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Reviews

B&W 685S2

B&W 685 S2

“They’re the speakers we’d put on to get our friends into hi-fi, and we can’t think of a better reason to recommend the new B&W 685s.” That’s what we said about the S2s when we first tested them and, exactly a year later, we still feel the same.

For a 650$ pair of stand mounters these speakers are superb. No other speaker in this price category comes close to the sheer power and dynamic punch that they provide. Their layer upon layer of detail unearths nuance and texture that render instruments and vocals startlingly realistic.

B&W 685 S2

Well-toned muscle

Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit hits you like a wall of sound, the 685s packing in so much muscle and depth to the low end that you feel the aggression coursing through the grungy guitars and attacking drums. Basslines plunge deep, rumbling along with control and enthusiasm.

Each note stops and starts with neat precision. The rhythm is fast, punchy and agile – these speakers certainly know how to have fun.

Dynamically, the B&Ws are hugely impressive. They communicate the shifts in tone and the build up of tension in The Dead Weather’s 60 Feet Tall with stunning subtlety, while the top end is free to soar in a clear, spacious soundfield. Vocals are nicely expressive, full of emotion in a way that really draws you into each song.

The S2s are revealing enough for you to hear exactly which of your albums are recorded poorly, but instead of making a fuss they simply apply their trademark gusto to deliver the most enjoyable performance possible. Play your old records through these 685s and you’ll feel like you’re hearing them for the very first time – it’s a thrilling performance.

Added protection

The cabinet itself is sturdy, and the chunky speakers come in black or white finishes. Next to the gorgeous Triangle Esprit Titus EZ speakers the S2s feel just a little plain, but they look pretty smart when perched on decent stands.
B&W’s distinctive yellow woven Kevlar mid/bass cone is certainly eye-catching, but what makes us jump with joy is the sight of a metal grille over the previously uncovered tweeter.
It aids dispersion and means stray fingers will no longer be able to callously dent the delicate metal.

The S2 version was seven years in the making – plenty of time for B&W to work on the updates to the original 685s. Tweaks include improving the tweeter dome’s rigidity to increase precision, and decoupling the unit from the cabinet to reduce vibration. There’s also a new mushroom-shaped plug at the centre of the mid/bass driver for better damping. The result is a tauter, punchier bass than the original, and a clear treble that integrates smoothly with the rest of the frequencies.

A rare breed

The 685 S2s remain one of the most captivating speakers we’ve heard at this price. The agile, musical Triangle Esprit Titus EZs are the only others in this test able to worry them. We urge you to listen to the B&Ws – we guarantee they’ll leave you with a huge grin on your face.

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