinema speakers.

One model, in particular, took our fancy offering what seemed to us, an entertaining package at a very affordable price. The stellar performer we’re gushing about is the entry level 607 stand mount speaker that’s nicely built and nicely priced at just $949 RRP.

The 607 is part of B&W’s entry-level 600 Series, a range with prices suggesting it will be B&Ws most popular of its three series of speakers because it’s the most accessible.

Perched above the 600 series is the 700 and 800 Diamond series, the flagship of which is the 800 Series D3, also currently in-house for an upcoming review. 

For now, though, I’d rather spread the good news about the affordable 607 compacts for many reasons: I’m egalitarian by birth, I delight in sharing news about affordable, musically satisfying audio gear and lastly, because the 607 confirms B&W’s new owners have made a great speaker brand even better.

Mind you, up until its acquisition by Silicon Valley’s Eva Automation, B&W was going along quite nicely, thank you. The company also 

But new owner Gideon Yu, who was a Facebook executive, along with newly appointed ex-Samsung president and now B&W CEO, Gregory Lee, are passionate about good sound and moreover have strong ideas about how and what we ought to use for entertainment in our homes.

Eva Automation’s website doesn’t hold back the superlatives about its audio-video mission. 

It says:

We’re…reimagining the audio/video experience by making products that will change how people interact and think about the home. We are passionate about home entertainment and creating easier and better ways for people to use the products they love.

In case you were wondering, yes the wee 607 can be matched to the larger 606 model ($1,149) or indeed, the range-topping 603 floor standing speaker ($2699) to create a surround sound system.

To complete your 5.1 arsenal, all you’ll need is to add the matching $799 HTM6 centre channel and one of thee subwoofers called the ASW610XP ($1799), ASW6710 ($999) or the ASW608 ($749).

The 600 Series models are available in Matt Black or Satin white finish.


Bowers & Wilkins 600 Series Home Theatre System

Meet The B&W 607

Our review pair of 607s was finished in Satin White, and it has to be noted, the overall presentation will make just about any buyer feel like they’re getting a speaker bargain.

The 607 enclosures look clean, uncluttered and contemporary. Especially in the Satin White finish, which helps to highlight the silver, contoured shape of the tweeter and the black surround and silver of the woofer cone.

The omission of speaker grill pegs in favour of magnetic coupling of grills to cabinets removes the need to build four black holes in the front baffles. With grills off, this affordable model looks clean, uncluttered and sophisticated.

Add into the equation cabinets that have a professional standard of finish and a woofer sourced from B&W’s much more expensive 800 and 700 Series, and the asking price of $949 looms as equitable and, accessible.

On the downside, the 607 enclosures are light. Each speaker weighs an uninspiring 4.7Kgs. Mind you, the 607 isn’t a large compact, but with a height of 300mm, a width of 165mm and depth of 207mmb the new 607 isn’t a minnow either.

Undoubtedly, the silver Continuum woofer used in the 607 allows B&W to forego a heavy cabinet. All the same, our listening experience suggests owners of the 607 will get more out of their new speaker if they invest in a heavy stand rather than a light, flimsy one.

The 607 Technologies

If B&W rings its own bells about the technology onboard the 607, and it does, loudly, you can forgive the hype. Because when an entry-level budget model carries the very same woofer used in the company’s much, much more expensive models the reality supports the hyperbole.

Yes indeed, the 607 is fitted with the woofer carried by the exquisite sounding 800 Series Diamond models released in 2015.

And the same driver is exploited by the new 700 series. Pause a minute to think what this means to B&W speaker owners over the last few decades.

And what it means is the absence of the famous and easily recognisable yellow Kevlar cones that set B&W apart from its rivals for years and years.

B&W says the new cone material gives all of the 600 Series models a level of transparency and accuracy that is an audible improvement over equivalently priced B&W woofers of the past.

Moreover, the new woofer is also said to yield greater transparency and better soundstage and imaging. Worth recalling we’re talking about a $949 speaker here and not a $2999 model.

Our, listening session notes are full of clues to the 607’s musically enjoyable sound. 

On every page the terms “transparent”, “deep, wide soundstage”, “precise and clearly outlined imaging” appear alongside notes describing the 607’s convincing timing - decent but not outstanding degree of fine detail, decent but not outstanding microdynamics, a pleasing level of neutrality and “class leading” macro working dynamic range, and “ear-pleasing tonal quality”.

