Bookshelf speakers come in a rainbow of flavors to cater to a wide array of listeners. Some of my personal favorites, like KEF’s LS50 II (8/10, WIRED Recommends) and Focal’s Vestia No. 1 ($1,198), provide a smooth and lyrical sound profile that seems to effortlessly expose detail and definition across the frequency range.
Bowers & Wilkins’ 600 series speakers go the other way. The new 606 S3, the third iteration of the company’s renowned stand-mount model, provide a forward and zippy sound profile that bursts forth with unabashed exuberance. With a new titanium dome tweeter and some upgrades to their cabinet design, the speakers match that play with impressively refined definition, vivisecting the subtleties of your music within a clear and spacious soundstage.
The S3’s sound signature won’t be for everyone. Their upper register can border on sharpness with some content, wearing a bit on my ears over long listening sessions. But their warm and musical bass helps to round out an otherwise loaded soundscape that can be a lot of fun—as long as you don’t mind some extra zing in your jams.
The 606 S3 look fabulous, especially in their light oak veneers with matte white panels. They also come in more basic white and black configurations, but the grain in the oak version really stands out in a good way.
One point of note for setup is that the cabinets are quite deep, running back about 12 inches without the grilles. That’s a lot of room for internal spacing, and it helps the speakers dig up some serious authority in the lower registers, but it could also make placement more difficult. The company says the new cabinets offer improved internal bracing alongside changes to the woofer motor design to reduce distortion.
New titanium dome tweeters replace the aluminum tweeters found in the 606 S2 model. They’ve also been moved down to sit closer to the 6.5-inch Continuum woofers when compared to the S2, now dipping into the lower cone’s surrounding trim ring. B&W claims this enhances stereo imaging and general frequency fluidity. It also looks pretty stylish; if you’re like me, you’ll end up keeping the included grilles in the box to show these babies off. The design improvements come with an increased cost of $100 per pair over the S2.
At the back of each speaker, you’ll find new dual binding posts for bi-amping if your amplifier supports it, which the manual says can refine low-end detail. I only connected the single posts for this review, using a Naim Uniti Atom (8/10, WIRED Recommends) network amplifier for most of my listening. I also tested the speakers with Technics’ new SU-GX70 digital amplifier, but the Naim proved to be the better complement.
It took me longer than usual to get a feel for the 606 S3. These speakers come in like a lightning bolt, with a bright and peppery punch in the upper midrange that can sometimes be overbearing. But there’s satin behind their steel, rendering rich refinement in the layout of instruments across registers. Over time, they revealed a penchant for smooth musicality in the bass and lower mids, cavernous detail, and a fair share of sweet gloss in the treble as well.