Passive nearfields from B&W, designed to balance the needs of both project-studio and hi-fi listening.
B&W have a very solid reputation for sensibly priced, high-performance hi-fi speakers, but their DM602 S3 is also designed to be suitable for project studio monitoring. Slightly taller than the average nearfield monitor (490 x 236 x 293mm), the two-way passive speaker is designed for mounting on stands and is equipped with two sets of chunky gold-plated terminals for bi-wiring, though links are fitted to permit regular two-wire connection.
High frequencies are handled by a one-inch, alloy-domed tweeter mounted in a shallow flared front plate, while the seven-inch bass/mid-range driver has a woven Kevlar cone with a central conical dust cover. The cone is supported in a conventional roll rubber surround and the cabinet features a moulded flared port at the bottom of the front panel. A mounting ring around the bass/mid-range drivers creates a smooth transition between the edge of the driver and the baffle. Unusually, the front baffle has a moulded plastic surface, which gives it a slightly 'consumer' look, and it is slightly curved, which should help with edge diffraction. Fabric grille covers are included, even though most studio users prefer to leave them off.
The frequency range is specified as -6dB at 43Hz and 30kHz, which is very respectable for a speaker of this size, and the -3dB points (which are the usual way of specifying frequency response) are at 52Hz and 20kHz. An important factor with passive speakers is their sensitivity, because insensitive models require a lot more amplifier power to get the required level out of them. Fortunately, these are very efficient (90dBSPL at one metre from 2.83V) so even a 50W-per-channel power amplifier would provide plenty of headroom. The manufacturer recommends an amplifier rating of 25W to 120W into 8Ω, but it's best to stay away from minimum ratings. The nominal impedance of the speakers is 8Ω, but as usual this varies with frequency and the minimum impedance is 4.3Ω.
The crossover frequency of these speakers is a little higher than usual, at 4kHz, which has the advantage of leaving the majority of the vulnerable vocal range handled by the bass/mid-range driver rather than being split in the middle. No further crossover details are provided, but there aren't any obvious sonic problems arising from this area of the design.
The DM602 S3s were evaluated using an AVI integrated amplifier capable of around 100W per channel. I have test CDs made up with various types of musical material intended to test various aspects of loudspeaker performance, and these revealed what I expected from the design of these speakers — they have a slightly larger-than-life high end due to the character of the metal-domed tweeters. This isn't nearly so exaggerated as with some American designs, though, so the sound only becomes fatiguing if you play back at loud levels for long periods. The plus side of this characteristic is that transient details are presented very clearly and it's also fairly easy to pick up any traces of distortion in the programme material.
This clarity extends to the mid-range, where speech and vocals come over as being uncoloured and natural sounding. At the low end, there's a reasonable amount of punch and weight, though it's not quite as tightly controlled as on most of the active models I've looked at recently. In this respect, the performance compares favourably with other passive monitors of a similar size and provenance. The overall impression is of a good tonal balance and of a freedom from obvious coloration other than a hint of emphasis at very high frequencies.
The stereo imaging is good provided that you stay close to the axis between the two speakers — again comparable with other good passive designs in the same kind of UK price range that I've tested in recent years. No spec is given for the maximum SPL that can be produced, but the sound remained clear even when the monitoring level became uncomfortable, which is about all you can ask for. If you're in the market for a passive monitor that gives a wider frequency range than a conventional nearfield, at the expense of a little extra height, the DM602 S3 is well worth your consideration.
- Natural overall sound with good tonal balance.
- No need for a huge power amp.
- Good frequency range for the smaller studio.
- The metal tweeters exaggerated the high end slightly, but not to an unacceptable extent.
A good-value passive monitor suitable for nearfield or midfield applications where tonal accuracy and power efficiency are prime concerns.
B&W +44 (0)1903 750750.