Superb system for under £1k

RoA

Well-known member
Feb 11, 2021
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269
1,270
I recently bought a pair of B&W CM1's. I hardly need another small speaker but I loved the look of the little things.

Now, I am not a fan of the brand. My last aquaintance was with the Formation Duo's which I sold after about 4 months. A costly mistake. Tweeter integration and directivity issues made them a less than enticing listen. Most of today's lower lines of the brand have similar problems. - I really don't know why they do this (well, I do... really). B&W can build proper speakers but they choose not to, 700 series and down. They mostly sound like s"**".

So, I had a brief Google on the old CM line, specifically the CM1's. A lot of bass, slightly depressed midband, upper treble slightly elevated but nowhere near as much as just about anything coming after (incl S2's).

Long story short, partnered with an Audiolab 6000A they rock, soothe and make lovely music. - A Hegel H95 does slightly better but is not really needed. Bass is outstanding, approaching floorstander depth once you get it right ... ! - That is with room boundary enforcement. I actually resorted to using half open foam bungs that came with my quads. - The Audiolab has excellent bass and control for the money so is a perfect addition.

The real star of the CM1/ Audiolab pairing is the richness, scale and refinement. It sounds truly expensive totally defying what you'd expect from a slim amplifier and tiny Tod speakers. The 50watt/ch amp powering these perhaps 82db sensitive speakers perfectly to what most would deem annoyingly loud levels with real authority. Far removed from most budget systems with their squeeky clean, detail hyping but often anaemic sound. Better still, it sounds good at low volume too. - The CM1's never 'shout'. A problem common with as small speakers with elevated mids/highs once volume increases and bass drivers run out of puff/db's being overtaken by the rest. The little B&W's will run out of breath eventually but you can enjoy a symphony or Hip Hop to fairly high levels for such a small speaker (and nominal 50w amplifier).

Downsides ... yes. I can imagine some newer members to Hifi complaint about a 'lack of perceived detail'. - Nothing is lacking of course but it's not thrown into ones face. It's all beautifully integrated and not hyped that's all. Treble is super refined and oh so sweet. - This is an 'image between and behind speaker plane' system. If you want constant excitement (even if it's not on the recording) ... this is not for you. Buy some cheap active boxes or one of the newer B&W's. Likewise if 'big is beautiful', look elsewhere.

Dynamics are a tad stifled compared to big speakers, inevitable but again, they seem to defy logic for this tiny duo. The Sheffield drum solo (almost) having the impact of the big Stirling BBC References.

Proof that B&W can make reasonably priced speakers you can listen to without having your ears taken off.

Build quality is very good with heavy duty Zinc/iron long throw bass/mid driver baskets, sizeable magnets and a high quality tweeter unit (with their proprietary 'Nautilus' tubes. I had to take one out/apart to remove a small dent from the diaphragm. Heavy Neodymium magnet and a bolt into nuts fastening rather than the usual wood screws. Same for the bass driver. Internal brazing horizontally too. Solid engineering. They weigh 6.7kg each and feel like a solid lump. I read somewhere that that they seem like 'Audio Jewlery'. I agree.

They were also still made in the UK, if that matters.

So, a system that can be had for under a grand (add a CCA for streaming) and that reaches higher than you would reasonably expect. Looks very smart too and the wife would hardly complain.

They are not the best speakers in the world by a long stretch but for 200 quid s/h you will likely not find better, especially new. That is if their sound signature appeals. As for build, look at spending a grand. However, a reasonably good amplifier with control is a pre requisite. The Audiolab is a good starting point.

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I recently bought a pair of B&W CM1's. I hardly need another small speaker but I loved the look of the little things.

Now, I am not a fan of the brand. My last aquaintance was with the Formation Duo's which I sold after about 4 months. A costly mistake. Tweeter integration and directivity issues made them a less than enticing listen. Most of today's lower lines of the brand have similar problems. - I really don't know why they do this (well, I do... really). B&W can build proper speakers but they choose not to, 700 series and down. They mostly sound like s"**".

So, I had a brief Google on the old CM line, specifically the CM1's. A lot of bass, slightly depressed midband, upper treble slightly elevated but nowhere near as much as just about anything coming after (incl S2's).

Long story short, partnered with an Audiolab 6000A they rock, soothe and make lovely music. - A Hegel H95 does slightly better but is not really needed. Bass is outstanding, approaching floorstander depth once you get it right ... ! I resorted to using open foam bungs that came with my quads. The Audiolab has excellent bass and control for the money so is a perfect addition.

The real star of the CM1/ Audiolab pairing is the richness, scale and refinement. It sounds truly expensive totally defying what you'd expect from a slim amplifier and tiny Tod speakers. The 50watt/ch amp powering these perhaps 82db sensitive speakers perfectly to what most would deem annoyingly loud levels with real authority. Far removed from most budget systems with their squeeky clean, detail hyping but often aneimic sound. Better still, it sounds good at low volume too.

