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Bowers & Wilkins 607 review: Compact speakers with a razor-sharp edge

Sasha Muller
26 Feb 2019
Expert Reviews Recommended Logo
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
399
inc VAT

Bowers & Wilkins has reimagined its 600 Series, and the 607 offer a thrill-packed ride

Pros 
Compact and good-looking
Richly detailed sound
Great soundstaging
Cons 
Eager treble can prove fatiguing
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While some designs fade into history, others leave a permanent mark. And, amidst the delicate wood grain and muted metallic elegance of British hi-fi storefronts, it was the striking yellow Kevlar drivers of Bowers & Wilkins’s 601 speakers which indelibly seared themselves into my teenage memories. It’s perhaps fitting to find that, two decades later, its 600 Series has now grown up, too.

B&W 607 review: What you need to know

The 607 (£399) is the smallest speaker in Bowers & Wilkins’ new 600 Series family. Taking the place of the previous 686 S2, the 607 sits alongside the slightly larger 606 (£549) and the floorstanding 603 (£1,249). There’s also a matching centre speaker, the HTM6 (£399), and a trio of active subwoofers for adding the .1 to home cinema systems.

The 607 are genuinely compact bookshelf speakers. They measure 30cm tall and a sliver over 20cm deep. But they’re razor-sharp performers in their weight class. Bowers & Wilkins’ “Continuum” cone technology has trickled down from the top-ranking 800 Series Diamond range and features alongside a new, decoupled tweeter design. The result is a supremely detailed, incisive sound; it’s truly impressive how much music flows from such little boxes.

B&W 607 review: Price and competition

At £399, the 607 are not bargain-basement bookshelf speakers but they do present good value for money. The obvious upgrade, however, is to their bigger brothers, the 606 (£549). If you like the 607’s hyper-detailed presentation but want a bit more of everything, then the 606 are well worth considering.

Kef’s Q350 (£549) are another fine choice. Their Uni-Q concentric drivers combine a midbass driver with a tweeter hidden in the centre, and the result is stunning imaging, lifelike scale and oodles of detail. Just like the B&W 606, though, the Kef's 36cm-tall boxes may be too big for some tastes.

If all of these are a little over your budget – or you just prefer a smoother, more forgiving balance – you should definitely consider Q Acoustics’ excellent 3010i (£199). The 3010i combine sharp, modern design with a more laid-back sound and they’re pleasingly compact, too. If that sounds right up your street, then you can read our full review

Buy the B&W 607 now


B&W 607 review: Features and design

The 607’s are the very definition of understatement. Housed in a plain, monochrome box with sharp, clean lines, you can take your pick of black or white depending on which better suits your tastes.

They might not be as striking as some of their rivals but there is something rather grown up about the new 600 Series. Gone are the garish yellow Kevlar midrange drivers of yesteryear: the silver cone of a 130mm B&W Continuum driver now takes centre stage, with a rim of classy brushed metal skirting the redesigned tweeter above, and the reflex port has been moved to the rear of the cabinet.

The tweeter is a new aluminium double dome design. This is shielded from prodding fingers by a thick metal mesh and is physically decoupled from the cabinet surrounding it. It’s an ingenious piece of engineering: the tweeter is suspended within a rim of silicone rubber, and this prevents vibration from the midrange driver from travelling through the cabinet and affecting its high-frequency performance.

Other changes have a merely aesthetic impact. Bowers & Wilkins has swapped the speaker grille pegs for hidden magnets to give a cleaner look when the grilles are off. At the rear, a pair of binding posts allows you to use the 607 in single-wired, bi-wired or bi-amped setups.

B&W 607 review: Sound quality

As with most speakers, Bowers & Wilkins recommends the 607’s are mounted on stands, placed at least half a metre from rear and side walls, and placed between 1.5 and 3 metres apart. That’s obviously not possible in every room, but the pair of port bungs in the box make it possible to tune the bass response to suit less-than-perfect positions. Those bungs can be used to completely seal the rear ports or you can remove the central cylinder of foam to partially block the port and subtly reduce the bass output.

In my listening room I preferred the ports left wide open and mounted the 607 atop a pair of heavy, sand-filled Atacama stands about two metres apart, toed-in slightly and well away from any walls. For the duration of the testing period I had them hooked up to Naim’s excellent Uniti Atom (£1,999) via a pair of QED Signature Revelation speaker cables.

I opened proceedings with one of my regular test tracks: Massive Attack’s "Angel". This is a tough challenge for any speaker, and especially those in the feather- and bantamweight classes. Shuddering sub-bass looms large, a visceral electric bass doubles on top, and Horace Andy’s voice floats forward ethereally as layers of drums and guitars mercilessly pile on top of one another.

To their credit, the 607 remain unfazed. There obviously isn’t the chest-compressing weight or dynamic slam you’ll get from larger speakers but the soundstage is pleasingly deep and wide and, what’s more, the tiny speakers do a fantastic job of driving the pounding rhythms forward while revealing every detail and texture in the recording.

Listen longer and harder, though, and it’s clear that the 607 is not a forgiving speaker. The pronounced lift in the upper treble unearths huge amounts of detail, even at the low volumes that make them perfect companions for late-night listening, but it also ruthlessly exposes bright or harsh recordings – and bright-sounding ancillary equipment. Partner the 607 with an in-your-face DAC, amplifier or record player, and your ears may not appreciate the onslaught.

Crank up Metz’s "Mess of Wires" for instance, and while the 607 teases every whisper of detail from Steve Albini’s riotous production, the dense hash of distortion does edge into an insistent whine. After cranking the volume to 11, I soon found myself reaching for the remote control. Even comparatively polite recordings from the test playlist – Fleetwood Mac’s "Dreams" or Radiohead’s "Pyramid Song", for instance – veered towards excessive brightness. The 607’s insight into the recordings is phenomenal but it comes at the expense of midrange warmth.

A similar story unfolds across even the best classical and jazz recordings. While most, if not all, sound fantastic – the 607’s pinpoint detail, soundstage depth and imaging allows instruments to live and breathe between the speakers – the treble lift means that those instruments also sound too lightweight and thin to be believable. The tonal imagery the 607 presents is eye-popping in its clarity, but it’s aural Photoshop.

When they’re in their element, though, the 607 are an intoxicating listen. They are not the most neutral-sounding speaker – my PMC DB1+ studio monitors sound relatively flat and unexciting by comparison, the AVI Neutron V positively horizontal – but I did regularly find myself sitting down and listening to entire albums from start to finish. Whether it was the tape-hiss-laden psychedelia of Jimi Hendrix’s "Electric Ladyland" or the visionary electronic sprawl of Lee Gamble’s "Mnestic Pressure", the 607’s enthusiasm has the knack of transporting the listener into the very heart of the recording.

Buy the B&W 607 now


B&W 607 review: Verdict

While I might have expected the Bowers & Wilkins 607’s mature, monochrome aesthetic to be partnered with an equally safe, sensible character, the reality is that they are anything but.

For a small pair of speakers, they’re winsomely exuberant. Their scalpel-precise presentation won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but the Bowers & Wilkins 607 are bold, unapologetic and, it has to be said, rather wonderful for the money.

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