Is the B&W 600 series a good value?

Hey guys, I demoed the B&W 685's recently and I was very impressed. But it might be because I have little experience with other speakers.

This will be for a 10x12x8 room dedicated to my 2.0 setup. I'm on a budget and would like to keep the speakers under $1000. The

However, before I make a purchase... what's the general consensus on B&W speakers, particularly the 600 series. Could I do a lot better for my money by going with an internet-direct brand? Or are B&W speakers a good value?

Also, I know this may be "shallow" or not "audiophile-like", but I have to mention that aesthetics are very important to me... I do not want an ugly looking speaker, no matter how good it sounds. This is one reason B&W's attract my attention.

I know I should let my ears decide, but I just wanted to get some opinions.

Koven...Just remember that the speakers will sound totally different, with your gear in your room ,than they did when you demo'd them.
thanks for the suggestion i understand that, they actually let me take them home for demoing

I owned BW 600 series years ago, and don't recall which are the 685 equivalents. If they are the 2 way monitor types, I'd go with the 805N's if it were me and I wanted to buy BW. But that's past your budget, albeit worth the extra couple hundred bucks.

Otherwise I'd go with some 2 ways from Silverline Totem, or maybe NHT. ACI too has a few which are well regarded and look very good. I feel my SR 15 Silverlines are better sounding than the 600 series BW. About $600 $700 used.

I also saw a note about Audio 123 (?) in Tone audio magazines best products of 2008 which pointed to a floor standing pair for $699 THEY FELT WERE A GREAT VALUE. Check out the notes in their online mag "products of the year" category.

Good luck.
I use the Series II 603 B&W speakers. They are good regarding their price class. The new series looks great but I never heard them.

Reading your post above I think that you can safely buy the speakers.

Just remember, like Tpreaves said, they will sound different in your room. How much we cant say.
Koven...If you demo'd them at home and really liked them,by all means get them.You are truely fortunate to have had this luxury.In regards to the "asethetics" comment in your original post,I see nothing wrong with wanting your gear to be visually pleasing.In my opinion,the eyes do play a part in the sound equasion.If you don't like the look of the speakers,you may find yourself not wanting to listen to them.For example...many people adore Gallo 3.1's and while the sound may be stellar,I could not live with the look.Don't ever worry about being "shallow" or "not audiophile-like",when you start worring about things like that,you will forget what matters the most...pleasing yourself.Just my thoughts.Enjoy.
Really didn't like any of them. For the same price, much "better" options are available. I picked the Triangle speaker. Paradigms even sounded better. Neither by the way are made in China and both have better build.
Totems might be an interesting option. You can get a lot more speaker by not paying for the B&W name.
The new B&W series does look great and fit your criteria of being an aesthetically-pleasing speaker. I have heard the 684 briefly driven by an NAD and there is nothing bad about the sound. My impression is it is slightly more refined sounding than the older 600 series although I may be comparing it with the 603s1. The drive units have been improved and sonically the high frequencies do sound smoother with better integration between the bass/midrange and tweeter. The 685 and other models in the same series are however made in China, and I believe B&W took this route to cut manufacturing costs. Quality-wise I have no comment but B&W has certainly come a long way coming up with a classy speaker in the budget range that does not sound too budget.

It doesn't hurt to explore other options either. Aesthetics are very personal so just go with your heart(and eyes).
I had B&W 602 S2 speakers. They are relatively efficient speakers for a bookshelf but subsequently lack bass and body. They're also bright. I found Totems to be better in every area, including looks. If you have a dealer near you I'd suggest you arrange a demo.
Only when you demo them in your room. Otherwise, value is meaningless.
Koven - I would look around a little more before you commit. B&Ws are not the last word in speakers. I had B&Ws for years, a similar budget as you (for speakers) and shifted to Magnepans and the difference has been astounding. Visit a couple of audio shops and do a bit more research. You may come back to the B&Ws but with more perspective and understanding.
hey guys,

i appreciate all the info, thank you

i will look around more before making a decision

judging by the responses, the next two on my list to demo are Paradigm and Totem... any particular models i should look into for <$1000?

btw, i thought i should mention that i'm using a Peachtree Decco, it drove the B&W's just fine with 50wpc, but will it be enough for Paradigm or Totem? are they as efficient as B&W's?

thanks again
okay.. so i just went to demo Usher's and i was completely blown away by the BE-718 compared to the B&W 600 series

not really a surprise given the price difference.. but they told me they have a X-718 for $1299.. which is the same thing just without the BE tweeter

anyone have any comments about usher that might help me?

i will be going to listen to Totem tomorrow

Answer to your original question: Yes.

