Bowers & Wilkins, or B&W, is a British company that produces audio equipment, most notably loudspeakers. In 1966, John Bowers started a separate business – B&W Loudspeakers Ltd. and was no longer involved with the electronics shop in which he had been a partner. The first production line was established in the workshops in the shop's backyard. The 1967 P1 was the first commercial speaker from B&W. The cabinet and filter were B&W's own, but the drivers came from EMI and Celestion. The profits of the P1 allowed Bowers to purchase a Radiometer Oscillator and Pen Recorder, allowing for calibration certificates for every speaker sold. In 1970, the ionovac-tweeter equipped P2 speakers produced were licensed by Sony, produced in Worthing to be distributed in Japan. Bowers decided to develop a loudspeaker wholly built in-house. The sizeable DM70 from 1970 combined electrostatic mid- and high range on top of a traditional bass unit. The distinct shape of the loudspeaker won a British Industrial Design Award. Good press reviews made exports start to rise.
In 1972 a new production facility was opened in Meadow Road, Worthing. Housing anechoic chambers and extensive Bruel and Kjaer measurement equipment, the research team investigated phase linearity and speaker cone construction using laser interferometry. B&W received the Queen's Award for Export in 1973, and built programme content monitors for the BBC. After a tenfold increase in export since 1973, the second Queen's Award for Export is awarded in 1978.The patented use of Kevlar fibres, impregnated with a stiffening resin, resulting in B&W's distinctive yellow speaker cones started in 1974.
The 801 studio monitor loudspeaker, taking three years of development, was introduced in 1979. The modern era of hi-fi begins. With drive units housed in separate chambers, the 801 delivered unheard-of realism. The 800 loudspeaker range was improved into matrix versions with a very rigid cabinet construction in 1987. In 1988, Abbey Road Studios adopted Bowers & Wilkins’ Matrix 801’s in their studios to bring the most accurate recordings to market.
The 1993 'Nautilus' speaker still remains the company's flagship product. The extraordinary result of a no-holds-barred R&D programme, Nautilus influences Bowers and Wilkins' speaker designs to this day. In 1998, Nautilus technology was introduced in the somewhat more affordable Nautilus 800 series.
In 2010, the sixth incarnation of the 800 flagship speaker series featured diamond tweeter domes in every model in the range. In 2015 the latest version of 800 Series flagship introduced a complete redesign and revolutionary new technologies, such as the Continuum™ cone.
Bowers and Wilkins Today
The Bowers and Wilkins 600 Series
Bowers and Wilkins new 600 Series loudspeakers use technologies developed in their studio monitor series.....their monitors are used in famous recording studios such as Abbey Road studios in London. The Contiuum mid/bass driver which creates layered midrange sound which is quintessential in the accurate reproduction of vocals and key instruments including piano, guitar and string instruments, is a direct descendant from their world famous 800 Series monitors. To complement this new cone Bowers and Wilkins have retained their Decoupled Double Dome Tweeter, an important ingredient of imparting the rhythm of the music. They’re upbeat and energetic, deliver punchy, solid bass and offer class-leading levels of detail and dynamics. These B&Ws simply don’t miss a beat. Available in both bookshelf and floorstanding models they offer options for different listening spaces. These aesthetically pleasing range of speakers delight with their rhythmic sound.
The Bowers and Wilkins 700 Series
Combining cutting-edge acoustic engineering and classic cabinet design, 700 Series is inspired by recording studios, and made for living rooms. Unlike previous generations, these new 700s are ambitiously designed to offer a good slice of the performance and technology of their high-end relatives. They incorporate the Carbon Dome tweeters which are purpose-built for the 700 Series. Delivering a dramatic improvement on the aluminum double dome tweeter, they raise the breakup threshold to 47kHz, for pinpoint imaging accuracy and detail. This tweeter takes a notable step forward by coating the 30-micron thick aluminium dome with a thin layer of carbon and further reinforcing the dome with a carbon ring. The result is a more rigid, better-damped diaphragm that should produce cleaner, less distorted highs.
We first saw the use of Continuum as a driver material in the high-end 800 series, and here it has trickled down in to the more affordable end of the company’s products. The new material is something that carries on from where Kevlar left off, rather than a move in a different direction (there’s a clue in the name). The aim is still to produce a well-damped, suitably rigid cone that break-ups in a controlled manner. Continuum just does it better than Kevlar. The 700 Series sound astonishingly authoritative, with a solid, composed presentation that renders bass with plenty of punch and power.
The 700 Series are crafted in a beautifully made cabinet. Available in both bookshelf and floorstanding models they offer options for different listening spaces. A special mention must be given to the 705 S2 bookshelf and 702 S2 models where their tweeter is placed atop the cabinet like the classic 805 design, decoupling it from the main enclosure. Milled from a solid block of aluminum, the solid body tweeter housing design creates an acoustically optimised housing for the tweeter – one that’s exceptionally inert and resistant to resonances.
Bowers and Wilkins Technologies
Bowers & Wilkins and McLaren have once again collaborated to create an in-car audio system for the McLaren Senna, celebrating a relationship in constant pursuit of acoustic perfection. McLaren are not only world famous for their Formula 1 successes but their State of the Art supercar production is cutting edge in road car technology.
All of the materials used in the McLaren Senna are designed to bring out the best in your music. From crystal clear high frequencies created by Double-Dome aluminium tweeters, which are enhanced with Nautilus technology, to detailed midrange produced by their famous Kevlar™ cones, the Bowers & Wilkins in-car listening experience is optimised for only the best sonic results.
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