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Bowers & Wilkins VM6
A high quality slimline speaker system with a hefty price tag
B&W's latest compact surround sound home theatre speaker system, the VM6, is a set of five slimline speakers paired with B&W's PV1 subwoofer. The speakers are priced far higher than even the most expensive pre-made home theatre systems, but they do offer noticeably superior sound. You'll need an amplifier or A/V receiver to power the system, which is an additional blow to the wallet.
The VM6 package is styled to complement the latest LCD and plasma televisions, which have abandoned sharp, square bezels for rounder, smoother curves. The speakers themselves are built out of moulded black plastic and are pleasantly curved. The drivers are hidden behind a mesh fabric cover that isn't removable — demonstrating B&W's desire for an unobtrusive but stylish system, unlike the excellent JBL ES900 Cinepack speakers (which will loudly proclaim your status as an audiophile). The bundled subwoofer has a different style to the speakers; it's unusual-looking enough to be a conversation starter.
Pricing for the VM6 is a bit of a killer — as a complete 5.1 package, with speakers, two tall floor stands and the subwoofer, the system costs $5195. This definitely places it in the realm of an audiophile; you've got to really love your music (either that or you're very into feng shui) to shell out for this system.
There's no question though, the VM6 is a fantastic slimline system for music and movies. The speakers sound far richer and bassier than their diminutive size would suggest, thanks to a well-tuned five-inch woofer and one-inch tweeter.
Setting up the kit is an ordeal. The stands need to be bolted together — but not before the speaker wire is threaded through. Then the wire must be connected to a special terminal that then plugs into the speaker once it's attached to the stand. It's a very complicated process and takes almost two hours to complete — far in excess of the quarter of an hour that all but the most intricate pre-made systems take to assemble.
But once they're all built and connected to a receiver — we used the receiver from Onkyo's Liverpool Series MS5LX system — the end result is worth the installation trouble and the price tag.
For music, the VM6 system is a solid performer. They're more than capable of representing most musical styles, but excel when presented with complicated orchestral music.
Treble is the defining characteristic for the VM6. High, trailing female vocals sound crisp and clear, without becoming echoey and distant like we've noticed on cheaper home audio systems.
Mid bass is also surprisingly present for such thin speakers. While it's not as pronounced as higher frequencies, there's still a rich, warm element that comes out during orchestral and rock music pieces.
B&W rates the VM6 as capable of ranging from high frequencies all the way down to 75 Hertz — just outside the range most subwoofers are comfortable with. Even with the PV1 subwoofer disabled, the speakers managed to recreate a decent amount of audible bass. With the PV1 accompanying them, music had a rich, cinematic character and a noticeably tight kick.
As an entire system, the VM6 excels for surround sound. During our tests playing Pearl Harbour, we found that the identical speakers worked well to distribute sound evenly and created a very immersive feeling. If you want a thin speaker system that looks good and integrates well with your top-of-the-line plasma or LCD television, then the VM6 system from B&W is a great option. But don't forget to set some time aside for the tedious setup process.
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