B&W 603 S3 Loudspeaker Page 2

That said, care still needs to be taken with amplification as the 603 S3 offers a more critical listen than first appears. The combination of these floorstanders with a Bluesound PowerNode Edge pushed this wireless streaming amp out of its comfort zone, for example – the unit is impressive in the right setting but marrying it with the 603 S3s didn't have the desired outcome. Here the same album was delivered with noticeable glare and harshness.

This all confirms that while the 603 S3 is B&W's entry-level, it's not a 'budget' speaker, and pairing it with Primare's Class D I15 integrated amplifier [HFN Oct '18] suited it a lot better. Playing the recent Stone album from heavy metal band Baroness [Abraxan Hymns ABXN008-1], via an Ortofon 2M Bronze-equipped ELAC Miracord 90 [HFN Jul '17] through a Primare R15 phono stage, delivered a substantial and very rewarding rendition of the track 'Choir'. Distorted guitars possessed just the right amount of crunch and drive, making for a thrilling listen, and this was the case too with the more manic 'Last Word', where the familiar Continuum midrange and new titanium dome tweeter presented a tightly controlled sound with no sign of muddiness or energy loss.

Spatial Awareness
Halfway through the latter track there's a fret-sizzling guitar solo which sounds like an homage to 1980s British metal, albeit recorded in a small studio room. The shift in presentation highlighted the 603 S3's ability to communicate those spatial cues higher up the frequency band – even with dense rock like this, let alone orchestral pieces like the Wranitzky symphony.

The Baroness album is the kind I probably wouldn't have preferred to play on any earlier generation of the 603, but now there's a slight softening to the treble which makes these Bowers & Wilkins speakers decidedly more 'metal-friendly'. There's a neat (or annoying, depending on your point of view) trick to this disc as well, for at the end of the groove the record plays a sinusoidal-like loop to attract your attention – it certainly did here.


Upgraded dual 4mm cable terminals – derived from the 700 series – are split to facilitate bi-amping and/or bi-wiring. Low-turbulence ‘Flowport’ reflex port fits flush into the cabinet

Listening to Melanie De Biasio's new Il Viaggio release [PIASLL202CD] provided another change of pace, but the performance remained extremely impressive. The 603 S3 proved able to envelop the listening position and create a feeling of depth that was suited to this new album, which portrays the Belgian-born artist's return to her ancestral homeland in northern Italy. The first part of the album offers intensely melancholic compositions verging on soundscapes, with 'We Never Kneel To Pray' a beautiful highlight featuring a slow piano reminiscent of Ólafur Arnalds and other Icelandic composers. It was all there: the breathless singing off in the distance, the slight hesitation when piano keys are pressed, a sparse flute hardly daring to intrude on the whole. Remarkably for a speaker in this price class, the 603 S3 managed to expose incredible detail and the smallest nuances.

Immersed In Music
Indeed, I'd suggest it has a surprising sense of definition. With the same CD, heard through B&W's 805 D4 Signature [full review in HFN Jan '24], there was a profound sense of being immersed in these sonic landscapes. What about the far more affordable 603 S3? It serves up a lot of the same experience. Okay, those flagship standmounts excel in many domains – there's no beating better technology – but there's also no denying these updated entry-level speakers bring much of the best of Bowers & Wilkins to the table.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
The S3 upgrade pushes the 603 into new territory. Even though it doesn't deploy Bowers & Wilkins' most advanced technologies, this entry-level loudspeaker moves closer to the 700 and even the 800 series in terms of clarity and soundstaging. 'Trickledown' might have a bad rap when it comes to economics, but in the case of audio design it proves worthwhile. For the money this is an excellent loudspeaker.

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