Audition - B&W 603, 703, 702, 804

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
I happened to be in a Audio Shop and briefly auditioned the Bowers-Wilkins Speakers. I was very impressed.

Here are the speakers they had lined up in a row -

603 Speaker | Bowers & Wilkins

703 S2 Floorstanding Speaker | Bowers & Wilkins

702 S2 Floorstanding Speaker | Bowers & Wilkins

804 D3 Floorstanding Speaker | Bowers & Wilkins

I started with the B&W 700-Series. Very impressive. Excellent Mid/Highs, with smooth bass.

The B&W 702-S2 with out-board tweeter were very impressive. The element I'm looking for in new speakers is good mid/high with crisp detail, and these speakers delivered it nicely without tend to be forward or bright.

I like a somewhat laid back speaker for music, but that type of speaker tends to be a bit too laid back for movies. For movies I really want a good Mid/High presence, but it has to do so without becoming overbearing. That 700's deliver that, They still have a nice mellow easy to listen to characteristic, but at the same time have the solid Mid/High presence that I am looking for.

The next speaker up in the 700 Series is the B&W 702-S2 with the Out-Board Tweeter. These are amazingly impressive. The Outboard Tweeter really makes a difference and just expands the sound, and perhaps with a bit more detail in the highs.

I have heard to older 600-Series, both one model back and two models back. With the oldest I thought the bass was a bit over blown and the created a slight tendency to muddy the Mid/High a bit. One series back, the one that has just been replaced, I thought sounded very good even when compared directly to the B&W CM Series. Of course the CM sounded better, but the 600 came pretty close for substantially lower money.

The latest B&W 603 with 6" Silver Mid driver, and 2x6.5" Bass drivers, were impressive, and if I had only heard them on their own, I would have been more impressed. They did sound good ...but... stepping directly from them to the 703-S2 and the 702-S2 at the touch of a button, the difference was noticeable. The 603 are very clear, but compared to the 703/702, a bit less detail in the Highs and a softer Midrange, but still a good sounding speaker for very substantially less money.

But the 703/702 are really sweet in the Mid/High with very nice detail, but without exaggerating anything. And the Outboard Tweeter, I just can't say enough about it, very noticeable different in sound quality and sound stage, but they aren't giving them away. You pay an extra (roughly) £1000 for the speaker with outboard tweeter. Worth it though in my opinion.

Since they had the 600, 703/703, and the 804-D3 lined up, it was not big deal to simply switch to the 804. I've had several auditions of the 800 series, or at least the lower Floorstanding in the 800 series, and I've never been impressed. They are clear enough but in each case, the bass seemed overblown and out of proportion. Since that is completely opposed to what others are telling me, I chalked it up to a bad audition, most likely poor speaker placement.

However, in this case, yesterday, with the newest 804-D3 I was indeed impressed. Very Smooth well balanced Bass and the Mid/Highs were a small but clear step above the 700 series. A bit rich for my blood but at least I had one good audition of the 804, and they were impressive. As with the 700 series, they had good Mid/High presence without being forward, bright, or over bearing. These are all speakers that you can listen to for extended periods of time without fatigue which is kind of what I am looking for in potential new speakers.

All the speakers has very smooth well controlled balanced bass, which is a good thing in my book. If I want more bass, I'll add it with the Bass Control, I would rather they balanced the speaker, and left the adjustments to me. It is easier for me to turn up the bass, then, and oddly so, for me to have to turn down the bass.

I suspect if I had heard the B&W 603 on its own, I would have been impressed and pleased with the sound, It is only in contrast to the 700 Series that it come up lacking.

There was an error in the prices, I was quoting US$ without realizing it. Here are actual selling prices in the UK for Bowers-Wilkins -

B&W 603 - £1249/pair

B&W 703-S2 - £2399/pair

B&W 702-S2 - £3299/pair

B&W 804-D3 - £6750/pair


If there were any way I could afford it, I would very dearly love to have a pair of B&W 702-S2; very nice speakers, and they are about HALF the cost if the still impressive B&W 804-D3.

It is really worth the extra £1000 to step up from the 703-S2 to the 702-S2, you get a slightly larger cabinet with an extra Bass Driver, and you get the outboard tweeter. That price difference seems justified. But I'm not sure I'm good with adding another full £4500 to step up to the 804-D3. Those are good speakers, but the 702-S2 come very very close at HALF the cost. That makes the 702-S2 a winner in my book.

I have to ask myself, would it be better to have a PAIR of 804-D3 or would it be better to have TWO PAIR of 702-S2? Given what I heard, I think one or two pair of 702-S2 wins.

It was a short audition, and these are my impressions. I've always like the B&W 600 and the B&W CM and now 700. But I really and truly like the newest versions of all the above over the previous versions. Noticeable improvement with each new generation.

For what it is worth.

