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Bowers & Wilkins 686 - which amp?

Proud new owner of the B&W 686 standmounts.  Paired with Atacama Nexus SE6 stands, Cambridge Audio AZUR 340A SE and QUD Silver Anniversary XT Bi-Wire.  Using MacBook Pro as input as well as PS3 for CD playback. 

Very much impressed with the 686's having stepped down from the KEF Q5 floorstanders as a result of much reduced space from moving into a new apartment.  The bass is well rounded and has a quick response.  The tonal quality of these speakers are warming as the hours of use increase.  While the initially bright and in your face high-frequencies are are mellowing and much relaxing.  Truly amazing resolution and imaging - although something is missing, that something I experienced when I demoed the B&W in Sevenoaks?  Could it be my existing amp?  Using Bi-Wire as detailed above and have also Bi-Amped from using both available outputs.  Could it be Bowers prefer ROTEL?  After all, they are the same group and they stress that is is the ROTEL amps which are used for their extensive listening tests.

 So for an extra £250 will the RA-04 give me better matched sonic performance, or am I imagining that Bowers & Wilkins do not pair happy with Cambridge Audio?

 
 

Anonymous
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Re: Bowers & Wilkins 686 - which amp?

 My B&W 601s are powered by Arcam amplification, and it is a very nice sound. I seem to recall that Arcam always use B&W speakers at the Bristol Show, possibly other hifi shows too, but I haven't been to any others.

 

Anonymous
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Re: Bowers & Wilkins 686 - which amp?

Hi

I have actually been to sevenoaks and listened 685.

They asked what amp I am using so that they could try to find an amp which is closest to my amp. I am using Roksan Kandy so they chose Rotel RA-6. Maybe they were trying to find an amp close to the level of your amp too.

I personally think that CA would limit the abilities of your B&Ws. Apart from rotel ra-04, maybe you can consider some second hand Arcams, Roksans too.

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Re: Bowers & Wilkins 686 - which amp?

 

Personally, as someone has already mentioned above, i would go for Arcam.

 

Iva always had Arcam and B&W speakers since i first got into hifi.

 

Ive gon from rotel to nad to marantz amp wise and from Acoustic Energy to Kef to Monitor Audio and still not been able to meet the match that Arcam and B&W give you.

 

You appear to have a similar music taste to me so good luck with amp hunting Smile

Anonymous
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Re: Bowers & Wilkins 686 - which amp?

I dont think its your cambridge amp that will be a problem, it is ,in all likelyhood ,the fact that you use a PS3 as a cd player. I have a cambride audio azur 640 amp and would have thought with the tonal balance of the 640 azur it would be perfect for the 686's. The PS3 is nowhere near good enough to use for the separates that you are using.In fact, arguably, the 686's are also too good for your amp.

have you heard the old expression "garbage in garbage out"? its a little harsh and not meant to be taken literally but it holds true to an extent.Get yourself a decent cd player, like a cambride audio 540, and i think you will notice quite a difference.

As for arcam amps. unless you like soft mushy amps with absolutely no drive whatsoever, steer clear.Arcam budget amps have no guts  and if you like the balance of your cambridge you will hate an arcam.

I recently demo'd the 686's on the end of a arcam A80 and the arcam was awful.The guys in sevenoaks agreed and were surprised we have even opted to listen to it. It was swapped for a Roksan kandy. Now there's an amp!

 

Anonymous
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Re: Bowers & Wilkins 686 - which amp?

user="JustJames" wrote:

Proud new owner of the B&W 686 standmounts.  Paired with Atacama Nexus SE6 stands, Cambridge Audio AZUR 340A SE and QUD Silver Anniversary XT Bi-Wire.  Using MacBook Pro as input as well as PS3 for CD playback. 

Very much impressed with the 686's having stepped down from the KEF Q5 floorstanders as a result of much reduced space from moving into a new apartment.  The bass is well rounded and has a quick response.  The tonal quality of these speakers are warming as the hours of use increase.  While the initially bright and in your face high-frequencies are are mellowing and much relaxing.  Truly amazing resolution and imaging - although something is missing, that something I experienced when I demoed the B&W in Sevenoaks?  Could it be my existing amp?  Using Bi-Wire as detailed above and have also Bi-Amped from using both available outputs.  Could it be Bowers prefer ROTEL?  After all, they are the same group and they stress that is is the ROTEL amps which are used for their extensive listening tests.

