Vocal Clarity of B&W CM9s vs CM10s


Novice Member
I've been hunting speakers for several weeks now and have demoed many of them in various stores and have had two home to listen to in my room for extended periods of time. It's been quite helpful as it's distilled my requirements for a speaker and it's making it easier for me to shop. The speaker I have home for demo right now is the B&W CM9. This speaker is clearly superior both to what I already own and to the others I've demoed. However, I'm not quite sure it goes far enough. I've reached a price point where I need to be happy with whatever I purchase because I'm not going to be able to afford anything else for a long time. Somewhat perversely, this means I might want to spend a bit more to ensure that I don't end up wanting better speakers in a year or two. For comparison, my previous set of speakers lasted 10 years before I, foolishly, built a rather good headphone setup and could no longer stand my old speakers in comparison, so I do tend to settle into a set of speakers and not feel the urge to upgrade.

The area I'm having the greatest trouble being happy is clarity, especially vocal clarity. I'm sure this is to some extent due to the fact that I'm quite spoiled by my headphones and am used to a level of clarity I simply cannot afford to purchase in a speaker. The biggest area I notice this issue is in vocal clarity. Specifically what I'm looking for is performance in massed choirs. I have many albums that I love which have HUGE choirs of upwards of 120 singers in them. A quick way to analyze the vocal clarity is to judge the ease with which I can understand the individual words they're singing coupled with whether the overall impression is "the sound of a chorus" or "120 individual voices singing at the same time". Clearer speakers will make it easy to understand the words plus render the choir as many individuals rather than the amorphous "sound of a choir".

With this vocal clarity, the CM9 gets me much further than any of the other speakers I've tried but not anywhere close to my headphone system. My question is whether the CM10, with its vibration-isolated FST midrange driver, is even clearer. Has anyone heard both the CM9 and CM10 with music that might let them comment on this question?



Established Member
I've had all the cm's and currently with cm10's , what size of room do you have and the rest of your equipment (amp and source)?
cm8/9's are a great speakers but the upgrade to 10's are well worth the money IF you have the room and amp to drive.

I normally listen to rock/metal but lately started listening to 'lite' music on linn radio just cause the vocals sound soooo good on 10's !


Novice Member
I have a variety of sources. The preamp is an Emotiva XSP-1 and the power amps are a pair of Emotiva XPA-1 monoblocks (600W into 8Ohm, 1kW into 4Ohm). The room is huge. 40m^2 (5.6m x 7.1m) and 5.2m tall but it's an open floor plan house so the room is attached to another 25.5m^2 of other rooms with no wall in the way.


Distinguished Member
In my view, based on a single, but extended Audition, the CM10 stand head and shoulders above the rest of the CM line. I heard the CM10 along side the much more expensive B&W 804D. The 804D clearly had more and better bass, but, in my personal view, the CM10 equaled or exceeded the 804 in clarity.

The CM series are already very clear and detailed speakers, and based on what you said, DETAIL is what you are looking for; for each voice, for each instrument to stand on its own. So, given the entire series is clear and detailed, to say that the CM10 far exceeds the clarity and detail of the rest of the CM line is to make a pretty bold statement. Bold as it may be, I still stand behind it. The CM10 really are stunning speaker head and shoulders above the rest of the CM series.

Curious what other speakers have you heard?

Two others I would recommend at a roughly similar price range are the Focal Aria 900 series and the Dali Mentor Series -

Focal Aria 936 Speakers (Pair) for £2,198.00 in Speakers

Focal Aria 948 Speakers (Pair) for £2,798.00 in Speakers

Dali Mentor 6 Speakers (Pair) for £2,600.00 in Speakers

Dali Mentor 8 Speakers (Pair) for £3,999.00 in Speakers

And if you happen to have crazy money to spend -

DALI HELICON 400Mk2 AV-LAND Floorstanding Loudspeakers

Focal Electra II 1028 Be Speakers (Pair) for £5,075.00 in Speakers

The Dali speakers are what I call a "Present" speaker or speakers with "Presence", others might call them "Forward".

Though I speak METAPHORICALLY, let me do my best to explain -

Forward speakers reach out to you. Laid-Back speaker pull you in. The Dali (mostly based in the IKON series) tend to reach out. The have tremendous clarity and presence. In a sense (metaphor) the sound stage of a forward speaker starts at the speaker and reaches forward. The sound stage of a Laid-Back speakers, starts at the speaker and builds backward.