Steve/bluewizard
 
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Jodel

Member
Interesting as always to read your comments Steve. I haven't heard these latest iterations from B&W, but I do have a pair of CM10 S2's. The last time I was in at my local dealer, he didn't think there was a huge difference between the CM 10 and the 702 S2 - certainly not enough of an improvement to warrant an upgrade.

He did however warn me not to listen to the 804-D3 as I'd almost certainly want a pair :)
He reckoned these were quite a bit better than the 702 D2. Of course, at pretty much twice the price, I'd expect to hear an improvement!

For the moment though I'll stay with my CM10 S2's - they still sound good enough to keep me happy for a while yet.
 

MacVee

Well-known Member
I too noticed a difference in performance between the inboard and outboard tweeters on the equivalent standmount models. Vocal reproduction was excellent on 705 S2's but I didn't think the 707's were worth the respective price tag.
 
D

Deleted member 781788

Guest
B&W make fantastic speakers, always innovative to improve quality and not for just being innovative.
The bigger models demand the best in amplification or they sound flat!
High-end hifi show is upon us in Windsor soon, and B&W usually attend and demo in a biggish room.
 

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
Interesting as always to read your comments Steve. I haven't heard these latest iterations from B&W, but I do have a pair of CM10 S2's. The last time I was in at my local dealer, he didn't think there was a huge difference between the CM 10 and the 702 S2 - certainly not enough of an improvement to warrant an upgrade.

....
I think I would have to agree. If you already have the B&W CM10, then you have some pretty great speakers. For the extra money, it would be hard to justify switching to the 702-S2. But for someone thinking of upgrading from lower speakers - 600-Series, Wharfedale Diamond, Monitor Audio Bronze (maybe Silver), these are certainly speakers worth considering.

Most of the audition was with a Rotel RA-1572 (120w/ch) Stereo Integrated. I have the RA-1570, so that was a good match in term of being able to anticipate what the speakers would sound like with my amp.

But I agree, the change between the CM and the 700-Series would likely be small and not enough to justify an upgrade in your case.

As to the 804-D3, very good speakers, you could hear a clear increase in sound quality stepping up from the 702-S2, but I'm not sure it was a £4500 step up. But we have to allow a bit of extra for the cabinetry. But even with that I'm not sure I could justify an additional £4500/pr. More power to those who can, but that's not me.

Also remember that this was one audition in one location. Always best if you can audition a couple of different times, and at a couple of different locations.

Still, I was impressed. The only other thing I would like to do is hear the side-by-side with my existing speakers (Diamond 9.6). That way I could well and truly hear the contrast between them.

Steve/bluewizard
 

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
I too noticed a difference in performance between the inboard and outboard tweeters on the equivalent standmount models. Vocal reproduction was excellent on 705 S2's but I didn't think the 707's were worth the respective price tag.

The difference between the inboard and outboard tweeter on the Floorstanding models is more than just the tweeter. But with the Stand Mount Speakers, you get the same Bass Driver and the same Frequency Response, but the Outboard costs £700 more.

B&W 706-S2 - £1800 SRP


706 S2 Speaker | Bowers & Wilkins

B&W 705-S2 - £2500 SRP


705 S2 Stand Mount Speaker | Bowers & Wilkins

Assuming I had the money to spare, I would definitely prefer the outboard tweeter, but indeed it is hard to justify an additional £700/pr just to get it.

Steve/bluewizard
 

RugbyAl

Well-known Member
Interesting reading Steve (having had some 683s for 10 years).

You just need to check through your quoted prices though as they seem high. The links above go to the US site which is dollars and not pounds...
 

Hellcat2015

Novice Member
Blue Wizard,
Thank you very much for your great assessment of the B&W series, especially the 702's2. I actually bought a pair of newly designed 603's and I was really impressed, that is until I listened to the
702 s2.. Like you mention, they did nice job with the 603's and had I not heard the 702s2 I would have been completely satisfied. We stumbled back into out local Best Buy and my buddy said let's go listen to the 702's.. Well after 30 seconds in, I looked at my fiancé and said were bringing the 603's back and getting the 702s2.. Of course they gave me a great deal so I figured I'd pull the trigger, but I'll admit that on the way to the store I was constantly 2nd guessing myself as to whether this was worth the extra money. So stay tuned, I am hooking them up tonight to my new Rotel RSP-1576 Pre-Amp Processor and my Sunfire Cinema Grand Amp that has 400HP per channel...
 

Michael Bayleaf

Active Member
I've got the 702 s2's (upgrade from 683 s2's). I have nothing but good things to say about them.

I spent a couple of hours auditioning several speakers but kept coming back to the 702's. They are a big step up from the 683 s2's (both sound wise as well as money wise!) but I'm really happy with them. I tend to use them more for music but will watch the occasional movie or tv show. Voices are clear, mid range and there is enough bass for me.
 

boxrick

Member
I just upgraded my cm8 (s1) and cm centre to 703 s2 and a htm71 s2. Then moved my CM8s to the rear.

