Date Printed: 10 November 2005

B&W DM602 S3

4 starsClassic big boned standmount now sounds better than ever

The dominant force in specialist hi-fi loudspeakers today, B&W has serious-quality speakers to fill any market niche you care to think of. The 600s have been its bedrock budget range for many years, the latest Series 3s featuring a finish option dubbed Light Oak Sorrento, which is very much in tune with current British tastes. This combines a light grey moulded front baffle and main driver surround, with a pale vinyl woodprint wrap and back.

Reviewed as part of a surround sound package in HFC 224, this 602 S3's heritage goes back more than 20 years. When it first appeared, this stereotypical 20-litre, two-way standmount looked attractively compact; in today's company it looks decidedly bulky. Since the laws of acoustics are unchanged (indeed, remain unchangeable), this is basically a reflection of how fashion has been driving the speaker marketplace.

At 300 per pair, the 602 S3 is hardly the most stylish offering around, but the point here is to offer the best sound quality for the money, and the bulkiness of this speaker is largely determined by the decision to use a solitary and relatively large main driver.

This has a 180mm cast frame and 140mm diameter Kevlar cone - significantly bigger than the others in this group. This is port-loaded by a flared and stippled front port (bungs supplied as an option), and operates alongside B&W's tube-loaded 25mm metal dome tweeter. Twin terminals supply the usual connection options. Because the box is quite tall for a standmount, shorter-than-usual 450mm stands look and work best, bringing the tweeter up to seated ear height.

The B&W's relatively large bass/mid driver was immediately obvious in the extra dynamic grip and authority this speaker brings to the party, compared to the others in this group, plus a general lack of strain that implies rather superior headroom too.

The bass is particularly impressive and a substantial improvement over its S2 predecessor. It goes deep yet stays crisp and even along the way, providing a firm and propulsive foundation under the rest of the music and cleverly avoiding the 'thump 'n' boom' syndrome that's all too common among speakers at this sort of price.

The midband too is essentially neutral, though a touch 'pinched' and perhaps a little too laid back for some tastes. Some might prefer a more vigorous, punchier projection, but the 602 S3 has the sort of restraint that should suit budget electronics rather well. That said, the top end might be a shade too obvious for the same sort of kit, though it's probably clean and clear enough to get away with it.

It's hard to argue with the 602, which in outline has long been one of the all-time great all-rounders, and becomes increasingly refined with each successive generation, irrespective of the foibles of fashion.


Bi-wirable, width - 23.5cm, height - 49cm, depth - 29cm

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