 So for an extra £250 will the RA-04 give me better matched sonic performance, or am I imagining that Bowers & Wilkins do not pair happy with Cambridge Audio?

 

meant to ask, what are you using to bi-amp along with cambridge audio azur 340?

Anonymous
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Re: Bowers & Wilkins 686 - which amp?

user="Fraziel" wrote:
As for arcam amps. unless you like soft mushy amps with absolutely no drive whatsoever, steer clear.Arcam budget amps have no guts  and if you like the balance of your cambridge you will hate an arcam.

That's an incredible generalisation to make. And one which I will take issue with, having owned an Arcam A65+ for a good few years. It all depends on what it is teamed with. In my case B&W 601S3s and a Rotel RCD 1070 CD player.

Mushy is the last word I would use to describe the sound I had.

Also, as I stated above Arcam use B&W for their dems, and they have never sounded mushy to me!!

Anonymous
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Re: Bowers & Wilkins 686 - which amp?

user="Mr_Orange" wrote:
user="Fraziel" wrote:
As for arcam amps. unless you like soft mushy amps with absolutely no drive whatsoever, steer clear.Arcam budget amps have no guts  and if you like the balance of your cambridge you will hate an arcam.

That's an incredible generalisation to make. And one which I will take issue with, having owned an Arcam A65+ for a good few years. It all depends on what it is teamed with. In my case B&W 601S3s and a Rotel RCD 1070 CD player.

Mushy is the last word I would use to describe the sound I had.

Also, as I stated above Arcam use B&W for their dems, and they have never sounded mushy to me!!

My friend had an Arcam A75+, another  has an Alpha 7 and i have heard, at length, the A65+, A85 and A80.

With the exception of the A85 they were all soft sounding in the bass.The A85 though could hardly have been described as budget at an rrp of about £750. The A65+, while firmer in the bass than the others mentioned, is still a bit soft and lacking in drive and punch compared to Cambridge audio azur 540 or 640, any nad amp or any rotel amp.

I know hi fi is very subjective but I have been in several hi fi shops in Glasgow and , without exception, the staff in the shps that sell Arcam think exactly the same about Arcam amps bar the non budget stuff. The staff in one shop loath Arcam amps and can't understand why anyone would buy one. When my mate demo'd the quad 11Lspeakers a few years ago we were specifically advised that they would not go with arcam amps as they have " no balls" and the sound would be mushy.

A few friends and I recently demo'd the b&w 686's in sevenoaks and we initially tried using an Arcam A80 amp. it was awful. The mid range and treble are lovely but the bottom end had no drive whatsoever rendering the sound mushy and undynamic.If you like Rock,dance,classical, hip hop or basically anything but acoustic, an Arcam amp is the wrong choice, in my eyes.i have to say their cd players are superb though and cannot see by them.

their power amps are  also good  but only when fed from a non Arcam integrated.

Anyway, just my tuppence worth and no offence intended!

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Re: Bowers & Wilkins 686 - which amp?

 I have a Rotel RA-04 and I absolutely love the amp. I tried the B&W 685 but I had the impression that the RA-04 was not powerful enough to drive the speakers.  Anyone heard the 686 together with the RA-04 amp ?

I agree with Fraziel. I have heard a couple of Arcam amps and I thought they all were boring, no punch or drive at all.  

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Re: Bowers & Wilkins 686 - which amp?

I completely and utterly disagree

I have, as you can see below, Arcam Alpha 9 integrated amp and 9P power amp along with an Arcam CD player all powering my B&W 602 S2 and 602 S3 speakers (when i swap them) and the sound is fantastic

I have auditioned and owned Rotel, Nad, Marantz and CA and NONE of them have matched the power, crispness, authority, clarity with treble and midrange against the Arcam Amps. Maybe its because the Alpha series is 'old skool' to the DiVA range etc...

