Bowers & Wilkins has once again shown its considerable skill in delivering excellent sound for a reasonable price by producing two of our favourite speakers this year, the 607 S2 Anniversary Edition (£449, $700, AU$995) and their bigger, broader siblings, the 606 S2 Anniversary Edition (£599, $899, AU$1299). In the What Hi-Fi? Award 2021, each speaker wins in its price category – the 'Best standmount speaker £300-£500' and 'Best standmount speaker £500-£750' respectively.
Part of the company's 2020-released S2 Anniversary Edition range, these standmounters share a common technical core that uses the latest version of the company’s long-running 25mm aluminium dome tweeter mated to a Continuum-coned mid/bass unit. The technical highlight for the new S2 range is the use of higher-quality capacitors in the crossover network, a small change that has lifted the performance of both speakers significantly over the previous generation models and ensured that both are What Hi-Fi? Award winners.
But the spotlight isn't only on Bowers in the speakers category. In fact, two more brands win multiple awards in the category, with eight companys decorated across 11 awards in total.
Up in the next price point, the KEF LS50 Meta standmounters (£1000, $1499, AU$2495) are present in the Awards for another year, dominating their rivals yet again. They deliver a combination of transparency and insight that we haven’t heard bettered anywhere near this level. Add clever engineering, fine build and relatively fuss-free nature into the equation, and it’s easy to understand why they win again.
Our list of standmount winners is completed by two long-running firm favourites, the Elac Debut B5.2 (£249, $199, AU$495) and ProAc Response D2R (£2895, $3500, AU$6795). Both remain class-leading choices at their respective levels. And not forgetting our favourite desktop speakers, the Ruark MR1 Mk2 (£329, AU$699), which just refuse to be toppled.
Whereas floorstanders and standmounts have historically been bundled into one speakes category, this year we've split it into two, giving floorstanders their own space to shine.
Here we have a couple of new winners, with the terrific Wharfedale Diamond 12.3 (£499, $798, AU$1699) proving that the company really knows how to make excellent affordable boxes. They outshined last year's winner, the Fyne Audio F302, which (as we said in our review) sound more enthusiastic than the Wharfedales but are notably less refined at high frequencies and lack the new arrival's innate sophistication.
Move up to the next price band (£500-£1000) and you’ll find Triangle’s truly entertaining Borea BR08. These are superb-value floorstanders that produce a sound of rare drama at this level. These towers are capable of impressive subtlety but can really let rip when the music demands.
Wharfedale is another brand to make a second appearance this year, with the Evo 4.4 (£1199, $1988, AU$3295) still class leaders in their field. We remain taken with this floorstander’s ambitious engineering and the excellent performance that results.
Our floorstanders category is rounded off with two hugely talented towers in the form of the ProAc Response DT8 (£2295, $4000, AU$ 8795) – a second win for ProAc – and the Spendor A7 (£3470, $5495, AU$7500). Both look understated but manage to deliver a level of sound quality that leads their respective classes. If you have a suitably capable set of electronics, you owe it to yourself to have a listen.
So, 11 winners – but only one can win the category's coveted Product of the Year gong, which will be announced at the What Hi-Fi? Awards 2021 ceremony on the evening of Wednesday 3rd November (so please do tune in!) The odds are in favour of double-winners Bowers & Wilkins, Wharfedale and ProAc, but each Best Buy has a fair chance!
See all the What Hi-Fi? Awards 2021 winners!
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