Bowers & Wilkins 685 review part 1


Bowers & Wilkins 685 Overview:


Bowers & Wilkins is a British loudspeaker manufacturer that has been making loudspeakers since the 1960s. B&W are well known for its use of yellow Kevlar cone mid-ranges, mid-woofers and their obsession to use shallow sloped (6dB/octave) type of cross-overs with a minimalistic approach as well as their futuristic designs of e.g. Nautilus and B&W 800 series loudspeakers. They are also well known and widely used in the recording industry.

The B&W 600 series was introduced in mid 1990s and the B&W 685 loudspeaker I review here is from the fourth generation of the 600 series. It was manufactured between 2007 and 2014 and today it’s replaced by the fifth generation B&W 600 S2 series loudspeakers.

The fourth generation B&W 600 series is designed and developed in Great Britain, but the drivers, components and enclosures are built in China following the trend of most large loudspeaker manufacturers in this price segment. In Sweden this loudspeaker had a retail price of 5400Skr ~ 600 USD including taxes. The list price in US was 300 USD + taxes.

The fourth generation B&W 600 series consists of two floor-stand (683 & 684), two stand-mount (685 & 686), two center (HTM61 & HTM62), three sub-woofer (ASW610XP, ASW610 & ASW608) and one surround (DS3) loudspeaker.

The B&W 600 series shares some technologies and features from the top of the line B&W 800 series like e.g. golden yellow woven Kevlar cones for mid-range and mid-woofers as well as Nautilus style tube-loaded aluminum dome tweeters.

The review sample is the larger stand-mount loudspeaker B&W 685 using a 6.5” golden yellow woven Kevlar cone mid-woofer with phase-plug and a 25mm aluminium dome tweeter.

The B&W 600 series was available in a matte soft touch black ash, light oak and red cherry vinyl finishes. The review sample has a red cherry finish, but has more the look of Wenge or matte Walnut finish.



Owners manual
Service Manual
Spec Sheet
600 Series Brochure

First look:


This loudspeaker is a medium sized stand-mount loudspeaker and the finish is nice, but not luxurious. The vinyl is applied well and you can’t see any anomalies in the fit and finish of this loudspeaker. The factory quality control seems to be working nicely.

My review sample is rather nice with its walnut look finish and will fit the design in most homes, but perhaps not the most modern styled homes. One thing that disturbs me is that the tweeter isn’t mirrored between the left and right loudspeaker. However, this would have increased price and without any increased sonic performance.

Cabinet construction:


The B&W 685 has curved front covers with nice fit and finish and it has gold plated 5-way binding posts of high quality which can be used with bi-amp or bi-wiring setups. The loudspeaker also have a key-hole style wall-mount ability, but I don’t recommend hanging this kind of loudspeaker on a wall. Use some decent quality stands with a height of 65-70cm.

On the front we have the bass-reflex port with a diameter of approximately 40mm. It appears to be glued to the baffle and can’t be removed. The loudspeaker is delivered with a two piece foam plug (missing for the review sample). With the foam plug you can plug the port for a closed box setup or use the ring shaped foam plug to reduce the port area in order to lower the port tuning frequency. The port is flared in both ends and has small dimples on the structure. B&W calls this arrangement “Flowport”. In my opinion, more or less a marketing gimmick than anything else.

The enclosure is made of 15mm MDF with a 16mm thick brace going from top to bottom. The baffle is thicker, 22mm and has a black matte rubber like coating. The enclosure has an internal volume of about 15.3 liters minus drivers, port and bracing. It’s lightly filled with Acousta-stuf polyfil style damping material.

Both the mid-woofer and the tweeter are very easy to remove. In order to remove the mid-woofer, the design ring must be removed first. The design ring is removed by bending it gently with your finger nails from the inside of the design ring. Work your way around the design ring until it pops out. The mid-woofer is fastened with 8 screws.

After removing the mid-woofer the tweeter can be removed by screwing off the plastic nut from inside of the cabinet. See above picture. Then gently push out the tweeter and its design plate from the inside of the cabinet.

The loudspeaker cabling is of good quality and has gold plated connectors. The cable for the tweeter is fastened with a plastic strap on the internal brace and the mid-woofer cabling is isolated with a rubber hose in order to prevent any unwanted resonances from the cable and the internal brace.

For a China built loudspeaker and in this price range, I’m impressed by the build quality and factory quality control.

First listening impressions:


Before measuring a loudspeaker I want to listen to it without any preconceptions. If I have seen measurements of a loudspeaker, it’s easy to get caught in listen to trouble areas within the measurements.

I hooked up the loudspeaker to my class A amplifier and listened to it while I was working with other stuff in my listening room and before I sat down and listened critically to it.

As a background loudspeaker I liked what I heard. The bass didn’t dig so deep, but was alert and articulate. The mid-range sounded rather warm and smooth. The tweeter was extended with a lot of detail, but a bit exaggerated.

After an hour or so I sat down for a more critical listening session. I had the loudspeaker set up with the tweeter roughly at ear height, lightly towed in, about 3.5m apart and at a listening distance of about 3m.

Hmmm…. Interesting!

My impression of the bass remained the same and the mid-range was still rather warm sounding, but there was something annoying there. In some recordings there was some rawness in the lower treble area and the tweeter sizzled on in a fatiguing way. Clearly, the tweeter level where a bit exaggerated for my taste.

The soundstage was ok, but a bit limited in width, height and depth. The focus was good with a pin point center between the left and right speaker.

I think this loudspeaker is a bit fatiguing to listen to in the long run and I can’t help thinking that the two drivers don’t blend so well. The tweeter lives its own life and the mid-woofer as well and they never really act as one source of sound. This works rather fine when using it as a background kitchen style of loudspeaker, but when sitting down and listening to your favorite recordings, it has its shortcomings.

Even though I have some criticism regarding the sound of this loudspeaker, I still think this loudspeaker is good for its price and if you can get hold of one second hand for a good price, buy and try it.

The B&W 685 loudspeaker has great potential and I think it can do better with some design changes to the cross-over.

In the next part of the review I will show the measurements that possibly confirms my initial listening impressions and later on measurements of the individual drivers and some cross-over simulations.

Go to Bowers & Wilkins 685 review part 2.