Bowers & Wilkins DM610 improved
When B&W launched the futuristic-looking DM610 in Spring 1991, the literature sent to the press noted that its products were often perceived solely as “classical speakers”; the 600 Series, released after extensive research into UK listeners’ requirements, attempted to marry B&W’s traditional quest for low coloration with the good timing and fast bass necessary to give a convincing portrayal of rock and jazz music.
In Winter 1992 the DM610 became the DM610 Improved. The DM600, 610 and 620 all underwent modifications: the floor-standing DM620 gained cabinet spikes, a new bass driver and a simplified crossover, but in the DM610′s case the tuning consisted of no more than a crossover revision. The filter network was hard-wired and a new terminal tray replaced the original terminals. These measures aimed to reduce the speaker’s system-dependency, give it a faster, cleaner presentation, and enhance the integration of the drive units.
B&W suggests that this middle market speaker can be mounted on a bookshelf. I would agree provided that you have bookshelves that are more than half a metre deep! Used on stands half a metre from the rear wall of my room its bass output was ample verging on generous without any boundary reinforcement. I concur fully, however, with the company’s recommendations for the range of amplifiers that will drive the speaker. I picked a design from each end of the scale – the latest specification Cyrus One and a considerably more muscular Heybrook Signature SIG/CA and SIG/SP pre/power combination – and found that the smaller amplifier could easily keep up with its larger counterpart unless consistently high levels were required.
Over the past few weeks I’ve listened to all three of the Improved speakers. I found the smallest, the DM600 to be a particularly well balanced design for a listener with wide-ranging tastes while the DM620′s exciting presentation was fine for rock but could sometimes appear to give classical music a larger than life appraisal. The DM610 similarly proved to be more persuasive with some music than it was with others.
It presented a convincing picture, for instance, of well recorded, modern jazz. Drummer, Paul Motian’s “On Broadway – Volume 2″ CD showed it would be a useful tool in the armoury of any salesperson who wanted to persuade buyers that the DM610s were the speakers they needed. The speaker’s low-end weight and agility suited Motian’s bass drum and Charlie Haden’s double bass work perfectly, while its top-end speed and clarity painted very clear pictures of Motian’s dazzling cymbal figures. Not wishing to create an image of a speaker whose extremes impressed but whose midrange was less successful, let me add that Bill Frisell’s guitar and Joe Lovano’s tenor sax were accorded equally articulate and musically informative treatment. Most important, the DM610 also recognised that conveying the sense of ensemble playing was as vital as its dexterity with individual lines.
The current number one disc in my play-list, Elvis Costello and The Brodsky Quartet’s “The Juliet Letters”, also received a clearly etched and dynamic voicing. The DM610 relished its vivid transients – it reproduced pizzicato violin and the attack of bow on a stopped cello string with effusive zeal. This added to the drama and tension of songs like “Taking My Life In your Hands” where the Brodsky’s sublime playing creates a highly charged atmosphere.
B&W has certainly made the DM610 into a more acutely responsive speaker. Its timing noe coheres better and it drives along keenly when given appropriate impetus. My only reservation about its performance relates to its presentation and not its newly enhanced ability to communicate music. It also probably explains why I generally preferred the DM610′s showing on instrumental material: there was a slightly antiseptic, eq’ed quality about its rendition of some voices – Elvis Costello and 70′s Van Morrison were two examples. Both lost a degree of warmth and were projected with such enthusiasm that I felt as if it was being earnestly impressed upon me that I was listening to recorded voices rather than voices plain and simple. My guess is that the metal dome tweeter is culpable. Several acoustic guitar recordings reinforced this notion by seeming leading-edge dominated, the bloom of notes and the instrument’s body resonance being subjugated by the prominence of string attack.
B&W has certainly succeeded in making the DM610 faster and more rhythmical but this appears to me to have been at the expense of a degree of naturalness and ease.