B&W 600 Series vs KEF Q Series (and M&A BX/RX)

Hubble85

Standard Member
:lease:I've been researching furiously for a few months now on an AV Receiver and 5.1 Speaker Package. I finally decided to go for the Onkyo TX-NR808 which has wonderfully powerful and open sound, great features and ultimately at the time could be had for the same as newer inferior 2011 models.

Nonetheless I am yet to decide on the speaker package and thought I might gain some assistance in choosing one here and also offer my thoughts on the various extensive demonstrations I've done to others in similar positions.

In all cases I used this test material:

  • Blu-Ray: The Dark Night in Dolby TrueHD either the first scene in the bank or scene 20, the chase. It’s a very demanding and dynamic low frequency sound track.
  • CD: Pink Floyd, The Wall, Side 2, Hey You. Bit of everything, great vocals, acoustic and bass guitar.
  • iPod: Couple of bass heavy fast tracks from Daft Punk's Tron Legacy soundtrack, Derezzed, Rinzler etc. Mozart Requiem and a bit of Led Zep.

B&W 600 Series:


685, 684 Fronts, 686 Rears, HTM62 Centre, ASW608, ASW610, REL T5, MJ Acoustics Pro 50 MkII, Pro 55 MkI Subs

Blu-Ray:
I was suitably impressed the B&W's were very detailed, clear and integrated seamlessly into a an open soundstage. The best thing though was the speed, timing and above all bass. They have a really rounded bottom end which feels very rich and full (a word of warning about this later on though!). Another point of note is just ignoring the technical aspects for a second the B&W's are just very engaging and exciting, they have a forward presentation and real drive.

CD:
Once again the B&W's overall warm characteristics gave a rich and textured sound, very immediate earnest vocals and plenty of organisation and clarity. You really didn't need a sub at all the sound was cleaner without one.

iPod:
Here is where I had my only negative experience with the B&W's the bass heavy tracks were just too thick and slow, veiled would be the best description.

Overall/Within Ranges/Subs/Amp Combo:
Mainly all of my tests were with 685's although to be honest when I switched to the floorstanders the improvement was not big enough just bass extension on an already bassy speaker.
The 608 sub was just not good enough frankly, too much cabinet resonance and wobbly bass. The 610 is marked improvement. It’s fast, clean and crucially knows when to stop, it’s tight and deep. The REL was ok but I didn't listen to it for long. The Pro 50 MkII is very impressive for its size and price; it’s basically only a fraction less impressive than the 610. The Pro 55 MkI was just awful, it was loud sure but no control, the bass frequency just rolled on knocking into the whole frequency range.
On the whole the 600 series is great I can see why they have had such a strong run in What Hi-fi. Its strong suit is bass and smooth delivery but it’s by no means weak in any area. It is without doubt though a warm sound and it should be said that I found it least impressive with the Denon and Yamaha amps and best with Onkyo’s they sound too closed and congested otherwise and open up with more oomph.
The finish particularly the soft touch fronts I thought were quite good and generally their attractive especially their yellow drivers.

Questions for Forum:

  1. Speaking to B&W, they were adamant that the smaller HTM62 centre channel is the one to go for instead of the HTM61, which apparently is only matched for the floorstanders and even then only the 683’s? Is this right I thought the centre channel was critical and that better and bigger is prefered?
  2. Is the Onkyo 808 a perfect match for the B&W’s?
  3. I was thinking of getting the DS3 dipoles for the rear as my listening position sofa is backed up against the same wall that my rears would be mounted upon. But no one carries them so I can never try them out. What are they like would they be the same as the RXFX’s I mention below?
  4. Is B&W build quality as good as their reputation suggests? I know there made in China now, but everything is and apparently B&W are more hands on and don’t simply outsource production.

KEF Q Series:

Q300, Q700, Q900 Fronts, Q100 rears, Q200C Centre, B&W ASW610 Sub

Blu-Ray:
Again fantastic the main difference was that the soundstage was noticeably bigger, both taller and wider. Because I think because of the concentric driver design the sweet spot was more spread out. Don’t get me wrong you can’t wander off anywhere but the scale and distribution is greater. They key thing here though is that the midrange is so sweet, it’s beautifully transparent and clear, there is real detail and resolution here.

CD:
The acoustic guitar and cymbals were just brilliant here, you just noticed it more and it was more prominent, you heard more in the higher frequencies. By contrast the bass although precise was not that exciting and in all honesty you needed the sub to work harder to fill out the sound. There not as comforting as the B&W’s the vocals were less engaging, more clinical but you can’t argue with the detail and separation.

iPod:
Didn’t get a chance to try this.


Overall/Within Ranges/Subs/Amp Combo:
The difference between the floorstanders and the Q300’s was more pronounced here probably because of the additional bass. The Q900’s were personally the best speaker I listened to but are way too big for me and expensive. Nobody had the Q400B sub to try which is quite annoying really because its making it harder to choose between the ranges. Either way though get a good sub with the KEF’s, they need it.
The KEF’s seemed to be overall more neutral in tone than the B&W’s and less sensitive to differences in amps. They are not as warm as the B&W but are by no means harsh or clinical. They really are good if not the best looking speaker in the world. It seems KEF have sort of been languishing in this sector of late, however this new Q Series really has got the goods.

Questions for Forum:


1. Apparently with the KEF’s you can go for the larger Q600C centre channel without any concerns. If true is this worth it?

2. Has anybody tried the Q400B sub? Having tested a few I know how important they are especially in movies. It has to be good quality, clean and deep with no roll on.

3. I was thinking of getting the Q800 dipoles for the rear as my listening position sofa is backed up against the same wall that my rears would be mounted upon. But no one carries them so I can never try them out. What are they like would they be the same as the RXFX’s I mention below?

