Pick of the Month: Bowers & Wilkins and Q Acoustics deliver a trio of hi-fi treats

What Hi-Fi? Pick of the Month August 2023
(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

August is over and that means yet another instalment of What Hi-Fi?’s Pick of the Month, where we celebrate the best-performing products to pass through our testing rooms over the past 30 days.

Most of us may have been relaxing by the pool with a pina colada in hand after making our summerEscape” from the office  – see what we did there – but our team of reviewers has been locked up in our test rooms putting everything from top end amps to affordable network streamers through their paces.

In that time we’ve had a number of great products earn top marks, with everything from new speakers from industry legend Bowers & Wilkins to affordable over-ears from Sony earning perfect scores.

Without further delay here are the team from What Hi-Fi?’s recommended products for August 2023.

Bowers & Wilkins 607 S3 vs 606 S3

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Bowers & Wilkins 606 S3 

The first of two Bowers & Wilkins speakers to earn a place in this month’s Pick of the Month. The 606 S3 is the larger sibling to the 607 S3 just below in this list.

Sitting in the firm’s entry-level range the standmount speakers are excellent bang for your buck based on our testing. Taking them out of their box we were immediately smitten with their wonderfully clean, almost minimalist, two-way vented design, which features a 25mm dome tweeter and a 16.5cm cone. 

Powering them up in our listening rooms, while we found they can be a little fussy with partnering equipment, they deliver great audio with wonderful clarity and detail across most genres.

This led our testers to conclude:

“With improvements throughout, these admirable 606 S3s are pleasingly large-scaled, spacious, and refined performers for the money.”

In fact, our only real criticism was that they aren’t quite as good value, in certain areas, as their smaller sibling, which we tested alongside them.

Score: 5/5

Read our Bowers & Wilkins 606 S3 review

Standmount speakers: Bowers & Wilkins 607 S3

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Bowers & Wilkins 607 S3

The 607 S3 are among some of the best standmounted speakers to pass through our listening rooms in quite some time, with one of our particularly hard to impress reviewers going so far as to call them a “delight” during testing.

The smaller sibling to the 606, they have the same two-way configuration and design as the 607s, to the point you may struggle to tell them apart from photos alone. 

Putting them through their paces in our test room they delivered a wonderful performance, across a multitude of genres. Whether it was Alt-J’s Breezeblocks, Bruce Springsteen’s Terry’s Song or John Williams’ Jurassic Park theme they delivered a punchy, dynamic and lively sound. 

This led our reviewers to conclude:

“What we really enjoy about these new 607 S3 speakers is that they clearly know how to have fun, and they want you to have fun while listening to them. The best compliment we can give them is that we end up listening to every track in full through the 607 S3, with no skipping.”

Score: 5/5

Read our Bowers & Wilkins 607 S3 review 

Floorstanding speakers: Q Acoustics 5040

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Q Acoustics 5040 

The Q Acoustics 5040 are the middle child in the firm’s current portfolio, sitting between the budget 3000 models and the more premium Concept range. 

At first glance, they feature the company’s standard design, pairing a twin mid/bass driver with a tweeter in the middle. What makes them different from older Q-Accoustics is that the mid/bass drivers have a new “Continuous Curved Cone” design.

We tested the speakers with our reference Naim ND555/555 PS DR music streamer and Burmester 088/911 MKIII amplifier before moving on to check how they performed with the more expensive Naim’s Nait XS3 and Cambridge’s CXA81. In all instances, for the money, they delivered excellent sonic performance.

Among a variety of genres, our testers were particularly impressed with their clarity and expressive dynamics, which made for a toe-tappingly fun listening experience. 

This led them to conclude:

“When partnered with care they deliver a wonderfully expressive and insightful performance that’s class-leading at this level.”

Score: 5/5

Read our Q Acoustics 5040 review

Hi-fi rack: Atacama Elite ECO 24 Reference

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Atacama Elite ECO 24 Reference 

The catchily named Atacama Elite ECO 24 Reference are the latest equipment racks to pass through our test rooms. 

Though they’re probably too expensive for most people, putting them through their paces we found they completely deliver in the two core areas we expect from racks: looking nice and offering stable support for our hi-fi kit.

This led our reviewers to conclude: 

“Paying £300 per module is a pricey sum. If you have a budget hi-fi system, you’ll likely be more than happy with your products placed on general furniture like a table or sideboard. 

“But if each unit in your system costs upwards of £1000, then it can be worth investing in a specialist equipment rack that is designed to eke the ultimate best out of your products’ performance (and can even be an alternative way of updating your system’s sound without replacing individual kit).”

Score: 5/5

Read our Atacama Elite ECO 24 Reference review

dCS Lina Network Dac

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

dCS Lina DAC 

The dCS Lina DAC is being marketed as a network DAC but when we got it into our test rooms we found its advanced capabilities make it more akin to a full-fat music streamer.

