HiFi: B&W 705 S2 Speaker Review. Smooth Operator.
By Steve Huff
Those of you who read my audio reviews know how much I love bookshelf style smaller speakers. There are many reasons for this, and why I prefer them to larger floor standing speakers 98% of the time. First. My room is only 12X13 so most smaller speakers do pretty well here and horns do very well in here as well (has taken me years to learn placement in this small almost square room). Also, I love how small speakers can just disappear and present such a huge soundstage while in my listening seat. It’s a beautiful thing when you are playing music and can not tell where the music is emerging from. When it sounds like music is just appearing from space, in a human and tangible way, that is when I know I have some soulful magic in my system. The good thing is, it’s not hard to do if you know what speakers and amps (and even cables if you want to go further) have synergy together and how to place them best in your space. Synergy is important as without it, your system will lack in some way wether it means it sounds thin, harsh, or even too bloated and warm. The bad news is, it is very hard to discover what has synergy without trying everything out.
Small can be better than big in some rooms!
Some small speakers can bring magic to your room but some can sound dull, some can sound thin, some will sound plump and and some just do not sound good at all. Some are boring, some are exciting and some are way. too caffeinated (too much). Even so, there are some pretty special bookshelf style speakers available today for under $3000 that can sound fantastic in a variety of rooms.
I am of the belief that most good small speakers that are well made can sound much better than larger speakers if you are in a smaller space, or even a medium sized space. In fact, in small rooms larger speakers will overpower the room with bass frequencies which will result in your system sounding like mud or too boomy with a lack of details. Some rooms will make your speakers sound bright and harsh. So the room is important, and in my belief THE MOST important aspect of what kind of sound you will get from your system.
I remember back in 2001 (if memory serves me correctly) I bought a pair of Revel Studios (demo models) at the now closed down Sound of Music in Phoenix AZ and I just could not get them to sound good at all in my home. Later, after years of experience I can look back and know exactly why they sounded horrible. In my space they had virtually no bass, they sounded thin and just lacking in any kind of musical flow.
IT WAS MY ROOM AND MY UPSTREAM GEAR but back then I didn’t realize it. There was also zero synergy with my equipment as the dealer also sold me a Mark Levinson 383 integrated and it just could not power these speakers well, in my space (or there was a defect somewhere). I kept trying to find a way to make them work and I never did. I lost so much money back then, buying and selling and trading gear. Just trying to find synergy in a system that sounded how I hoped it would. I bet a few of you reading this have been down this road before as well, at some point in your pursuit of replicated music. Being an audiophile or even audio fanatic can be a costly hobby.
My Old Faves
One of my all time favorite bookshelf sized speakers of our modern times is the Dynaudio Special 40. They are priced at $3000 (retail) and are worth every penny of that. Not so long ago, some dealers were offering them at a discount and many were able to get a pair for $2200-$2500 new. Those who did, congrats! The newest colors/release of the Special 40 (which look amazing) are now $3500, so the price has went up. Even at $3500 they are well worth it. Those Special 40’s are truly “special” in what they can do when you hook up the right amp to them and place them in the right room. Clean, tight, rich, and they image with the best of them. I remember pitting these against some $15,000 Sonus Faber Guarneri Traditions and when they delivered 90% of that speakers qualities, I knew it was indeed truly special.
But there has to be other small speakers out there that can sound just as good (or maybe better) as the little Dynaudio’s and for the same price…right? Sure! Of course there are and that is because we all have different tastes in sound, or how we like to listen to music. Speakers are never better or worse than each other, rather they are just “different”. So if someone says “my speakers are better than yours” just tell them “no, they just offer a different presentation”. Also, that presentation depends so much on…again, your room, your amplifier, your dad, your cables. I can not stress enough how much of a difference all of these things make.
Some of us like big fat bass, others like a meaty mid bass and some prefer a cut out analytical and surgical presentation with pinpoint imaging. Some like airy speakers and some prefer the vivid horn sound. Those special 40’s are more of the “meaty” variety and will offer up near full range sound with glorious bass, a full midrange and snappy highs. But what if you want something not as fleshed out in the mid band? Something a little less plump?
Over time that heavy mid bass presence may sound dull to ears looking for a sharper more crisp midrange. Over time our ears get used to the sound and over more time we can find them to get boring if they are too dark or beefy sounding. Today, in 2020, we have speakers to choose from that are “fun”, “detailed”,”relaxed”,”neutral” and so on. So many options! But the first thing you have to ask yourself when choosing a speaker is WHAT SOUND DO YOU PREFER? Then ask yourself where you will place them. Then look for a set of speakers that match your criteria.
