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Speaker upgrade choices B&W 685 or similar for small man cave ?

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IanG's picture
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Hi there,

We have nice Yamaha AV amp, KEF KHT2005 satelites and MJ Acoustics Reference 100 Sub (KEF Psu died twice - not paying to fix again) setup in our main larger lounge.  It fits the bill perfectly as a multi purpose tv/movie/music system for every day use.   My only bug bear with this system is I much prefer listening to music in 2 channel stereo - switching the system to 2.1 the little KEFs do pretty well for their size all things considered (The sub helps out at the low end obviously) but they are a jack of all trades I guess.

We also have a smaller lounge which my wife has allowed me to turn into pretty much a music room in the last 6 months.  I had a Cambridge Audio 540a Stereo Amp spare so I started from there and built up a reasonable system for not very much money at all.

New speakers is what I'm missing from the equation - this is where I'm hoping you guys can help out with your experiences Cool

For the time being my son has donated me a pair of Q-Acoustics 1020i BS and some Atacama HMS1.1 stands to tide me over until I find what I'm looking for.  I'd say my budget is about £700 for BS speakers including stands (if I even replace the stands) - I'm not sure floor standers are really a sensible option but read on.

The Man Cave/Music Room - is plauged by being pretty much square 3.2m along each wall.  The back wall has a central window with blinds and big curtains to reduce sound reflection.  A large sofa is on this back wall - maybe 15/20cm out from the wall to try and get as good a distance from the speakers as possible.  The stereo/tv stand is on opposite wall and the speakers either side on stands - about 60cm from the edges of the room - about 10cm from the back wall.  The speakers are clocked in slightly to focus the sound on where I sit in an equilateral triangle given the distance the speakers are apart - the sound is very nicely central.  To the side of the right speaker there is also a pair of french windows - these have curtains that can be pulled over to help with reflection.  The room is carpeted with another big rug in between the sofa and the tv stand.

My System was a bargin (approx £340 minus the amp which I already owned) and is as follows:

 

Cambridge Audio Azur 540A - happy with this - given the size of the room it can create a big enough sound - general listening the volume stays around 9 o'clock and rarely goes above 11 o'clock.  I generally run the amp in direct mode and use both the A and B channels on the amp to act as bi-wire for the little Q-Acoustics 1020is - I run good silver cable to the main drivers - but I've found running good copper to the tweeters calms the top end down a bit - odd.  Not sure if the bi-wire is just psychological - but to me the sound is fuller

Cambridge Audio Azur 540D - for £26 it was a steal - and had a good enough DAC to tide me over until the 640C for the right price came up - very little between them in sound. QED scart to an LCD TV for occaisonal film watching.

Cambridge Audio Azur 640C - nice CD transport for not very much money.  Given it now just reads disks its more than good enough.

Cambridge Audio Azur 640T - My wife listens to the radio a lot so this was a sweetener for her Kiss

Cambridge Audio Dac Magic S - this helps out for a few digital sources.  Xbox 360 via TOS Link, On the other optical/coaxial input I'm actually running the 640C through an expensive Van Den Hul 60cm digital coaxial cable - the upsample (linear filter) and differential DACs make a noticable difference - subtle but smoother more detailed sound.  The USB input will eventually link up to another Mac Mini running the Plex Media Center so I can access all my FLAC encoded CDs same as in the main lounge.

Everything is joined together with good quality Cambridge Audio Pacific RCA interconnects.

We are quite happy with the sound but as the volume rises the 1020i's start to lose their control a little.  I'd also like a little more low-end and a bit more separation.  Give the 1020i isn't an expensive speaker it does a pretty good job.  

We listen to a diverse range of music from Rock/Alternative/Post Rock (Pink Floyd, Deftones, Black Mountain, Soundgarden, Russian Circles, Explosions In The Sky, Pixies, Team Sleep etc.) HipHop/Electronic/Lounge LoFi (UNKLE, Amon Tobin, Massive Attack, through to Jean Michel Jarre) Jazz/Funk (Breakestra, JTQ, Beastie Boys).

