Our Verdict 
Impressive to look at and, especially at low volumes, impressive to listen to – but we’d like a bit more excitement for our money
Purposeful looks
detailed, full-bodied sound
goes plenty loud
Mistakes a lack of involvement for refinement
flimsy feel to rear speakers
Reviewed on

Spend the thick end of two-and-a-half grand on the B&W 683 Theatre system and no one – not you, the proud owner, nor any guests to your cinema room – will be in any doubt where the money went.

The 683 Theatre is a substantial system, and it requires a substantial room to house it. The front three speakers, especially – 683 floorstanders either side of the HTM61 centre channel – look purposeful, doubly so with their grilles removed and their variously sized and coloured drivers exposed. Rear speakers can be wall-mountedIn this company, the ASW610XP subwoofer looks quite discreet, while the DC3 dipole rear speakers can be easily wall-mounted to further reduce the impression of bulk.

But if you're the one who unpacked and installed it, you'll know the 683 Theatre system feels just as robust as it looks, the rear speakers' rather plasticky finish and an ill-fitting tweeter plate on one of our 683s aside.

The sound the package makes when dealing with a movie (we used the ever-reliable Dolby TrueHD soundtrack to Batman Begins) is correspondingly burly, though not quite in the way you might imagine.

Sure, it's got genuine punch and substance in the low frequencies, and generates an expansive, well-integrated soundstage, but it's also capable of adroit subtlety and can build effective low-volume atmosphere and apprehension.

More after the break

The asymmetrical centre speaker offers well-rounded, distinct dialogue with plenty of detail and character, and the rear speakers are deft and delicate. In the dread calm before the inevitable storm, the B&W develops tension as effectively as any system.

Loud, yet cautiousIt's the arrival of the storm that reveals the 683 Theatre's major shortcoming. Despite having ample dynamic thrust on tap and being more than eager to deliver antisocial volumes, the B&W package is noticeably less engaging and enthusiastic than some of its rivals.

When the going gets rowdy, the B&W goes good and loud, all right, but never throws caution to the wind – at all times, the sound is refined and restrained.

Those traits are essential at times, of course, but every now and then (about every five minutes in the case of Batman Begins) it's necessary to sacrifice some refinement in the name of excitement.

And that turns out to be a step to far for the 683 Theatre. It may have the intimidating looks of a heavyweight boxer, but in reality it longs to be a forensic scientist