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Bowers & Wilkins 606 S3 review: Most revealing speaker at $1000

It’s no trivial task to exceed expectations when your predecessor is a legend like the B&W 606 S2. Yet the 606 S3, the latest standmounter in the 600 series, features palpable sonic differences when compared to the S2, and mostly on the positive side.

The British manufacturer Bowers & Wilkins is a household name when it comes to speakers that boast pristine clarity and finesse, and being already a fan of the S2, I already knew what to expect when trying out this 606 S3 before turning the hi-fi system on.

Nevertheless, this bookshelf speaker blew my mind, with a level of detail and articulation that can take the listening experience to a whole new level.

Does that mean the 606 S3 is a great option for anyone? Absolutely not, and in this review, we’ll see who should check out these bookshelf speakers and who should stay away from them.

Bowers & Wilkins 606 S3 bookshelf speaker
606 S3 bookshelf speaker in Oak | Image: Bowers & Wilkins

Final verdict on the B&W 606 S3 4.5

This new version of the 600 Series 3 range takes a step forward in clarity and dynamism when compared to its predecessor, with a sonic texture that’s powerful and detailed and further galvanized by a punchy bass that many music enthusiasts will love.

The titanium dome tweeters, an upgrade to the aluminum ones found in the S2, provide a clearer and more spatially accurate soundstage, enhancing high-frequencies and offering a more articulated image.

On the low/medium end, we get the impressive accuracy the B&W’s Continuum cone driver is known for: the result is an immersive sound devoid of coloration, which audio engineers and critical music listeners will also appreciate.

If there’s a boundary between “immersive realism” and “too much detail” in the audiophile world, the Bowers & Wilkins 606 S3 is walking that thin line.

I can imagine many music enthusiasts, beginners and seasoned alike, feeling overwhelmed by the in-your-face high end and the impressive level of detail they’re presented with.

Many audiophiles have a love/hate relationship with the 606 S3 because of its revealing nature, which has no mercy for low-quality recordings. From this point of view, the older S2 is a more pleasant, and forgiving, speaker.

What I like

  • Dynamic and transparent soundstage.
  • Superb build quality.
  • Refined design.
  • Excellent value for money.

What I don’t like

  • Total transparency might not be to everyone’s taste.
See current price at: CrutchfieldB&H

Why you should trust me

Marco Sebastiano Alessi, writer at Higher Hz

I’m an audiophile and audio engineer, which means that when I’m testing passive speakers, I’m mostly interested in clarity and neutrality, but I also want the sound to be enjoyable and engaging.

When I use my hi-fi equipment for deep-listening sessions, I pay attention to the quality of frequency response across the spectrum, and when it comes to bookshelf speakers, I ensure they can perfectly reproduce whichever music I throw at them.


Use these jump links to navigate to the desired section of the review.

You can also check the “Compared to others” section, where I put the Bowers & Wilkins 606 S3 against the competition.

Build quality 4.7

In terms of build quality, the 606 S3 features just a few changes when compared to the original 606. Mostly, the new titanium dome tweeters have been repositioned closer to the 6.5-inch Continuum woofers, right into the lower cone’s surrounding trim ring.

Bowers Wilkins 606 S2 in Red Cherry
606 S2 (previous model) in Red Cherry | Image: Bowers Wilkins

According to B&W, this new design improves the stereo imaging; I don’t know if that’s what does the trick, but the sense of spatiality has indeed improved considerably.

B&W is renowned for building speakers that last a lifetime, and the 606 S3 is no exception. The rigid MDF used to build the cabinet feels sturdy and everlasting, giving the speaker a solid feel and avoiding unwanted resonances.

Design 5.0

Available in Black, White, and Oak finish, the B&W 606 S3 features a minimalist design that will fit perfectly in every listening room.

The cabinets are slightly deeper than the ones in the S2, which is something to bear in mind if you’re looking for bookshelf speakers with a small footprint.

The finish is excellent, and the front panel’s only elements are the woofer and tweeter, giving the 606 S3 a refined and essential appearance.

Especially in the Oak and White finish, the beauty of the drive unit is further highlighted, adding a Zen-like vibe to this bookshelf speaker.

All in all, the 606 S3 has an unforgettable classy look that makes it stand out and will upgrade your listening room.