I was blown away by how good the continuum driver was at Bristol Hifi show on the new 600 series and decided to go for the upgrade!
 

Attachments

Van350

Novice Member
Blue Wizard,
Thank you very much for your great assessment of the B&W series, especially the 702's2. I actually bought a pair of newly designed 603's and I was really impressed, that is until I listened to the
702 s2.. Like you mention, they did nice job with the 603's and had I not heard the 702s2 I would have been completely satisfied. We stumbled back into out local Best Buy and my buddy said let's go listen to the 702's.. Well after 30 seconds in, I looked at my fiancé and said were bringing the 603's back and getting the 702s2.. Of course they gave me a great deal so I figured I'd pull the trigger, but I'll admit that on the way to the store I was constantly 2nd guessing myself as to whether this was worth the extra money. So stay tuned, I am hooking them up tonight to my new Rotel RSP-1576 Pre-Amp Processor and my Sunfire Cinema Grand Amp that has 400HP per channel...
Do you mind share what is bestbuy deal please on the 702s2. Thanks.
 

Lensman5d

Active Member
Interesting in the CM 10 update thoughts. I am thinking of the 702 also. I have cm8s2 currently, do you feel the same as the cm10 that it’s a minor step? I will not get to test them for a while yet, so interested in your opinion.
it’s either those or go Rel 3D 😎
 

Jodel

Member
I have the CM10 S2 and when I was auditioning them, I initially listened to the CM 9's. When comparing the two, there was a very noticeable improvement in all aspects of the sound with the CM10, but in particular the outboard tweeter seemed to make the soundstage much wider and more clearly defined.

I have not heard the 702, but I can only guess that the improvement from the CM 8 would be significant. The CM10's do appear to need a fair bit of power before they give of their best, so bear that in mind. My own setup has a Rotel RB 1582 MKII power amp (200 watt) which seems to work well with them.
 

BrianPK

Well-known Member
I had the CM9 and upgraded to the 702S2.There is a substantial upgrade in soundstage.However,whereas the CM9 is warm and rich to my ears,the 702S2 is much more open but can have a hint of edginess in the treble at times when playing some cds.It took me a while to eliminate this but am now delighted with my upgrade.
 

ti33er

Well-known Member
I had the conundrum of 804D3 vs 805D3 recently ...general consensus is the 805D3 is 95% of the floorstander, but even a bit warmer; and coupled with Subwoofer/s, the 805D3 is preferred by most - the 804D3 is ‘leaner’ in presentation due to the 5” FST vs 6.5” mid of the 805D3

These D3 variants are exceptionally crisp speakers and superb for cinematics; a bit too crisp for my liking musically and Brian has a solution for this...which I’ve just had delivered today - hence me stalking, as I’d like to ask him a question (apprehensive and worried to plug this gizmo in)! 😂
 

Lensman5d

Active Member
I have the CM10 S2 and when I was auditioning them, I initially listened to the CM 9's. When comparing the two, there was a very noticeable improvement in all aspects of the sound with the CM10, but in particular the outboard tweeter seemed to make the soundstage much wider and more clearly defined.

I have not heard the 702, but I can only guess that the improvement from the CM 8 would be significant. The CM10's do appear to need a fair bit of power before they give of their best, so bear that in mind. My own setup has a Rotel RB 1582 MKII power amp (200 watt) which seems to work well with them.
I listened to a pair of 702s2 today and yes much better. Listening to my go to test peice of Brothers in Arms there was more... everything. Not like vhs to dvd change but significant. I am now struggling between two more Rel subs or the 702’s, more accurately which ones first 🤣🤣
anyone want to buy my CM8’s ?
 

Helix Hifi

Active Member
B&W 602,5S3, I believe they were called. The floor standing models, which in theory were the 602S3 stand mounted speakers. Great speakers back in early 2000’s. I’ve also had the CM7. Very warm, musical speakers. I tend to both love, hate the B&W house sound. They are probably the best speakers if you are after detailed, neutral sound. But the newer models can sound a bit boxy. Demoed the 603 at home. I did find them not boxy, but very warm sounding. I like a warm sounding speakers, though I felt they could be more precise, dynamic for that price. But I still remember when I heard the 803D at my local hifi shop. What a sound! Think a live concert. They were that good. Incredible dynamic sound. But still warm sounding. Only downfall is that you need either a Macintosh, Luxman etc that cost as much as the speakers.
 

Helix Hifi

Active Member
I listened to a pair of 702s2 today and yes much better. Listening to my go to test peice of Brothers in Arms there was more... everything. Not like vhs to dvd change but significant. I am now struggling between two more Rel subs or the 702’s, more accurately which ones first 🤣🤣
anyone want to buy my CM8’s ?
As mentioned earlier in the tread the old CM-series is warmer sounding. I too listened to the 702S2 at my local shop. I think the sound is a tad upfront. But that could be solved with the right amp.
 

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