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Date Printed: 10 November 2005

B&W DM602.5 S3

3 starsB&W's new floorstander looks the part, but there are stronger models in the range

B&W is the major world brand in hi-fi loudspeakers today, and its biggest
sellers have been a succession of variations on the 600 Series theme, going back at least a decade.The most recent are the S3 versions, which follow several of the familiar themes, but also include a fresh and very attractive new cosmetic look, codenamed Sorrento.

Three of the models - the 601 S3, 602 S3 and LCR600 S3 - rated a collective Best Buy in our recent group test on surround sound
speaker packages (HFC 224). This review, however, concentrates on the one all-new model in the latest range, the DM602.5 S3. Filling the gap between the established 602 and 603 models, it's a compact two-way port-loaded floorstander that's actually based closely on the 601 drivers, and is priced at 400/pair. You can have your 602.5 S3 in
traditional black ash woodprint, which is still popular in some parts of the globe. But I dare say a lot of potential customers are going to be seduced by the Sorrento option with its delightful blend of yellow and light grey, in which the really original bit is colouring the rubber surround of the main driver to match the front panel.

The main driver here has a cast frame and 120mm diameter Kevlar cone, while the tweeter is B&W's tube-loaded, Nautilus-inspired 25mm metal dome device. Although the 602.5 S3 is physically more than twice the size of a 601, it's actually acoustically only half as big again, with an active internal volume of around 16 litres. The lower section of the enclosure is blanked off, which is why the twin terminal pairs are quite high off the ground, ditto the front 'Flowport'. Bungs are supplied to block the latter if required, though
in-room measurement shows a fine bass alignment with ports open in free space.

Sound Quality
In complete contrast to our recent very positive reactions to the 602 S3, the listening panel's opinions were decidedly mixed. Although this speaker handles bass power very comfortably, sounding articulate and agile, several listeners complained of a rather thrummy and hollow coloration in the lower midband, and ascribed this to the box contribution.

The midband here is decidedly laid-back and rather 'dark', so that voices sound a trifle shut-in, while the top end possesses a slight sting which listeners variously described as a little "squeaky" or "scratchy".

Conclusion
A good looking speaker in its pretty new suit of clothes, the 602.5 S3 doesn't, however, quite live up to the sonic promise set by its standmount 601 S3 and 602 S3 stablemates. It is certainly smooth-sounding and impressively evenhanded, with a strong and agile performance in the bass department. But its restrained midband and cautious overall balance give rise to a sound that's a little too reticent for its own good.

FEATURES

Once again, B&W continues to rate its speakers with refreshing accuracy, even if this does mean acknowledging the DM602.5 is about 1dB lower in sensitivity than the DM602 and 2dB lower than the DM603 and CM4 models.

But, like those designs, the two-way DM602.5 has a sober-looking response with, judging by the third-octave in-room trace, the possibility of sparking some bass modes around 100-200Hz.

Using the port bungs may help if the '602.5 simply sounds too warm and cuddly.

Otherwise, the speaker has a fairly uniform mid and lower treble, with just a 1-2dB loss in output from the Kevlar bass/mid unit prior to handing over to its 'Nautilus' tweeter at 4kHz.

Distortion, however, remains pretty low at ~0.5-0.7% right through this presence band (up to 96dBA).

Once the Nautilus driver takes hold, this improves to ~0.2%.

Otherwise, B&W's crossover network ensures the '602.5 provides some big swings in impedance (39 to 2.9ohm) and phase (+/-63/48 degrees) for the amp to deal with.


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