To use another metaphor, forward speakers are like Theater in the Round, where the band is in the middle of the people. Laid-Back are a more conventional Audience over here and Musicians over there feel.

Some people find the "Forward" sound to be over aggressive. Though that is purely a matter of taste. However, I'm guessing that the Presence will give you the vocal clarity and detail you need.

I'm basing this mostly on my limited experience with the next model line down, the IKON series. I would expect the Mentor Series to be a real step up from the highly-acclaimed award-winning IKON series.

Note the Dali Mentor come in a large 8" version (Mentor 8) that would be a very powerful speaker, and with clarity and presence befitting it price and the solid Dali reputation. Though I have no doubt the smaller Mentor 6 would do a very good job for you.

Focal are also known for their clarity. Though to get that clarity, they sacrifice a tiny bit of bass. Though the supreme clarity more than makes up for it. I'm basing this on a couple of extended audition of the previous Focal 800 series which has now been replaced the new 900 Series. There are a few people in the forum who have bought new Focal 900 series speakers and seem over the moon by their choice. However, as with all things audio, it is down to personal preference.

The Focal Aria 948, is also a substantial speaker with TWIN 8.25" bass drivers, a 6.5" midrange, and the iconic inverted dome tweeter. Rated bass is 37hz at -3dB, which is the equivalent of a very good 31hz -6dB response.

That said, at £3000/pair, I guarantee that the CM10 absolutely blow the CM9 away. The CM10 really stands in a league of its own. I was massively impressed when I heard them. But then for $1200 more per pair they really should sound better than the CM9.

So, you have several speakers in the approximately £3000/pr range to consider. In the end, it is down to which one most appeals to you personally.

As to your headphone, speakers driving a large room full of air with a range of potential acoustic problems can never equal the acoustically seal system of headphones that only have to drive a couple of teaspoons of air. But, you will never feel the physical impact and power of the music except with conventional speakers.

Headphones are an event; speakers are an experience.

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Novice Member
I'm quite limited in what I can find locally. There are only 2 hifi shops within an hour of my home and they carry almost identical product lines. Really, only B&W and Paradigm are fully stocked in my region. The Dali's aren't available in my state at all and the closest Dali dealer is a full day's drive away. I'd have to drive out, stay the night, do the audition, stay another night, and then drive back home which obviously is terribly expensive. Focal is available in my state, but in a different city that's about a 4 hour drive each way.

I listened to the entire 6xx-series lineup from B&W before transitioning to the CM line and listening my way up to the CM9 before I finally got close to what I thought I was looking for. I also listened to the 802 Diamonds for a while whilst waiting for the dealer to box up the CM9s for me to take home. I've heard all the Paradigm (Studio and Monitor lines) speakers at or under the price range I'm looking at now but couldn't stand any of them because they were all shouty, in-your-face, and almost painful to listen to on the top end. I'll be hearing the Salk SongTowers early next week. My current speakers are the Axiom M22Ti giant bookshelf speakers and I've heard a few other speakers from the company. The two speakers I've had home for an extended demo are the B&W CM9 and the Aperion Verus Grand Towers.

My current impression is that the CM9s are almost, but not quite, all the way there. If the CM10s are a significant change, they probably will be sufficient to satisfy me.


Distinguished Member
I can only go by my experience, but like I said, the CM10 stand in a league of their own. Well above the rest of the B&W CM line. The difference was stunning. I heard everything, one after another, from the CM8 to the CM9 to the CM10, and I repeat, the CM10 are in a league of their own. I suspect mostly due to the out-board tweeter. Really impressive.



Prominent Member
I think BW sums up the selection really well. Aside from the fact I feel the 804Ds are superior to the CM10s in every aspect. But it is also twice the price. The CM10s are at a price point where diminishing returns start settling in very quickly. As you move up from 1k speakers, the CM10s will knock your socks off. But the next step, the 804Ds at 6kish, while I say its superior, you will need a good source and amp to reveal those differences, and it will take a bit to extract those extra details. (which is extremely delightful in its own right...)

I driving mine with an XPR-5, and typical of B&Ws, they do suck up juice with those bass peaks. But what you get is a tight solid punch. The XPA-monos should be more than up to task.