The B&W speakers i've owned with various Arcam packages (Arcam 10 & 10P along with B&W 604 speakers to Arcam 8 integrated with B&W 601 S3's) have all sounded spot on. I listen too all sorts of music from Rock, Metal to Pink Floyd, Daft Punk, Hed Kandi, Leftfield, Layo & Bushwacker to Underworld, Moby and more... The Arcam and B&W set-ups suit this music the best if you ask me.

I have recently auditioned B&W 684's and 683's with Arcam 10 & 10P amps and they blew me away. The only stystem that Sevenoaks could match it with was a Cyrus 8 amp along with power amps and the 8 CD player and even then, it 'only' just matched it. (The Arcam amps are my friends by the way, not shop owned).

Anonymous
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Re: Bowers & Wilkins 686 - which amp?

how much did the alpha 9  and 10 amps retail for in their day? I was referring to the current crop of arcam budget amps,recent diva budget offerings and budget alphas. The arcam A85 was an absolute belter of an amp but it sounded nothing like its budget A65 and A75 siblings. Were the alpha 9 and alpha 10 amps not quite pricey? my mate still has an alpha 7 amp and it has an extremely grainy treble, slightly clouded midrange and a softish dull bass.

Anonymous
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Re: Bowers & Wilkins 686 - which amp?

user="Cypher" wrote:

 I have a Rotel RA-04 and I absolutely love the amp. I tried the B&W 685 but I had the impression that the RA-04 was not powerful enough to drive the speakers.  Anyone heard the 686 together with the RA-04 amp ?

I agree with Fraziel. I have heard a couple of Arcam amps and I thought they all were boring, no punch or drive at all.  

what is the power output of the RA-04? is it not only 40w per side? thats ok for most speakers but it might not be enough for a more demanding speaker. what about trying the 686's?

Anonymous
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Re: Bowers & Wilkins 686 - which amp?

user="Fraziel" wrote:
user="Mr_Orange" wrote:
user="Fraziel" wrote:
As for arcam amps. unless you like soft mushy amps with absolutely no drive whatsoever, steer clear.Arcam budget amps have no guts  and if you like the balance of your cambridge you will hate an arcam.

That's an incredible generalisation to make. And one which I will take issue with, having owned an Arcam A65+ for a good few years. It all depends on what it is teamed with. In my case B&W 601S3s and a Rotel RCD 1070 CD player.

Mushy is the last word I would use to describe the sound I had.

Also, as I stated above Arcam use B&W for their dems, and they have never sounded mushy to me!!

My friend had an Arcam A75+, another  has an Alpha 7 and i have heard, at length, the A65+, A85 and A80.

With the exception of the A85 they were all soft sounding in the bass.The A85 though could hardly have been described as budget at an rrp of about £750. The A65+, while firmer in the bass than the others mentioned, is still a bit soft and lacking in drive and punch compared to Cambridge audio azur 540 or 640, any nad amp or any rotel amp.

I know hi fi is very subjective but I have been in several hi fi shops in Glasgow and , without exception, the staff in the shps that sell Arcam think exactly the same about Arcam amps bar the non budget stuff. The staff in one shop loath Arcam amps and can't understand why anyone would buy one. When my mate demo'd the quad 11Lspeakers a few years ago we were specifically advised that they would not go with arcam amps as they have " no balls" and the sound would be mushy.

A few friends and I recently demo'd the b&w 686's in sevenoaks and we initially tried using an Arcam A80 amp. it was awful. The mid range and treble are lovely but the bottom end had no drive whatsoever rendering the sound mushy and undynamic.If you like Rock,dance,classical, hip hop or basically anything but acoustic, an Arcam amp is the wrong choice, in my eyes.i have to say their cd players are superb though and cannot see by them.

their power amps are  also good  but only when fed from a non Arcam integrated.

Anyway, just my tuppence worth and no offence intended!

 

I have to agree with this.  I have an arcam alpha 9 with some B&W 685 speakers, and even when biwired with some  QED silver anniversary cable the sound is undynamic and a llittle boring.  There's also a major lack in soundstage depth which makes the combination even less involving. Just about every other brand will offer more excitement, and if there's one thing that NAD amps do well it's  image depth.  Rotel may be a bit harsh but they certainly push out the noise. I really don't know how arcam manage sell any of their amps to be honest, or why anyone would buy one given the competition... 

 

 

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