Our expectations were high when we received the Bowers & Wilkins 684 S2 floorstanding loudspeakers. B&W has done very well of late, and much of that success is down to the 600 S2 series. We’re big fans of the 683 S2 floorstanders, and even bigger fans of the 685 S2 standmounters – both picked up Awards in their respective price class.
Alas, we’re not quite as blown away with the 684 S2s as we were with their bigger and smaller siblings. We’re a little disappointed, perhaps, but that’s not to say these speakers deserve to be overlooked: there’s plenty of enjoyment to be had here.
Things begin very well indeed. We’re struck by the size of the sound we hear, which is entirely at odds with the size of the cabinets.
That’s not to say these speakers are diminutive by any means, but close your eyes and you could believe that far larger boxes are responsible for that clamour. The soundstage is admirably wide, and on it you’ll find firmly placed instruments and vocals.
Ah, the vocals. The 684 S2s can boast an excellent midrange. It’s direct, articulate and very expressive. These speakers’ rendition of Johnny Cash’s Hurt might well make you quiver.
The treble, meanwhile, sparkles. There’s plenty of detail at the top end, but it’s delicate. Even the thrashiest high-hat stops short of sounding harsh.
But what about the bass? There’s a good deal of it, but the 684 S2s aren’t capable of trouser-flapping or other such clichés. You need their big brothers, the 683 S2s, for that.
The real issue here isn’t the amount of bass, but the character of it. It goes deep enough, but we find it a little restrained and not as articulate as we’d like. As a result, the performance doesn’t gel with the cohesion we’re looking for. That’s despite the dynamics on hand, which are decently strong and wide.
MORE: B&W 683 S2 review
Build and design
It’s a shame, because in other areas the B&W 684 S2s are more-than capable. On the physical side, these speakers are sturdily built. They may appear a little plain next to the Tannoy Revolution XT6Fs or the Q Acoustics Concept 40s, but they look smart on their own terms.
The centre of gravity is quite high, so it wouldn’t take much to tip these speakers over – worth thinking about if you have children or a dog. B&W provides a stabilising plinth, but performance does suffer a little with it attached.
MORE: B&W 683 Theatre review
B&W’s yellow Kevlar cones are certainly distinctive whether you choose the black or white finish. The S2 series speakers all benefit from a new tweeter, which is covered with a metal grille. This aids dispersion and fends off inquisitive fingers. The tweeter has also been decoupled from the rest of the cabinet to reduce unwanted vibrations.
There’s a new plug at the centre of the Kevlar drivers. It’s a mushroom-shaped cap, which replaces the old bullet-shaped plug, and promises better damping.
A note on positioning: these speakers are designed to work well in tighter spaces, but we still wouldn’t put them right up against a back wall. Give them a little space to breathe.
The B&W 684 S2s don’t quite blow us away, but there’s plenty here to admire. If you’re tight on space, these compact floorstanders are worth an audition.
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