Product review: Bowers & Wilkins 606 speakers

It’s always a cause for celebration when new items are added to the Richer Sounds catalogue but when it’s an established British brand with tonnes of audiophile heritage we get extra giddy!

Bowers & Wilkins were established over 50 years ago and have been at the competitive end of the loudspeaker market ever since, but it’s only now that we’ve gained the brand on our shop floor so we’re excited to see what they can do. Their 600 speaker range comes in either matte black or matte white and consists of the 606 and 607 standmounts as well as the 603 floorstanders, a matching centre and a subwoofer for home cinema.

It’s the larger of the two standmounts, the 2019 What Hi-Fi? Product of the Year, Bowers & Wilkins 606, that’s under review today. The svelte and understated but not diminutive design immediately catches our attention as soon as we take them out of the box. No curves or kooky design here, just traditional 90 degree edging on the cabinet but with excellent attention to detail on where the sides meet. A magnetic grille shields a ‘Continuum’ cone 6.5 inch mid/bass driver and the ‘Decoupled Double Dome’ tweeter but the 606 looks absolutely fabulous with grille off too, showcasing the wonderful silvery finish of the main woofer. The speakers come in a black and a white finish.

The newly released and 5 star award-winning Cambridge Audio CXA61 is our amplifier of choice so we’re soon up and running with the matching CXN streamer playing Beck and his 2017 album Colours. As with any audio product our ears are immediately listening for any obvious characteristics but the 606 are pleasantly well balanced without a particular tendency towards the warmer or brighter side of things. Second track “Seventh Heaven” is a great example of this as the crystal clear high frequencies and detail of the intro synths are soon joined by the fantastic rhythmic drive of the drums and bass. As the chorus kicks in the 606 open up the soundstage and provide fantastic scale, managing to gel the complex layers of the arrangement together whilst giving each instrument its own space.

This gives us the confidence to move on to see what else the 606 can handle so we switch to a Pro-Ject Carbon Esprit and a vinyl copy of the Robert Plant and Alison Krauss album Raising Sand. Eleventh track “Nothin’” gives us a chance to test Plant’s tender vocals on the B&Ws which make full use of the production by easily separating out all the subtle strings and percussion from the soft lament from the Rock legend. The dynamic lift when the band kicks in for the violin solo is surprising considering the size of the 606, but we’re very happy that they can produce such power for a pair of standmounts.

Finally, a bit of AptX HD Bluetooth direct to the CXA61 gives us the opportunity to test out the track “Goodness” by Emancipator. The bluesy, lounge-funk stylings give us a great sense of the B&Ws sense of timing as the main drum beat is joined by off-beat hand claps and little trills from the guitar, keys, flutes all the while underpinned by a smooth bassline. It once again showcases the 606 talent for separation whilst maintaining the energy of the music. There’s not quite the bass weight that you’ll get from a bigger speaker such as the recently released Focal Chora 806 but that’s really being very picky considering the 606’s overall balance, richness, detail and clarity.

At 345mm high, these standmounts aren’t the tallest so should be relatively easy to accommodate at home and sit perfectly within the sonic spectrum to please nearly all music fans. The understated but professional design means they’re unlikely to lose any friends over their looks and they’re priced competitively in comparison to other brands in the loudspeaker market. For those who need not just a “jack-of-all-trades”, but rather an “absolutely-pretty-fantastic-at-everything” pair of standmounts, these modest B&Ws should be on the demo list of every hi-fi enthusiast out there! Check them out for yourself at your local Richer Sounds.

Learn more about Bowers & Wilkins 606 speakers.

Author: Steve, Bristol store