First Listen

I bought this pair of speakers fully expecting to have to repair the bass units. I was also prepared to work on xovers and possibly even the electrostatic elements. I had heard so many good reports about these speakers that I was quite prepared to spend more than a thousand pounds in order to get close to original performance. As it turned out this was not necessary, although I did have to do some considerable work.

My friend "Keith" and I had just driven the speakers back from Tunbridge My Croft Epoch/TS II system amplification (click to enlarge)Wells to Birmingham. Due the the size of these beasts we had to use two cars, we unloaded the cars and reassembled the speakers in my listening room. We switched on my system and plugged the DM's in, I decided that it was best to leave them for 45 mins or so to give the panels a chance to charge. A couple of tea's later we were confident that there were no obvious problems with the panels, no pops or fizzles. There had been no problems with fuses (which had been checked prior to switch on for correct values etc).

We couldn't wait any longer so a CD went into the draw Loreena McKennit album cover(Lorena McKennit "The mask and the mirror"). I eased the volume up to a modest level and sat down in front of the DM's for the very first time. Lorena's voice was clearer and sweeter than I had ever heard it. I was instantly bowled over by the resolution that I was hearing, but there was an imbalance in the sound I was hearing - very little bass output with a very slight distortion. It was obvious that my orignal suspicions about the condition of the bass units had been confirmed.

I was disappointed that my enjoyment of these great speakers would have to end for now, I did not want to risk damaging the bass units any further. We switched off and started the strip down (see refurbishment page).

The second session

Months later I collected the bass units from Wembley loudspeakers and eagerly set about putting them back to their former glory. My friend Keith had turned up to help me put the speakers back together and after a few Evanescence Fallen album coverhours work we set them up in the listening room. I switched the system on and let the DM's charge up. The very first track that I chose to play was off the Evanescence album (Fallen) "My Immortal". Usually whilst played through my modified Spendor SP1's this track is presented fairly bright and forward, Amy's voice is so piercing and the harmonies and overlays so subtle that it makes this track a real test for any audio system. My first surprise was the amount of real body that filled every note, not only tonally correct but real force(rumble) at the lower end. These speakers produce suprising amounts of low fequency bass on a track which is not normally a bass fest. The best aspect was the way these speakers present the soundstage, not quite as laid back as a Quad ESL 63 but very similar but in many ways more coherant. I was listening to resolution, separation and overall organic presentation which shocked and delighted at the same time. Maybe this was the perfect loudspeaker?

Two tracks later on the same album answered the question. No, not the perfect loudspeaker but a very good Another British classic the Spendor SP1 (click to enlarge)one all the same. The sixth track on the album "Tourniquet" has very different demands to "My Immortal" it is a very fast, dynamic and loud rock affair. My Spendor Sp1's keep up with the attack very well but sound a tad bright My other speakers Quad ESL 63's convey much of the detail within the tune but don't convey the attack and thrust of the tune very well, they also get slightly confused when there is a lot going on.

On the other hand the B&W DM 70's conveyed the attack of the track very well but got a little more confused than the ESL 63's, it was almost as if the bass unit and ES treble panel had parted company (slightly), some of the magic had gone. It is worth noting that my amp is a relatively low power Croft Twinstar II (hybrid with solid state output stage), probably not best suited to driving the sort of loads an ES panel is likely to present. Maybe a high power tube amp would be better suited?

Conclusion

Over the course of this and many other nights I have listened to many genres of music from classical to rock, folk to techno, pop to hip hop and everything in between. The DM 70's are happy with everything except the very dynamic rock and dance numbers. As these are usually played loud, are complex and fast, all at the same time the cohesion tends to get a little lost.

Now please don't misunderstand me, 25 Watts of DM70 music power is more than enough to get the neighbours complaining to the council. It's just that when the DM's are working this hard they are not as convincing as with more sedate genres such as folk or classical. Again I will say that my Croft Twinstar is only a 25 Watt amp.

Overall the DM70 is a magical loudspeaker, forget Rogers LS3/5a's or even My satin white Continentals (click to enlarge)Spendor BC1's these are ok but you haven't heard really refined treble till you have heard the DM's ES panel (similar to, but superior to ESL 57's and 63's). Amar Bizwas of Eminent Audio said that B&W must have hit a golden ratio for the size and shape of an ES panel. I would have to agree. As I have said, The B&W DM70 Continentals do not cope brilliantly with every type of music. But what they do well, they do better than anything else I have heard to date. The best speaker B&W ever made? Maybe..........

Matt O'Donoghue 2006