B&W's XT4s blur boundaries. Yes, they're style-orientated speakers – how can anything so elegant and smart be called otherwise? But, unlike most speakers chasing the style market, these floorstanders sound great. It's truly a case of having your cake and guzzling it down…
Clever design deserves plenty of credit. The XT4's slim cabinet is made from a curved aluminium extrusion. The shape and material add rigidity and strength compared with wooden alternatives. Its curved profile also helps to minimise internal standing waves, helping these floorstanders to produce a crisp, clear sound.
However, clarity doesn't top the bill of talents. That's of a high order, but it's the deep, powerful bass that will get your attention first. These B&Ws are a proper three-way design, benefiting from a dedicated bass driver that has been optimised to deliver the low stuff with authority.
That driver, a single 13cm paper/Kevlar cone, doesn't thrill on paper, but in action it not only shows surgical precision in tracking fast-moving basslines, but also the might to shift large quantities of air when the music demands.
And the good news doesn't end there: pleasing detail resolution, a smooth tonal balance and a great deal of refinement add to the list of plus points and make these speakers ideal for use with everything from Tchaikovsky's Op.31 Marche Slave to the Arctic Monkeys' latest CD.
They're not even overly fussy about positioning, either. Out from a rear wall, firing straight ahead works just fine.
High volume lover
The XT4s love high volumes, and deliver the sound with impressive composure. There's a trade-off, though, and that's a loss of sonic sparkle at lower levels. Other shortcomings include a smoothing of midrange nuances – so the likes of Nina Simone's Feeling Good aren't as dramatic as they could be.
That said, we still rate these speakers very highly. They have a blend of talents hard to find anywhere else and so positively demand a place on any shortlist.