High-performance audio brand Bowers & Wilkins is moving. Well, not the entire company. Specifically, the researchers and engineers who develop and fine tune the brand’s products have a new home.
For more than 37 years, B&W has called Steyning, England something of a second home. There, in the tiny south-England town that’s about 15 minutes North of its Worthing headquarters, the Steyning Research Establishment is situated among the rolling hills and alongside other small shops and other establishments. It’s in this dedicated research facility that B&W has achieved some incredible advancements in the world of high-performance audio.
However, since the company was acquired by EVA Automation—owned by Gideon Yu, the current co-owner of the San Francisco 49ers and former Facebook CFO—B&W has been on a rather ambitious path of expanding. In an interview with Dealerscope, Bowers & Wilkins Chief Revenue Officer Richard Campbell said they’ve hired 40 percent more R&D staff since the acquisition in May of 2016.
And because of those efforts to grow and continue to innovate in its category, B&W realized that it had ultimately outgrown the Steyning facility. To accommodate, B&W announced plans to move into a newer and much larger, 30,000-square-foot research facility in Southwater, England—just 20 minutes further north from their current home. No specific date was given, but B&W did say, in a statement, that the new facility would open later this year.
“This is a big step for us, we're truly excited about being able to more than double the space of our facility for research and development of our new products,” Campbell said. “We're going to go ahead and invest in additional resources, we're going to basically double the labs, double the sound chambers, and we'll have some of these tools and the types of resources that are needed for folks to do their jobs.”
In particular, Campbell said the new space will allow for the team in-house to place greater focus on new product categories that B&W hopes to dive deeper into. Automotive and headphones, for example, will have dedicated areas within the new facility.
“Not only will we have a larger space, but we'll have a space that's designed correctly for us to facilitate the development of the work that we're doing,” Campbell said. “We will actually have a vehicle from our car manufacturers parked in our facility that we will have access to, to be able to do development work on. That's a significant departure from where we are today, and it just allows us to be more efficient, to be able to move at a faster pace and bringing these products to market.”
The hope then, he said, is that Bowers & Wilkins will be able to produce an even higher quality product as well as potentially more product.
“We are looking to continue to innovate. We are not looking to rest on our laurels and be comfortable with what we have today,” he said. “We have, as a company, always pushed the envelope in providing the newest and greatest technology in this space and this category as a leader within the space. This should only help continue helping us to solidify that position going forward.”
One thing engineers expressed concern within moving was how a new facility with newly designed sound chambers and listening rooms could impact the sound profile of B&W products. To that end, the company made the commitment to literally recreate the original sound room from the Steyning facility in their new home—down to the original couch that was in that room.
“As you know, sound as it comes out of the speaker it comes out in a wave, so things that are in that room have the ability to have an acoustical effect on those waves and dampen the sound as it's reverberating throughout the room,” Campbell explained. “That couch has been a part of the DNA of that room for quite some time, which is why it's coming with us. So there's actually a justified reason as to why the coach is moving, it's not just from a nostalgic perspective.”
So even while they settle into their new digs just up the road, B&W engineers should feel a sense of familiarity. And that will hopefully contribute to continued success as well as some new adventures in the audio market for the company.