Many friends have had B&W speakers in the past and considering my budget 600 series seem good considering their price point.  A friend's DM 683 FS sound great - but they are in a room that is maybe 4 times the size of the space I have to play with and are being driven by a lot more than my 540a can give - so I've discounted them along with the 684 (which doesn't offer much more in the low end from the 685 as far as I can see).  I think the DM 685 would work quite well for me:

1. Its front firing (I can't bring the speakers out from the walls too far)

2. For a bookshelf its not at all bad in the lower frequency range.

I've ruled the DM 686 off my list with it being rear firing - and this also concerns me a little if I start to look at say a B&W CM1 or CM5 Bookshelf.  I really like my KEF speakers but I think something like a KEF Q300 may make things sound a little on the bright side.

I'll likely purchase from Superfi as we have a dealer in town.  I know the only real way to do this is to take my Amp, DAC and CD transport into the shop and listen - but - their listening room isn't my lounge so I can't reproduce the exact same scenario - not to mention the hassle of lugging stuff about.   I'll most likely start by trying to listen on something they have in the shop and if needed take my gear down for a final listen.

Do you think the B&W 685 and a set of FS700 stands is a good choice ?

Should I consider the front firing 684 floorstander (or stump up for the 683s which I know I like) or is that overkill on a room this size ?

Anything else I should listen to ? Monitor Audio RX2 maybe ?

If need be I can add, say, a small MJ Acoustics Pro 50 sub into the equation to fill in some of the low end - but that would have to come later

Thanks in advance.

Ian.

ID.
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RE: Speaker upgrade choices B&W 685 or similar

Some complain about brightness or hardness from the metal dome tweeters on the 685s. This wasn't my experience, but you might want to test how they partner with your kit which has a reputation (?) for brightness or being clinical.

The main issue to me is that the 685s like quite a bit of space. I had them in a room slightly larger than yours and they boomed. I needed them around 30 cm or more from the back wall, despite the fact that they are front ported. My room is an odd shape and has low ceilings, which may have exacerbated it, but I think there will be a fair bit of bass boom/bloom in a room that size.

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hortensio's picture
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RE: Speaker upgrade choices B&W 685 or similar

Try Whaferdale or Mordount speakers...mezzos or avianos.... beauty, eh

Ketan Bharadia's picture
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RE: Speaker choices B&W 685 or similar for small man cave ?

I'd give the likes of Wharfedale's Diamond 121s or the new Acoustic Energy 301s a listen.

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hoopsontoast's picture
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RE: Speaker upgrade choices B&W 685

I dont think superfi do ATC, but see if you can get a demo of the SCM7, they wont do the deepest bass but what is there is very well defined and will work quite well near rear walls. If you did not mind second hand, the SCM10 has a slightly less bright sound with the addition of a little deeper bass.

Other than that, I would recommend a demo with the Rega R1 or RS1, again, I am not sure if Superfi sell them.

Spendor S3/5R could also be worth a shout.

All of the above should work pretty well in your room, near rear walls and if you wanted integrate with a subwoofer.

I would have thought the larger B&W speakers may well give you some bass 'boom' issues.

One thing you may find, that some basic room acoustic treatment might be worth a look, especially in a square room. Big thick Rug, large sofa, maybe an acoustic panel behind the sofa. Which it sounds like you already have, so thats a good start.

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IanG's picture
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Joined: 27 Jan 2013
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Hi Folks, thanks for your

Hi Folks,

thanks for your insight so far.

Picking a speaker is such a subjective thing and with so many variables involved (room, placement, equipment, musical taste etc.) its never going to be straight forward job.  I guess there is no better yardstick than how your own ear interprets things - everyone is different in this respect. 

I know the CA gear has a general reputation for being sometimes overly clinical and more on the brighter sounding side (this was very evident when I was running a pair of Gale 3040 floor standers through the amp years ago - low end was dreadful - highs fizzing off the charts to the extent you wondered if the low end driver in the speaker was actually doing anything) so I'm keen to not exagerate this further.  It doesn't sound overly bright on the little 1020i at the moment which is good - I just know I can do better in terms of detail and low end.

I have no particular allegiance to a brand.  You'll see all CA gear in this rig - but that was more down to getting components that work well together given they are manufactured by the same company (not to mention the bargin nature of the build).

