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Bowers & Wilkins Proclaims 600 Series S3 Loudspeakers Is Their Best Yet!

Bowers & Wilkins 600 Series

Bowers & Wilkins 600 Series


  • Product Name: 603 S3 floorstander, 606 S3, 607 S3 stand-mount speakers, HTM6 S3 center-channel speaker
  • Manufacturer: Bowers & Wilkins
  • Review Date: September 18, 2023 00:00
  • MSRP: $2,500/pair - 603 S3, $1,100/pair - 606 S3, $900/pair - 607 S3, $900/each - HTM6 S3 center-channel
  • First Impression: Pretty Cool
  • Buy Now

Executive Overview

I recently wrote about the iconic Bowers & Wilkins Nautilus, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Looking back over the last three decades, it’s clear that the introduction of the Nautilus was a turning point for Bowers & Wilkins. Not only did that speaker feature a radical aesthetic design, it also introduced new technologies (including its long, tapered damping tubes) that would set the course for the identity of the brand. And it was only a couple of years later that Bowers & Wilkins would introduce the first version of one of its most important product lines, the 600 Series. Within the Bowers & Wilkins product hierarchy, the range-topping 800 Series Diamond gets well-deserved attention for its technological advancements and superb craftsmanship, as we recently saw with the launch of the $50K 801 D4 Signature. But the affordable 600 Series is a much bigger seller, owing to its combination of performance and value. Now Bowers & Wilkins is launching the eighth generation of this essential product line. The new 600 Series S3 promises to improve on its multi-award-winning predecessors, thanks to what the company calls “some of the most comprehensive upgrades the 600 Series has ever received.” Given that the 600 Series has been around for nearly three decades — making it the second-longest continuously available series after the flagship 800 Series — that’s quite a statement. The subtly modernized design looks better than ever, but it’s what is inside that matters most.

Bowers & Wilkins 600 Series S3 Speakers - Is this Their Best Version Yet?

New Tweeter

Titanium Tweeter

Bowers & Wilkins says that the 600 Series S3 features comprehensive changes to every aspect of acoustic performance, and that many of these enhancements come by way of new components derived from the 700 Series S3. The company has a history of taking of advantage of trickle-down technology — a strategy that makes sense when you develop and manufacture all key loudspeaker components in-house. The biggest change in the 600 Series S3 is an all-new tweeter featuring a titanium dome. Previous versions of the 600 Series used an aluminum dome. Why the switch? During a live-streamed press event several weeks before the official launch, Andy Kerr, Director of Product Marketing & Communications for Bowers & Wilkins, explained that the titanium dome used in the 600 Series S3 is both better damped and stiffer than the aluminum dome it replaces. The new tweeter isn’t just the result of a change to the material used, but a completely new design featuring a two-part construction wherein a 30-micron titanium ring is used to brace a very thin, light, and rigid 25-micron main dome. This assembly is housed in a significantly elongated tube-loading system, similar to the one used in the 700 Series S3. Bowers & Wilkins says that the longer tube loading system “reduces the resonant frequency behind the dome, leading to a more open sound that is less impacted by the cabinet that houses it.” The new tweeter also benefits from a mounting plate inspired by the 700 Series S3, leading to better, more open dispersion, according to the company. Finally, the tweeter is protected by the brand’s very latest, more open tweeter grille design, taken directly from the 800 Series Signature. Bowers & Wilkins says that the combined effect of these new technologies and design elements is a tweeter that delivers “a smoother, more refined sound without sacrificing resolution or detail.”

More Upgrades

Continuum Cone

Bowers & Wilkins is known for its proprietary Continuum Cones, which have replaced the yellow kevlar cones of yesteryear. The Continuum Cones used throughout the 600 Series S3 range feature more powerful, lower-distortion motor assemblies compared to previous versions. These upgraded motor assemblies are once again inherited from the 700 Series S3 speakers, and are used both in the pure midrange driver found on the new three-way tower speaker, and in the mid-woofers used in the rest of the lineup. The floorstander’s paper cone bass drivers also feature 703 S3 motor systems. The high-quality, upgraded bypass capacitors from the 700 Series S3 have made their way into the crossovers of the 603 S3 range, reportedly resulting in higher resolution and transparency.

The new speakers also have new-and-improved cabinets. The enclosures are more rigid, thanks to internal bracing made from a higher standard of wood. The new terminal tray on the rear of the speakers is taken from the 700 Series S3, as is the Flowport vent design. These elements reportedly improve performance and help create a stiffer cabinet. Eagle-eyed fans of previous 600 Series speakers will note the intersecting trim rings on the front baffles, indicating that the tweeter and main drive units are now mounted closer together on the S3 speakers. The result of this adjustment is better driver integration and improved stereo imaging, according to Bowers & Wilkins. Lastly, the two stand-mount speakers in the 603 S3 range now have metal threaded inserts on the bottom of their cabinets, allowing the speakers to be securely attached to the top plate of the new FS-600 S3 stands.

