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Ascends CBM-170 vs B&W DM 601 (1 Viewer)


Apr 19, 2003
I'm looking for some mains and center to build up a home theater system. I've been listening to Paradigms Mini Monitors, but decided to go to a different dealer and give the B&W 601 and the NHT SB2 a try. I was very impressed by the B&Ws; excellent imaging and there seemed to be a clarity that wasn't there with the NHTs.

I've also been considering Ascend's CBM-170s, based on the excellent reviews I've read here and elsewhere. Has anyone had the chance to compare the two? I'll be doing about 75/25 movies/music, but that might change based on how good the speakers I've heard sound.


Stunt Coordinator
Sep 25, 2002
I never A/B the 601 and Ascends, but I did consider the 600 series (I was looking at the 602) and ended up with the Ascends. I haven't regreted not getting the B&Ws at all. I have a friend with a pair of 602s and another with a pair of CDM 1NTs. I'll have to see if I can compare them sometime.

To give you some idea of my impressions though, I did A/B the B&W 602 with Dynaudios Audience 42s and prefered the Dynaudios. And there was even more of a difference between the 603 and the Audience 62 - I didn't like the 603 much because the low end wasn't as clean.

Victor Chan

Stunt Coordinator
Dec 10, 2002

I compared the Ascend CBM-170s with the B&W 601 S3s last month and thought the Ascends were more to my liking. I auditioned both set of speakers using a variety of music: Mozart, Vivaldi, Diana Krall, Norah Jones, Metallica, Nirvana, Bob Marley, etc. Unfortunately, did not have an opportunity to compare them in a home theater setup.

With the B&Ws, I initially thought the midrange clarity was phenomenal, causing me to comment that I was hearing detail that I hadn't heard before, even with recordings I was intimately familiar with. However, when I focused on the same "new detail" that I found on the B&W when listening to the Ascends, I noticed that they WERE there, but blended in more seamlessly with the rest of the music so that they didn't draw attention to themselves.

While the B&Ws seemingly increased detail was a novelty at first, I thought the Ascend's ability to contain the same amount of clarity and detail but in a manner where no aspect of the music jumped out at me was the more valuable characteristic in the long run. Also, the Ascends are known as an extremely neutral and accurate speaker, making me think that the B&Ws emphasis in the midrange must be a result of some coloration or deviation from neutrality and a high priority for me was finding a speaker that faithfully reproduced the original recording without adding any sonic signature.

But that is my view. Their is nothing wrong with liking the voicing of the B&Ws and if, as you had intimated, you like the forward sound of the B&Ws, then you may not be happy with the Ascends. NHTs have been known to be very neutral speakers and if you thought the NHT SB2s were "boring" or less detailed in comparison, you might find the Ascends, which have a similar neutrality, to be just a "dull" in comparison with the 601s. I really don't think you can go wrong with the 601s if their sound is to your liking. After all, B&Ws have a great reputation and sells so many speakers, that their voicing must be attractive to a lot of people.

I thought the clarity of the treble was a draw between the two speakers, with the Ascends perhaps a bit less harsh on bright rock recordings. Soundstaging and imaging was very good on both.

The bass was definitely one place where the B&Ws had a clear advantage over the Ascends. They played low enough that I think I would be happy with them even w/o a subwoofer, even though sub reinforcement is always welcome. The Ascends, on the other hand only play down to about 70Hz, which almost makes a subwoofer a necessity for music and a definite prerequisite when it comes to movies.

Anyway, sorry for the long exposition. The best thing to do, if you really can't decide is to order the Ascends and then compare them to the 601s in the store. That way, you don't have to go on my or anyone else's opinion and their won't be any nagging reservations on your final decision.

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