Our notes give attentive readers an overview of what we felt were the relative sonic strengths and weaknesses of the budget-priced 607.

The woofer is good. Outstanding in fact.  But B&W isn't saying what the cone material is. Period.

The tweeter, an improved version of the one used in the previous equivalent range - a double dome now fitted with a new neodymium magnet and upgraded tweeter mesh, is serviceable but hardly in the same league as the Continuum woofer. But more about this later.

As for the 600 crossovers, this is said to draw from the one inside the 700 series including inductors and bypass capacitors. The new port and nickel plated binding posts are also inspired by those used by the costlier 700 series models.

The 607 has a frequency response of 52Hz to 28kHz at +/- 3db. Impedance is a nominal 8 Ohms, and sensitivity is 84db, but thankfully the 607 seems to present an easy load to an amplifier, and we’d suggest a power feed of a minimum of 60 watts per channel. But give the 607 80-120 watts per channel, and you’ll be rewarded by the greater headroom more power provides.

The 607 In Situ

The 607’s rear port means this compact will sound more balanced, provide more space between performers, create a deeper and wider sound field when it’s positioned on sturdy stands some half a metre from rear and side walls.

Experience suggests the 607 isn’t overly room fussy and has been designed to sound decent in a range of domestic living environments. This includes apartments and medium-sized living rooms.

We matched the 607 with the ear-pleasing combo of the new Musical Fidelity M2si CD player ($1799) and the also brand new Musical Fidelity M2s integrated amp ($1799) that's rated at 75 watts per channel.

An original Rega 3 turntable fitted with original RB300 tonearm and Ortofon 2m Blue moving magnet phono stage provided analogue tunes. Because the M2s amp has no phono stage, we used Musical Fidelity’s LX2 model that caters for both moving magnet and moving coil cartridges for $449.

Cables throughout were from Inakustik, and these comprised the Reference LS803 speaker cable and Reference NF803 RCA interconnects.

The 607 sounds lively straight out of its packing carton. But after 60-80 hours of use, the treble smooths out, and midrange begins to strut its stuff by providing more air and space around the performers, and the speaker’s sound overall begins to exhibit a greater sense of ease.

Burning in components is a vexed issue for some, but for our reviews it’s mandatory. We have yet to hear a component that doesn’t benefit from a burning in period: the more prolonged use, the better audio gear sounds.

The Traffic tracks Rainmaker, and Spanish Dancer from the LP albums called 'The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys', and 'Arc Of A Diver' sounded more detailed after the 607 had a burn-in.

The little 607 speakers nicely reproduced the mesmerising and insistent beat of Spanish Dancer. A testament to this speaker’s addictive sense of foot tapping timing.

They also gave a fine rendition of the electronic sync’s riffs that punctuate Spanish Dancer at defined intervals and that make this track so exotic and hypnotic.

Playing Rainmaker on vinyl using the Rega 3, took me back to 1971 when I first bought Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys. And if memory is still reliable this Rega/Musical Fidelity/ B&W system trounced my old University audiophile system convincingly.

I always had the sense the album had more to offer. The improvement in audio gear since the 70s shows this convincingly. The flute melodies lacing through Rainmaker have more texture and detail via affordable, contemporary audio gear than its latter-day equivalent.

After playing the LP of 'Rough Mix' by Pete Townshend and Ronnie Wood, I began to muse about how far audio has travelled over the decades. 

The track called Till The Rivers Run Dry deserves to be served by good audio gear. After all, it has Boz Burell on drums, Eric Clapton on bass, and glorious Dobro fretwork by John Entwhistle and Billy Nicholas.

Play the Dobro parts through a top-end speaker and you categorically can’t confuse the Dobro with any other guitar. But here’s the thing: Through the 607 speakers and related components you know you’re hearing a distinctive guitar sound, but you likely wouldn’t pin the sound down to a Dobro. 

The album’s 11 tracks feature a mix of electric or six-string acoustic guitars. But the Dobro is used in two tracks only. Both times, the 607s allow you to hear some but not all of the difference in the textures of these guitars.

The Aerial Boundaries track from the Michael Hedges 'Aerial Boundaries' LP was next up and a test of the 607’s ability to produce ambient spaces or its dexterity with dynamic range.