Compared to all the speakers BW mentioned, I would say the B&Ws are the most neutral and dynamic sounding. They are very crisp and accurate to a fault. The decoupled tweeters really standout with metal percussions like cymbals, but in particular bells. The clanging of metal, from the initial ring, to the distortion and reverb afterwards is faithfully and clearly reproduced that makes it so real.

As for the FST vocals, you find yourself mouthing with the singer as you can feel every breath and every movement of how each word is sung.

I have not really listened to any choral music yet. Not in anger anyway. But I would think all the speakers BW mentioned, using ribbon tweeters or the mirange of the Focals, they will be clear and detailed. The difference will be presentation and how you would like it to sound. I heard some Proacs which are very easy to listen to. Loads of detail. But they just don't seem to tingle my spine unlike the CMs for Focal Arias. But again, its a preference thng; like different types of curry.

But remember, always start with a good source. Garbage in, garbage out.


Prominent Member
I think BW sums up the selection really well. Aside from the fact I feel the 804Ds are superior to the CM10s in every aspect. But it is also twice the price. The CM10s are at a price point where diminishing returns start settling in very quickly. As you move up from 1k speakers, the CM10s will knock your socks off. But the next step, the 804Ds at 6kish

And the 804s are the worst value for money in the 800 series apart from the 800s IMO which kind of reinforces this point. The 803s are worth the 30 percent extra, and the 802s are just amazing and if you can afford them they are worth paying twice as much for too as the 804, not just because of sound but the fact they hold value a lot better. N802s are worth a comparable amount to 803D and 803 Diamonds second hand and cost a similar amount but are way older! Anyway, back on topic, are the 805 Diamonds too far away financially as they are meant to be very good.


Prominent Member
805 Diamonds are lush. Actually for stereo, can choral music, its something worth considering


Novice Member
I'm checking back in to bring some closure to this thread. I've purchased a set of speakers now and I'm about 85% sure I'll be keeping them. In a couple of weeks, I'll write about the speakers I've kept (hopefully).

Many times when I saw the CM10 mentioned, the Focal Aria series came up as well. I was able to arrange a demo of the CM9, CM10, and Focal Aria 936. The comparison was in a very well treated dedicated listening room attached to a system costing (by a quick estimate) well over $65,000 US consisting of components from Plinius and cabling from the top of Nordost's line. Granted, I'm not a cable believer, so I think that was $20,000 US wasted, but there's no one who's going to criticize the wiring as being the problem! I brought 2 CDs I had prepared from lossless rips of mass-production CDs, so all the audio was 16/44.1. This, of course, meant that it was music with which I am very familiar and also that I had specifically picked to test certain aspects of the playback.

Unlike BlueWizard, I did not find the CM9 and CM10 to be totally different. The CM10 was effectively everything the CM9 was, just more of it. Good things and bad things both. The fundamental voicing was extremely similar between the two. The CM10s were clearer in the midrange, especially as the music got more powerful and more complex (which is what I was looking for) were a little more open and spacious sounding, and a little more authoritative in the bass. So they were better than the CM9s but I have a very hard time believing they're worth a 33% price increase, $1,000 US, over the CM9s. They're more like a CM9+ than a totally different speaker. For the price difference, I wanted more.
The Focal Aria 936s, on the other hand, simply blew me away. I had intended to do a long and detailed back and forth between the 936s and the CM10s but it simply wasn't necessary. It took only 3 tracks to confirm that the Arias knocked the CM10s into a neatly cocked hat and then I spent the rest of the time experimenting with various music I had brought to ensure there weren't any nasty surprises from the Arias. I have to admit that I'm a little surprised I settled on the Arias as they're a bit less clear than the CM10s (and clarity is what initially had me looking at the CM10s). Clearer than the CM9s by a good margin, but still not as perfect as I'd hoped. However, they MORE than make up for it in several other ways.

First, I have a unique psychoaccoustic experience in that stereo doesn't really work for me. For my entire life, I've only ever heard left, right, and center placements of instruments in the mix. Each sound has no size, it comes from a finite point in space, without any dimension. I can set up a system to do all the normal stereo imaging tricks for someone else, I just don’t hear it myself. I’ve listened to quarter of a million dollar systems and still have only gotten left, right, and center images. Because of this, I’ve always kind of seen stereo as a cheap trick and not really seen the point compared to mono. Until the Arias. For whatever reason, these speakers WORK for me in terms of imaging. I now see why people make such a big deal about this! With the Arias, I have a continuous canvas of sound from just outside the left speaker running seamlessly all the way to just outside the right speaker. The image has height and depth and individual instruments and performers seem to take up a (proportionally) correct amount of space. In other words, a voice sounds like it’s coming from about a human-sized thing and a string bass sounds like it’s coming from about a string bass sized thing. I’ve NEVER heard anything like that before the Arias. Both the CM9s and CM10s failed to do this at all for me.

