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Bowers & Wilkins 700 Series 3 Home Theater Speaker Review
Bowers & Wilkins speakers have been an Audio Advice favorite for over 4 decades. Many of the original speakers we delivered to customers over 40 years ago are still making beautiful music in their homes. They truly stand the test of time.
The new 700 Series 3 from B&W is by far and away, their best 700 series yet, with some technology we did not even see in their 800 models until just recently. In this article, we will go over the new technology you’ll find, then get into each of the individual models to help you decide which one might be best for your system, room, and budget.
Bowers & Wilkins has their flagship 800 series, which is used in recording studios and post-production houses all over the world.
Their entry-level 600 series have also been around for a long time and gets you into the classic B&W sound without breaking the bank. The middle series though, which for the past couple of decades has had a 700 designation, is very interesting. It usually shares a lot of the tech in the 800 models, but at a far more affordable price.
Bowers & Wilkins 700 Series 3 Technology
We will start with the cabinet itself which is both a performance and cosmetic improvement over the prior series. You’ll notice the front baffle is now slightly curved on all the stereo models. B&W has done this on the 800 models for a few generations and with their more recent ones they also mounted the speaker components out from the front baffle.
The curved cabinet will help reduce internal cabinet reflections, but the bigger deal is the new way they are mounting the drivers that has them protruding out a little from the front. This enabled them to shrink the width of the cabinet itself. The audio benefit of a narrower cabinet is the speaker tends to disappear better sonically, offering what comes off as a more open soundstage. The new mounting system also reduces cabinet interaction with the sound waves which allows you to hear more of the finer details in your music.
Plus, on every single model, with the protruding drivers and curved front baffle, the speaker just looks super cool! We love the new sculpted grills, too. While we prefer to look at these with the grills off, if you want to cover them up and have them blend better into your room, the grills have a great new look.
There are 3 finishes available in the USA, Gloss Black, Gloss White, and a beautiful new Mocha wood veneer. As an elegant added touch, the trim rings, and in some cases the tweeter housing, is in a dark or silver color to better match the cabinet color.
The B&W Diamond models have a tweeter that actually uses diamond dust and their engineers set out to find a more affordable tech with similar audio characteristics. This led to the Carbon Double Dome tweeter.
They used their famous laser analysis to come up with this design, which has both an inner and outer dome. These super-fast drivers extend out to 47,000 Hz, way past our human hearing. High-frequency reproduction from these tweeters is superb. You would swear you can almost feel the drummers brush on top of a cymbal, they sound so effortless and delicate.
The new Series 3 models get an upgrade with a much longer rear tweeter tube. This is another tech B&W uses in the 800 series which reduces distortion. The new rear tube is far closer to the design in the 800 than in the Series 2 700 models.
Another small detail, but one that matters, is a redesigned protective cover for the tweeter. Both the diamond and carbon tweeters could be damaged by prying fingers so they all have a protective grill. B&W redesigned the grill for the new models to be even more acoustically transparent.
Solid Milled External Tweeter Assembly
While this is not on all models, it is on 3 of them and one center channel. This design puts the tweeter on top of the cabinet rather than inside the cabinet. The benefits this offers for better imaging and purer high frequencies are quite substantial. This new tweeter looks very similar to the same one you find in the larger 800 Diamond models. The solid aluminum housing sits on a decoupling system to further reduce any interference. We must say, it is pretty impressive to see the same type of tweeter previously only found in the Reference B&W models in some of the 700 S3 models.
You’ll notice on all the 700 models a silver-looking driver that either serves as a midbass/bass or midrange driver in the speakers. This material is called Continuum™. Their engineering teams spent 8 years and came up with 70 different versions of materials, looking for a driver material that had less distortion and break up at high levels than their famous Kevlar drivers.
Continuum™ drivers hold their shape far better during movement than anything B&W had measured before. These originally came out in the 800 series and were in the previous 700 series. This special material gives you a sound from the midrange that is very effortless and totally free of distortion. Critical listeners usually comment that wind and string instruments have more of that “in-the-room sound” and vocals make you feel like the performer is right there with you.