Downsides ... yes. I can imagine some newer members to Hifi complaint about a 'lack of perceived detail'. - Nothing is lacking of course but it's not thrown into ones face. It's all beautifully integrated and not hyped that's all. Treble is super refined and oh so sweet. - This is an 'image between and behind speaker plane' system. If you want constant excitement (even if it's not on the recording) ... this is not for you. Buy some cheap active boxes or one of the newer B&W's.

Dynamics are a tad stifled compared to big speakers, inevitable but again, they seem to defy logic for this tiny duo. The Sheffield drum solo (almost) having the impact of the big Stirling BBC References.

Proof that B&W can make reasonably priced speakers you can listen to without having your ears taken off.

Build quality is very good with heavy duty Zinc/iron bass/mid driver baskets and a high quality tweeter unit (with their proprietary 'Nautilus' tubes. I had to take one out/apart to remove a small dent from the diaphragm. Heavy Neodymium magnet and a bolt into nuts fastening rather than the usual wood screws. Same for the bass driver. Internal brazing horizontally too. Solid engineering. They weigh 6.7kg each and feel like a solid lump.

They were also stillade in the UK, if that matters.

So, a system that can be had for under a grand (add a CCA for streaming) and that reaches higher than you would reasonably expect. Looks very smart too and the wife would hardly complain.

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Interesting, however speakers and an amplifier do not a system make.
What source are you using?
 

plastic penguin

Well-known member
I recently bought a pair of B&W CM1's. I hardly need another small speaker but I loved the look of the little things.

Now, I am not a fan of the brand. My last aquaintance was with the Formation Duo's which I sold after about 4 months. A costly mistake. Tweeter integration and directivity issues made them a less than enticing listen. Most of today's lower lines of the brand have similar problems. - I really don't know why they do this (well, I do... really). B&W can build proper speakers but they choose not to, 700 series and down. They mostly sound like s"**".

So, I had a brief Google on the old CM line, specifically the CM1's. A lot of bass, slightly depressed midband, upper treble slightly elevated but nowhere near as much as just about anything coming after (incl S2's).

Long story short, partnered with an Audiolab 6000A they rock, soothe and make lovely music. - A Hegel H95 does slightly better but is not really needed. Bass is outstanding, approaching floorstander depth once you get it right ... ! I resorted to using open foam bungs that came with my quads. The Audiolab has excellent bass and control for the money so is a perfect addition.

The real star of the CM1/ Audiolab pairing is the richness, scale and refinement. It sounds truly expensive totally defying what you'd expect from a slim amplifier and tiny Tod speakers. The 50watt/ch amp powering these perhaps 82db sensitive speakers perfectly to what most would deem annoyingly loud levels with real authority. Far removed from most budget systems with their squeeky clean, detail hyping but often aneimic sound. Better still, it sounds good at low volume too.

Downsides ... yes. I can imagine some newer members to Hifi complaint about a 'lack of perceived detail'. - Nothing is lacking of course but it's not thrown into ones face. It's all beautifully integrated and not hyped that's all. Treble is super refined and oh so sweet. - This is an 'image between and behind speaker plane' system. If you want constant excitement (even if it's not on the recording) ... this is not for you. Buy some cheap active boxes or one of the newer B&W's.

Dynamics are a tad stifled compared to big speakers, inevitable but again, they seem to defy logic for this tiny duo. The Sheffield drum solo (almost) having the impact of the big Stirling BBC References.

Proof that B&W can make reasonably priced speakers you can listen to without having your ears taken off.

Build quality is very good with heavy duty Zinc/iron bass/mid driver baskets and a high quality tweeter unit (with their proprietary 'Nautilus' tubes. I had to take one out/apart to remove a small dent from the diaphragm. Heavy Neodymium magnet and a bolt into nuts fastening rather than the usual wood screws. Same for the bass driver. Internal brazing horizontally too. Solid engineering. They weigh 6.7kg each and feel like a solid lump.

They were also stillade in the UK, if that matters.

So, a system that can be had for under a grand (add a CCA for streaming) and that reaches higher than you would reasonably expect. Looks very smart too and the wife would hardly complain.

View attachment 3937

View attachment 3938

View attachment 3939

View attachment 3941

View attachment 3943
Have to admit the CM1s are the only B&Ws I gravitated to outside of my favoured Rotel/B&W combo. Heard these with a demo Leema Pulse at SSAV IN Bromley before I purchased mine. They almost dug as deep as the RS6s.
 