Second, the Arias present a sense of room-filling scale that was completely absent in the CM-series speakers. The Arias produce a sound that sort of takes up the space that I have to give them. They’re not in any way bloated or blurry, it’s just that the sound takes up the whole end of the room where they are in the same way that it would sound if you had a live band playing at the end of your living room. There’s a volume (in the sense of extent in space, not as in sound level) to them that makes them very engaging to listen to. In some way I find hard to explain, they remind me of the St. Bernard I grew up with. Big, solid, and friendly, without being clumsy or goofy.

Third, the Arias convey the emotional intent of the music to a much more satisfying degree than other speakers I’ve heard for anything close to this price. This drives me nuts because I’m an objective rationalist. You can’t measure emotional impact, so it drives me crazy that I think these speakers perform differently in that respect because I have no explanation as to how it could be! Regardless, the Arias will bring the performer’s emotions to you and the CM-series won’t. These speakers do the trick where you want to finish every track you put on just to test one aspect and then that leads to accidentally listening to the whole album. They just keep enticing you to listen to more and more music and you never get tired of them. About the closest I can come to explaining the difference is that the CM-series speakers feel like they’re reciting a pre-written speech to you while the Arias feel like they’re singing the music to you.

Fourth, the Arias get very, very good when you feed them a very, very good recording. When you feed them a mediocre recording, they don’t sound nearly as good, but at the same time, you can actually listen to a poorly recorded CD without hating it (if you like the music). The CM9s and 10s, on the other hand, also were rewarding with great recordings but were so harsh with bad recordings that they were simply unlistenable. I tried every track on the Grosse Pointe Blank soundtrack and couldn’t make it through more than 30 seconds of any of them on the CM9s and 10s. With the Arias, the recording is clearly terrible but it doesn’t hurt to listen to.

So in the end it was no contest for me. The CM10s and 9s didn’t have anything huge wrong with them, they just failed to make me like them. They were just uninteresting and uninvolving. I suspect this, coupled with the fact they can get harsh with less than perfect recordings, is why so many people start with B&Ws before moving to some other brand in a few years. The Arias make me very happy but leave me wanting just a little more. However, I suspect I’ll never be able to afford that little bit more as improving over these would likely push the price over $10,000 US and I’ll simply never be able to spend anything close to that on speakers.

My only remaining doubt is that I ran out of time at the dealer before I was able to listen to the Sonus Faber Venere 3.0. I really would have liked to hear that speaker because I suspect it might be everything I like about the Aria 936 only more so. Given how far away this dealer is, I suspect I won’t be able to make it back over there to listen to a pair before I am unable to return my Arias if the Veneres turn out to be better.


Prominent Member
If you like the Focals, then you should definitely listen to the Sonos Fabers. Having said that, the Arias are really good in their own right.

I can relate to a lot of what you said regarding the CM10/9. Ultimatey, the sonic signature is the same. This allows for backward compatibility for those like me have already invested in a multi-CM speaker package. I think Anthem has done well to also integrate all the speakers together. I expect the new CM to improve on distortion at high values as it doesn't have to strain so much.

That said, I think BW pointed out the presence of speakers vary by design. Some are right in your face. Others reach backwards to give a sense of depth. From the 68x series on, the B&Ws provide for me, width. With the Arias, you feel right next to the instrument.

B&Ws are generally more neutral and dependent on source and quality amplification. So can be revealing of weaker components. Focals have been said to have a more constant sound.

Again, that's a matter of preference. B&Ws can keep improving as the other components improve. They are vey much part of the transparancy camp, of which I currently sit.

I think if one has specific listening preferences, one could find speakers/components that provides them with the desired sonic signature. B&Ws to me are versatile and neutral depend on the source mastering.

But congrats on finding a good speakers. The Arias were the few speakers that stood up for me at the Bristol show this year.

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