Magazine article Gramophone

Bowers & Wilkins CM8 S2: Refined Speakers Also Deliver Drama and Excitement

Magazine article Gramophone

Bowers & Wilkins CM8 S2: Refined Speakers Also Deliver Drama and Excitement

Article excerpt

Earlier this year the British speaker company Bowers & Wilkins rolled out its revised 600 S2 speaker range, the sixth generation of this popular, value-for-money line-up. Reviewing the DM684 S2 speakers in July, I commented that they delivered 'a confident, dramatic view of a wide range of music', despite not being the biggest-sounding speakers you can buy, and admired their combination of style and value at 800 [pounds sterling] a pair.

It seems the Worthing company is on a rolling programme of upgrading all its speaker ranges. So why a new CM S2 range now, especially as the top model in the old line-up, the CM 10, was only launched around 18 months ago--thus making it the least-changed of the new models? B&W Product Manager Andy Kerr explains it as a necessity, given the improvements made in creating the 600 Series, in order to put some clear water between the entry-level line-up and the CMs.

It's obvious that the two development projects almost happened in parallel: at the CM S2 launch event in late August, we were told that the new speakers would be available immediately and that they had been in production since April this year to build up stocks. Clearly B&W expects the CM S2 series to do very well.

Like the 600 S2 models, the CM S2 is made by B&Ws manufacturing operations in China--not a third-party operation but the company's own plant--and extends from small bookshelf/standmount speakers right up to the CM 10 S2 flagship, taking in centre speakers and a subwoofer along the way. Only one other model in the range adopts the pod-mounted tweeter used in the CM 10 S2 and derived from the company's 800 Diamond design. The CM6 S2 is a standmount model selling for 1500 [pounds sterling] per pair and sits above the CM1 S2, named after the original B&W Compact Monitor that provided the genesis of the entire range, at 650 [pounds sterling]/pr, and the 950 [pounds sterling]/pr CM5 S2. Unusually solid stands are available for these speakers: the FS-CM S2 supports sell for 400 [pounds sterling]/pr.

So which model to choose from the new range? Well, having gone for the DM684 S2 back in July, and having heard that speaker down at Worthing in a direct comparison with its CM S2 equivalent, the CM8 S2, the most compact of the three floorstanding speaker models in the range had obvious appeal.

Selling for 1500 [pounds sterling]/pr, the CM8 S2 speakers fit in below the larger CM9 S2 at 2000 [pounds sterling]/pr and the 3000 [pounds sterling]/pr CM 10 S2, and are of a size easily accommodated in most British living rooms, standing just over 92cm tall (with the optional plinth supplied adding a few centimetres) and looking slim and elegant in a choice of gloss black, satin white or rosenut veneer. The previous wenge finish has gone, having declined in popularity, to be replaced by that almost matt white.

In their 'bare feet', the speakers are just 16.5cm wide and 27.7cm deep; add the plinth and the footprint becomes almost 9cm wider and 2.1cm deeper, so really the choice is going to be one of how svelte you like your speakers and whether or not you have children and/or pets running riot.

What's immediately apparent when comparing the DM684 S2 with the CM8 S2--apart from the latter's more luxurious finish, especially in the deep gloss black of the review pair--is that this is a more substantial model, the extra weight (19.5kg versus the 14.2kg of the less expensive model) making clear the heftier, more solidly braced cabinet.

The new speaker uses a 25mm Decoupled Double Dome tweeter behind a metal mesh protector (designed to be left in place but removable using a tool provided), a dedicated 13cm Kevlar cone FST midrange driver running from 350FIz to 4kHz, and a pair of 13 cm Kevlar woofers giving usable bass down into the mid-40s Hz. The Decoupled Double Dome tweeter uses an extra layer of aluminium around the edge of the diaphragm to enhance stiffness, and is decoupled from the main baffle, while the FST (or 'fixed suspension transducer') design of the midrange driver is designed to absorb bending waves in the cone, giving it faster response and a more pistonic motion. …

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