Launched last year, the 607 is the smallest and most affordable model in Bowers & Wilkins’ latest 600 Series. The line-up includes seven designs in total, including subwoofers and a centre channel for surround sound set-ups.
Straight out of the box and even before they’re wired and fired, the 607s impress. Smartly turned out with one-inch aluminium tweeters and five-inch main drivers, the ten pound plus 607s feel solid in their wooden cabinets and are available in a choice of either matt black or satin white. They also look clean and classy: the reflex port that was on the front of their predecessors has now been moved to the rear of the cabinet, while the magnetised removable grilles negate the need for peg holes on the fascia.
The 607s feature high end Bowers & Wilkins technologies that were first seen in the company’s flagship 800 Series Diamond range. They include the ‘Continuum Cone’ mid/bass driver that replaced Bowers & Wilkins’ former hallmark the Kevlar cone. The 600 Series also introduces an updated version of the company’s ‘Decoupled Double Dome Tweeter’ tech which is claimed to deliver “clearer and more accurate” high-frequency performance.
607 sound quality
Once bi-wired, run-in and warmed-up, these bookshelf speakers belt out a sound that belies their relatively compact dimensions (each one stands just 30cm/12 inches high). But, just to be clear, we are not talking about an uncouth sound delivered with sledgehammer brute force. The 607s exhibit both power and delicacy but and, this is the real clincher, whatever you throw at them, there is one word that keeps springing to mind: holographic.
For example, with a 1991 Virgin Classics recording of the London Chamber Orchestra playing the ‘Winter Largo’ from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, the 607s have a superb ability to pick out the individual instruments and place them in a 3D soundstage. The energy of the violins is set beautifully over the top of a sweet sounding harpsichord positioned further back.
And what’s more it’s not a clinical or analytical performance that merely throws out clean cut details for listener to piece together. This is a performance that gels as all the acoustic intricacies come together to give you a whole that truly engages and keeps you coming back for more.
A great example of this is ‘Hope is Gone’ from Moby’s 2009 album Wait For Me. The high hat intro comes across with an instantly enticing sizzle before Hilary Gardiner’s vocals kick in and Moby’s keyboards drift into focus. Sure, you can easily pick all these individual ingredients out, but it’s in the overall cook that the magic happens as the 607s serve up all those flavours as a single acoustic dish that tantalises the ear.
Switch from disc to other sources, and I defy any listener not to be drawn in by the sheer emotion and exuberance the B&Ws are capable of when streaming ‘American’ from Lana Del Rey’s 2012 EP Paradise. Sticking with Del Rey and ‘Young and Beautiful’ (which was also used in the 2013 film remake of The Great Gatsby) is, to put it simply, just gorgeous. These speakers deliver a moving performance that does what all good hi-fi should do: capture the heart. Sure, there are many loudspeakers out there that deliver detailed treble, wide midrange and sturdy low frequencies. They do everything by the book. And yet, they only manage to elicit an intellectual response – while the listener is impressed by what the designer is trying to do, what you end up hearing is the speaker rather than the music, if you know what I mean.
Downsides? Well, there are a few but to be honest none of them is the 607s’ fault. Firstly, they need to be partnered with the right amplifier. One of B&W’s recommendations was Rotel’s RA-1572, a 120W integrated which sells for around £1,395. But to my ears, this sounded somewhat garish and indelicate, and lacked the control needed to drive the 607s. Don’t get me wrong – you don’t need something that exercises restraint, but do look for something that combines power with discipline. And now a warning: audio puritans who are easily offended should look away; I ended up using my trusted old Yamaha DSP-AX759SE multi-channel amp in audio mode with all the AV circuitry switched out. Yes, I know you can do much better but I firmly believe aural beauty is in the ear of the beholder, and I was more than blown away with the combination.
Secondly, if you’re in the market for standmount speakers at this price, the chances are that your music collection doesn’t comprise lo-fi recordings or that your replay equipment wasn’t bought along with your weekly supermarket shop. But just in case you do have a bunch of poor quality MP3s, bargain bucket CDs, etc., these B&Ws will not be very forgiving as they only give of their best when fed with top notch material.
And on the subject of price, I reckon the 607s are certainly worth their £400 price tag (remember to also factor in the price of some decent stands; B&W offers a pair for around £100). But I can’t help thinking that if these are the entry level model in the 600 series and sound this good, why not spend another £150 and step up to the 606s (also a standmount design)? And then of course by the same token, why not go all out and save up for the flagship model, the floorstanding 603 (around £1,249)? Ah, the power of marketing…