Meet another new loudspeaker from a world-famous company whose reputation leaves nothing to be desired. The CM5 S2 sits towards bottom of the range, and doesn’t get the top-mounted tweeter, which is becoming something of a B&W tradition.
The box is attractive, crisp and modern looking. Like most products in this test it is very well put together. Finishes include lacquered gloss black, satin white and rosenut. This two-way loudspeaker sports a 25mm aluminium dome tweeter, which is double-decoupled from the cabinet with a ring of synthetic gel to cushion it and remove extraneous vibration.
It is married to a Kevlar-coned mid/bass unit, a popular choice for B&W models and used seemingly since hi-fi was in its infancy! It has an anti-resonance plug fitted to its voice coil to reduce high-frequency break up. The crossover uses audiophile- grade Mundorf capacitors and works at a highish 4kHz, while the internal wiring is said to be upgraded from its predecessor. The heavily braced cabinet is satisfyingly free from resonance when tapped.
You can tell that B&W has been in the speaker game for a good while, because the CM5 sounds impressive
right from the off. It doesn’t matter what type of music I play, this small black box sounds good. But that is not to say that its sound is the most accurate I’ve heard; you can definitely tell that it is voiced to make its mark in any hi-fi showroom, such is its punch and power.
The CM5 S2 seems to jump into everything with relish. One key reason for this is the highly propulsive bass; it doesn’t go down particularly low, but what low frequencies there are, are certainly fun. Made In England shows this to great effect; it’s a raunchy rock track, almost like a slightly down-tempo Motorhead, and the CM5 loves it. It has all the usual B&W characteristics of sounding tight, spry, crisp and clean. True, there is a little brightness to the upper midband and lower treble, but nothing excessive and just enough to pep up a pop recording.
The midband is clean up to a point, but doesn’t really have the insight of the MartinLogan or KEF. Moving to some techno from Transglobal Underground, and Temple Head is a pleasure. The CM5 shuffles along with aplomb and seems to relish the snare drum, hi-hat and kick drum work, showing how it counterpoints with the percussive piano playing very well. It hangs a decent image on Ryuichi Sakamoto’s Last Emperor soundtrack, again with a very explicit rhythmic accent. But you might say that texturally it isn’t as good as many here. There’s a definite patina to the sound of the bass/mid unit that works well when dry, taut rock music is played, but you’re left wanting a little more warmth on acoustic instruments.
Despite being one of the smaller standmount loudspeakers on test here, the sleek looking Bowers & Wilkins CM5 S2 is a decently sensitive off ering, proving relatively eff icient (B&W claims 88dB/1W/1m) and it also goes down usefully low too – although you’ll never quite manage to get the subterranean bass that some larger floorstanders are now capable of, because even B&W standmounts cannot change the laws of physics!
The woven Kevlar bass unit has grown to become a Bowers & Wilkins staple, and it gives a distinctively spry, fresh sound that is immediately recognisable as being a product of this brand. Its rear-mounted port makes it arguably more sensitive to placement than some, although this has been well implemented and doesn’t impose itself on the proceedings, unlike those of some lower-cost loudspeakers.