The B&W 705 S2
I have a small history with B&W speakers. I have owned the older 802 speakers (2005) and found them to be a tad stiff in their presentation. I then owned some 600 series in the past and found the same. A very dry sound, that was different from most speakers I was used to. After those experiences I decided that B&W was not my cup of tea…back then.
What about now?
I always wondered about the current lineup and the current 700 series in particular. I feel these speakers look phenomenal for the money but was worried they still had a dry sound or just a sound that was “stiff”. I guess I had an itch that had to be scratched so I knew it was a matter of time before I was able to get a pair of 705 S2’s here to check out.
Before the 705s2…I tried the 707s2 (they are special)
One day last year I was in, of all places, Best Buy. There in a Magnolia within Best Buy I heard the tiny B&W 707 S2’s and were blown away by the bass and the details in the treble for the size. They are TINY but gorgeous. This was even with a with a receiver running them and horrible placement! I ended up purchasing those 707’s back then (demo models for $900) as I couldn’t pass up the deal (today they are $1500) Those speakers are quite special for the size and if in a small room they will shock you with their clarity and bass performance. Even so, most rooms would require a sub as while the 707 s2 has some serious bass for it’s size, in larger rooms they will sound a bit anemic or sharp. It’s physics but in a small room? The 707’s sound extraordinary. Think office or den or bedroom. They have detail for days, yet sound rich and full in the mids. They can disappear completely and give that excitement and life to the sound that truly adds to the realism. They are up there with speakers in their price range and IMO beat something like a KEF LS50 (with a quality amp and upstream gear). These 707 speakers can sound magical with the right power behind them.
The 705 S2 on the other hand is the top of the bookshelf range in the 700 series and I have been listening to a pair on and off for a few weeks now in my listening room. Over the last week I have had them hooked up to the Naim Atom (My review here) and man, I just can not stop listening! I can not escape my music room, my man cave. I have been here several hours a day listening and I am starting to worry that I may have developed an addiction to music with this simple little system!
I also hooked them up to a Naim Nova, the top end in the Uniti range from Naim and this changed the sound by quite a bit. Not better, not worse, just different (fuller, more mid bass, more projection, slightly sharper imaging and smoother). Either way, Atom or Nova, these were making my brain wake up and get excited by what I was hearing.
I also hooked up the 705 S2 to my Vinnie Rossi L2i SE and the sound changed dramatically from what they sounded like with the Naim gear! I was shocked and it took me a couple of hours to figure out exactly what was going on, and I will talk about that later on in this review.
Even though the 705 s2 dips down to around 3.7 Ohm (nominal 8 ohm) the Naim Atom/Nova powers them with ease, grace and even some grunt when the music calls for it. The Nova brings quite a bit more refinement and solidity to the images these speakers paint so it probably is a better match, especially if in a medium or larger room than mine. It also brings a more expansive and wholesome sound. The 705 s2 and the Naim are beautiful together in my 12X13 music room, no matter if it was the Atom or the Nova. With that said, the Naim gear does offer up a sound that is on the lively side, so your feet and body will be moving and grooving, without question. There is no tube lushness here, but there is serious boogie.
Truth be told, the Atom/Nova and the S40’s are also a superb match. So which speaker do I prefer here? Both are around the same price at $3000 and both are around the same size. Yes, B&W raised the price of the 705 S2 from $2500 to $3000 retail not so long ago. Quite a big jump but really, these sound like $3000 speakers to my ears. As you read on you may understand just how much I enjoy these 705 S2’s. I think though that the secret here is in the Naim gear. It partners perfectly with the 705 s2 and delivers a big, smooth, expansive and almost warm leaning sound that is a pleasure to listen to as yes. that tweeter atop the 705 also delivers sweet details and micro details that liven up the warmth so they do not sound to smooth or boring. This is important as if the tweeter lacked that sparkle at the top the speaker would sound dark and that means…dull.
In the Flesh.
