B&W 685 Theatre review

Best traditional package £1000-£1500, Awards 2010. A smooth effortless sound, that still packs in detail and excitement, while remaining nonchalantly Tested at £1200

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

Best traditional package £1000-£1500, Awards 2010. It’s always a pleasure to hear this system at work: a worthy Award-winner


  • +

    Looks good

  • +

    sounds detailed, dynamic and involving with surround sound and stereo


  • -

    The speakers are on the big side

  • -

    don’t expect house-shaking bass weight

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

Fresh from totting up a third gong in a row in the 2010 Awards, the B&W Theatre 685 is back out to fight for its top dog status. Marrying fine styling with formidable multichannel and stereo performance, this is stiff competition for any rival.

Despite the attention to design and detail, there's plenty of box in to the bargain here. The 685 speakers that form the front left and right channels are almost as deep as they are tall. For standmounters, there's plenty to them.

The 686 rears and dedicated centre are a little easier to accommodate. The ASW608 subwoofer, meanwhile is a slightly strange choice given the subs B&W has at its disposal and its heritage in making enticing bassbins.

The Theatre 685 is eye-catching – but it's the sound that gets us most excited.

Excels with dialogue
Terminator Salvation doesn't go five minutes without an explosion of some sort, but it's the quality of the dialogue that's instantly recognisable as belonging to this B&W Award-winner; that perfectly balanced tone, complete with clarity and body in equal measure.

There's a velvety richness to delivery that's especially noticeable with dialogue but it never sounds woollen.

The action is handled with aplomb, too, thanks to soaring dynamics, speed and agility. Shattering glass and heart-pounding shocks are dispensed throughout Mirrors, and the 685 Theatre package is crisp yet full-bodied and capable of surprising power.

There isn't the weight of the bulkier systems here but the sub is agile and controlled.

And this system really strikes gold in stereo, too, delivering a performance of unusual quality in a cinema package at this sort of money.

No matter what challenges this system faces in the coming months, it's still very hard to see a day when this won't be an eminently recommendable speaker system.

Click here to watch our video review of the B&W 685 Theatre.

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What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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