Bowers & Wilkins announced its first new products of 2020 during an online press event last week: Signature versions of its model 702 floor-standing and model 705 stand-mount loudspeakers. B&W says it has incorporated components and design ideas originally developed for its higher-end speakers to improve the acoustic performance of the 700 series, and that no two pair will share the same grain pattern on their wood-veneer cabinets.
According to B&W, the speakers blend a new crossover design with ideas and technologies first conceived and developed for its 800 Diamond Series product line, including a solid-body tweeter-on-top design, Continuum mid-range drivers, and Aerofoil Profile bass drivers.
The performance of the new Carbon Dome tweeter promises to fit between the diamond tweeter built into the 800 Diamond Series and the aluminum tweeter that came with the original 700 series back in 2017. It’s a 30-micron aluminum dome coated with carbon to make it stiffer and then joined to a 300-micron carbon ring. The phrase “solid body” describes the tweeter’s enclosure, which is milled from a solid block of aluminum and weighs more than two pounds. The tweeter body’s mass allows it to also function as a heatsink for the dome.
The Continuum fiber used in the fabrication of the mid-range drivers, which are manufactured in the UK, replaces the aramid (aka Kevlar) material previously used. The company says its Continuum fiber results in a driver with less unwanted resonance and superior transparency. The Aerofoil woofers, which are included only in the floor-standing 702 Signature, are fabricated from inner and outer paper skins sandwiching a fiber skin for added stiffness.
The Bowers & Wilkins 705 stand-mount speakers are a two-way design outfitted with 25mm carbon dome tweeters and 165mm mid/bass cones in a vented enclosure. They will be priced at $4,000 a pair when they ship in July. The B&W 702 floorstanders are a three-way design with the same 25mm tweeters, a 150mm mid-range, and three 165mm Aerofoil Profile bass drivers in a vented enclosure. These will be priced at $6,500 a pair and will also be available in July.
The cabinets for both 700-series Signature speakers are wrapped in an ebony-colored wood veneer sourced from Alpi, an Italian wood company that follows sustainable harvesting practices. B&W applies nine coats of finish to the cabinets, including primer, a base coat, and lacquer. Bright metal trim rings surround the mid/bass (on the 702) and mid-range cones (on the 705) to provide a visual accent, and the tweeters get silver-finished grills. A Signature identity plate is fastened to the back of each speaker.
B&W has been on a bit of a roller-coaster ride the past few years, merging with the Silicon Valley home-automation company Eva Automation in 2016 to help bring its Formation Wireless Music System to market in 2019. Earlier this year, the company told the British high-end audio publication What Hi-Fi? that it was restructuring and forming a board of directors independent of Eva Automation. And earlier this month, Sound United LLC—which owns Denon, Marantz, Polk Audio, and several other high-profile home audio brands—announced its intention to acquire the company.
Curiously, however, Sound United’s press release included no quotes from B&W executives, who said during the press conference only that the Sound United acquisition talks were at an early stage. We’ll report more details on that front as we get them.