Though they cost £12,500 / $13,650 / AU$22,000 the Lina DAC is actually one of the most affordable entry points into dCS' portfolio. The Lina DAC retains the company's stellar build quality and stays true to its “honesty first” approach, aiming to offer an authentic, “as the artist recorded it” performance.

Running it through our reference system, which included a Burmester 088/911 MkIII pre/power combination which we paired with ATC SCM 50 speakers or Wilson Benesch’s A.C.T. 3Zero floorstanders, in all instances we were blown away by its performance, with our reviewers going so far as to conclude:

“It may be entry-level in dCS’s world but the Lina DAC still serves up a huge portion of the company’s magic.”

Score: 5/5

Read our dCS Lina DAC review

Over-ear headphones: Sony WH-CH520

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Sony WH-CH520

The Sony WH-CH520 are an entry-level set of over-ear wireless headphones from the company behind our current recommended flagship set, the WH-1000XM5. Retailing for a modest £49 / $59 / AU$79, they’re also the cheapest item on this list by a country mile.

During our listening checks, while they undeniably feel a little plasticky and could do with a little more dynamism, at this price there’s nothing better. For the money you get an affordable set of wireless over-ears with surprisingly balanced audio, great battery life and an intuitive control app.

This led our testers to describe them as being “compromised in the least compromising” way and conclude:

“You can’t really expect the Earth when you’re paying pennies less than £50 for a pair of headphones. What’s remarkable about the Sony WH-CH520 is how little compromise they demand of you, both in terms of audio performance and ergonomics. They’re a little bit of a bargain.”

Score: 5/5

Read our Sony WH-CH520 review

Floorstanding speakers: Fyne Audio Vintage Classic X

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Fyne Audio Vintage Classic X

The Audio Vintage Classic X made an impression on our testers the moment they took them out of the box. Featuring an unashamedly retro, giant design they look like they’ve been time-warped direct from the 1970s – which is no bad thing in our mind.

Despite their old-school stylings, they have some fairly impressive hardware under the hood, featuring Fyne’s Isoflare point source driver array. This is an atypical approach where the tweeter, in this case a 75mm titanium dome compression design, sits in the throat of the 25cm multi-fibre mid/bass unit. 

We tested the speakers with a variety of hardware including a  Naim ND555/555 PS DR music streamer and the Technics SL-1000R record player as well as our standard Burmester 088/911 MkIII combination.

The results were impressive. Though they’re undeniably characterful and not the purest performer to pass through our test rooms recently, in all our checks they offered expressive dynamics and a wonderfully articulate presentation.

This led our testers to conclude:

“While the Classic X’s appearance is sure to split opinion, there is no denying their stonking performance. They are easily one of the most sonically talented floorstanders we have heard at the price.”

Score: 5/5

Read our Fyne Audio Vintage Classic X review 

T+A Solitaire T review

(Image credit: Future)

T+A Solitaire T 

We’ll admit £1200 / $1600 / AU$2160 is a lot of money, even by our standards, for a pair of wireless over-ear headphones. But if you have the cash, and want the best performance possible, we’d thoroughly recommend checking out the T+A Solitaire T. 

German firm T+A has one simple justification for their price, the atypical acoustic construction. The headphones feature a new 42mm dynamic transducer made of a wood fibre plastic mixture that’s paired with a custom pressure chamber system. The latter features sound guides and filters designed to improve frequency response and bass reproduction.

Putting them through our standard suite of listening tests our reviewers were seriously impressed. Playing everything from hard rock and metal tracks to smooth synthwave the headphones deliver a neutral, accurate sound with a purity missing on many of the competing sets we review, including the equally pricey, but older Mark Levinson No.5909.

This led our testers to conclude:

“They cost hundreds more than most people would ever dream of paying for headphones, wired or wireless, but for those who prioritise convenience and sound quality equally, and have the budget to spend big, the T+A Solitaire T nail that balance without compromise and are the most convincing wired/wireless hybrids we’ve come across. For now, they’re in a league of their own.”

Score: 5/5

Read our T+A Solitaire T review


These are the best wireless headphones money can buy

Check out our picks of the best floorstanding speakers

We list the best bookshelf speakers we've tried and tested

Alastair Stevenson
Editor in Chief

Alastair is What Hi-Fi?’s editor in chief. He has well over a decade’s experience as a journalist working in both B2C and B2B press. During this time he’s covered everything from the launch of the first Amazon Echo to government cyber security policy. Prior to joining What Hi-Fi? he served as Trusted Reviews’ editor-in-chief. Outside of tech, he has a Masters from King’s College London in Ethics and the Philosophy of Religion, is an enthusiastic, but untalented, guitar player and runs a webcomic in his spare time.