We are smitten, head-over-heels in love – this 5.1 package really is that good. It uses two pairs of the 805S speakers to provide front and rear effects, teamed with the HTM4S centre speaker, which B&W modestly claims is ‘near identical acoustically' to the 805S, All five speakers use the same drive units, and share identical sensitivity, impedance and frequency response specifications.
Attention to detail
This level of attention to detail is immediately apparent in richly layered surround mixes: the B&Ws collectively generate a soundfield of extraordinary cohesion and three-dimensionality, reaching out through the boundaries of your room with effortless ease.
Movement from speaker to speaker is dramatic and dynamic – despite the modest dimensions of each enclosure, you can readily feel air being moved around –, while extraordinarily precise treble detail only adds to the accuracy of each effects shift. It's an amazing performance from speakers so compact.
But of course, one vital element is needed to complete the sonic whole: deep bass. Step forward the ASW825, one-kilowatt monster shrouded in curvaceous cabinetry. A sealed-box design, it teams its prodigious amplification with a tremendously stiff 30cm drive unit. The result is deep bass of astounding reach, coupled to a pacy and articulate attack and timing.
Pump up the volume
If all that high-falutin' hi-fi speak leaves you cold, let's put it another way: load up something loud – Metallica on DVD-Audio, perhaps – and give the volume dial a stern spank. A few seconds later, you'll be grinning like a maniacal monkey armed with a very big bag of bananas. Serious high-end hi-fi isn't supposed to do ‘mental' this well.
That neatly encapsulates the sheer brilliance of this package: it's as versatile as these things get.