The Dynaudio to me feels like a more substantial speaker, and appears to have a nicer quality of construction. That is not to say the B&W lacks in this area, as it doesn’t. It’s just different and I think the 705 s2 is the better looking speaker as well, but you may feel the opposite as we all have different tastes for what our eyes see as beautiful. But going by the speaker connectors, the quality, the feel, the attention to detail, Dynaudio wins here. Also, the 705 S2 pair I have is in Piano black, and it’s easy to get surface scratches on them. That shiny black finish shows off the flaws if you have any. Fingerprints as well. But it also comes in white, and the beautiful rosewood as seen below.
With the tweeter atop the box, it gives us that signature B&W style. Oh and the 705’s can be bi-wired while the Special 40’s can not. I am not a believer in bi-wire though, as I never heard any improvement from it. Most speaker cables manufacturers today have stopped making bi-wire as they too acknowledge little to no difference.
The MIGHTY Atom & 705 S2
I have to say the Naim Atom powers these 705’s without even breaking a sweat. Bass is there as it should be, if not a little light, the mids are creamy on the 705 S2 and a little more forward on the S40. The highs are sweet, seductive and yet detailed all at same time on the 705 S2 and more snappy with the S40’s. The Special 40’s have a slightly darker presentation in the mids as well but the B&W’s have a smoother slightly more alive presentation that leans slightly warm and rich. There is more sparkle with the B&W up top as well which really adds life to some music.
What is crazy is the B&W of the past sounded dry and sterile to me. These 705 S2’s make the Dynaudio’s sound a little dry and stiff (they are not) as now the 705’s sound WET! Lol. I love this sound because it is very smooth in the midrange where there is also a richness present that just sounds “right” . What is odd is I have read reviews of these that say these speakers are on the bright side. I have not found that at all. No brightness here with any of the amps I powered them with. In fact with the Vinnie Rossi powering these little gems, the treble is sweet and silky as can be. So much so it takes the smoothness to another level (not in a bad way) as well as the richness and wide open soundstage.
These speakers can have serious weight to them, so they will not sound thin. But if you place these where the tweeter is aimed at your ears and you use lower end amplification, they could sound bright, harsh or downright nasty so placement AND amplification is key here to achieve that smooth silky sound with the 705’s. Right now as I listen I hear a huge, wide, deep, layered rich sound that is in no way harsh or fatiguing. It’s a bit warm in the mids but with that detail and sparkle at the top. Quite amazing really for what these cost. With the Naim gear the sound is lively and expansive with a liquid effortless flow. With my Rossi, the sound is bigger, richer, warmer and more 3 dimensional. More tangible. Totally different sounds from the same speaker and both are excellent in their own way. One will get you up to boogie with a huge smile as it will not allow you to sit still and the other will have you seduced with its fullness, depth and holographic presentation. So these 705’s for me have been chameleon like, but sound incredible no matter how I run them.
How many times have you bought an audiophile speaker only to be let down with its flat, thin or off sound? I’ve been there and done that and these 705’s are not like those kind of speakers in any way. For some rooms and amps, they may have too much bass. No sub will be needed in a room the size of mine, or up to 12X15. So these can KICK!
There is a musical flow from the 705’s when paired with the Naim. I believe that the Atom is the best bang for the buck HiFi product ever for what it offers and it comes in at $3200, lower than the cost of the DAC inside of my Vinnie Rossi L2i SE ($3500 for the DAC module). It’s a powerhouse that really gives nothing up to integrated amplifiers in the $5k range. I always have to say though, this is from my room, my ears and my experience. The room and setup of speakers will make all of the difference in how they sound. If you ran these B&W’s with a cheaper receiver or just placed them randomly in a space they would probably sound harsh and flat. They have an “electric” synergy with the Naim. If one wanted a simple gorgeous high end system (smaller room) that sounded like a true high dollar system, a Naim Atom, 705 S2 and a set of Nordost Blue Heaven LS speaker cables would be all one needs (I am testing Blue Heaven LS now with the Atom and B&W and yes, they do improve the sound). The Atom and 705 S2 bring some excitement but still retain that slight warmish musical flow.
The Naim Nova that I was expecting (from Dedicated Audio) showed up during my evaluation of these speakers and I was thrilled to give them a spin with the higher end Naim piece. The Nova brings 80 watts per channel vs the 40 of the Atom, a more substantial power supply and transformer, a better DAC and better layout of the inputs and outs. More space in the back and it’s double the width of the Atom. It’s the highest end piece in the Naim Uniti line as of June 2020 and I could tell that this was the case as soon as it was hooked up and running.
