B&W 602 S2 Loudspeakers Reviewed

Published On: January 11, 2009
Last Updated on: October 31, 2020
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B&W 602 S2 Loudspeakers Reviewed

The 602 S2 is the closest B&W comes to a budget model. Soundwise, "special mention goes to the stage depth, which is slightly greater than the width." The sound has "top-to-bottom coherence" and "long term listenability" that did not cause our reviewer to feel fatigued even after listening for six hours...

B&W 602 S2 Loudspeakers Reviewed

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Sampling this budget beauty is an education. The last B&Ws I reviewed were the decidedly high-end Nautilus 805s, which I pretty much expected to be something yummy. Hell, anyone can make a small two-way speaker which sounds dandy at around £1400 per pair. But using the same basic topology for a model at £299? This was probably gonna be a session involving the uncovering of compromises. Especially as the company has boasted/hinted that the DM602 S2 benefits from trickle-down technology.

Additional Resources
Read a Bowers and Wilkins 683 speaker review here.
• Read more audiophile bookshelf speaker reviews on this resource page.

But let's not jump the gun in either direction. The '602 is no Nautilus-twice-removed, however much you and B&W might want it to be. It may boast such B&W signature details as a metal dome tweeter and a woven Kevlar woofer, its cod-cherry vinyl finish might fool even the most epicurean termite for a few seconds, the baffle may be sculpted and the enclosure's weight and solidity may suggest fine furniture and high-end aspirations. It has the right badge, a luxurious grille, bi-wiring via some serious, gilded terminals, even a flow-port. But is it an escargot to the 805's, er, nautilus? No tweeter in a module, no Italianate curves to the enclosure...what gives?

First of all, looks be deceiving. Despite a conventionally rectangular enclosure of 490x236x306mm (HWD) and a passable surrogate instead of tree wood, the '602 does nautilus-ness. You might not see a module perched on top, but the 26mm metal dome tweeter does use the B&W Nautilus tweeter tube and flat ring suspension. The latter replaces a conventional roll surround to provide lower distortion, while it also offers - along with a Kapton bobbin - lower mass for higher sensitivity. The aforementioned tube loads the tweeter 'for improved absorption of unwanted radiation from the rear of the diaphragm' while damping the driver's fundamental resonance. Another benefit is superior matching to the crossover, lowering coloration to below the crossover frequency.

So, too, is the woofer a beneficiary of B&W's all-in-house manufacturing capability. Because the company is not buying in woofers, an extra margin disappears, and '602 owners are treated to costly woofers not expected at this price point: 180mm's worth of woven Kevlar cone, a bullet-like dust cap and a -6dB point of 43Hz. Nice. It crosses over at 4kHz to a beautifully-made board fitted with plastic film capacitors and air-core inductors, terminating in substantial, gold-plated, multi-way binding posts a far cry from the cheap plastic stuff expected at this price level.

Competition and Comparison
To compare the B&W 602 S2 loudspeakers against their competition, please read our reviews for the
Ruark Solus loudspeakers and the Rogers db101 loudspeakers.  There is more information available in our Floorstanding Speakers Section and on our B&W brand page.

Remove the substantial black cloth grille, with a moulded frame providing its shape, and you expose a baffle textured and shaped to eliminate refraction problems. The front-mounted flow port features the aerodynamic curves seen on this in the dearer models, and it is therefore immune to breathing, whooshing or pumping. Its dimensions tell you that the 602s will benefit from stand-mounting, which is how I used them, but the front-firing port allows you to shelf-mount without compromising the bass, if not the imaging.

Clearly designed to be less demanding that its posh siblings, the DM602 S2 is sensitive enough at 90dB/1W to work with pretty much every amp one the market, though single-ended triode users might feel constrained. Tough titty: Let them use horns. And with a nominal impedance of 8 ohms, this speaker will scare no amp I can name. OK, maybe a Futterman. Whatever way you slice it, B&W feels secure in recommending an amplifier range of 25-120W, which covers probably every mid-priced amp - i.e. the type of amplifier likely to be partnered to a £299-per-pair speaker - while nearly every mass-market A/V receiver also falls into that category. Smart thinking.

Behaving responsibly, I used the B&Ws with the Roksan Caspian integrated amp and CD player and Linn's Genki CD player, as well as with the Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista pre-amp and Nu-Vista 300 power amp fed by the Marantz CD-12 - just to test its high-end mettle. Wires were Kimber throughout. Musical diet? Some Seventies disco (Real Thing, Donna Summer), new Britpop from Supergrass and Ocean Colour Scene, a load of Dino to test finesse and the sublime remastering of . What I never expected from B&W was so much for so little.


This is not to say that B&W is overpriced or unreasonable in its pricing policy. And the company has always had some form of budget product, like the Solids. But bargain mongers? Who'd believe me? The primary virtue which expose the Nautilus DNA is sheer scale. Set up with just a sliver of toe-in, with the tweeters at ear height, the '602s sound positively huge. Image height wasn't quite as lofty as the 805's, but you get a distinct sense of three dimensions. Special mention goes to the stage depth, which is slightly greater than the width; this bodes well for those with small rooms who crave the illusion of more space.

Tonally? There's more than a hint of the Nautilus to the '602, but it simply cannot match 800-series models for absolute refinement, transparency, speed or detail. If a B&W dealer were cruel enough to demonstrate these alongside the similarly dimensioned 805s, he would do himself no favours: the 602 S2 customer who cannot stretch to a Nautilus 805 will feel as humiliated as a VW Polo customer shown an Audi A6 and leave the store. What that dealer must do is compare it to like-priced rivals. Which probably won't fare too well.

However much thicker and less delicate the '605 sounds when played alongside speakers five times its price, this little wonder proves to be a contender for class leader. It hasn't the punch of the latest small Tannoys (or ALRs for that matter), but what it loses in terms of kick-ass-ness it makes up for in refinement. As I said before, this doesn't hold its pinkie in the air as high as does the '805, but the '602 has not been deprived of a finishing school education. Where it shows aspirations above its station are in its top-to-bottom coherence - both a trait associated with pedigreed designs and a quality too often missing in sub- 500 systems - and it its long-term listenability. At no point did I suffer even slight traces of fatigue, as in six-hour plus marathons.

Stone me: that's two B&W models I've coveted in one year. Truly the ghost of Trunz has vanished.

Additional Resources
Read a Bowers and Wilkins 683 speaker review here.
• Read more audiophile bookshelf speaker reviews on this resource page.

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