But, you should also listen to as many of these as possible:

Totem Rainmaker
Totem Arro (narrow floor stander)

Dynaudio Excite X16

Silverline Audio SR-12

B&W 685
B&W CM1 (maybe, power hungry)

PSB Imagine B

Paradigm Titan Monitor

Triangle Titus EX

Monitor Audio Silver RX2
Monitor Audio Silver RX6 (small floor stander)
Personally, I'm not a B&W fan, although I actually prefer the 600 series to the massively overpriced 800/Matrix models. As to you central question, whether they're good values, B&Ws are almost by definition more expensive than many comparably positioned products. For one thing they're an English import, which means they're weighted down by the weak dollar; for another B&W utilizes a traditional (and heavily marketed) retail business model, which means they're subject to astronomical dealer markups. In contrast, alot of internet/direct manufacturers (Ohm, Magnepan and VMPS conme to mind)are able to deliver a lot more speaker for considerably less by cutting out the middleman.
You've gotten good recommendations above--I'd opt for Paradigm, Totem, PSB, Usher; I'd toss in Von Schweikert as well as the above mentioned Ohm and VMPS into the mix.

The current B&W 600 series was designed in UK and is built in China - so a good value compared to other products currently on the market assuming you like the way they sound. I think the 600's sound pretty good. The CM series is really quite an improvement over the old 700 series, with simpler but elegant cabinets, and improved drivers and crossovers. I would not say the latest B&W speakers are remarkable, but are high value and competitive with other products in their respective classes.
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i did know that the 600s were made in china, which does keep manufacturing cost down; however they're still imported by brits, which means that their price is jacked up because of the terrible exchange rate between dollar & euro (i think the euro was up to $1.50 today)--ergo an identical product made in china for a US company will, all other things being equal, still be significantly cheaper. add in dealer markup, which i've heard can be as much as 100% on some lines, and the consumer is really getting walloped. now, i agree with you that if you like the sound, the 600s are qualitatively competitive in their price class--they (or at least the 603s, which I've heard the most) are a good, well-balanced speaker. however i still think our poster would be better served with a similarly priced ohm or totem, if only because the manufacturer can afford to put more and better stuff in them.
Years ago I bought a pair of 603S3 (made in England) at my local dealer and I presently own a pair of 704's (also made in England). Recently I stopped by the local dealer as I do periodically, and looked at the new 684 and 683. Unfortunately I saw they are now made in China. There was a sale on the Demo pairs - $850 for the 684 and $1150 for the 683 (if my memory is correct). At those prices I believed they would have been competitive to other brands I heard, but not at the MSRP, especially when B&W did not lower the MSRP's and pass the "Made in China" savings on to the end-user. It looks like the prices stayed the same and they just made more profit, like every other manufacturer does.
I happened to be in a place where I could listen to a pair of the 683's yesterday and this was my impression.

They have a really nice midrange - following on B&W's general strengths. The upper end was more subdued compared with a new pair of Paradigm Monitor 9's which were a bit more sparkly and tipped up. The B&W's killed on piano and female vocals compared to the admittedly less expensive Paradigms. Bass response on both speakers was somewhat disappointing, although it may have as much to due with the electronics used - 80 wpc NAD C-355BEE, the room set up (speakers up on a platform), and the spaghetti of wiring and switches used in the display room as to the speakers actual low-end capability. A stronger amp may have driven the woofers of both speakers harder and lower, and placement on the floor may have provided a better foundation.