When I hooked up the Nova fresh out of the box it wasn’t hard to hear the changes across the board vs the Atom. A more expansive 3D sound, a much more refined sound, a more solid foundation with the bass, a slightly smoother presentation and it kept that amazing musicality of the Atom which will have you listening for hours on end (it’s addicting). Bass was tighter and faster, and the air…wow, it brought the 705’s to life and sounded like a truly high end refined system. I was blown away by the Atom but I am just in awe of what the Nova is doing here. It’s that Naim sound I guess. It doesn’t worry about doing the HiFi thing, it worries about putting a big grin on your face with the musicality of it. The Naim is making me appreciate musicality over HiFi. which at times can be too surgical or too much of a good thing. Much of the magic is here but it’s not defined or cut out like with some pieces of HiFi (I stay away from these kind of amps).
The beauty of it all is that the Nova has everything one needs in this all in one HiFi piece. The Pre-amp. The Amp. The Dac. The Streamer. It doesn’t sound compromised in any way by having everything in one box and this is what I am having a hard time wrapping my brain around. There is no digital grain and it uses a class A/B amp over a Class D. No matter how high I push this amp, it never strains, it just gets louder while remaining composed and smooth.
I own and have owned some pretty outrageous high end gear but this Naim Nova (and Atom) are rarities to find in the world of HiFi though they are not without a glitch here and there (screen froze on the Atom once and once on the Nova). For the money they cost there is no way to beat them in todays connected world.
The Nova and 705 S2 speakers could easily be an end game system. World class. Under $10k for the entire system. Expensive as all get out for sure but how many here have bought a Leica camera for $10k without blinking an eye? Oh and this Naim Nova would bring me much more enjoyment than a Leica camera, and is. ; )
THE Vinnie Rossi L2I SE and the 705 S2.
After I wrote this review my Vinnie Rossi L2i SE arrived back from having a tune up from Vinnie. Basically he installed a new volume control something or other to eliminate a click sound my amp had when going from 32 to 33 on the volume dial.
While I was enjoying the Nova immensely with the 705’s deep into the night I HAD to hook up the Vinnie Rossi piece to see what effect it had on the sound of these lovely speakers. It was away for two weeks (11 days of that was spent on a UPS truck, Vinnie did his part in a day) and I missed it. Dearly.
The sound was so much beefier and bigger with the L2i SE over both Naim pieces that I had to spend an hour setting up the speakers again! When I did I settled in for a few hours of listening. At first it sounded dark to me, which was odd but as I settled into my seat I realized what happened. I was hearing a much more fleshed out 705 S2. They sounded much richer, deeper, more spacious even than the Nova, and more tangible. Like voices had a “reach out and touch it” kind of vibe. The Nova has this as well, but the Rossi made those voices bigger and pushed them out farther into the room. Bass was clear and defined with a roundness to the instruments that sounded so human, so real, so pleasant. This combo was also throwing the most holographic presentation I have experienced in my years of audio, even more so than with the Special 40’s, and there was more zing as well with added life to the music. But wether I went with the L2i SE or the Naim, both offered a different sound with these speakers. Both were amazing and musical but the Naim made me get up and rock where the Rossi made me want to sip some whiskey with the lights down as I listened to the sultry voice of Diana Krall singing “Sway” just for me (or so it seemed).
This L2i SE system sounded ethereal and the Naim system sounded groovy. ; ) Both are amazing. The Vinnie retails for $26,000. The Naim Nova around $6000. Yes, $20k separates these yet in sound you would never know they are that far apart in cost.
The 705 S2 is a small (but not tiny) two way bookshelf with a 6.5″ mid/woofer for the bass, and the tweeter (not the diamond of the 800 series) is pretty special here as it sits atop the speaker for a better integration between the drivers, and it is a carbon dome tweeter (no diamond dust here). The high end is smooth yet at the same time, crisp and allowing me to hear details I never noticed with the Special 40’s. Crazy! You have heard it in a million reviews…”I heard things I never did before”! Well, I have with the 705 S2, and that is a big deal as I have heard speakers in this room from $500 to $45,000 and never caught these details.
For stands I am using the Dynaudio Stand 6 as it’s one of the stands I have on hand and is a very well made stand. My room has carpet, a couch, fake plants, and various pieces of furniture. It’s not lively at all but also not dull or overly damped. It’s just how I love it, and most speakers have a nice and big sound here. The better speakers offer up magic in this room, and I will say now that the B&W is serving up some gorgeous sounds that I did not expect, AT ALL. The magic is here!