Compatibility 4.0

With its rear-firing bass port, it’s always ideal to place the speaker far from the walls to avoid refractions.

At the back of each speaker there are dual binding posts for bi-amping, if your amplifier supports it, which you can use to experiment and refine low-end detail.

Bowers & Wilkins 606 S3 speaker with turntable
606 S3 speaker in a record player setup | Image: Bowers & Wilkins

That said, the Bowers & Wilkins 606 S3 is a versatile speaker, allowing you to try many placement options without compromising audio quality.

As I mentioned earlier, my only concern with the S3 is the slightly larger cabinets, which make the speaker harder to place and move around.

The 606 S3 needs high-quality equipment to perform at its highest. In my opinion, it requires a minimum of 40 W to truly shine, and while I think you won’t have any issues finding a suitable amplifier, I’d recommend the Cambridge Audio CXA81, Rega Elex-R, or the Marantz PM6007 if you want to pair it with a flexible, performing amplifier.

Sound 4.5

What impressed me the most about the 606 S3 is the spatiality and accuracy of higher frequencies.

This is also where the biggest differences with its predecessor are, with the S2 Anniversary Edition lacking the depth and level of articulation of the new S3, especially on the higher end of the spectrum.

I tested the speakers with Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock, a concept album that puts to the test even the most sophisticated speakers because of its music spatiality, dynamic range, and subtle transients.

Thanks to a faithful presentation across the soundstage, songs reproduced by the 606 S3 come to life with a vibrancy and tonality that feels pleasant and natural.

It’s easy to imagine audio engineers and audiophiles obsessed with neutrality falling in love with the 606 S3: the sound texture is rich and immersive, with enough punch to make the listening experience enjoyable and effortless.

While definitely being a revealing speaker, the previous 606 S2 seems to me like a more enjoyable speaker, with a vibrancy and dynamism the S3 has forfeited for ultra-clarity.

If you’re accustomed to long listening sessions, the S3 might provide you with a very tiring experience.

Compared to other bookshelf speakers

All things considered, the Bowers & Wilkins 606 S3 is a great mid-range option for those looking for the best bookshelf speakers within a $1000 budget.

But here are a few alternatives to consider.

Bowers & Wilkins 606 S3 vs 607 S3

The 606 S3’s little brother is a great bookshelf speaker for the price, delivering a balanced performance with a surprisingly deep bass, considering its size.

Yet, if you can afford it, I’d definitely go for the 606 S3 as it’s superior in terms of authority, accuracy, and balance.

It does cost around $300 more than its smaller sibling, so it also comes down to how much you’re willing to invest.

Bowers & Wilkins 606 S3 vs KEF Q350

The Q350 is an excellent budget-friendly speaker, delivering the worldwide-known clarity all KEF products provide.

However, the sonic detail of the 606 S3, especially in the higher frequencies, outmatches this budget-friendly KEF option.

If I had to choose, I’d either go for the 606 S3 or pair the KEF Q350 with a good-quality subwoofer.

Bowers & Wilkins 606 S3 vs Wharfedale Evo4.2

The three-way design of the Evo4.2 feels more accurate, especially on the higher side of the spectrum, whereas the 606 S3 seems more capable of reproducing transients and subtle nuances.

While you can’t go wrong with either, personally I’d go for the 606 S3, as it creates a more pleasant, immersive sonic experience across genres.

Bowers & Wilkins 606 S3 vs KEF LS50 Meta

It might seem unfair to compare the 606 S3 with the LS50 Meta, which costs 30% more.

Although the LS50 Meta has rightly become a legendary bookshelf speaker for its authority and faithful representation, the 606 S3 does provide a great performance that’s not far behind the iconic KEF speaker.

If you have the budget, then you should definitely go for the LS50 Meta, especially for the accuracy on the higher side of the spectrum. Otherwise, opt for the 606 S3, and you won’t be disappointed.

Who is Bowers & Wilkins 606 S3 for?

The Bowers & Wilkins 606 S3 is for those who value transparency above everything else. It combines sonic accuracy and powerful bass to bring to life an engaging, transparent soundstage.

This is an all-around bookshelf speaker that’ll meet the expectations of both occasional music listeners and audiophiles, so if you’re looking for speakers under/around $1000 that deliver a faithful representation with a substantial punch, a pair of 606 S3 are an excellent option.

See current price at: CrutchfieldB&H