4. Being honest KEF haven’t been as successful as B&W of late is this a worthy consideration or just snobbery? Since the 20% discount really does put it toe-to-toe with the B&W 600 Series. Is it a case of initial overpricing or just a really competitive product?

General Impressions on Various Speakers and Prices:

I initially looked at Satellite speaker systems; the KEF 3005 and B&W MT-30 etc. I’ve got to say that if you have the space you must go for traditional speakers. They simply do everything better, although the PV1 was the best sub I heard, hands down. In general only the expensive packages are any good and thus uncompetitive; and even then they sound thin, tinny and no good for stereo music.

Then I looked at the Monitor Audio Bronze BX’s. Before I heard the B&W’s and KEF’s I thought they were brilliant, really detailed and clear and very well priced; afterwards though they sounded harsh, brittle and thin. The integration was poor and bass weak. I’ve got to say though at under a £1000 for a complete package there is no point looking elsewhere, if that’s the budget. They will smash any satellite system and are beautifully built.

The other range I tried was the Monitor Audio Silver RX. This was very interesting and really hit home the point about personal preferences and musical tastes. They were the most expensive and high end range I looked at. They revealed and extracted the most detail of anything I tried; they were utterly transparent and crystal clear. The RXW12 sub is awesome, so deep and powerful, just such a well-balanced system overall and by far the best made and finished, especially in gloss lacquer. In fact Monitor Audio feels much better made and finished full stop. The problem is that whilst the quality was undoubtedly there; I felt no excitement; it felt like an analysis rather than an experience. Especially compared to the B&W’s the presentation seemed nowhere near as forward and engaging. I can imagine them being perfect for jazz and classical in a monitor environment. But they gave me no warmth, just clinical accuracy. Also of interest the RXFX’s were the only dipoles I was able to try and I don’t know if it’s just me but I just couldn’t locate any effects, I know the point is to have a diffuse sound field and maybe I’m just not used to it; but right now I just find direct forward firing monopole speakers much more effective?

You must be bored by now, I know I am! But I just can’t decide between the KEF’s and the B&W’s? The problem is that KEF reduced their price by 20%! Otherwise the B&W’s were a shoe in for me, whereas now there’s nothing in it and I’m looking for anything to split them?!

I imagine there are a lot of people in my position so I hope my thoughts/ramblings:rotfl: are of some interest and I would really appreciate some help in my own decision.

Thanks :)
 

fullerms

Standard Member
Which model did you listen to from the MA Silver RX range? The RX-6s or the 8s?

I am exactly in the same situation as you are in, but haven't listened to the KEFs yet. I listened to the MA RX-6s and prefer them to the B&W 684s.

Will camp here to see what the others have to say.
 

Hubble85

Standard Member
To be honest I didn't spend too much time or effort on the MA-RX's since they were a bit too expensive for me in any case, I just gave an initial impression of some RX1's, RXC, RX Sub and RXFX's. I'm sure the bigger floorstanders would be more impressive!

Nonetheless the entire RX range I think is just a bit above the B&W 600 Series in terms of sheer sonic quality and articulacy, but I did find them a bit too restrained for my tastes. Although I love classical and jazz and I'm telling you their perfect for that! But really I'm looking for 5.1 movie system and want more excitement than sophistication - which the RX's have in spades. Plus they look miles better than the 600's, magnetic grilles and gloss finish, it looks and feels expensive!

If you preferred the RX6's over the 684's; then my guess is your an Monitor Audio man you'll love their clarity and detail. Interestingly the KEF Q's are probably in between the B&W and MA's, a compromise between B&W's bass and exciting dynamics and the RX's clarity and detail at higher frequencies.

Bear in mind though that the MA-RX's definitely needed more effort and current to drive than the others.
 

Crustyloafer

Distinguished Member
Hi Hubble,

I am pretty sure we have spoken on the phone a few times about this. Have you had any further thoughts on the alternatives I was suggesting?

Regards,

Chris.
 

stevehal

Standard Member
Hi to the OP, I work for KEF and would like you to be able to hear the Q400 sub and Q800ds dipoles. Can you let us know which dealers you have visited so we can try to get product over to them for you to try. Thanks, Steve
 

Hubble85

Standard Member
Well done fullerms. I'm sure you'll be very happy with them!

Hello stevehal, um... I'm sure I know what your choice would be! I've tried out your speakers in a couple of SuperFi's, Derby and Camden. My local Sevenoaks' doesn't stock them at all apparently.
The thing is that even since I've posted I've done some more demos and if anything the more 'sonic information' I receive the harder the decision becomes. Plus its impossible to ever do real 'like for like' comparisons the amps and rooms are often different and not everything may be in stock. In any case its never going to be 'you’re listening room' anyway. The best you can get is an approximation, which is fair enough.
But I still can't decide; if one was noticeably cheaper than the other it would frankly be easy, but they aren't. I need to decide soon as my room would be ready next week.

I'm leaning towards the B&W's at the moment purely because of my Onkyo 808 amp; I think it might just be a better pairing with a 'warmer' speaker? Though I'm not sure, especially with all the calibrating you can do on the amp any way.
 

stevehal

Standard Member
Hi Hubble,

Sorry to hear that obviously, we went to a lot of trouble to make Q series outperform the competition. I agree 600 series is warmer and perhaps a better match for the bright sounding Onkyo, but have you checked out what happens as you play louder? You may find the compression etc a real issue for you. In our view the Denon amps are more musical generally than their Yamaha and Onkyo counterparts although of course I realise the magazines sometimes don't agree. As always the smart thing is to listen yourself to the combinations if you can, hence I was happy to get some dipoles and a sub to a dealer near you if you wanted to hear Q Series. Enjoy the system whichever you go for, Steve
 

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