B&W’s New 700 Series Is A Major Innovation In Mid-Price Speaker Design

Classic British loudspeaker brand Bowers & Wilkins has been designing and building some special speakers for more than half a century. The company has a tradition of trickling down its innovation to more affordable speakers after a few years. If you are prepared to wait a short while, you can get yourself a pair of high-performing speakers that would have cost much more just a few years before.

The latest speaker range from Bowers & Wilkins is the new 700 Series, which incorporates some of the same technologies found in the brand’s flagship range, the 800 Series Diamond, as used in many of the world’s most famous recording studios, including Abbey Road. The new 700 Series is designed to bring that studio sound to a home setting.

To put this bold claim to the test, I borrowed a pair of 707 S3 speakers that benefit from Bowers & Wilkins’ cascading technologies. The company claims that the new 700 S3 Series results from a three-year development program that has seen almost every element of the range transformed, including cabinet design, construction and finish, along with key acoustic and mechanical improvements.

The new 700 Series is the company’s most comprehensive range of speakers, consisting of eight different models, including three floor-standing speakers, three stand-mount speakers, and two dedicated center channels for home theatre use. The 707 S3 that I auditioned is the baby of the range and is aimed at people with limited space and a more modest budget.

The first thing I noticed about the 707 speakers was their slimmer cabinets with the attractive curved front baffle. This new design lessens the acoustic impact of the baffle by minimizing the ‘cabinet diffraction’ effect. The designers say they have re-engineered the cabinet so that the boxy sound most speaker cabinets produce has been wiped away to produce music that sounds like it’s not coming from a cabinet.

The new speakers are now available in an all-new Mocha finish, a highly-grained wood that accents the slimmer proportions of the 700 Series cabinets. The new Mocha joins Gloss Black and Satin White finishes and will be available globally. A fourth Rosenut finish will also be available exclusively in Asian and Pacific markets.

The 707 S3 I reviewed has the same Carbon Dome tweeter as the other speakers in the series. The tweeters take care of the treble frequencies and have vented voice coils with upgraded magnets. The upshot of this new tweeter is to produce one of the most tightly focussed sound stages I’ve ever heard from a small speaker. The stereo separation is stunning.

The bass and midrange frequencies on the 707 S3 are delivered with a single mid/bass drive unit that has been upgraded with a new motor system and improved chassis for cleaner and more solid output. While the 707 S3 doesn’t and can’t deliver sub-woofer levels of bass, the speakers put out a sterling performance that projects the rhythm of the music in a wonderfully musical way. Listening to these tiny speakers is quite a revelation.

New to the Bowers & Wilkins 700 Series is a new set of 800 Series Diamond-inspired speaker terminals that feature more substantial contact connections that are better laid out for use with spade-terminated speaker cable. The terminals feed the signal to new and upgraded crossovers that still use Mundorf capacitors but with enhanced multiple bypass capacitors and improved heatsinking for a cleaner performance.

All the 700 Series speakers have larger diameter Flowports that offer more substantial output, ensuring a bigger and more expansive sound, depending on the cabinet size. To listen to the 707 S3, I also borrowed a pair of Bowers & Wilkins FS-700 S3 speaker stands. The stands are quite expensive but can be bolted directly to the speakers and have spikes to ensure they are as solid possible. You can even fill the column of the speaker stands with sand to give them more bulk. The difference is incredible. I am not one for audio snake oil, but the FS-700 S3 stands also match the slimmer and curved profile of the new cabinet design.

To put the 707 S3 through their paces, I listened to some classic Simon & Garfunkel. Despite being recorded 50 years or more ago, probably around the same length of time that Bowers & Wilkins has been in business, Art Garfunkel’s and Paul Simon’s voices were separated to the left and right in a way I have never heard before. The 707 S3s deliver the sound directly into the air without anything in the way.

The absence of the boxy sound that you get with so many smaller loudspeakers is astonishing. Bowers & Wilkins claims it has taken away the sound of the cabinet and that’s no idle claim. The 707 S3 has an open and airy quality that is positively spine-tingling. Yes, these smallest members of the 700 S3 family are a bit light on bass, but that doesn’t seem to matter. What they lack in bottom-end oomph, the 707 S3s more than make up for with their tight and accurate stereo soundstage. These speakers can strip out a layer of fog from most recordings. The Carbon Dome tweeters are both sweet and precise. Simply awesome.

Verdict: Although I’ve only auditioned the 707 S3 speakers, I think I have got the measure of the improvements that Bowers & Wilkins has made with the slimline cabinets, Diamond-inspired tweeter and refined crossover. These mini bookshelf speakers are superb and when paired with the new FS-700 S3 stands, they offer a level of sound reproduction that is unmatched for the money. I’ve always loved Bowers & Wilkins since I bought myself a pair of DM 303 bookshelf speakers some 20 years ago. They still look and sound great but looking at them, it’s astonishing to see how far Bowers & Wilkins has come. If you want the perfect balance between price and performance from a pair of speakers, listen closely to the Bowers & Wilkins 700 S3 Series.

Pricing & Availability: The new 707 S3 bookshelf speakers, as reviewed here, will be available with the rest of the range from September 21st. The 707 S3 speakers cost $1,800 / £1,300 / €1,500. The FS-700 S3 stands cost $800 / £800 / €900.

More info: www.bowerswilkins.com

Tech Specs

  • Dimensions (HxWxD): 300 x 165 x 247mm cabinet only.
  • Weight: 6.16kg.
  • Tweeter: 25mm (1 inch) decoupled Carbon Dome.
  • Bass/midrange: 130mm (5 in) Continuum cone with Flowport.
  • Description: 2-way vented box.
  • Frequency range: 45Hz – 33kHz.
  • Frequency response: 50Hz – 28kHz ±3dB.
  • Sensitivity: 84dB SPL (2.83Vrms, 1m).
  • Nominal impedance: 8Ω (minimum 4.0Ω).
  • Recommended amplifier power: 30W – 100W into 8Ω.
  • Cabinet finishes: Gloss Black, Satin White, Mocha.

Source: www.forbes.com

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