SB-C600 Speakers from Technics
18th April 2023
A pair of stand-mounted speakers using concentric drivers, Paul Rigby wonders if these speakers are as Premium as Technics say they are
Bias is a funny thing isn’t it? It colours opinion before you’ve gained all of the facts. We all have it. It’s part of the human condition. And that’s no bad thing. For critics, though? You have to watch out for it because it can harmful. We’ve seen lazy commentators on social media suffer from excess levels of it but it’s an affliction that occasionally happens to the best of us.
Mention Technics to me, for example, and I think of turntables. I don’t think amplifiers yet I was shocked at how good the Technics SU-G700M2 amplifier was. That experience had me wary because when I think of Technics I also don’t think speakers and yet here were are, testing the SB-C600s. Once bitten?
Spanning 173 x 293 x 283mm (7 x 12 x 12in approx.) these speakers weigh in at 6.3kg each or 14 pounds. These are 4 Ohm speakers so if you’re lucky enough to have 4 Ohm sockets on your amplifier? Use them. They also have a sensitive of only 83db so you’ll need a tow from a Land Rover to get them going. I would look at amplifiers pushing out 50W-60W, probably nearer 60W to get them moving. So the Audiolab 9000A would be a good choice, for example, in pure power terms.
In design terms? One look at the front and you’ll recognise the coaxial driver which places the 25mm (1in) tweeter in the centre of the mid/bass driver. To best align and connect all the drives together, Technics has designed its own Linear Phase Plug. The plug is a significant construction in and of itself so I’ll be interested to hear if this thing ‘gets in the way’, in sonic terms.
ANY OLD PORT…
The tweeter is made from aluminium, as is the 150mm (6in) mid/bass unit. Technics has gone to some effort to prevent the mid/bass output from being unduly perturbed by adding sloped edges to the drive and keeping the whole unit relatively shallow.
That notion of the ‘undisturbed’ can also be addressed to the design of the front-mounted bass port which, says Technics, offers a narrow dispersal and smooth output. To help, the port is ribbed, creating an almost rifle-like effect on the escaping air to focus the bass.
I’ll listen out for that very thing during the sound tests.
I have to add, when I removed these speakers from their box, I didn’t think they looked like £800 units. More like £400. Picking them up? That made me think. They felt very solid, heavy, dense. Taking a closer, more considered view of the designs on my stands? That’s when they started to look the part. But in aesthetics terms? The SB-C600s don’t scream quality. They look like a throwback to the 80s, in fact.
But does the sound have a throwback sound too or, like the SU-G700 amplifier I mentioned earlier, will they surprise me?
Let’s take a listen.
I chose the B-side from ex-Yardbird’s lead singer, Keith Relph’s debut solo single called Knowing from 1966. I played it from the Repertoire compilation, All the Fallen Angels: Solo Recordings & Collaborations 1965-1976. I suppose you would call this a high-tempo ballad draped in the psychedelia fervour of the day. The track features the vocal, bass guitar, a finger-picked acoustic that acts as rhythm guitar, an additional strummed acoustic to fatten out the sound and an oboe that wails, in a civilised fashion, in the background, taking the place of where you would possibly expect to hear a string section.
Vs Martin Logan 15i
I have a very high opinion of these speakers so the Technics have an immediate and very tough challenge to even come close to this design.
First impression? The Technics speakers need a shove to get going. They were much harder to drive than the 15i speakers. Up went the gain.
In terms of sound? Yes, I was right to expect another surprise because these speakers pushed up both eyebrows.
Three words sprang to mind immediately: cultured, tidy and bass.
Let’s take the last point first. The SB-C600 speakers have one of the best bass responses I’ve heard for the price and cabinet of this size. There is a solid confidence in bass terms. Bass is quietly dense. Deep and heavy, bass digs trenches across the soundstage which is going some for a pair of stand mounts.
Next? Tidy?. Indeed, yes. Some speakers can be a little ragged in terms of organising the soundstage but the SB-C600s offer precision in terms of imagery. There is a meticulous and clean presentation from these designs. You listen to these speakers and there is ne’er a hair out of place. The SB-C600 are almost OCD is terms of organisation.
And finally? Cultured. Absolutely. Firstly, discipline is strong here with all sonic frequencies behaving properly with no nasty booming bass or pinching treble here. The bass may be strong and the imagery exciting but there is an almost introverted aspect from the mids. These speakers are not showy. They are quietly efficient while exhibiting their sonic skills. They are not here to be flamboyant. The SB-C600 speakers are studied. They are restrained. I like that.
In these terms, the SB-C600 sounded more impressive than the 15i speakers.
Now, as I write this review, I’m not long back from the Bristol HiFi Show in the UK. When I was there I was fortunate to be on the end of a late Friday evening masterclass from Harbeth Audio’s legendary Head Designer, Alan Shaw. “Use speech during your testing,” he told me.
So for the next stage in this review? Speech!
I turned to the original BBC Radio broadcast of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on CD from 1988 (which sounds rather different in script and production terms to the studio version released originally on vinyl, I have to add).
It was here that the 15i showed its skill set because although the SB-C600 offered a good performance, it couldn’t quite match the lean and nimble vocal modulations from the Martin Logan folded-motion tweeter. The SB-C600 sounded broadly balanced and neutral but when compared to the 15i speakers, the upper mids and treble from the Technics sounded a little coloured during speech testing. That framework is perfect for music with energy but it lacked the extra measure of precision that the 15i’s tweeter so easily conveyed. But hey, that’s the dome tweeter for you. It’s a great all rounder but has trouble keeping up with the folded-motion flavour.
I know this because of the guidance offered by Alan Shaw. Thank you to him.
Vs SPENDOR A1
I then tried the closed boxed Spendor A1s which do offer a domed tweeter, flicked to vinyl and played a spot of Mike Oldfield and Incantations and a section that majored on a treated glockenspiel plus electric guitar, bass guitar plus sweeping synth in the rear.
And well, the SB-C600s sounded absolutely lovely, for a domed tweeter design. The bass was pushed up a little, more than the A1s at any rate adding a much-needed sense of tonal balance to this music while the glockenspiel rung with rich and almost romantic tones that were immensely appealing. This instrument had a distinct clarity that allowed the reverb to sweep around the soundstage giving an impression of space and air that added to the magnificence of the performance. The inherent focus I mentioned earlier, the clean and tidy nature of the soundstage provided a sense of simplicity to the performance which blended beautifully with the skill from Mike Oldfield.
You know what? In many ways, these designs sound almost like a speaker version of the Audiolab 9000A. They are good all rounders. They might be beaten at this or that singular feature but overall, looking at the bigger picture? They come out on top. They offer a wonderful tonal balance that drowns you in impressive detail, swamping the ears with information but doing so with a real sense of efficiency and style. The SB-C600 speakers are also strong in bass terms and will beat you to a bass pulp if challenged. And all of this from a relatively small cabinet.
Ideal if you’re short on space or if floorstanders are just too imposing in your listening room, the Technics surprised me once again with the SB-C600 speakers. I have to say, when Technics released its Premier range? It wasn’t kidding! The SB-C600 speakers are a worthy addition to that range and should be right up there if you’re considering a pair of speakers under £1,000.
TECHNICS SB-C600 SPEAKERS
GOOD: easy positioning, bass extension, solid build, detailed mids, balanced output
Tellurium Q cabling
HiFi Racks Speaker Stands