Product review: Bowers & Wilkins 606 S3

Bowers and Wilkins have revised their ever popular 6 series, and with the 606 S3s hitting the shelves and speaker stands of Richer Sounds, we’re asking what’s new?

The 600 Series is a firm favourite with both customers and staff. Its latest incarnation, the S3, boasts a variety of tweaks under the hood, whilst retaining an almost identical shell. The most noticeable upgrades are the new Titanium Dome tweeter and the upgraded terminals.

The Titanium Dome tweeter is taken from the 700 Series and it adds a sweet taste in the presence and treble ranges. At the front of the tweeter you’ll find an acoustically transparent grille, inspired by the design of the revered 800 Series Signature. This is probably the best tweeter grille you could hope to put on a speaker in this class.

The overall result is a meticulous treble that is easy on the ear. I can hear a lot of headroom in this range, which translates to an effortless handling of pitch, transients and detail. This tweeter upgrade is a big game changer for the 600 Series. It’s excellent news for both the sound and the value for money for the customer – it adds quality to this entry-level range that you’d typically have to pay a lot more for.

Another area that’s seen improvement is the speaker terminal inputs. These are now positioned horizontally on the rear of the speaker. Bowers &Wilkins (B&W) tells us this has an improved layout and signal path, and, in terms of practicality, they certainly feel like a higher-quality component. If you’re using a single pair of speaker cables on the 606 S3s, it’s recommended that you use the high-frequency inputs on the terminals for the most accurate sound, although we found that if you connect using the low-frequency terminals you get a slightly more bass-heavy sound.

The Continuum midrange / bass Kevlar woofer now has a more powerful driver assembly rather than any material change in the speaker itself. There is no fix required here; they remain as nice, easy and comfortable on the ear as ever. One thing that is missing compared to the predecessor is the ever-so-slightly nasal tone sometimes noticed on the S2s.

Enjoy a fuller sound, with the Bowers & Wilkins 606 S3.

I’m happy to say that I noticed straight away just how remarkably nice the crossover is on the S3s. If you look back at historical reviews of the various stages of the evolution of this speaker, you may find a common criticism in the past has been the quality of the crossover. It’s clear that this is an area that has seen leaps of improvement over the years, and the S3s are no exception.

You can think of how the crossover in the S3s move sound between the tweeter and woofer in the same way as the ease with which an opera singer will move between their falsetto and chest voice. These speakers are in a different league from the S2s in this regard and their vocal performance is, in fact, something B&W takes pride in.

Pairing the 606 S3s to a Cambridge CXA81 and a CXN100 connected with Chord ShawlineX XLR cables remains a dream team for digital streaming. This system handles Smashing Pumpkins’ ‘Geek USA’ streamed from Qobuz with astonishing ease. The frantic drums and wall of sizzling fuzz guitars would usually constitute a complicated sound stage that many systems would struggle with. Here, the 606 S3s breeze through and I’m able to hear the bright, harmonic detail articulated beautifully with the aforementioned headroom in the treble range. Again, the strings on Madonna’s ‘Frozen’ are presented with surprising intricacy, but you will still know about it when that sub bass kicks in.

Changing to a vinyl set-up featuring a Technics SL1500, Arcam A15 and Chord EpicX phono interconnect, first up is John Martyn’s ‘Solid Air’. Instantly, I’m immersed in the finer characteristics of the recording from the fret buzz of the stringed instruments to the room itself. Norah Jones’ ‘Come Away With Me’ is an airy delight. The transients of the soft opening cymbal crescendo are well defined, and the crossover comes into play again to deliver the subtle microtones of the slide guitar and the warm humbucker lead.

This set is designed for accuracy, which it delivers in spades. This may not be to everyone’s taste, and some listeners may find it fatiguing, but for those on a quest for faithful reproduction they will be hard to ignore.

B&W has brought an incredible amount of quality and value to the 606 S3s. The improved hardware, internal circuitry and, no doubt, the tweeter grill all contribute to this latest edition raising the bar, and the competition should be taking note. To hear the 606 S3s in action for yourself, contact your local Richer Sounds store who will be happy to arrange a demo for you.


Author: Daniel, Kingston Store