Surround Sound Speaker Systems

B&W VM6 Floor-standing Speakers, M-1 Surround Speakers and PV1 Subwoofer

ARTICLE INDEX

In Use

In my case the VM6's would require the floor stands or wall mounting but that's nothing a few spare side tables can't remedy for the purposes of a review. Having lived with the VM6's for quite a while (unintentionally, a couple of PC crashes will do wonders for your ability to make notes and measure speaker performance) they did the job admirably for day to day TV and movie watching at "kids are sleeping" volumes. Since they are designed to flank a flat screen I spent most of my time with TV and movies.

As I had finally gotten around to upgrading an old standby DVD to Bluray I decided to give "Mr. Anderson" – aka "Neo" his due once again. When pushed a little harder for the true Home Theater experience I found that the speakers need a fair bit of power to really reach theater levels which is reflected in their 86db sensitivity numbers. I found myself turning the volume up further than I "normally" would to get to reference levels. Again, this is probably an unrealistic volume for the design purpose of these speakers as wall mount flat screen complements. At higher listening levels I could never really get the treble to shine despite a few EQ attempts on my receiver. It was flat and at higher volumes muddled sounding – and I'm not a fan of bright speakers to begin with. The normally lovely tinkling of shell casings and broken glass during the Morpheus rescue sequence was there but pushed into the background.

Voices and music were well portrayed in the midrange with male and female voices sounding accurate and with more depth and tone than I would have expected but the soundstage for theatre viewing was not quite as wide as I would have hoped. The bass response was a pleasant surprise. When the VM6 moved from a testing position in the middle of the room to a listening position against a wall the response was good down to the mid 50's - matching the rated 55Hz response. The same performance characteristics were present when listening to 2 channel music but the soundstage didn't really come alive until I did a lot of repositioning of the speakers. Moving the speakers a few feet closer together with no toe in seemed to do the trick in my room. This particular tweak would likely evidence a fair degree of complexity for day to day listening once they are bolted to your wall. I'd suggest moving your chair instead.

The M-1s were well suited for their surround role and provided good fill in for the side channel in a 5.1 setup. I normally use dipoles for my surround and directs for rear so moving to a 5.1 setup with just two direct radiators for sides I was not expecting a wide sound field. After level matching and auto Eq. they blended in quite well. I think I might be actually starting to prefer direct radiators even for side surrounds (sorry THX!). Timbre match to the VM6 was good, which was not surprising given the technology trickle down of the Nautilus tube loaded tweeters. While the Bass rolled off very quickly below 80Hz, for surrounds this was no issue with proper bass management and the PV1 available to fill in.

The PV1 - it's a sub – but it's small, it has a very modern looking design and therefore a logical assumption would be that it can't really be considered "seriously" for Home Theater use. Sure, it can provide some bass fill for otherwise bass compromised, "design forward" satellite mains but bass depth, strength and tone will be sacrificed – right? Well I won't go so far as to say the sub can compete with the big boys – it definitely won't pressurize my medium sized (2100 ft3) room at low frequencies but it swings far heavier than its size had lead me to believe. The almost total lack of cabinet vibration at any frequency and volume level even to the touch is a neat trick but for serious HT bass extension and power levels at low extension you will need to look elsewhere. Tucked into the favorite bass corner in my room, the PV1 had good extension down to the mid 20Hz levels but fell off rapidly after that. Being a sealed design the PV1 was fairly responsive, more so than my multi ported SVS and seemed most at home in the 40Hz-100Hz range.