The speaker crossover is the internal component that divides up the incoming signal and distributes it to the correct drivers. While this may seem minor, the crossover is actually very important as sound can be lost forever in a crossover that is poorly designed or uses inexpensive components. The B&W engineers have always focused on producing the best crossovers using very high tolerance parts. When they updated the 800 Diamond series, they learned some new technology they deployed in the 700 Series 3 models, although we have not gotten the full story on exactly what they did
Updated Speaker Connections
Ok, we love these! A lot of speakers put the rear connections so close together, it can be tedious to connect up some serious speaker wire. These are super solid, far apart, and totally exposed for very easy access. You will have no trouble using beefy spade lugs with the layout of these great new binding posts.
Matched Drivers All-Around
The matching driver types found in all of the models assures you for home theater systems you will get perfect integration as surround effects move around the room as the tonal and dispersion characteristics are the same throughout the whole series. You can mix and match bookshelves with towers for a great home theater system.
As you can tell, there is some pretty serious speaker tech in the new 700 Series 3. Now let’s take a peek at each new model and go over some use cases. With three floor standing, three bookshelf, and two new center channel models, there is a lot to cover!
B&W 700 S3 Tower Speaker Models
There are three models of floorstanding speakers in the 700 S3 series, the 702 S3, 703 S3, and 704 S3. When B&W did their latest version of the 800 Diamond series, they came up with some serious new tech for the midrange driver. This has now trickled down into the tower models of the 700 S3 series. Most of this applies to the midrange driver of the towers, and one center for that matter.
All of the tower models use the Continuum driver only for the midrange. With it now able to work in a more limited range, they are able to use what is essentially a no-edge diaphragm for the midrange driver. This design reduces distortion in the driver even more than just the Continuum material.
Things do not stop there. B&W uses laser analysis to design their speaker baskets. This is the part that holds everything in place. These have a new cast aluminum basket they fine-tuned to bring any distortion created by the basket even lower.
Every midrange speaker driver we have ever encountered has what is called a spider. The voice coil of the speaker is mounted to the inside perimeter of the spider while its outer edge is attached to the basket. The sole purpose of the spider is to keep the voice coil in perfect center alignment with the magnetic gap at the bottom of the basket.
Almost every spider we have ever seen uses some sort of flexible, yet somewhat rigid material with small ridges in it. This material will move back and forth with the musical signal.
Through some pretty deep research, the engineering team at B&W found the spider is acting like a mini speaker as it moves, which means it is moving air. When this air motion collides with the rear of the midrange driver itself, it causes a small amount of distortion. The really interesting aspect of this is they made this discovery in 2007 and it took the launch of the new 800 series in 2021 for them to finally be happy with a resolution for this problem. Their brilliant solution is what they call a Biomimetic Suspension, which acts just like a spider, but is completely open, so it is not creating any air movement. As you might have guessed, the new towers and one center now have this great technology.
The towers and one center also have a special midrange isolation system that is found in the 800 models. On the back of the midrange speaker is a tapered post that goes into the back of the magnet while the other end of the post is hollow. That end goes over a bracket that is mounted to the rear of the cabinet with a spring inside that isolates the whole assembly from the cabinet. You would never know this unless you took the entire speaker apart, but it's really cool tech to advance the state of the art.
The bottom line is the midrange clarity and openness on the 700 S3 towers is very close to what you hear on the 800 series. It is not quite as effortless, but it is incredible how close it is for the cost of the 700 S3 compared to the new 800 series.
With the midrange being covered by the Continuum-based driver, B&W uses their Aerofoil™ Profile cone for the woofers. The thickness of this driver varies as you move to the edge and again, this tech trickled down from the 800 series. The result is super fast and dynamic bass!
702 S3 3-Way Tower Speaker
The new 702 S3 3-Way Floor Standing Loudspeaker is one heck of a great speaker. You’ll get the new external tweeter assembly, a new 6” Continuum cone midrange driver, and a brand new configuration for the port. In this model only, the port fires downward into a very solid plinth, separated from the speaker by four stout posts. With the down firing port, room placement becomes very easy as you have to worry less about the rear wall in your room.
Very fast and articulate deep bass is provided by 3 6 ½” Aerofoil woofers. The cabinet itself is triple braced internally and weighs in at a very hefty 74 pounds!
These have a pretty decent sensitivity of 90 dB which means you could run them off a fairly modestly powered amplifier, but like any great speaker more power is going to give you better results.
To our ears, they really come to life when you connect them up to a higher quality amplifier, our favorite being any of the McIntosh integrated amps or power amps.
