British audio company Bowers & Wilkins will begin delivering this month a loudspeaker series that Richard E. Campbell, the company’s new chief revenue officer, billed as “a significant technological evolution” during a press preview last month: the Bowers & Wilkins 700 Series, which replaces the company’s mid-level CM series.
“The 700 Series design intent is to use cascading technology – to use 800 Series Diamond technology where appropriate,” according to Andy Kerr, director, product marketing and communications; it incorporates such innovations as the 800’s Continuum midrange driver, first employed in that high-end Bowers & Wilkins range in late 2015, and a modified version of the Aerofoil profile bass driver, which uses paper rather than carbon fiber skins and a different sandwich filling material (EPS). The new range also includes top-mounted aluminum tweeters on two models: the flagship 702 S2 and the 705 S2.
The series consists of: the flagship 702 S2 three-way floorstanding model ($2,250 each); the 705 S2 two-way stand-mounted speaker ($1,250 each); the 703 S2 three-way floorstanding speaker ( $1,750 each); the 704 S2 three-way floorstanding speaker ($1,250 each); the 706 S2 two-way bookshelf/stand-mounted speaker ($900 each); the 707 S2 two-way bookshelf/stand-mounted speaker ($600 each); the HTM72 S2 two way center-channel ($800 each); the HTM71 S2 three-way center channel ($1,350 each); and the DB4S 10-inch single-driver forward-firing drive unit with 1,000 watts of Class D amplification and digital preamp ($1,600 each). The FS-700 S2 speaker stand (for use with the 707 S2, 706 S2, and 705 S2; $250 each) is also available.
Various models in the line carry several new, tailor-made engineering breakthroughs, Kerr said. One such innovation is the new Carbon Dome tweeter, which he said bridges the gap between the Aluminum Double Dome used on the 600 Series and the Diamond Dome used on the 800 Series Diamond. The front is a 30-micron aluminum dome stiffened by a carbon coating and the other section is a 300-micron carbon ring bonded to the structure’s inner face, resulting in exceptional stiffness and distortion resistance without high cost, said Kerr. Further, he said, this design allows the mass of the tweeter to do double duty as a heatsink.
The Continuum midrange cone, on every model in the new range, is said by Kerr to yield more apparent resolution because there is less noise in the signal path; before the debut of this series, the Model 805 was the most affordable speaker in Bowers & Wilkins’ line to sport the Continuum cone, he said. The company said that this cone shows “continuity of approach” with Kevlar in that it is a woven composite yielding highly controlled breakup and better detail.
All of the three-way models boast an improved midrange chassis design using an optimized aluminum chassis that includes more “legs” in its design and is stiffer than the zinc chassis in use on the earlier CM series; its design is enhanced with a tuned mass damper on the front of the chassis for better resonance control. Further, a new midrange decoupling system has been introduced into the 700 Series that is of a simpler design than that used in the 800 Series Diamond.
Bowers & Wilkins’ Future Direction
The 700 Series introduction was made in the wake of the departure of B&W Group president Doug Henderson, and approximately 15 months after Bowers & Wilkins’ acquisition by the Silicon Valley-based technology company EVA Automation.
At a dinner on the night of demonstrations that were held at the company’s Boston-area U.S. offices, executives assured press members that the Bowers & Wilkins roadmap was not changing. “The scale of investment and resources has been unparalleled” in the time since the acquisition, said Kerr, citing the addition of engineers to the company’s team. At the same time, Campbell said the company’s business development personnel roster was being increased. The company perceives products such as its headphone lines and its Zeppelin Wireless audio system “as our consumer entry point of customer engagement,” as Campbell put it, to attract buyers “not yet engaged” with Bowers & Wilkins. “They have to know that the brand exists, and we can get their attention… There’s an opportunity to leverage the Zeppelin and our headphones to give consumers the opportunity to experience the brand – to spread the word.”
Bowers & Wilkins’ brand outreach to the marketplace also manifests in its partnerships with various automotive brands including Volvo, BMW, McLaren and Maserati. “We are careful who we create affinity with,” said Campbell. “ One car in three [sold with the brand as an option] is opting in, and with a one-car-in-three attachment we can get a whole group of new people – new customers. Our auto strategy is considerably about visibility to the consumer.”
Further outreaches to a broader market could include other product categories, said Kerr – but he pointed out that the approach must be measured, and with introductions of singular products and unique technologies. “That’s clearly an area to grow into, to get in front of people we need to,” he told reporters. “There are only a certain number of people who will buy a six-foot $30,000 speaker.” Whatever directions are taken, Kerr said, “it’s not about being first to the market but about trying to be the best.”
Added Campbell, “Our core products are pushing the technology envelope. With our future products, we will be just as demanding about quality.”