I think the Cambridge gear I have is in quite wide circulation so I'm sure somebody with a 540a/640a (and to some extent their newer amps) has gone through a similar process.  I'm loathed to change to Rotel/NAD/Other to get what I'm looking for and I think the right speakers will make this lot work well - its just a matter of finding them.

I'll take a peep at the AE 301s - not much info on them at the moment as they are so new.

Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

IanG's picture
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RE: so I got some 685...

Hi Folks,

just a quick update to let you know that I picked up a pair of 685s yesterday after a good few hours of listening.  cheer

I didn't take down my Amp and Dac but prior to my visit to Superfi I searched their stock list to see if they had a similarly clinical and bright amp I could test against so I could get a ball park.  IMHO there was very little point in pulling my hifi apart as their listening room in no way reflects mine - its big and open with many many sets of speakers dotted about its not really representitive at all IMHO.

So the test rig was an Audiolab 8200a, 8200cd, Chord Rumour 2, B&W FS700 stands (without any kind of balast) and B&W 685s - music was a good cross section of tracks that I knew really well.  Speakers were a little further apart than they would be in my own room because of furniture in their listening room and they were left straight on - even like this they created a nice cental stage for vocal parts.  Low end response of the 685s was incredibly good considering they are a bookshelf and pretty good clarity in the mids and highs.  As always the shop tend to crank the volume to show off the speakers - which - did well at staying controlled - After this point I brought the level down a little to what I would generally listen at - still impressive and detailed.

Superfi had a sale on which means I bagged the speakers for £360 which was nice - the savings over the retail price pretty much covered the 2x2m runs of Chord Rumour 2 and some new plugs.  I quite liked the B&W stands but as there was no bargin to be had I left those for now.

So back home they are now set up in my room on my existing Atacama Nexus stands clocked in at the same angles as my previous Q-Acoustics 1020is.  If anything I think the speaker sits at a better height - I wanted to fill these with some balast to steady them up a bit but they didn't have any - I'll get some ordered or pop to Ikea and see what they have in their garden section LOL.

So - how do they sound in my awkward near square room on the Cambridge gear ? pretty damn sweet rockin out

If anything I think my CA gear produces a much much nicer sound than the Audiolab gear I listened to - I found this really harsh after a while.  The bright top end is reduced massively and the lows are very impressive - fast and controlled.  Even playing material from the Deftones White Pony Album (these guys tune down to A on a six string - or pretty much 2 entire octaves lower than standard E tuned rock guitar on an 8 string) at volume the sound is controlled and I don't get any serious boom from acoustic issues - I think I can dampen the room a little more but its a world apart from the listening experience with the cheaper smaller 1020i book shelfs.

My wife listened to Penguin Cafe's Preludes Airs and Yodels to get her impressions last night and she really loves the sound now.

All in all I think the 685 is gives a really good performance considering its price.  The Man Cave never sounded so good.

matthewpiano's picture
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RE: so I got some 685...

Congratulations on your purchase!  There is a very good reason why B&W have been making the 685s unchanged for 6 years - they are fantastic speakers and still compete with anything at or near the price.  Like you I have found a complete absence of bass boom.  The bottom end is tight and controlled with great sense of rhythm and I've never found the tweeter to be anything but sweet sounding in my room.  Enjoy.  beauty, eh

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RE: so I got some 685...

+1

Great old speakers.

When I went to demo  my Unityqute at local dealer, I thought  Naim will be paired with its traditional partners like  Petite, Spenders, Herberth  speakers and that I will have to spent another £1000 or so for one of them. But  No. There were  my old 685’s.

I was surprised and pleased with home like set up at first. Shop manager told me that 685’s fits and sounds great with the most of their systems. That is why these B&W is their default demo speakers.

Anyway Qute made them sound brilliant and I decided that I will keep my old 685’s, until I will be ready to spend fork out £2000 for PM1s.

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RE: B&W 685's

Great speakers if you don't mind me saying  Smile

Had my 685's for almost a year now, and they still sound brilliant to me, I just don't seem to get the upgrade itch with these, the only itch is too buy more of the great sound, hence my recent HTM62 centre purchase.

