Bowers & Wilkins 603 S2 Anniversary Edition Review

Anniversaries often inspire the creation of special editions. This is the case for Bowers & Wilkins’ (B&W) 600 Series, celebrating its 25th birthday. The question is: Can the new models enhance the sound experience even further?

Bowers & Wilkins 603 S2 Anniversary Edition Review


PRODUCT Bowers & Wilkins 603 S2 Anniversary Edition


TYPE 3-way floorstanding loudspeaker

WEIGHT 21.1kg DIMENSIONS (WxHxD) 190 x1,055 x370mm


•              25mm aluminium dome tweeter

•              2x 165mm paper bass drivers

•              150mm Continuum mid/bass driver

•              Quoted sensitivity: 88.5dB/1W/1m (8ohm)

DISTRIBUTOR Bowers & Wilkins

TELEPHONE 0800 2321513


The Anniversary 600 Series is available in three finishes: black with black fabric grilles, white with gray fabric grilles, and oak with gray fabric grilles. These speakers are clad in a foil finish, not real wood.

by Alexander Rose-Fehling

While Germany celebrates its 30th anniversary of reunification this year (which seemed to catch the Ministry of the Interior by surprise), Bowers & Wilkins is also celebrating. The 600 Series has been introducing audiophiles to the B&W sound for 25 years, and the “Anniversary Edition” now replaces the “old” 600 Series.

The new models include four speakers: the floor-standing 603 S2, two bookshelf models (606 S2 and 607 S2), and a center speaker (HTM6 S2). We took a closer look at the 603 S2 floor-stander and the larger of the bookshelf models.

Good Genes

The sixth generation brought a significant leap in development, with the introduction of the silver Continuum cone material for the midrange driver in the floor-stander and the bass/midrange driver in the bookshelf models, replacing the distinctive yellow Kevlar drivers.

In the seventh generation, these drivers remain unchanged. The updates are more internal. For example, the crossover has been completely redesigned. This might sound minor, but the crossover is crucial for sound tuning, and manufacturers often tweak the components here. For instance, small (blue) “bypass capacitors” have been added parallel to the large capacitors on the crossover. These small capacitors, with very low capacitance in the 10 nF range, are intended to make the sound finer and more transparent. Large capacitors act as low-pass filters at high frequencies, thus the bypass capacitors are expected to enhance the high-frequency performance.

Familiar Drivers

The double-layer 2.5 cm aluminum dome tweeter, which has been used since the sixth generation, continues to handle the high frequencies, extending well beyond 40 kHz.

For the 25th anniversary, the tweeter has been “refined and improved,” though B&W doesn’t reveal much detail. The only visible differences are the “Anniversary Edition” engraving on the aluminum ring and the slightly more delicate protective grille.

The Continuum drivers handle the midrange in the 603 S2. Typical for B&W, the pure 15 cm midrange driver lacks a conventional surround for the diaphragm, using a thin foam ring instead. This design aims to reduce the influence of the surround on the cone and thus on the sound quality. However, this type of diaphragm suspension allows only limited excursion, so it’s used only for midrange drivers. Therefore, the Continuum bass/midrange driver in the 606 S2 bookshelf speaker has a conventional surround.

In the 603 S2 floor-stander, two paper cones handle the bass. These 16.5 cm drivers are supported by a rear-facing bass reflex port with Flowport design.

Performance: Rock On!

We started with the 603 S2. “Jam Room” by Clutch played on Denon’s masterful (SA)CD player A-110, and we knew we had chosen the right track. The 603 S2 is a dream speaker for rock fans! It immediately impresses with its strong sense of rhythm. The tuning, with a slight rise around 100 Hz that the predecessor didn’t have, is noticeable. When placed freely in a large room, as recommended by B&W, this isn’t a drawback but adds to the speaker’s charm.

Playing “Bugs On The Bluefish” by Gallery Of Mites, with its Soultrane tribute cover, confirmed that this speaker is perfect for rock music. Leaner-produced albums gain fullness without making warmer-produced albums like Billy Joel’s “Glass Houses” sound too thick. Bass lines remain clear and distinct, with no smearing.

Highs and Lows

The highs are not overly emphasized and don’t offer the extreme resolution found in the 800 Series. However, this suits the 603 S2. Loud volumes on albums like Lost Society’s “Terror Hungry,” Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, or Television’s “Marquee Moon” were enjoyable without causing ear fatigue.

Bowers & Wilkins 603 S2 Anniversary Edition Review
Cosmetically, little has changed from the previous generation

Listening to older favorites through the 606 S2 bookshelf speaker was also a great experience. Classical and jazz enthusiasts might find the upper bass too much, but B&W has other options to suit their preferences.

The Smaller 606 S2

The 606 S2 stands out in its competitive price range with excellent timing and accuracy. Lou Reed’s “The Original Wrapper” (from the 1986 album “Mistrial”), played on our Dr. Feickert Firebird turntable, almost leapt out of the speakers! The details were more pronounced than with the 603 S2, with a more airy and slender sound. Direct comparisons between the two are confusing, but individually, and within its price range, the 606 S2 excels. Placing it close to walls increases its bass output. Experimenting with amplifiers showed that the budget-friendly Quad Vena II Play (around 1000 euros) paired best with the 606, offering more space, punch, and warmth, leading to a very balanced sound.

The 606 S2 handles various music styles well, including classical, and is exceptional at vocal reproduction. Tori Amos’ voice sounded clear, natural, and dynamic, adding emotional depth to her music.

Rymden’s new album “Space Sailors” challenged the 606’s woofers, and the bass/midrange driver delivered impressively deep and powerful sound with the Quad Vena II amplifier.

Bowers & Wilkins 603 S2 Anniversary Edition Review


The most significant rival is Focal’s Chora 826-D, which boasts the same basic driver configuration, but plays to Focal’s love of composites rather than woven drivers.


Bowers & Wilkins’ new 600 Series caters to different listening preferences. Those who enjoy rock and punchy sound will appreciate the 603 S2, while those who prefer more delicate and refined sound might lean towards the 606 S2. It’s always good to have choices.

10 Total Score
Recommended Bowers & Wilkins 603 S2 Anniversary Edition Review

A capable and user-friendly device in the grand tradition of the 600 Series that should win some new friends.

  • Big confident sound with plenty of detail
  • Well made
  • Slightly congested bass
  • Size
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