Two years ago we saw Bowers & Wilkins revamp their 600 Series loudspeaker range. Last year, the British manufacturer introduced us to their Formation Suite of products, one that included a pair of digitally active standmounts. In 2020, our heads are turned once again to passive loudspeaker designs.
Bowers & Wilkins has this week announced a Signature status update to the two 700 Series loudspeakers that borrow the Tweeter-on-Top design from the 800 Series Diamond: the 2-way standmount 705 S2 and the 3-way floorstanding 702 S2 will soon be available as new-and-improved 705 Signature and 702 Signature editions.
The enclosure for the outboard tweeter utilises what Bowers & Wilkins refer to as Solid Body Tweeter technology. For the new Signature editions, instead of a hollow zinc housing, Bowers & Wilkins’ has opted for a 1kg piece of aluminium for greater stiffness, lower resonance and more effective heatsinking. Into this aluminium block is milled the space for the tweeter, here a Carbon Dome model that, according to the manufacturer, seeks to close the gap on the Diamond Dome used in the 800 Series Diamond.
From the press release: “The front portion is a 30-micron aluminium dome that has been stiffened by a PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) coating of carbon. The second section is a 300-micron carbon ring that has been profiled to match the form of the main dome. This is then bonded to the inner face of the structure. The outcome is exceptional stiffness and resistance to distortion without undue mass and a first break-up point of 47kHz.”
Why put the tweeter on top of the loudspeaker? According to Bowers and Wilkins, a separate enclosure provides better isolation from main cabinet resonances and gives their engineers room to sculpt a bespoke bullet shape housing that better minimises edge diffractions.
Another reason for the top-mounted tweeter is to make room for a higher-positioned main mid(/bass) driver that apparently gives the loudspeaker’s sound a better sense of punch and presence. On the Signature 705 and 702, that means Continuum cone drivers and a midrange decoupling system, once again borrowed from the 800 Series Diamond.
Back to the press release: “The Continuum cone’s design is based on the concept of optimized and controlled flexibility. This helps the cone to avoid the abrupt transition from pistonic to break-up mode behaviour that drastically impairs the openness and neutrality of a conventional drive unit. Continuum is a woven composite that gives highly controlled break-up, for a more transparent and detailed midrange. The 702 Signature is equipped with a dedicated midrange FST drive unit using an FEA-optimized aluminium chassis with a very stiff optimized form, further enhanced with the addition of a tuned mass damper on the front face of the chassis. This dampens any remaining resonance in the structure, resulting in a cleaner midrange presentation.”
Not relying on a single driver to handle midrange and bass (as does the standmount 705 Signature) the floorstanding 702 Signature hands-off low-frequency duties to a new implementation of the Aerofoil cone that uses “a composite structure of inner and outer skins filled with EPS” and is, you guessed it, borrowed from the 800 Series Diamond.
Rounding out the set of Signature series improvements is the most visually striking of them all: a new Datuk Gloss ebony veneer from the sustainably-sourced Italian wood company Alpi. We are assured by Bowers & Wilkins that no two pairs will share the same grain pattern but that all pairs will enjoy nine coats of finish: primer, base coat and lacquer.
A set of bright metal mid/bass driver trim rings and an equally bright silver finish on the tweeter grilles further accentuate the luxury nature of the 702 and 705 Signature editions. After all, loudspeakers are furniture that make sound.
Of course, how the new Signature editions stack up against the original versions on sound quality will require direct side by side comparisons. Readers are advised to talk to their local dealer.
The 705 Signature will sell for US$3999 and the 702 Signature for US$6499. Shipping begins in July.
Further information: Bowers & Wilkins