Home theatre electronics are in a constant state of flux, and most components are on the shelves for only 12 months at a time -- sometimes as little as six! But when it comes to speakers, things move much more slowly. After five years, the venerable DM600 S3 series from B&W has earned an update.
The new 600 series is a bit of a departure from the previous range, not only is the naming convention different (eg the numbers counter-intuitively count down as you move up the range) but the speakers have been redesigned from the ground up.
Another interesting development is that the 300 series seems to have disappeared from the 2007 B&W line-up, making the 600 series now the budget range.
The B&W 685 is the largest bookshelf speaker in this new series, and sits between the old DM601 and DM602 in both price (AU$999) and size. It comes in quite a large box, which is almost as long as it is tall: 340mm high by 198mm wide and 331mm deep.
B&W have always believed in "trickle-down" technology, and techniques which were incorporated into the flagship 800 series have wound up here. Firstly, the 6.5-inch woofer features a new fixed phase-plug (the conical plug in the middle of the speaker cone), a new rubber surround for a smoother midrange response and a copper-clad pole piece for better tweeter integration.
Secondly, the famed 25mm aluminium dome tweeter has been improved to become what B&W claims is the most technologically advanced the company has ever offered in an entry-level product.
Why fix something that wasn't broken? The DM602 in particular earned itself acclaim when it was first released, and we swear by the quality of the original DM600 range -- the author even has a pair of DM602.5's in his own home system.
The improvements B&W have made seem to imply the speakers are mellower in tone, and while this may please jazz and classical fans, rock enthusiasts may come away disappointed.
The styling may also not be to everyone's taste. It's certainly more industrial-looking and minimalist than any other speaker they've released.
We look forward to testing the new series. In the past, the distinctive B&W tweeter has been too bright for some, so it will be interesting to see if there is indeed the leap in quality the company claims. Look out for the 685 Theatre, which includes two 685's, a pair of 686's (AU$799), the HTM62 two-way centre speaker (AU$699.00) and a ASW608 subwoofer (AU$999) for AU$3,499.