• The 685 reminds me why I love bookshelf speakers: fantastic midrange presence and definition with a nimble, sweet tweeter, all in a compact package. Who could ask for more?
• The 685s are as much a visual statement with their grilles removed as they are a sonic one.
• Spatially, the 685s are among the best, throwing a wide and well-defined soundstage that is anything but vague and/or artificial. You get a truer sense of scale, weight and space with the 685s than with lesser (and even more expensive) bookshelf speakers.
• In small rooms, provided you don't listen to a lot of hip-hop or bass-heavy material, the 685s may be all you need in terms of bass response, but for the last bit of oomph, you'll want that sub.
• Mate them to, say, an NAD or Rotel integrated and a quality CD player. You'll be in audiophile nirvana and may never lust for more. Because of their smooth, rich and more composed demeanor, the 685s sound great with lower resolution audio from sources like iPods.
• The matching stands for the 685 are not cheap but, because of their style and design, I almost consider them mandatory, which drives the cost up a bit.
• The 685s do like a bit of space behind them to sound their best, which may or may not be an issue for some consumers. Park 'em up against a wall and a lot of the 685s' magic disappears.
In today's economy, $500 goes a long way, but in traditional audiophile terms, in some cases, it won't even buy you a pair of speaker cables. Well, in Bowers & Wilkins' world, $500 buys you a pair of wonderful-sounding, beautiful-looking, fully capable and respectable bookshelf speakers in the 685s. When you consider that you could easily build a real two-channel system, electronics and all, around the 685s for about a grand and be totally happy and content, why spend more?