B&W CM9 Theatre review

Best traditional package £3500+, Awards 2013. A satisfyingly high-end listening experience at a fairly attainable price. Tested at £4200

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

Best traditional package £3500+, Awards 2013. Wonderful; delivers a satisfyingly high-end listening experience at a fairly attainable price.


  • +

    Outstanding scale

  • +

    excellent integration

  • +

    brilliant detail retrieval and refinement

  • +

    looks, build and finish


  • -

    Some slight bloom in the mid-bass area

  • -

    every speaker needs plenty of room to function best

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.

Sometimes, there’s no substitute for sheer size, and B&W’s CM9 Theatre system certainly has that going for it: its front CM9 towers stand over a metre high and sport a prodigious four drive units per cabinet.

Finished in glossy black or, as shown here, an elegant dark wood veneer, these powerful three-way speakers look stunning.

MORE: Awards 2013

Their magnetic grilles avoid the need for unsightly grille-mount apertures on the baffle, while the overall finish is exemplary. As you’d expect for such hefty three-way designs, they’re also able to fill even a large living room with ample bass.

The CM Centre 2 centre channel is almost as imposing, while even the system’s rear speakers are chunky CM5 standmounters, designs most homes would struggle to accommodate either on the wall or towards the rear of a smaller living room.

The surprise is that, by contrast, the system’s subwoofer, the ASW 10CM, is one of the smallest of its type on the market, its 10in drive unit seeming at odds with the lofty stature of its speaker siblings.

That said, with 500W of output, it’s neither shy nor particularly retiring.

Bespoke engineering
Nor, unsurprisingly, is the rest of the system. B&W’s proud of the proprietary technologies used throughout the CM Series, including a minimalist crossover, wide-bandwidth aluminium-dome tweeter and surroundless ‘FST’ Kevlar midrange driver.

But it’s not purity that first strikes you once you’ve pressed play: it’s power. For such an attractive system, the CM9 Theatre is capable of sounding positively monstrous, its front speakers bellowing out the action in densely layered soundtracks such as Band of Brothers or Inception.

Sometimes, in fact, there’s a shade too much thunder, even in our large room: low mid-bass notes can occasionally be less defined than is ideal, although there’s nothing amiss with the system’s overall speed or timing.

Integration is outstanding too, both between the sub and its speaker partners and around the system as a whole. The front soundfield is beautifully cohesive, both with movies and music, while stereo imaging is excellent.

And as for detail retrieval… well, it’s here that the CM9 Theatre most exerts its class. Every phrase and subtle foley detail is rendered pristine, while the system resolutely refuses to lapse into brittle excess, even under stern provocation.

So, if you’ve the money and the space, consider this B&W system a must-hear recommendation.

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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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