Bowers & Wilkins, Focal, KEF and Tannoy: Sub-Ł1K speakers

Bowers & Wilkins 683,
Focal Chorus 807V,
KEF iQ9,
Tannoy Revolution Signature DC6
Bowers & Wilkins, Focal, KEF and Tannoy: Sub-Ł1K speakers

Reviewing a single hi-fi component in isolation is often appropriate, especially when the item in question has unique qualities. But a group test can often be a more powerful and useful exercise, because the group as a whole sets an overall context against which individual models may be compared and contrasted.

The four models gathered together for this group test have been deliberately chosen for their contrast as much as their commonality. All come from major, high profile brands: the Focal and Tannoy are stand-mounts; the B&W and KEF are floorstanders. Prices range from £630 for the Focal up to £900 for the B&W, though in practice the cost of stands will bring the Focal and Tannoy into line with the other two.

Age rarely withers loudspeaker designs but, although many ‘new’ models are merely cosmetic variations on predecessors, some technical evolution does take place. KEF’s iQseries first appeared in 2005, making it the oldest of our four, and at least two stages behind the current state of the Uni-Q driver art. Focal’s latest Chorus 700V and 800V models were first introduced about two years ago. The latest 680-series variants on B&W’s long running, budget price 600-series first appeared in 2007. Tannoy’s Revolution Signature models are brand new, the rather clumsy name used to distinguish these luxury versions from simpler and less costly unsigned variations on a similar theme.

The two floorstanders have most in common. Both are full three-way designs, with twin bass units to give good cone area with slim enclosures, though the Bowers & Wilkins is significantly larger and heavier overall. Both also have unusual proprietary midrange drivers – a surroundless FST in the Bowers & Wilkins, and a co-axial Uni-Q in the KEF. The Tannoy also has a co-axial driver, this time a Dual Concentric that operates through the bass as well as the midrange and treble. The Focal might be a conventional twoway, but again its drive unit technology is unique to the company, and quite distinctive.

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