The B&W 685's had a similar presentation relative to the Paradigm Titan Monitors, with more life-like and lush midrange and a little softer top end. Bass was adequate for both speakers given their smaller size relative to the larger towers.
thanks for all the info guys

this is probably off topic but i actually spotted a 805 for sale here for $1395

the guy is local to me and i need some quick advice on what you guys think of the price? i'm going to take a look at them tonight

for 685's, i'd be paying $710 out the door at my local dealer

is it worth it to spend an extra ~$700 for the 805's? i believe they're the older 805N, not the new S version, does anyone know if the difference is huge or not?

thanks again
805N is a very good speaker - "S" version is even better. They are beautiful to look at but need a strong amp and very clean source to sound their best - you will suffer upgrade-itis, or just suffer, if using with lo-fi electronics. Great upgrade path and very revealing, but not very happy with less than 100 true watts of solid state power and at least a mid-fi or better source. For tube amp might get by with 40 or more watts per side in a small room.
thanks for the response...

i have a peachtree decco powering my 685's right now, it works beautifully

i'm thinking of adding an emotiva upa-2 to give the 805N's more power, and use the decco as a DAC/pre

what do you think abuot this?

or more importantly, what do you think about the price of that 805N? is it an average price or a good deal?
That would go above your $1,000 budget. Anyways the N805 will not only be a more composed speaker than the 685(more refined sound across the entire spectrum- better highs, mids and bass quality) but you are paying for the beautiful woodwork as well in the curved cabinet. I have owned a pair before and have owned the CDM1SE for 9 years. Another point is the 800 series, together with the 700 and earlier 600 series are all made and assembled in the UK and not China.

Price-wise is subjective but I would think it's quite a fair to good deal. If compared with other American brands then others will have a different opinion as mentioned in the earlier threads(tax and mark-up issues).

If you listen at fairly low to moderate volume levels in a small to medium-sized room then power becomes less of an issue. Otherwise, more current would be beneficial.

If you like the current 685 sound and prefer the looks of the 805's cabinet, it is worthwhile to consider the speaker. As mentioned by other forummers here which I also agree, there are other options that can give comparable or better results for the same money(as always with most gears). It is your money and choice so good luck in whatever your decision.
hey ryder, i know there are ID brands that might give me more value... but i have not seen a bookshelf design that i like more than the 805's... most ID brands, while im sure they sound superb, look too plain for me

i do love the 685 sound and judging from your response, the 805N's would be a noticeable upgrade

my budget was set at <$1000, but this looks like a good deal considering they retailed at $2000+

seems to me it'd be worth it, he's actually local to me so i'm going to go take a look/listen

just curious as to how much power i'll need.. not sure if the 125WPC UPA-2 would be sufficient
Hi Koven, not familiar with UPA-2 but 125W would be more than sufficient for the 805. Anyway you can always use the Peachtree Decco to drive the 805(if you happen to end up with these) and hear the results for yourself before making any hasty decisions for another amp upgrade. I believe you would do fine at low to moderate volume levels.
thanks for the advice

in a few hours, i'm going over to the seller's house to take a listen..

so hopefully the next time i post (if all goes well), i'll have the 805's in hand :)
If you are drawn to the 805's, I would get them. Very little risk on your part at that price.

I like the Decco and have heard it power some nice Vienna Acoustics floor standers to moderate volumes without losing control. But I have heard similar amps under-drive the 805S and it was not very engaging, whereas an 80 wpc tube amp was heaven with the same speakers.

I like your idea of combining the Decco with the Emotiva amp to drive the 805's. I assume you have the Decco because you need the DAC? If not, I might suggest selling the Decco, passing on the Emotiva and getting the Cambridge 840A that is currently on sale on Audio Asylum to drive the 805's - a good value. Just a thought.
Knownothing: you've been very helpful, thank you

I ended up getting the 805N's, so they're sitting in their boxes right now waiting for stands

I also placed an order for the UPA-2 last night.. so the wait begins

Thanks for the suggestion on the 840A, but I do need the DAC because all of my music is on my PC.

Hopefully the UPA-2 will provide the extra power the 805N's need.
Excellent. Please post your results with this combination.
I have the 685's and the 805's. Can't really compare as the 805's cost much more. The 685's (very different, to me, than the older 6 series) are excellent for the cost.