B&W XT2 review

If you've some aggressive amplification the needs soothing these smooth, elegant speakers won't let you down Tested at £700.00

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

The B&Ws get an awful lot right, but we’d sacrifice a touch of their maturity for a bit more abandon

Pros

  • +

    Good looks, great build

  • +

    fluid, unruffled sound

Cons

  • -

    Bass can dominate if poorly positioned

  • -

    perhaps too grown-up for their own good

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Although it's been around for a couple of years, and although we've enjoyed the models we've heard in the XT range, we somehow have managed to avoid checking out B&W's XT2s.

Compact cabinet dimensions with aspirations to a full-scale sound. If hadn't tested them now, the opportunity might never present itself again…

Impressive surface looks
The XT2s illustrate just how good B&W is at providing a bit of visual and tactile drama but nevertheless contrive to look compact and tidy – and the smooth aluminium cabinets are a decisive step. They suffer quite badly when the grilles are removed – looking gawky and unbalanced in the nude – but where pride of ownership is concerned they look every penny of £700.

B&W give sound value
Luckily, they generally sound it too. Whether playing the full-scale 1920s modernity of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue or minimal 21st century assault of Burial's Archangel, the XT2s are never less than poised and nimble.

They're undeniably musical, these B&Ws, with a calm fluency that makes long listening sessions a pleasure. The soundstage they establish is broad and believable, they communicate licentiously through the midrange, and have fine dynamic prowess.

Detail retrieval is impressive, too, and even the most taxing or disjointed tempos are rendered articulately.

Uniquely in this test, the front-ported B&Ws do their best work standing in some free space – out where the speakers can breathe, low frequencies have an agreeably substantial, robust character.

They're acceptably swift, too, even if the entry into and exit from bass notes isn't the cleanest or best defined in the test. Try to shove them up against a wall, though, and the XT2s lose a little bottom-end discipline and bass-lines can become overbearing.

'XT2 lacks bite
Our only real gripe concerns the XT2's overall sonic character. There's something unadventurous about the way these B&Ws sound, some smoothness to the top end and a suggestion that they've been tuned, like a family estate car, for comfort rather than for thrills.

Of course, when that results in the fluid eloquence that the XT2s are undoubtedly capable of, that's an admirable trait – but we like our speakers to be able to brawl and bite when necessary, and the XT2s are too genteel for that sort of behaviour.

So perhaps you've got some aggressive amplification that needs soothing. Or perhaps you just dislike being startled. Either way, if a walk on the (slightly) mild side sounds like your cup of tea, these smooth, elegant speakers won't let you down.

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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