B&W XT4| $TBA (avail July 2006) | www.bwspeakers.com |
For: Slick looks; excellent build; great at high volumes; powerful bass; refinement
Against: Lose a little magic at lower volume settings; lack midrange finesse
Verdict: These are style speakers without compromise, competing with the very best at this price level
Clever design deserves plenty of credit. The XT4’s slim cabinet is made from a curved aluminium extrusion: the shape and material adding rigidity and strength over wooden alternatives. Its curved profile also helps to minimise internal standing waves, helping these floorstanders to produce a crisp, clear sound.
However, clarity doesn’t top the bill of talents. It’s of a high order, but the deep, powerful bass will get your attention first. These B&Ws are a proper three-way design (unlike most rivals), benefiting from a dedicated bass driver that has been optimised to deliver the low stuff with authority. That driver – a single 13cm paper/Kevlar cone – doesn’t thrill on paper, but in action it not only shows surgical precision in tracking fast-moving basslines, but also the might to shift large quantities of air when the music demands.
The good news doesn’t end there: pleasing detail resolution, a smooth tonal balance and a great deal of refinement add to the list of plus points and make these speakers ideal for use with everything from Tchaikovsky’s Op.31 Marche Slave to the Arctic Monkey’s latest CD.
They’re not even overly fussy about positioning either: out from a rear wall firing straightahead works just fine.
The XT4s love high volumes, and deliver the sound with impressive composure. There’s a trade-off, though, and that’s a loss of sonic sparkle at lower levels. Other shortcomings include a smoothing of midrange nuances – so the likes of Nina Simone’s Feeling Good aren’t as dramatic as they could be.
That said, we still rate these speakers very highly. They have a blend of talents hard to find anywhere else and so positively demand a place on any shortlist.