With the Naim Nova at the helm, the bass is so so sweet, tight, full and not overblown or mushy. In fact it is integrated so well with the highs that they just meld together and form a sweet silky big sound. Part of this is due to the separation of the tweeter from the mid driver. It’s all here. Soundstage width, depth and air. Details without harshness which is not easy to do. With the Rossi the highs become a tad sweeter and silkier yet some may say it loses a little bit of the bite that makes the Naim make you want to get up and rock.
When driven and set up correctly these speakers have a rich and pronounced mid bass that I would describe as “juicy”. Strange words but that is the one that popped in my head when listening. In fact, I wrote it in my notes! That is not to say it sounds wet, it just sound rich, full bodied and beautiful over dry or flat.
Listening to Agnes Obel’s “It’s Happening Again” track, these speakers render her voice and the piano in such a delicate yet deep way, a very “I am here with her” feel. Intimate and spooky real. The treble on the B&W is something I prefer to most speakers I have had in here. It’s lively but not bright or grating at all..again, smooth and adds life to some music. It serves up delicious details while the warm rich midrange blends together with it in such a way that the final result is truly a “WOW” experience.
The Nova brings more weight and smoothness over the Atom. The Atom sounds more alive. Take your pick. The Rossi renders this with a 3 dimensional ethereal vibe that is a little darker with the 705 S2’s and it brings out more mid bass out of these chameleon like speakers.
Playing “Goliath” from Woodkid brings me instrument separation among the best of them in this price range and beyond. A nice full sound that floats in space. Dynamics for days with the Naim. The midrange is SUPERB as voices are rendered with some weight and sound natural all at the same time. What I love about these speakers is that they can play almost anything and sound gorgeous doing it. These will never sound thin in a smaller room, nor will they ever sound bloated unless you have them too close to the walls and not placed properly.
Listening to Sade’s live track of “No Ordinary Love” has the electric guitar jetting out into the room in such a 3D way I am sucked into her performance. I am brought into the MUSIC rather than dissecting the speaker performance. It just flows, and that is why I feel these are such a great match to the Naim pieces. Both products are about PRAT and FLOW and they just work so well together. The Rossi added some meat to the bones here and made the sound more full.
LOW VOLUME LISTENING
One thing I love to do is listen late at night at low volumes. Sadly this is one area where the B&W lose out to the S40 and something like Klipsch. With that said, the more current you feed them, the better they sound at lower volume. With the L2i SE I can play these at low volume and they will still sound full and beautiful. With the Naim, they get thinner at low volumes which tells me the $26k loaded up Vinnie Rossi is showing me what it is made of and why it costs what it does ; )
I played a track from Keaton Henson from his “Romantic Works” album with the Atom now powering the speakers. This track with the 705s2 and Atom bring emotion to the performance as it seems as I can hear, feel and sense the emotion put into the track. Piano…so beautiful on these speakers. The Atom shines here with this kind of track. The Nova adds more warmth and weight to the Piano and loses out to the crisper tones of the Atom. The L2i Se and 705’s make this track sound crazy deep, with a more expansive soundstage an again, that tangible kind of vibe. It’s those 300B tubes in the pre and that does this. But if you like that ring and bite of a piano note, the Naim does it better here.
Listening to the acoustic version of “Harvest” from The Breath I am treated to acoustic guitar and beautiful vocals that allows me to hear texture and the reverb trails from the studio where it was recorded. So immersive. So beautiful. Gorgeous no matter what amp powered the 705’s.
ROCKIN AND ROLLIN and WHAT NOT…
THIS shocked me. I compared them to the Mighty Klipsch Cornwall IV for ROCK and METAL. Who won? The B&W 705 S2! WHAAAAT?!?!? That sounds unbelievable to many of you I know (even me). But these 705’s gave me the best rock performance I have had here in a long long time wether they were powered with the Naim or Rossi. They also showed me the weakness of the big Klipsch that I never new existed until this side by side comparison. But keep in mind, if in a larger room the Klipsch would have destroyed the 705’s for metal and rock. My small room does limit the Cornwall’s a bit as they can not fully “breathe”. So again, goes back to the room and why it is important to pick the right speaker size for your space.
