This year’s floorstanding and standmount speaker Awards have proved to be an intriguing mix of the familiar and the odd surprise. The familiar is represented by the return of Bowers & Wilkins 600 series products, now in S3 form, and sounding better than ever. Both the 607 S3 (£599 / $900) and 606 S3 (£749 / $1100) standmounters set sky-high standards at their respective prices and are a significant upgrade on their highly-rated predecessors.
You might have to squint quite hard to notice the visual differences between these third-generation models and what went before, but with a bit of effort, you will notice that the tweeter and mid/bass units are positioned closer together and there are tweaks to the rear-firing reflex port and biwire terminals.
The biggest changes aren’t so easy to spot. The 25mm tweeter dome is now made of titanium rather than aluminium, which makes the treble performance of both these speakers sweeter and more refined than before, while still managing to reveal even more detail. The engineers have also reworked the Continuum mid/bass units, upgraded the crossover networks and even improved the cabinets. A thorough rework then, and it has paid off with two Best Buy Awards.
Staying with standmounters, you’ll find KEF LS50 Meta (£999 / $1599) still holding on securely to their Award. They remain exceptional speakers that deliver a blend of insight, cohesion and refinement that hasn’t been bettered in our experience. Add a sturdy build and a distinctive yet classy appearance into the equation and it is clear that these KEFs remain the star standmounters at their price.
Move up a price level and we have a newcomer in the form of PMC’s Prodigy 1 (£1250 / $1699). This is the first of two Award winners from this range, with the floorstanding Prodigy 5 (£1995 / $N/A) winning its own category. Both products prioritise sound quality above all else. The result is a range where the finish is basic and some of the fittings, such as the plastic stabilising feet of the floorstanders, are straight out of the budget speaker rulebook – but the performance is excellent. Good enough that both speakers emerge as class leaders in their own right.
Q Acoustics is no stranger to our stereo speaker Awards, but it hasn't featured for a while. The new 5040 floorstanders (£999 / $1499) change that thanks to their impressive build and a taut, insightful sound that makes rivals like the multiple-award-winning Wharfedale Evo 4.4 (£1199 / $2198) seem a little blurred and fuzzy. Q Acoustics has a mighty reputation for excellent budget offerings, but this new 5000 series tower shows that it can deliver the goods at much higher price levels too.
Elsewhere, there are repeat wins for Wharfedale’s excellent Diamond 12.3 (£499 / $998) and Spendor’s A7 (£3950 / $6300) on the floorstander side of things, and the Elac Debut B5.2 (£229 / $330) and Mission’s ever-so-musical 770 standmounters (above, £3300 / $4999). Each of these is a terrific performer and the standout buy at their respective price point.
See all the What Hi-Fi? Awards 2023 winners
And our pick of the best stereo amplifiers