Bowers and Wilkins speakers are built for many decades of use so speakers from the 1980’s should still be enjoyable today. There are great deals to be had on eBay however there are few things to be aware of when making a purchase.
The most common thing to look out for is damaged tweeters (the high frequency speaker, typically the smallest unit in the cabinet). The simple rule is to see if the the dome is dented or the dome is missing. If either of these things have happened then you will not have high frequency sound. Normally the kids will push their fingers into the dome and or pull them off (and the small coil too).
The speakers (not the tweeters) will still work but will reduce the overall range of the speakers.
Many of the DM600 range are sold with this damage and most owners are oblivious of the reduced range because the speakers still sound pretty good (ironically). It’s only when you compare these speakers with a fully functioning pair that you realise what you are missing out on.
B&W will not supply spares to the general public so you will need to refer to specialist dealers that can be found on eBay who will refurbish the tweeter (they replace the dome diaphragm and coil) or finding a used/ new unit. Expect to pay between £45 – £65 per unit.
Damaged Bass (Woofer) Drive Unit
The bass driver or woofer is designed to push large amounts of air and so there are areas to check for correct operation and performance. Age and quality of manufacture can effect the driver (it has to move a lot of air over its life) however it’s typically children/ pets/ mechanical damage that are the biggest culprits.
Torn Rubber Surround
This part joins the cone (paper or kevlar) to the frame of the drive unit. It ensures that there is an airtight seal & provides support of the cone as it moves in and out. Sometimes the rubber perishes or torn. This will massively affect the performance of the bass driver and should be considered unrepairable. Many bass drivers are available on eBay and can be found (used) for between £45 – £65 per unit.
Typically this is caused by a heavy object falling against the cone (children fingers are typically not able to puncture the cone and they’ll simply play with the movement of the cone inside and out). If this part is punctured then the air that it is designed to push in and out is massively reduced. Typically there will also be a noise as the cone damage edges vibrate without support. The drive unit will need to be replaced. Many bass drivers are available on eBay and can be found (used) for between £45 – £65 per unit.
Damaged or Pushed-in Centre Dust Cover
The centre of the bass driver is typically covered over with an aesthetic cover to hide the internal workings of the driver. Children’s fingers can easily push the cover in (normally made with strengthened paper) or even tear it. Whilst not necessarily pretty to look at, it doesn’t affect the performance of the driver. However if the cover is torn, watch it when its working and see if there is any noises as it vibrates. If it does, either glue it or remove it.
Missing or Damaged Front Grill
Sometimes the grills that cover the driver units are missing from the speakers. This is purely an aesthetic part of the speaker and is usually missing because the previous owner didn’t like them on and wanted to see the driver units instead (the yellow kevlar units of my DM602’s still thrill me). Those covers normally get lost in a garage/ loft or cupboard. If you are missing them and want to get them for your speakers, eBay will normally offer them for about £25 – £35 a pair.
If the material that covers the is damaged then it’s very easy to replace it with new material. If you search eBay for “audio grill cloth” or “acoustic fabric/ cloth” you will easily find suppliers. Typically pay between £10 – £15 for enough cloth to cover both grills. Many colours are available if you wanted to ‘up cycle’ the look.
Below is a video from a US supplier.
Typically the cabinets will get a bit knocked over its life and is usually just a cosmetic issue. The black cabinets are quite easy to refurbish with a black wood dye that can be rubbed into the scratches and any chips out of the edges. With the natural wood cabinets, it’s normally sun fading or water damage on the tops from plant pots or cups of tea. Again, suitable use of wood furniture dyes found in the local DIY/ hardware stores can be used.
Alternatively, and I’ve seen this to great effect, you could get a local vinyl sign-writing shop to wrap your speakers in a high-gloss or textured vinyl to suit your decor (white, red or black gloss wrap can look amazing in the right room setting as can carbon-fibre).
If the damage is too great then stripped cabinets (all drivers removed) are available from eBay for around £50.
See below for a DIY solution.