B&W 603 S2 Anniversary Edition Loudspeaker Page 2

Add in two sets of decent terminals, usefully mounted low-down on the rear to avoid hanging cables and connected using jumper bars for single-wire use, and that's about your lot. However, simple though the speaker may be, it's hard not to admire the quality of the finish. The white baffle/light oak cabinet of the review pair, in particular, looks very good indeed, and the finish further diminishes the apparent bulk – although, as said already, these are hardly huge speakers.

sqnote Street Smart
While the nominal 8ohm impedance and 30W power requirement seem benign enough, as PM's lab report makes clear these are speakers needing to be used with decent amplification. I wouldn't go as far as the hulking great Constellation Inspiration Mono power amps [HFN Oct '19] used in PM's listening room, but they may not be an ideal choice for those just wanting 'something big' to put on the end of a budget amp. Stick to the likes of the Marantz PM7000N or Denon PMA-1600NE – all part of the same stable now – and you won't go far wrong.

If I describe these speakers as having a very 'commercial sound', that's not a criticism: they may not be the last word in definition and detail, but they're a very enjoyable listen, especially when you wind the level up a bit and let them shift some air. Indeed, if you have to use them close to boundaries you may find their bass 'drives the room' a bit too much, in which case the usual two-part foam bung supplied for the Flowport will rein things in a bit and tighten the low end. The manual suggests you need no more than 50cm from the rear wall, and at least that much from the sides, but as usual 'your mileage may vary'.


They're polite and yet informative with the Academy of Ancient Music/Rachel Podger Bach Violin Concertos [Harmonia Mundi HMU 907155]. Perhaps there's just a little too much soundbox and not enough strings in the sound of soloists, and a slight thickening, but for the money the sound is more than respectable. And the same holds true with 'Southbound Again' from the self-titled Dire Straits debut album [Vertigo UIGY-9032]. Here there's a slight tendency for the lead vocal to drop back behind the guitar unless the level is cranked, and the drums can seem to thump rather than punch, but Mark Knopfler's soloing is rendered well, and things move smartly.

With Gregory Porter's 'When Love Was King' from Liquid Spirit [Blue Note 0602537410538] the speakers are on more solid ground – but then this is a favourite B&W demo track. Porter's voice could be better focused, and can seem to occupy the entire space between the speakers, but the brushed drums and upright bass sound glorious, and the performance is powerful.

Going back a long way to 'Roundabout', from Yes's 1971 Fragile [Atlantic WPCR-17604; DSD64], the speakers really soar, the band's engine room working hard, the vocals singing out and the keyboards arpeggiating like a good 'un. They really get their growl on with the tight bass here, doing an impressively room-shaking job.

Play It Clean
Though they may thicken up a bit with dense recordings, occasionally struggling to resolve much more than a wash of sound, these are speakers that revel in open, clean production jobs. For example with 'Jupiter' from the Elder/Hallé reading of Holst's The Planets [Hyperion SACDA67270] they can sound a bit on the thick side, while with the more open Bernstein/NYPO recording [Sony Classics SS 87981] there's an altogether more sprightly sound, the orchestra seeming to hit a little harder, and with all the percussion more clearly audible.

Yes, there's an element of 'don't shoot the messenger' here, but it illustrates that a little care must be exercised with choice of listening material. Play the loudspeakers at low levels, and you might be left wanting a bit more excitement. Stick to clear, crisp recordings, take care about positioning to keep that heavy bass under control, listen at decent levels, and you won't go far wrong.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
There's much to like about these speakers: working hard, and with a powerful amp and clean recordings, they can deliver a rich, well-layered and involving sound. But you really do have to let them flex their muscles if they're to spring to life, as they can be just a little too polite when you don't urge them on. Although far from an ideal partner for low-powered budget amps, fed well they can thrive.

B&W Group Ltd
West Sussex
Supplied by: B&W Group Ltd
0800 232 1513