Like you, I prefer my music in pure stereo, so I have a seperate pre/power and AVR setups, I just have 2 sets of L/R cables, 10 second job to switch.

Enjoy!

B&W 600 series

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alchemist 1's picture
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RE: Speaker upgrade choices B&W 685 for small man cave ?

IanG wrote:

Hi there,

We have nice Yamaha AV amp, KEF KHT2005 satelites and MJ Acoustics Reference 100 Sub (KEF Psu died twice - not paying to fix again) setup in our main larger lounge.  It fits the bill perfectly as a multi purpose tv/movie/music system for every day use.   My only bug bear with this system is I much prefer listening to music in 2 channel stereo - switching the system to 2.1 the little KEFs do pretty well for their size all things considered (The sub helps out at the low end obviously) but they are a jack of all trades I guess.

We also have a smaller lounge which my wife has allowed me to turn into pretty much a music room in the last 6 months.  I had a Cambridge Audio 540a Stereo Amp spare so I started from there and built up a reasonable system for not very much money at all.

New speakers is what I'm missing from the equation - this is where I'm hoping you guys can help out with your experiences Cool

For the time being my son has donated me a pair of Q-Acoustics 1020i BS and some Atacama HMS1.1 stands to tide me over until I find what I'm looking for.  I'd say my budget is about £700 for BS speakers including stands (if I even replace the stands) - I'm not sure floor standers are really a sensible option but read on.

The Man Cave/Music Room - is plauged by being pretty much square 3.2m along each wall.  The back wall has a central window with blinds and big curtains to reduce sound reflection.  A large sofa is on this back wall - maybe 15/20cm out from the wall to try and get as good a distance from the speakers as possible.  The stereo/tv stand is on opposite wall and the speakers either side on stands - about 60cm from the edges of the room - about 10cm from the back wall.  The speakers are clocked in slightly to focus the sound on where I sit in an equilateral triangle given the distance the speakers are apart - the sound is very nicely central.  To the side of the right speaker there is also a pair of french windows - these have curtains that can be pulled over to help with reflection.  The room is carpeted with another big rug in between the sofa and the tv stand.

My System was a bargin (approx £340 minus the amp which I already owned) and is as follows:

 

Cambridge Audio Azur 540A - happy with this - given the size of the room it can create a big enough sound - general listening the volume stays around 9 o'clock and rarely goes above 11 o'clock.  I generally run the amp in direct mode and use both the A and B channels on the amp to act as bi-wire for the little Q-Acoustics 1020is - I run good silver cable to the main drivers - but I've found running good copper to the tweeters calms the top end down a bit - odd.  Not sure if the bi-wire is just psychological - but to me the sound is fuller

Cambridge Audio Azur 540D - for £26 it was a steal - and had a good enough DAC to tide me over until the 640C for the right price came up - very little between them in sound. QED scart to an LCD TV for occaisonal film watching.

Cambridge Audio Azur 640C - nice CD transport for not very much money.  Given it now just reads disks its more than good enough.

Cambridge Audio Azur 640T - My wife listens to the radio a lot so this was a sweetener for her Kiss

Cambridge Audio Dac Magic S - this helps out for a few digital sources.  Xbox 360 via TOS Link, On the other optical/coaxial input I'm actually running the 640C through an expensive Van Den Hul 60cm digital coaxial cable - the upsample (linear filter) and differential DACs make a noticable difference - subtle but smoother more detailed sound.  The USB input will eventually link up to another Mac Mini running the Plex Media Center so I can access all my FLAC encoded CDs same as in the main lounge.

Everything is joined together with good quality Cambridge Audio Pacific RCA interconnects.

We are quite happy with the sound but as the volume rises the 1020i's start to lose their control a little.  I'd also like a little more low-end and a bit more separation.  Give the 1020i isn't an expensive speaker it does a pretty good job.  

We listen to a diverse range of music from Rock/Alternative/Post Rock (Pink Floyd, Deftones, Black Mountain, Soundgarden, Russian Circles, Explosions In The Sky, Pixies, Team Sleep etc.) HipHop/Electronic/Lounge LoFi (UNKLE, Amon Tobin, Massive Attack, through to Jean Michel Jarre) Jazz/Funk (Breakestra, JTQ, Beastie Boys).

