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Bowers and Wilkins 685 S2 The Bowers & Wilkins 685 S2 stand-mount speakers promise better treble response and a more understated design than found in the previous model.

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Bowers and Wilkins

While the life cycle of most home video equipment is measured in months, speakers in particular tend to hang around a lot longer. The Bowers and Wilkins 685 debuted almost seven years ago and is only now being replaced with the 685 S2.

The appearance of the B&W 685 S2 is very similar to the original but is a little more subtle -- the striking silver nameplate is now missing, for example. The stand-mount speaker retains the same size, with a 6.5-inch woofer and a box 13.5 inches high by 7.5 inches wide and 12.8 inches deep. As the name implies, you will need to either buy a set of stands for these or mount them in an AV cabinet.

But the changes aren't simply cosmetic; the company completely redesigned its iconic tube-loaded tweeter. As with all Bowers and Wilkins speakers, there is some trickle-down in terms of technologies; the 685 now features a dual-layer tweeter that was first featured on the CM10.

The new tweeter features a thin aluminum dome surrounded by a thicker aluminum ring, and it is decoupled from the main cabinet by a layer of gel. B&W claims the result is enhanced treble clarity compared with the previous version.

Like previous models the speakers have a front-mounted port, which means they can be placed close to walls, and the resultant frequency response extends from 52Hz to 22kHz.

While the company is also updating the other models in the line -- from the diminutive 686 to the towering 683 -- the 685 (and 602 before it) has arguably offered the best value in the range.

The original 685s are a great-sounding set of speakers for the money, and I am looking forward to hearing any improvements the company has made with the S2s.

The speakers are shipping now and feature a small increase over the previous version from $650 to $700 a pair.

Meanwhile the other models in the 600 range include the smaller 686 S2 ($550), floorstanding 684 S2 ($1150) and flagship 683 S2 ($1650).