Jamming to some Megadeth with “Symphony of Destruction” the guitar and drums hit me in the gut when turned up to 48 on the Atom and I find myself getting up and moving, doing my best metal frontman impersonation. I have never heard this song flow so well. I forgot I was evaluating speakers and just got lost in the music for 3 1/2 minutes. It sounded so good and in fact the best I have heard this recording sound. No sub required for me. With the Atom it sounded deep and rich as the texture of the guitars was evident and it had this touch of brightness to it that made it even more exciting. I even heard the separate strings ring and it was crisp and how metal should sound. With the Nova it was warmer, and richer and bigger but some of that guitar excitement was missing. Overall I did prefer the Nova for its weightier sound but the Atom did justice to this track. The Rossi added more weight and OOMPH to this, and also made it more spacious. For this track, I still loved the way the Atom and Nova painted the picture as it was more raw and electric though the Vinnie Rossi also knows how to rock, and adds some weight to the mids for more grunt.
I pulled up Led Zeppelin’s live Celebration Day and sat through the entire album in one sitting for the very 1st time ever when the Nova was hooked up. Why now? Because it sounded better than I have ever heard it! Huge, full, rich, weighty, detailed, with superbly good flow and musicality. THIS is how it is supposed to sound and never have I had all of the ingredients mixed together so well. So balanced and man these speakers can go LOUD. I am sure at one point my whole neighborhood knew I was rocking out. Even so, full composure that retained the silky top end. Amazing!
The 705’s with rock and when turned up loud will make you feel like you are there at the show (in a smaller room). Guitars are meaty and rich, drums can be powerful if they were recorded well, vocals are locked in the center image (though not surgically or in an extreme way, more natural) and have a big sound, a nice big chesty sound with male vocals (especially with the Nova) and with female vocals you will also get a magical performance in the midrange that is superb.
That leads me to the midrange. I always loved the mids of the Special 40’s but the B&W 705’s beat them ever so slightly here for my tastes. There is magic in these mids. From a whisper to a scream, the sound is composed and never gets distorted or unruly and the voices come to life in a spooky way. Other speakers have done this for me but these are just so balanced from top to bottom! The 705 midrange is a tad more delicate than the S40 which is more forward. Both offer up some of the best mid performance in this price bracket.
In direct comparison, the Klipsch Cornwall IV also sound big but now the guitars are more dry sounding, and there is a lack of presence in the drums. They sound a bit small rather than big and forceful and don’t really hit me in the gut like the 705 S2 does. Crazy right? Vocals sound slightly colored in comparison (due to the horns). I only notice this with a side by side though. I even removed the 705’s and placed the Cornwalls in and after two days I did not notice the weakness of the Klipsch. They sounded lovely. Going back to the B&W brought a richer sound, more alive and that is when I noticed the differences.
I prefer the 705 S2 for rock and metal over the mighty Klipsch in my room. That is nuts.
Off axis listening with the Klipsch or Special 40’s is not so great. I have to be in my “sweet spot” to enjoy them. Even if I open my doors, which lead to my living room and kitchen, the S40’s and Cornwall’s do not sound that good if I am out there in the house. You do not hear the bass or the foundation, rather you hear a thinness to the sound. Not so with the B&W’s. I was running these the other day and my son thought I had the Klipsch hooked up. He was unaware I even had these 705’s.
I walked to the Kitchen and he said “what did you do to your stereo? It sounds really good and I can hear the bass now”. I walked him in my room showed him the speakers. He sat down and then I played some songs. He was shocked. He said “I like these better than almost any speaker you have had in here”. Wow!! So he heard it too, and he also LOVED the Atom.
I do not know if these are my fave bookshelf speakers ever but they are in the top 3 for sure. I would need them for a longer term to decide if they could beat some of my all time faves. What I do know is that these look stunning in piano black, with the grilles off (how I listen) and in my room. Just don’t touch them or else your fingerprints will show.
At $3000 these are not exactly cheap, and yes you will need a nice amp to power them with. I suggest the Naim Atom (or Nova for more weight and warmth or in larger rooms as it has more grunt) and a set of Blue Heaven LS speaker cables if you want a truly world class high end system for under $7500, or $10k with the Nova. You can not get better for the money IMO if your room is on the smaller to medium side. For very large rooms, you would most likely need a nice quality sealed sub and more power. At that point I would suggest moving up to larger speakers.
