I have had these since 2008 and have them backs to the wall on a shelf in my kitchen. They were originally powered by a Denon mini-system but now I use a TA-20 T-Amp. The source is a Squeezebox Duet.
These are great fun and dramatic speakers for their size. They produce a very full, rich, dynamic and open sound. They were the standout "no brainer" buy when we auditioned them against similar sized and priced speakers from Wharfedale, Mission, KEF and Monitor Audio. Only the Tannoy equivalents got close but they sounded a bit boxy and were rather bigger than the B&Ws.
I sort of understand where the original reviewer was coming from though. The upper bass / lower midrange does have a bit of "bloom" to it that shows up obviously with male spoken voices. However in every other respect they are have a clear and open and dynamic presentation which is remarkably free of the "shut in", boxy and thin character that afflicts most small speakers from other makers.
They really need to be heard in an A vs B demonstration against similar sized speakers which will make their qualities immediately obvious - something I think the original reviewer did not seem to do.
I am not usually moved to place comments in places such as this, but here I feel as though I must. I have just got a brand new pair of these speakers home for use in a simple 2 channel stereo system and they are simply outstanding. I was all set to buy a pair of MA BX2s based on the what hifi awards but the guy in the shop advised that I audition these first. To my tastes and all the shop staff these are simply far better. After I left the shop I read the what hifi 686 review again and was nearly put off. Do not allow the 3 star review to put you off. Judge for yourself but the 3 star review is simply bizarre in my opinion.
I completely agree with your comment. I auditioned the Monitor Audio BX2 at my local Hifi-specialist in and judged them to sound too harsh, especially at the higher notes. The guy in the shop suggested the B&W 686 and these really small yet more expensive speakers immediately sounded like honey to my... eh... ears. Of course it could be that my ears are accustomed to warmer sounding speakers and real audiophiles (which I'm certainly not at this point) prefer differently. By the way, I auditioned these speakers with a Marantz CD5004 (which I bought too) an a Denon PMA-710 (in the end I bought an old model Marantz PM6003 which is comparable). The set that I've bought now is my first entry level high end set (although real audiophiles might not agree with that). I am really happy with this combo an would recommend any hifi enthousiast on a small budget to try the Marantz/B&W 686 set (about 1000 euro inclusive of good quality speaker wire, banana plugs and interconnect cable).
Peter (from Kudelstaart, Holland)
These speakers are mint, they defo deserved 5 stars in my opinion. I have them with a rotel ra04se amp and rcd06se cd player and the sound quality is second to non also using chord crimson interconect and 2x 1 metre runs of chord carnival silverscreen speaker cable by running speakers A output to the high frequency and B output to the lower frequency thus switching the output on the amp to both speakers A&B giving good clear sound with tight base and control. Trust me the 685 s are not better just bit more base due to bigger cabinets both specks are the same.
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Good but not great – and that’s not quite enough at this hugely competitive price for AV receivers
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