After spending several years as an acoustician in a design office, Alexis Delajot joined Bowers & Wilkins France in 2016 as product manager. He agreed to talk to us about the speakers from the new 600 Series.
Why replace the B&W 600 Series range?
The 600 Series is the longest-running range of speakers after our more high end range, the 800 Series. It was released in 1995, and at the same time we added Kevlar to all of the speakers in the range. New technologies derived from the more premium models were inherited by each new iteration. We’ve fulfilled the needs of millions of customers for 23 years. Therefore, it seemed logical to replace the 5th rendition released in 2014. It was also an opportunity for us to streamline the range and to revise the names of the models to be in line with the 700 and 800 Series.
How would you describe the sound of the B&W 600 Series speakers?
Our approach to this series was pretty radical. Because our goal was to revamp the speaker’s esthetics and internal design, especially by adding a back-firing bass-reflex port and a brand new Continuum Cone, the listening experience evolved significantly. I don’t really like the word “audiophile”, but I feel that we’ve never been as close to this term, overused as it may be, as we have with the 600 Series. It is even more evident with affordable ranges such as this one. The sound is very wide and spacious, with a well-defined low-mid range.
Are they very different from the 700 Series?
There are many aspects that differentiate them. The speakers from the 700 Series are fitted with a carbon dome tweeter capable of delivering a more vivid sound and more natural harmonics in the highs. The 702 and 705 feature an external tweeter which improves directivity and, consequently, enhances sound spatialization. Not forgetting the Aerofoil profile used on the bass drivers’ cones. Aluminum chassis, neodymium motors, high-end capacitors… many of the internal components are also different from one series to the other.
Which technologies are integrated in the 600 Series range and what exactly is their function?
Let’s start with the tweeter. We continued to use aluminum as a material, but the aluminum dome was positioned inside the cone in order to improve the precision of the highs. The internal motor is now made from neodymium N52, which is the highest grade of neodymium that can be used in this domain. When it comes to the mids, the biggest change is without a doubt the replacement of Kevlar with the Continuum cone. This technology was first used in 2015 on the new 800 D3 Series. Without going into too much scientific detail, this material considerably improves the cone’s response and allows for a more open and neutral sound restitution. For the lows, we replaced the 683’s aluminum with new paper/Kevlar cones on the 603. Furthermore, the 2-way HTM6 center speaker, which is now the sole center speaker in the 600 series, has been made to be powerful enough to accompany a pair of 603s. A longer coil and a larger magnet have been implemented for more powerful lows.
Why abandon Kevlar? What is the new silver Continuum cone made from?
The principle that we’ve followed for many years at Bowers & Wilkins is that each new technology is added to our most high-end speakers first, then to the following series. Replacing Kevlar with the Continuum cone follows this logic. It took 8 years for our engineers to develop this material, which uses the same principle as the woven Kevlar composite. For the rest, the formula is kept a secret in our laboratories!
Which amplifiers would you recommend to get the most out of the new B&W 600 Series speakers?
Rotel’s 14 Series features amplifiers that are perfectly adapted to the two compact models, the 606 and the 607. For the floorstander, I’d go for the RA-1572 model from their 15 Series. Rotel is a brand that has great expertise when it comes to amplifier power supplies, ensuring high quality current, no matter the model. Other brands work well with the speakers of course, but you need to verify the quality of the power supplies and output.
Was the B&W 600 Series developed for both hi-fi and home theater?
Yes, and it’s all the more important given that this series has always been popular for home theater systems. However, a home theater system doesn’t have the same requirements as a stereo installation. Power and control are essential elements for sound rendition during a movie, whereas accuracy is the main concern for a hi-fi experience. Our speakers have been made to ensure a constant output level, substantial dynamics and low distortion, which allows you to avoid listening fatigue. Incidentally, listening fatigue is unfortunately often very present with home theater systems. In this respect, I think that we have been successful in creating a more enjoyable listening experience.
Personally, how and with which setup do you listen to music every day?
We are lucky enough to work in a rather outstanding setting in Lyon, in a showroom with an auditorium to listen to our products, and I admit that I use this space pretty regularly! Being a proponent of the 2.1 system, I have a soft spot for the combination of our 805 D3 bookshelf speakers with the DB2D subwoofer, all connected to a Rotel RB-1590 amplifier and Trinnov Amethyst preamp. All the same, I’m very happy with my 706s and Rotel RA-1572 which are more suited to my apartment… But I haven’t given up on the hope that one day I’ll be able to enjoy a 2.1 system at home!