Piano black are dust magnets…
I have moved these suckers all over the room, and it took me a while to settle on where they would stay for a while. These will take some time to dial in but when you do, you will be wondering why you didn’t buy these sooner. They finally settled at about 2 1/2 feet from the back wall, and 2 1/2 feet from the sides. I sit 7 feet from the speakers and they are 8 feet apart. I have them toed in approx 15 degrees.
YOU MUST put these on good stands. Do not use cheap stands, do not use a shelf. If you do then you are wasting your money on these as you will only be hearing half of what they are capable of. I suggest using the stands that were made for them but you can also use other high quality stands. Your stands should also be half filled with sand. I use Dynaudio Stand 6 and also have some $300 stands that do well (from amazon here). I have mine toed in to the listening spot and they cross right about at my ears. I found this to offer the best of all worlds from soundstage to imaging and bass. Yes, toe in does effect bass!
VS 805 D3
I have not had the 805 D3’s here but have heard them. To me, the difference, from memory, was that the 805 D3 treble was more present. Some would say brighter but I would say more realistic and exciting and also even smoother in some ways. That diamond tweeter is a step above this one, so the highs will be more pronounced and sweet and liquid. The 805 D3’s are double the price of the 705 s2 though. More value for your money with the 705 S2 but really, is there? The 805’s will look much nicer and fit into a living room easily as they look like quality furniture (see pic above of the 805 D3). The 805’s are also made in the UK. The 705’s are made in China which make the $3000 piece tag harder to swallow for some.
The 705 S2 in Rosenut
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for those who want to go a notch higher up with their HiFi.
Just because the 705 S2 is sold at Best Buy Magnolia doesn’t mean it is lower end. It’s not. These are among the best of the best bookshelf speakers I have ever heard in my room at this price point and even slightly above. They are yet another quality bookshelf to put on your audition list.
See more info on the B&W 705 S2
Check out the Naim Nova at Dedicated Audio
Order a Naim Atom at Dedicated Audio
See more about the Vinnie Rossi L2i SE
Just to clarify, I do not make a cent on these links. These are not affiliate links nor are my reviews ever sponsored (I turn down sponsored posts). Dedicated Audio is a fantastic dealer of HiFi. The Owner, Dan, is a super nice guy and wonderful soul. I have been buying from Dan for a long long time and they ship all they sell as they are most of all a web based dealer. Check them out HERE to see all they offer.
BTW, if you give them a call tell them I sent ya!
I have a 14 m2 listening room.
I hesitate between 707 706 and 705.
Which one is preffered?
the 705 is not too “big” for my 14 m2 room?
I think you can’t go wrong with either of them. I auditioned all three before I bough the 706 S2 for my 20 m2 listening room. With a good amp there is no need for a subwoofer with 706/705, however 707 requires some bottom end help. One interesting things, I preferred the 706 over 705. I couldn’t justify the difference in price when paired with my former NAD C368 amp. One year later when I switched to the Lyngdorf TDAI 1120 I regret my choice. A good amp definitely brings out the beauty of the B&W’s. Now 705 S3 is on the radar…
Steve, thanks for taking the time to review and share your findings. I have a different journey. I purchased a Naim Unit Atom to pair with my already purchased B&W 705 Signature speakers. I was afraid the B&Ws needed more power so I upgraded to the Naim Unity Star (although I preferred the look of the Atom). Sadly I did not hear or feel the difference with the Naim upgrade. Recently one of my AVRs rolled over and I purchased a Marantz SR6015. Today I hooked up the Marantz to the B&Ws and I am hearing things through those speakers I did not hear when it was connected to the Star. I would describe it as more bass, warmer sound and the feeling I did not waste $4k on the speakers after all. So I have a dilemma. I cannot stay with the Star/705 after hearing the Marantz/705 combo. Do I swap out the Naim Unity Star for some similar 2 channel streaming device and keep the B&W 705 Signature speakers? Do I keep both the B&W and the Naim Uniti Star and see if I can plug in a different app to get what I feel is a better sound? Or is it time to swap out the speakers? Note: I bought the Atom for the looks, features, and style. I bought the 705s because of their sound and looks. Things need to look cool (which the Marantz does not).
I recently went back to tube equipment after using an Aragon 8008BB for the last 10 years to drive my B&W 802 series 80 speakers. After lots of research I purchased a Raven Blackhawk 3.1 integrated amp which I absolutely love. The problem I am having is I need more efficient speakers. I like the B&W sound and have considered various brands such as the B&W 705 S2, Reference 3A MM DE Capo BE, Focal, Dynaudio special 40. My budget is about $3K. Any suggestions as to which speakers might work well?
