They might have shed a star, however the 685 S2s reprimary extremely respected standmountersTested at £500

ByWhat Hi-Fi?03 March 2014


ForHuge range and also great dynamicsAuthoritativeClear, specific and also agileDeep, affluent bassPunchy, refined and also entertaining soundDistinctive design

It’s tough being king. It’s only a matter of time before somebody provides a move for the crvery own, and also then you need to defend your honour. So it was for the original Bowers & Wilkins 685s, which blew our socks off practically 10 years earlier, firmly establishing themselves as venerable favourites before ultimately being bested.

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Then came the 685 S2s, and also B&W when aacquire uncovered itself at the height of its price array. They have considering that won two Awards, including the coveted Product of the Year. And yet they never before gain to sit still before they are hauled right into a trial and error room for an additional fight.

It"s taken a lot to beat them, for they are made of sterner stuff than their predecessors and also incorporate innovations taken from B&W’s high-finish speakers. But currently some new youngsters on the block - a lot of noticeably from Dynaudio and also Quad - have actually knocked them off their perch.

MORE: Bowers & Wilkins offered to Silsymbol Valley start-up for undisclosed sum

Build and compatibility

The headline act here is the decoupled reincompelled dome tweeter. The 25mm aluminium dome in the 685 S2 is reinforced through a thicker steel ring to make the tweeter stronger and also much better damped – a technology handed down from B&W’s premium CM10 floorstanding speakers – and also ensures a higher level of clarity and accuracy in the top arrays.

The tweeter assembly is suspfinished in a ring of soft gel, maintaining it isolated from any type of cabinet vibrations brought about by the mid-bass driver.

This series marks the first time that B&W has actually offered such mechanical decoupling for a tweeter in a cabinet loudspeaker. B&W has actually finally covered up the vulnerable dome with a protective grille mesh, which helps via dispersion as well.

Elsewhere, the 16.5cm Kevlar mid/bass driver remains mainly the very same. The bullet-shaped phase plug of the previous generation is replaced via a mushroom-shaped ‘dust cap’ obtained from the high-end B&W PM1 speakers, which additionally damps the driver dvery own at specific frequencies.

While the speakers are solidly constructed, we can’t aid yet wish for a much more premium-top quality finish. We provided in 2014 that the 685s look and feel quite simple, especially considering the price, and also our feelings haven’t readjusted.

It doesn’t aid the B&W’s situation that the similarly priced Quad S-1 and also Dynaudio Emit M10 both have a lot nicer finishes.

MORE: Bowers & Wilkins reveals “best ever” flagship 800 D3 speaker


But sufficient of that – just how perform the B&Ws actually sound? In a word: excellent. Right from the begin, the 685s burst to life through an effective, clear and agile sound.

These are hugely talented and also enjoyable speakers, and also a definite step up from their predecessors. The feeling of range is enormous, particularly coming from relatively compact standmounters.

The soundphase is wide and also deep, enveloping you in a richly in-depth, dynamic performance, whether you’re playing Aerosmith, Lorde or a Hans Zimmer soundtrack.

MORE: Best hi-fi speakers

The bass is pleasingly deep and also effective. Play Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love and the bass notes are so rich that it practically feels like there’s a subwoofer in the room.

All the modern technology tweaks seem to have paid off also, as the 685s sound clean and also precise. They deserve to likewise go very loud through bit evident distortion – we rarely have this a lot fun listening to music so loudly in our listening rooms.

Get them right into your house and we think you’ll agree.

But tright here is the competition to think about, and while the B&Ws are talented in their own appropriate, they confront challenging competition from their latest batch of rivals. Take the Quad S-1s, for instance.

While they definitely cannot sell the B&Ws’ enormous range and also large dynamics, they can respond to through good subtlety which goes from the midselection best with to the better reaches of treble. They handle voices through better nuance.

Then tbelow are the Dynaudio Emit M10s. They complement the B&Ws in power (if not in scale), while exceptional timing, cohesion and information make for an extra emotional and engaging performance.

MORE: Dynaudio Emit M10 review


They’re entertaining, and their sheer power, vigorous dynamics and information retrieval will certainly impress you. But they are no longer at the optimal and also so, begrudgingly, we have to take amethod that fifth star.

See all our B&W reviews

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What Hi-Fi?
What Hi-Fi?, started in 1976, is the world"s leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and also home entertainment products. Our thorough tests assist you buy the exceptionally ideal for your money, through our advice sections offering you step-by-action indevelopment on exactly how to acquire also even more from your music and also movies. Everypoint is tested by our dedicated team of in-residence reviewers in our custom-constructed test rooms in London, New York and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and also Awards are recognised anywhere the civilization as the ultimate seal of approval, so you have the right to buy through absolute confidence.

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