22 Mar Bowers & Wilkins CM6 S2 – Review
Iremember when I have seen CM6 S2 first time and shortly listened to them. I was invited to audition some new arrivals in local hi-fi audio store quite a long time ago. I admit for some reasons I was more focused on a different pair of speakers that time and listened to these really just shortly during the event but I have to say the elegant visual appearance of Bower & Wilkins speakers has been always somehow inside of me and talks to me always when I see some of their models. Some people admire and desire those robust massive floor standers from B&W 800 series but I was always more into the compact stand mounted speakers so 805 D3 would be my pic of choice at least from visual point of view but talking about CM6 S2 they have charmed me first time I saw them. These are clean, elegant looking and with that unique separated solid body tweeter housing on top of the cabinet it is just one of the best looking speakers out there, in my opinion of course. You might see it differently.
If we look for a second into a history and B&W products line up. Due my knowledge first CM1 was launched as a single loudspeaker placed between 600 and 700 series which has got quite quickly a big popularity and has grown into a whole new range. And that was quite confusing for some people as it was pushing 700 series out quite a bit and also for some the differences between the series . When CM6 S2 came out it was a completely new look with also significant performance improvements.
The elegant visual appearance of Bower & Wilkins speakers has been always somehow inside of me and talks to me always when I see some of their models.
In my thinking CM6 S2 came as an alternative, more affordable option for those dreaming about 805s. It features “tweeter on top” design, 25mm Decoupled Double Dome tweeter in an aluminium dome unit bonded to a thicker aluminium ring, which sits in a ring of gel to isolate the tweeter from its surroundings and Bowers & Wilkins’ signature 165mm woven yellow Kevlar mid/bass cone with a dust-cap. The bass port is on the opposite side than 805 has, it’s on the back which gives to S2s even more cleaner and elegant look in my opinion.
The build of S2 is top notch as you would expect from B&W. The black piano glossy finish I have tested is a pure fingerprint magnet and first time you touch them you understand that you need gloves even when placing them first time on stands as the fingerprints are not easy to polish out then to be honest. The cabinets are heavy and all sides seems equally thick. The only fragile part you need to be careful about especially when unboxing them is obviously the top mounted tweeter which is not hard mounted but basically flies on the soft gelly rubber mount avoiding any resonance transfer. The tweeter housing itself seems very solidly build with a permanent front cover grill serving mainly as a protection. Speaker can be bi-wired or bi-amped. The speaker terminals feels very solid too.
When I first set them up to my main listening audio system it was that time when I was working on a review of Wharfedale’s Diamonds 220 and switching from them to S2 even that Diamonds are amazing speakers for the price, the S2 made me remember one more time why I do these reviews and why there is still the believing to any other sound improvement or should I say never ending investments? Yes, you can say obviously, there is a huge price difference and S2s are in a different category, bigger drivers and so on, but you would be surprised. I experienced many times a disappointment from some expensive speakers when my expectations were just too high or as I believed high as the price tag was but the performance just wasn’t equal to that. Well to my point. The difference in switching from 220s to S2 was really tremendous. I would almost say shocking. I started listening to a cinematic track called “Panitence” from Roya and especially when the first bass part of the song kicked in these speakers put a big smile on my face. The first bass kick was as a shock wave spreading super wide but super fast. With S2 even that some might think due their cabinets size you will never feel a lack of bass. Their 165mm bass drivers produces bass which is very fast and cleanly detailed and precised. The soundstage is very very wide with a big depth. Instruments separation and artists positioning is really good and the clarity of the tweeter balances together with the woofer in a perfect harmony. Vocals are clean and travel towards you and a very communicative way providing a clear imagination of a position of the singer. These are speakers which holds imaging and are not so sensitive to your perfect centered listening position so even when you move, walk around the imaging doesn’t shit almost at all, exceptional. Highs are very clean and smooth, never bright. Sometimes I thought I am listening to vinyl version of some track how smooth and slightly warmer they are. I was actually a bit afraid of the highs as some of B&W I have listened to have been a bit too bright to me as I am sensitive to highs but seems the unique tweeter technology similar to used in higher 800 series does its magic here really well. The mid range is clean too with a decent detail but there is something holding slightly back in the bottom part of it and I wished that part to be communicative a bit more with more agile dynamics in that spectrum. But just talking about the top of the midrange. Overall what will talk to you most I believe is the overall harmony and great dynamics these speakers provide. These are that kind of speakers you will not want to stop listening to especially first couple of days when you buy them. You will want to listen to your favorite music again. Listen to tracks you know just to be impressed again and again. The overall presentation is truly impressive and will touch your senses in a way of art.
I found these speakers not to be so sensitive on pairing with other sound components in your system and most importantly these even that are back bass port firing they are not so sensitive on a room placement. Yes, they need a space but definitely in comparison for example to KEF LS50, how the placement effects the sound signature and bass particularly is reasonable and makes logical sense. I personally found their sweet spot in usual 60 centimeters from the wall and 2m from each other.
Due my testing CM6 S2 like power and I suggest ideally 70w per channel amp or more to enjoy their dynamics at theirs best. I recommend to them nice solid stands but I suggest here due my observing not those with heavy total absorption but if possible just enough so they don’t settle down S2s too much. What I need to mention is, be careful with an ideal height of the stands as I noticed due their specific tweeter and overall as the basic listening rules for any speakers say, your ears should be when listening in a level of the tweeter. I have observed that for these is definitely ideal height in exact level of your ears or when you sit higher but not lower than is the tweeters position. Even when you stand up the sound is better than when you sit positioned a bit lower. So, same level as tweeters are or higher not lower as the tweeter seems fires more straight and up. (might be just my testing pair).
These speakers are that kind of speakers which you just can’t think about the price. You just go, buy them and then they will make you forget their cost immediately when you start listening to them especially when upgrading from some more affordable speakers you were used to before. Their build technology, impressive sound presentation and not so much sensitivity to a room treatment makes them not just a great overall package but some might more see and define them as a piece of art. Overall they are truly great speakers from “any side you spin it”. But to be slightly picky there is the bottom mid range section of their sound reproduction which just is not such agile and dynamically communicative so I wish a slight improvement there. Talking about it there is a new 705 model replacing S2’s honored place with some very promising improvements which might cover that and more with just slightly higher price.
So at the end there might be a question on your mind. Are these in my opinion worth their price tag saying 2000 Dollars/Euros. Yes! In this price range it’s a big fight, meaning there is so many alternatives, but these will not disappoint, they will impress. They love all music genre so no specific limitation there which is a big plus too.
My suggestion. If you would like to save some cash find these (S2) as these are currently still available but selling as an outgoing model. Or if you don’t mind to spend a little bit more go directly for 705 model which should sound even better and will keep putting smile on your face every time you listen to them for quite some time… until you start looking for another upgrade again obviously. 🙂 As you know, once you are on this audiophile journey this journey never ends…
Driver complement: 1x 25mm
Decoupled Dome aluminium tweeter,
1x 165mm Kevlar cone mid/bass unit
Frequency response: 50Hz-28kHz ±3dB
Sensitivity: 88dB SPL
Nominal impedance: 8Ω (minimum 3.7Ω)
Crossover frequency: 4kHz
Recommended power: 30W-120W
Finishes: Gloss Black, Satin White,
Dimensions (HxWxD): 40.3x20x30.1cm
Marantz SA8005 SACD player
AudioLab M-DAC+ (all about M-DAC+ here)
(Atlas Hyper Integra interconnects, Merlin Tarantula MK6 power cables, QED Genesis Silver Spiral)