The 607 threw a wide if not particularly deep sound stage preserving much of the sound of the guitar reverberating into the distance. As the music rose and fell in intensity, the 607 proved superb at accelerating and stopping without a hint of distortion.

CD playback with its tighter bottom end frequencies gave the 607 a different kind of test hurdles. 

The haunting Scattered Blacks And Whites from the Elbow album called 'Asleep In The Back', showed some of this budget models tweeter limitations.

Electric guitars and a piano on the left of the soundstage build the track’s intensity as drums in the centre ground the entire performance, while Guy Garvey’s lead vocals resolve the musical tension.

Garvey’s voice is powerful. It has plenty of body and scale. As his vocals increased their pitch, the 607's tweeter got a little ragged as it tends to do with nearly all entry-level models.

The Musical Fidelity models used to partner the 607s have a smooth, refined and detailed character. This suggests you wouldn’t want to partner the 607 with tonally thin sounding solid-state electronics.

But there is a bundle of modestly priced amps from Rega and Cambridge, Marantz and Denon that should blend tonally with the 607.

Joni Mitchell’s track Shine from her last album called 'Shine' is a majestic track from a majestic album. With its vast scale, deep bass and measured tempo it emerged from the 607 with admirable depth and width.

What was lacking compared to a larger quality speaker was bottom end extension and high-frequency refinement.

The good news is, the 607 is such a beautifully balanced speaker you don’t miss the bottom end clout until you hear a much larger model. As for the treble, it isn’t the most refined, but it is admirably detailed and will only start to sound ragged played at volumes that will push the 607 tweeter beyond its comfort zone.

Midrange, however, is all sweetness and light. And remember when we say “midrange” we’re talking about the frequencies where 90 per cent of all recorded music lives.

One of my go-to discs for mid-range magic is Alan Taylor’s album 'Hotels And Dreamers' recorded on XRCD. The opening track called The Beat Hotel should conjure up the atmosphere of the hotel in the Latin Quarter of Paris and frequented by the Beat Generation of poets during the 1950s until the mid-60s.

Taylor’s voice conjures up images of bongs, Ginsberg and Kerouac, and assorted beatnik poets looking as Taylor says, for the muse.

Beat Hotel is all about scale, intensity and atmosphere. To hear it in its splendour a speaker must give you huge micro and macro dynamic range but has to time superbly. It must also create a huge 3D soundstage and populate that with performers and instruments.

Which is a big ask for many speakers. Through the 607s, the sound was thrilling thanks to this speaker’s adroit ability to keep pace with the music. Macro dynamic performance was way above average, and the 607 let the music rip without a hint of compression.

Micro dynamic performance wasn’t as good, but the point is, at this price it was more than good enough. Same can be said of the scale of the music. Compared to dearer models the soundstage wasn’t as wide, high or deep but at this price point, it was much better than expected. With that said, 'imaging' was precise and pinpoint.

Above all, the 607 provided much of the menacing atmosphere created by this demanding track. Yes, the tweeter complained a little as the volume level rose, but this didn’t detract from the sense of fun the 607 offers for the money.

Summation

We’d like to tell you the B&W 607 is the ideal budget speaker. We’d also like to tell you we saw elves at the bottom of our garden, recently.

Budget priced speakers will always bear the imprint of their manufacturing cost. The 607 has a pedigree woofer and a serviceable tweeter. Both have been combined with a clever crossover so well, this model hides its tracks superbly.

Offering a balanced sound, commendable level of detail and transparency allied to near perfect timing, the compact 607 is clearly a standout at $949.

Its rivals are sure to include Dynaudio’s Emit 10 ($999), Klipsch’s RP150M ($990) and Sonus faber’s Principia 3 ($899).

A trio of mighty fine models to be sure. However, the B&W 607’s pedigree woofer may be the element that puts it at the head of this pack.

For more information visit Bowers & Wilkins.

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Peter Familari's avatar

Written by:

Peter Familari

One of the veterans of the Australian HiFi industry, Peter was formerly the Audio-Video Editor of the Herald Sun for over two decades. One of the most-respected audio journalists in Australia, Peter brings his unparalleled experience and a unique story-telling ability to StereoNET.

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Posted in: Hi-Fi Home Theatre
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