705 S2 will work great if you room is small. The room is what makes the sound with the speakers. If the room is large, small speakers will sound thin and weak sometimes. If the room is small, small speakers are perfect. The 705 S2 are sweet speakers. The Reference 3A…they are brighter and more lively and focus more on treble if that is your thing. They are not rockers. The Dynaudio would be a tougher drive but may work, again, depending on room size.
Hi Steve, thanks for the review!
I have a small room, and I want an upgrade from 606 S2, although I really like the sound of these. The first option that came to my mind was 705 S2. I own a Rotel A14MKii and a separate DAC.
Here in EU the 705 S2 is half the price of Dynaudio Special Forty.
Is it a no brainer then? Is it worth paying twice the ammount for S40?
The 705 S2 are fantastic. The Dynaudio will sound a little more punchy, the B&W a little more airy on top. If you enjoy the 606 S2 you will love the 705 S2.
Thx for this excellent review. I have a Naim Uniti Atom driving older model B&W 600 series speakers and begin to get (clipping?) distortion at volume levels above 60% while streaming. They are loud enough at this level so no real need to go beyond, but wonder if you experienced this with the 705, or what might be going on. Best, -Doug
Hi Because of your great review of Willsenton R8 I decided and both one!Now I need speakers,price range $2 to $3 thousand, what do you think about B&W 705 s2 or those what you like Dynaudio spec.40 or maybe Keff R3?I so that you don’t like to recommend but you can make exception :).You will ask what kind a music I listen,well my favorite is Yello but I like Enigma,Vangelis,Jean M.Jarre,all good mesic,not to much rock!I am older guy and I listen music in the evening,not a big fen of loud mucic! Thank for your time!! Dragan
I can easily recommend the 705 S2, they will sound better than the Dynaudio with the Willsenton. Enjoy!
Just bought some 705s s2 to go with my atom. First, thanks for your great reviews. I bought an atom a month ago to replace my linn classik/ bluesound node 2/ meridian amp combo to power my revel m22 (2004) bookshelf speakers. Your review was spot on and my revels have never revealed so much, seriously. I have not listened to more music in the last month than i have in any previous 3 months. Naim has some special sauce with this product. Listening to Led Zep celebration day has been as though ive never heard it before. Same with so many other tracks. The revels require some power so i was a little nervous but willing to swap into a nova if i didnt have the juice required. Not a problem. This system is for my snore room office zwift cycling setup. Immfired up to be picking up the 705s next week. Keep up the reviews.
I would say where they are made is only part of it. Even though the 705 are made in china tgeir quality are superb. Yes I own a pair. I’d estimate they get you about 80-85% of the 805 d3. That’s really an achievement. I would never spend that kind of money on the 800 series. There are other areas you could invest to improve the sound farther.
Steve if you’ve not heard them, try to get yourself in front of a pair of Devore Super 9s. For the size room you have as a floorstander, I think you’d really love them. They definitely have the it factor from a sound quality stand point. The O93 and O96 are nice but I prefer the Supers. For your set up you’d dig them.
Great review. I still own a pair of B&W Matrix 805s and they continue to blow my mind. I discovered that the 805s(and many other B&W speakers)are very sensitive to what’s in the upstream signal chain. I probably tried more than 50 different combinations of amps and preamps, before I found what worked best. For me, the combination of a Cary SLP-98 tube preamp and Pass Labs XA25 amplifier provided everything I could ever wish for in the reproduction of music.
Awesome reviews, Steve!
I’ve been looking at the Atom for quite a while, but was so curious as to how much better the Nova is at almost double the price.
Naim seems to have a partnership with Focal, I think they’ve worked together on their music boxes, but it does make me wonder how well the Aria 906s would pair with these Naim all in ones, too.
Thank You Matt!
It’s great you are back doing hi-fi reviews. I’m enjoying them more than camera reviews which are now a bit boring to me because all cameras are so good now – more than ever it’s all about the photographer not new gear. It is a bonus that you are reviewing hi-fi components that are modestly priced but produce excellent quality sound. Of course not as modestly priced as a new iPhone and a good pair of earbuds or headphones – but I much prefer listening to speakers. Please keep the reviews coming.