Many friends have had B&W speakers in the past and considering my budget 600 series seem good considering their price point.  A friend's DM 683 FS sound great - but they are in a room that is maybe 4 times the size of the space I have to play with and are being driven by a lot more than my 540a can give - so I've discounted them along with the 684 (which doesn't offer much more in the low end from the 685 as far as I can see).  I think the DM 685 would work quite well for me:

1. Its front firing (I can't bring the speakers out from the walls too far)

2. For a bookshelf its not at all bad in the lower frequency range.

I've ruled the DM 686 off my list with it being rear firing - and this also concerns me a little if I start to look at say a B&W CM1 or CM5 Bookshelf.  I really like my KEF speakers but I think something like a KEF Q300 may make things sound a little on the bright side.

I'll likely purchase from Superfi as we have a dealer in town.  I know the only real way to do this is to take my Amp, DAC and CD transport into the shop and listen - but - their listening room isn't my lounge so I can't reproduce the exact same scenario - not to mention the hassle of lugging stuff about.   I'll most likely start by trying to listen on something they have in the shop and if needed take my gear down for a final listen.

Do you think the B&W 685 and a set of FS700 stands is a good choice ?

Should I consider the front firing 684 floorstander (or stump up for the 683s which I know I like) or is that overkill on a room this size ?

Anything else I should listen to ? Monitor Audio RX2 maybe ?

If need be I can add, say, a small MJ Acoustics Pro 50 sub into the equation to fill in some of the low end - but that would have to come later

Thanks in advance.

Ian.

    With their wall mounting brackets and front fireing ports, I would have thought B&W had designed the 685's to work close to rear walls ?

IanG's picture
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RE: brackets/close to walls

Yes,  I'd agree with you here. 

With the 685s being front firing there is nothing to stop you placing them right back to the walls I guess (well - as far as you can before the brackets and bananna plugs meet the wall).  Strangely the smaller 686 which seem like an ideal speaker for a small listening environment are rear firing (nowhere else to port the speaker with their tweeter setup) - I guess if you put these back to the walls they would cripple the sound.  I was originally considering these but they didnt have the lower frequencey performance I was looking for.

I popped over the a DIY place yesterday (rare for me - DIY means Destroy It Yourself in my case LOL) and grabbed a bag of Kiln dried sand - 25kg for £4.  I was hoping to get some of the Atabite stuff from superfi but they didn't have any in - I'm sure it works really well but £30 for what is essentially the leftovers from metal machining work seems a bit much.  I took the tops of my Nexus stands and used a small funnel from my garage to fill all 3 tubes and its added quite a bit of weight to them.  Not sure its really added much other than making the stands a bit less top heavy.

When I had the 1020i on the stands (The guitar and stand have changed place from this picture now - moving the speaker out of the corner helped significantly) they sat a littlel low being small speakers - with the 685s the tweeter is at the perfect height.  I think as the FS700 stands are designed for the very small CM1 I think with the bigger 685 it may place the tweeter too high again.  Nothinig seems lacking at the moment so I will stick with the Atacamas.  I know some pretty good metal fabrication people who could no doubt make me some really dead sounding stands and powder coat them for less than the B&Ws

Pretty much spent the entire weekend on the sofa listening - I think the system stands me £800 all in now which is an absolute bargin - its very pleasing on the ears and wallet.

ID.
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RE: Speaker upgrade choices B&W 685

Glad they worked out for you and don't boom. Great speakers for the price.

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RE: Speaker upgrade choices B&W 685

I've  noticed your CA amp lying under others components...I think is very dangerous for his heat  dissipation...bye.      Cool

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alchemist 1's picture
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RE: Speaker upgrade choices B&W 685 for small man cave ?

     B&W  show the 685's on the fs700 stands. Smile

IanG's picture
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My own 685s arrived...

The demo speakers went back to Superfi on Saturday and I collected my own 685s rockin out

Some B&W FS700's came up on ebay for a good price so I bagged them too LOL.