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Created: 23 December 2020 23 December 2020

To Diego Estan,

Hope all is well. My name is John, from Hong Kong.

Recently I decided to update my hi-fi system. I am no audiophile or sound engineer, and have little to no understanding of audio jargon! I read and re-read it, trying to figure out what would suit me best, but I get lost in a maze of opinions.

Anyhow, I’m thinking of Bowers & Wilkins 705 S2 speakers with Audiolab 8300MB monoblock amplifiers, using my Sony Walkman NW-ZX507 digital audio player as a source. The room is small (very similar to your room dimensions). All my music files are MP3 and are of lesser quality than they should be.

I picked the speakers based on the endless praise I’ve read regarding their distinctive midrange and highs without sacrificing bass. For the monoblocks, I chose them purely for their looks; clean and minimalistic.

I’ll hook up the Walkman to the monoblocks with XLR cables.

Does that make sense? Your input is highly appreciated. Thank you, and be safe.

Regards,

John
Hong Kong

First, you mentioned MP3 files. When encoded at the highest bit rates (256 or 320kbps), MP3s can sound very good, and in many cases be nearly sonically indistinguishable from CD quality. However, given how much money you’re willing to spend on this system I would urge you to experiment with lossless file formats such as FLAC, ALAC, or WAV. Try ripping CDs to FLAC, or subscribing to a streaming service that offers CD quality (16-bit/44.1kHz) and above, such as Tidal or Qobuz.

Second, with respect to the amps, I would ask whether you really need this much power (at least, for your first serious hi-fi system). The Bowers & Wilkins 705 S2 speakers are relatively easy to drive, so they don’t need that much power. Unless you have a very big room and listen at high volumes, I’d urge you to get the Audiolab 6000A integrated amp I reviewed in October 2019. This will also provide you the flexibility of a volume control, multiple inputs, and a built-in digital-to-analog converter. You could connect a CD player, turntable, or streamer down the road, or even use its Bluetooth capability to wirelessly connect a phone. In my opinion, the 6000A will easily drive the 705 S2s to very loud listening levels in most domestic environments. Also, consider that with your Walkman connected directly to power amps, just forgetting once that you’ve left the Walkman’s volume control up too high before hitting play could be disastrous for your speakers.

With respect to your choice of speakers, I highly recommend you listen before you buy, if possible. Sonically, a pair of B&W 705 S2s does all things very well. In particular, the bass, midrange, and imaging precision are simply amazing given the price and size. The one downfall is that the 705 S2 has a little too much treble energy and can sound a bit bright. Whether you like this will depend on your personal taste, and how loud you like to listen. If you like to listen loud, you may find some recordings sound too bright. At lower volumes, you may in fact like how the B&Ws provide more air and spaciousness compared to other competing speakers. And remember, reading my comments is no substitute for going out to a dealer and listening for yourself. Best of luck. . . . Diego Estan