B&W John Bowers Silver Signature loudspeaker System context

Sidebar 2: System context

Power amplifiers used to drive the B&Ws were either a pair of Mark Levinson No.20.6 monoblocks or a YBA 2 HC, while the preamplifier was variously the Melos SHA-1 headphone amplifier used as a line-stage, the YBA 2, the Classé Six Mk.II, the remote-controlled Mark Levinson No.38, or the very promising McCormack TLC-1 buffered passive control unit. A Mod Squad Phono Drive EPS amplified LP signals from a Linn Sondek/Cirkus/Trampolin/Lingo/Ekos/Arkiv setup sitting on an ArchiDee table. Digital source was a Mark Levinson No.30 driven by a Mark Levinson No.31 transport via Madrigal AES/EBU cable.

Interconnects used were all AudioQuest's AudioTruth Lapis x3; while speaker cable was B&W's own. All source components and preamps were plugged into a Power Wedge 116, itself plugged into one of my listening room's two specially installed dedicated AC circuits and fitted with the Power Enhancer option.

The Silver Signatures sat on their own 21.5" slate stands, later replaced by 18" and 24" lead-shot-filled Celestion Si stands, interfaced to the stand top-plates with small Blu-Tack pads. The B&Ws were bolted to their slate stands with the supplied hardware; all the stands were spiked to the tile-on-concrete floor beneath the carpet and pad.

My dedicated room measures approximately 19' by 16.5', with a 9' ceiling. The wall behind the speakers is faced with books and LPs, while further book- and CD shelves occupy the positions on the sidewalls where the first reflection from each speaker would occur. The room is carpeted, and there are patches of Sonex foam on the decking'n'viga ceiling to damp the first reflections of the sound. The other wall has RPG Abffusors and ASC Tube Traps behind the listening seat to absorb and diffuse what would otherwise be early rear-wall reflections of the sound that might blur the stereo imaging precision. More Tube Traps are used in the room corners to even out the room's bass resonances, the result being a relatively uniform reverberation time of around 200ms from the upper bass to the mid-treble, falling to 150ms above 10kHz. The room sounds relatively dry, without a lot of bass bloom, but is extremely articulate.—John Atkinson