- Written by Brian Alvarez
- Published on 28 July 2011
Recordings are presented in an astonishing new light. Subtlety of timbres and textures come forth along with an amazingly expansive and deep soundstage. For a relatively short speaker the CM8s also project a very tall soundstage, the acoustic image never localizes itself at tweeter height. The image is taller than the physical speaker and also extends far beyond the lateral location as well.
Well recorded music stopped me in my tracks. The B&Ws instantly grabbing my attention and drawing me deep into the soul and passion of the music. The very same qualities that make the CM8 so magical also render it unflattering to poor recordings. A bit heartbreaking, as previously loved music seemed almost unlistenable with the CM8s.
Punk albums from my youth are not enjoyed through the CM8s. The refined nature of the Bowers and Wilkins don't flatter these recordings. Which is probably ok, the CM8s are a bit too refined even for English punk.
One of the most enjoyable sessions with the CM8s involved listening to the dub influenced track Big Calm from Morcheeba's album of the same name. Kick drums possess an immediacy and transient attack that form a solid foundation to the rest of the music. Bass lines were both deep and agile. The music presented was rich, detailed and intimate. One can lock in on a given instrument and hear all the nuances and timbre or listen to the whole musical presentation.
I've yet to hear a speaker at this price without some short coming. In fact, the few short comings in performance revolve around the integration of the bass to the midrange and tweeter. Bass errors on the side of being slightly dry. I prefer a drier bass with good pitch definition and agility to outright force and impact. In general the quality of the bass is very good, deep, taught and dynamic. Yet, at times the bass struggles to keep up with the pace and speed of the FST and tweeter. Bass lines can lag ever so slightly behind the rest of the music. This was especially apparent when listening to Mark Ronson & The Business Intl. Listening to The Bike Song from the album Record Collection, the bass line struggles to keep pace and feels detached and aloof. It's not apparent on every recording, but it is there.
Unlike larger floor standers the CM8s prefer moderate listening levels. Pushing the speakers too hard results in an overly bright tonal balance. The output of the tweeter far exceeding the output of the FST and bass units. Kept at normal listening levels similar to those used for 2-way monitors brings everything back into line. Realistic listening levels of rock music are not the CM8s forte. They prefer more real world volumes. If you prefer to feel your music, the CM8 is not the speaker for you.
Frequency integration is better than most three way floorstanders I've heard at this price. Most full range speakers often sound to me as three distinct sections doing their own thing and not properly integrated. The CM8 manages to present one of the most cohesive frequency images from top to bottom I've heard, even if the B&Ws are not the most tonally neutral speaker.
Imaging while being ruthlessly precise and accurate, is also fairly narrow. I've owned many pairs of B&W speakers over the years and this seems to be a consistent trait. The sweet spot is fairly narrow and suitable to just one listener. Moving one's head eight or more inches away from center results in a near complete collapse of the stereo image. When in the sweet spot you will be treated to one of the most accurate and realistic imaging at this price. Instruments are anchored in space with a crystal clear picture of where every sound is emanating.
These are small limitations and far outweighed by everything the CM8s do right. After all I've yet to hear the perfect speaker. Of all the components in hi-fi, the speaker is still the most fundamentally difficult to perfect. The CM8s strike a great balance for those seeking a highly musical speaker at normal listening levels.