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plastic penguin

Well-known member
Jjust to clarify, at SSAV I also heard the CM1s with a Roksan Caspian M1 and they sounded equally as impressive. For a £500 when new they were a very flexible speaker with amplifiers than other models from Bowers & Wilkins IMHO.
 
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RoA

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Feb 11, 2021
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Rooms obviously make a difference. These are good for small to normal sized UK Living rooms. Large pads will require large/r speakers.

At a guess you could get a pair of these plus a 6000A s/h for between 5 - 600 quid. That is an insane amount of true, grown-up Hifi for the money. I could live with it if I only could have one system for a smaller budget.

I am sure something like a s/h NAD and Monitor Audio's would suit some better for similar money as it will be more forward but I rate the Audiolab as one of the best current amplifiers I've heard under £1k.
 
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Gray

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when it comes to scale, Neats are hard to beat
Rarely seen anything more enthusiastic than the 10 out of 10 review of the Neat Petite Classic that I read recently on AV forums.
(Even though I've previously disagreed with a best-buy verdict from the same reviewer).

If you believe what he says though, it's all the small speaker you could ever want - without sounding too small.
 
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Rarely seen anything more enthusiastic than the 10 out of 10 review of the Neat Petite Classic that I read recently on AV forums.
(Even though I've previously disagreed with a best-buy verdict from the same reviewer).

If you believe what he says though, it's all the small speaker you could ever want - without sounding too small.
I was thinking of their more expensive range that have an isobaric speaker set-up.
 

record_spot

Well-known member
May 30, 2015
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When B&Ws are good they can be great. And nothing used to match their scale.
Not quite so sure about that. I tried the CM1s at home a few years ago and was very underwhelmed. Rather ponderous bass I found. Acoustic Energy AE22 actives delivered better scale, bass control and overall performance. Original Mission 751s would've absolutely caned them from memory. I don't doubt B&W make good speakers, but the CM1 isn't one I'd shortlist as a used buy anytime soon.
 

RoA

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Feb 11, 2021
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RS, I appreciate what you are saying.

Here are some comparisons with speakers/systems I either own currently or have done in the last two years.

Room 4.5x 3.5m approx.

CM1, Audiolab 6000A, VdHCS122 Hybrid plus Quobuz or Tidal through lowly CCA.

No ponderous bass with half open bungs used. Double bass goes down relatively cleanly to perhaps 45 hz Hz before rolling off substantially. Hip Hop/Electronics no issues. (Slight) bump at maybe 100hz or so but not drastic and it gives a little bit of padding to lower mids. Had I to criticise them (as I did in my OP) mids are very slightly recessed. I like that for reasons previously stated, others may not. Ultimate loudness and dynamics limited by box/driver size. Voices through radio and TV sound good with no sibilance but could be a bit more forward. As I said previously, a clever compromise with a speaker that small. If they were absolute level or, worse, forward as with some new, small speakers, especially at the budget end, they will too readily shout as volume goes up

I haven't even tried them with my Hegel as they played great as was/is from first plug in but I expect similar results with a little more punch and fullness and it might even bring the mids in line? Will try this this weekend if I got a couple of hours. I would expect the SA20 will be too much of a good thing basswise.

A Quad S2, in direct comparison is a more revealing and detailed speaker whilst still having some warmth. Technically perhaps better but maybe not quite as much fun in (some) instances though bass is first class. It's ultimately the better speaker but you can't get them for £200.

The Stirling LS3/6 Reference was warmer through mids but lacked bass impact and the tweeter(s) are relatively rolled off in comparison. A difficult speaker to get 'right'. (£5000/pair). Lovely mid range and totally fatigue free. Not for metal/rock.

Kef LS50 Meta Wireless ... Nice open sound but lacked a little transient speed and impact (both better on the CM1). Bass never sounded right but good otherwise. Softer presentation than either Quad or CM1. Fatigue free and relaxing but I always thought .... what if.

B&W Formation Duo Active. A lot of Power and impact. Has warmth. Treble not properly integrated and abysmal directivity. For the party pad. The CM1 is better balanced but will not go near as loud if that is important.

The tiny B&W's are certainly compromised. Mostly by size but they would probably please and surprise a lot of people that have larger and perhaps not such good looking diamensioned speakers.

I will try some NEAT and possibly ATC speakers soon.
 
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manicm

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May 1, 2008
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Not quite so sure about that. I tried the CM1s at home a few years ago and was very underwhelmed. Rather ponderous bass I found. Acoustic Energy AE22 actives delivered better scale, bass control and overall performance. Original Mission 751s would've absolutely caned them from memory. I don't doubt B&W make good speakers, but the CM1 isn't one I'd shortlist as a used buy anytime soon.
I stated the larger bookshelfs. The CM1 was a smaller bookshelf.
 

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