Speaker Models

The 600 Series S3 lineup includes four speakers: the 603 S3 floorstander, the 606 S3 and 607 S3 stand-mount speakers, and the HTM6 S3 center-channel speaker. As tends to be the case for Bowers & Wilkins, a smaller model number indicates a larger speaker. Available finishes include Oak, White, and Black. (A Cherry finish is available in Asian markets only.) The FS-600 floor stand is available in Silver or Black. Bowers & Wilkins says that all of the new 600 Series S3 speakers have been designed to “work optimally together in various combinations” for home theater applications. The company recommends either the ASW608 8-inch subwoofer ($599 each) or the ASW610 10-inch subwoofer ($899 each) to round out a home theater system based on the 600 Series S3. Of course, true Bassaholics will want to check out the Bowers & Wilkins ASW610HP ($1,799) hot rod version of their small but potent subwoofer.

Let’s look at the speaker models in more detail, keeping in mind that all models share the same 1-inch titanium dome tweeter.

603 S3 ($2,500/pair)

603 S3

The largest loudspeaker in the range, and the only floorstander, the 603 S3 is still of manageable size, standing 40.2 inches tall, including the plinth. It’s a three-way design incorporating a 6-inch FST Continuum Cone midrange driver and a pair of 6.5-inch paper-cone woofers. The FST Continuum Cone used here “maximizes the effects of Aramid fiber by improving cone response times and integrity of sound transmission,” according to Bowers & Wilkins. Since the pure midrange driver used in a three-way design doesn’t require as much diaphragm motion as a mid-woofer, the company was able to improve outer edge cone termination by means of a “surroundless” suspension. According to Bowers & Wilkins, this design results in “the cleanest mid-range performance in the business.” The 603 S3 has a frequency response of 46Hz - 28kHz (±3dB), with useful bass output down to 29Hz (-6dB). Sensitivity is rated at 90dB. Despite a nominal impedance of 8Ω, these speakers have a minimum impedance of 3.0Ω, and will likely respond best to an amp comfortable with 4Ω loads. That goes for the rest of the lineup as well. That said, Bowers & Wilkins claims that the 603 S3 speakers were tested with a wide range of amplifiers, including relatively inexpensive streaming amps from Bluesound and Sonos.

606 S3 ($1,100/pair)

606 S3

I expect that the 606 S3 will be the most popular model in the lineup. It’s an average-sized stand-mount speaker, standing 13.6 inches tall, and featuring a 6.5-inch Continuum Cone mid-woofer. Its frequency response is 52Hz - 28kHz (±3dB), with usable bass down to 40Hz (-6dB). Sensitivity is 88dB. The 8Ω nominal impedance remains the same, with a minimum impedance of 3.7Ω.

607 S3 ($900/pair)

Bowers Wilkins 607 900x450

The 607 S3 has a smaller footprint and a shorter stature, at 11.8 inches tall. It employs a 5-inch Continuum Cone mid-woofer. Interestingly, the frequency response of the 607 S3 is the same as that of the larger 606 S3: 52Hz - 28kHz (±3dB), with a -6dB point at 40Hz. But physics can’t be ignored, as the low sensitivity spec of 84dB reflects. Nominal impedance is 8Ω, with a minimum of 3.0Ω.

HTM6 S3 ($900 each)

HTM6 S3 Center Channel

The HTM6 center-channel speaker employs two 5-inch Continuum Cone mid-woofers flanking the titanium dome tweeter. Its frequency response of 72Hz - 28kHz (±3dB) suggests that Bowers and Wilkins expects home theater customers to add a subwoofer, though the speaker does extend down to 42Hz (-6dB). Sensitivity is about average at 87dB. Nominal impedance is 8Ω, with a minimum impedance of 4.3Ω. The HTM6 utilizes a nested MTM design to reduce off-axis lobing for widening the listening area.

FS-600 Stands ($300/pair)

These mass-loadable stands are designed for use with both the 607 S3 and 606 S3 loudspeakers, and are available in silver or black finish. As mentioned above, the speakers can be securely fastened to the stand’s top plate.

After nearly 30 years of continual evolution and improvement, we believe that the latest 600 Series S3 continues to set a benchmark in its category. Cascading key technologies down from our high-end loudspeaker ranges means everyone experiencing the new 600 Series will enjoy performance that genuinely delivers on our promise of True Sound and brings the listener closer than ever to the artist’s intent.

— Dave Sheen, Brand President of Bowers & Wilkins

Summing Up

The folks at Bowers & Wilkins say that they’re able to offer significant performance upgrades while maintaining outstanding value because they develop key technologies and components in-house. For example, the speaker terminals on the new 606 S3 feature an improved layout and a cleaner signal path. The R&D for these was already done for the 700 Series speakers, so it was just a matter of rolling the new design downhill. And these performance gains are necessary, the company says, as listeners are demanding higher quality sound — both from vinyl and from high-resolution streaming — even from less expensive products. There’s certainly no shortage of competition; we’ve recently seen great entry-level speakers from brands like Arendal Sound, Focal, and Q Acoustics. But Bowers & Wilkins claims that the 600 Series S3 offers “better quality components and technologies than any comparable competitor.” If you want to find out for yourself, the speakers are available now at bowerswilkins.com and from select retailers, including our friends at Audio Advice. Make sure you check out our CEDIA 2023 Youtube video interview with Bowers & Wilkins for more insights into the latest and greatest 600 S3 series.

Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.

About the author:
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Jacob is a music-lover and audiophile who enjoys convincing his friends to buy audio gear that they can't afford. He's also a freelance writer and editor based in Los Angeles.

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