While the downward firing port does give you some placement options, we feel they perform best if you can get them at least 18” away from any walls. Make sure you get the spikes adjusted so they are level and locked in to not rock and with their amazing sound stage, spend some time with a tape measure to get them perfectly aligned with your listening spot.
Bear in mind, that when you purchase any speaker from Audio Advice, our experts are here for you to help you find the best way to place them in your room and offer tips on how to get them optimized for your space.
If you have had your eye on the 804 Diamond model, but could not reach its current price of Regular Price Regular Price $7,000.00 Final Price $7,000.00 for each speaker, these will get you close at half the price.
703 S3 3-Way Tower Speaker
Moving down to the 703 S3 3-Way Floorstanding Loudspeaker gets you what is basically a slimmed-down version of the 702 S3. You get the same great external tweeter, the exact same high-tech midrange driver, and two of the Aerofoil woofers instead of three. They are a big jump from last year's model as that one had the tweeter mounted internally.
The cabinet is slightly smaller and in this model the port is rear firing. These have the same sensitivity as the 702 S3, but our same comments would apply for power.
But, at the time of this article, these are only $1,000 less than the top-of-the-line 702 S3 and if you are at their price already, you can probably afford the 702 S3 which we feel is a better speaker.
So unless your room is just too small and these might be a stretch, we would recommend the 702 S3.
704 S3 3-Way Tower Speaker
The 704 S3 3-Way Tower Speaker has the same type of tweeter you get in the bookshelf models with it being built into the cabinet. It does have a special tapered tube behind it. You also get the great tech of the Biomimetic midrange just like in the 702 and 703.
The midrange in the 704 S3 is a 5” driver as are the two Aerofoil woofers.
We really like this one. While it is not quite as open on the top end as the other two with their separate tweeter housings, the midrange sounds fantastic and those two 5” drivers are just super fast. The smaller cabinet gives it a slight edge in stereo imaging too.
These are a bit less sensitive at 88 dB, so you will not want to cut corners on power, but if you get an amp with great bass control, you’ll extract some decent deep bass from the dual 5” system.
At almost half the price of the 702 S3, these are probably the best value in the entire lineup for everything they offer. When you hear the midrange all of that new high tech can reveal and their super quick bass, you will know what we mean!
Bowers & Wilkins 700 S3 Stand Mount Bookshelf Speakers
The bookshelf models in the 700 S3 series are all a two-way design. The combination midrange/bass driver makes use of the Continuum cone. We see these being used where a tower speaker will not fit in your space, or as surround speakers in a home theater system. There are some people who also prefer to go with a small bookshelf speaker for its great stereo imaging characteristics than add a very fast subwoofer to augment the deep bass.
705 S3 Bookshelf Speakers
The top-of-the-line bookshelf model 705 S3 2-Way Stand Mount Loudspeaker uses the exact same solid body external tweeter you get on the 702 S3 and 703 S3 models. It has a 6 ½” Continuum cone midbass driver with a curved cabinet. If you are into great bookshelf speakers, like we are here at Audio Advice, you know they can produce an outstanding 3-dimensional sound stage. The external tweeter takes that even further.
If you put these on a pair of the new stands, which are also improved, place them a bit out into your room, and you will find they totally disappear and give you a wonderful image where you can almost reach out and touch the instruments. These get you pretty close to the great sound of the famous Diamond 805 for far less money.
These actually reach down pretty far into the low bass region, rolling off around 50 Hz so for medium to small rooms you should get plenty of impact. But if you pair them up with a fast subwoofer like the B&W DB4, you will have a setup that has a huge soundstage, effortless top end, the fast, deep bass.
We do recommend for best performance to position these on a pair of stands out in your room. If you need to put a speaker inside a bookcase, we would suggest you look at the 706 S3 as it will cost less, and being inside of a bookcase will negate some of the advantages of the separate tweeter housing.
One question we are sure will come up is, which is a better choice, the 704 S3 or the 705 S3 since the 705 S3 has the better tweeter. The S2 versions were closer together, but for the new S3 series, we have to give the nod to the tower. It has the Continuum midrange with the new Biomimetic suspension which to our ears produces a much better midrange and a lot of the musical spectrum is in the midrange band.
706 S3 Bookshelf Speakers
The 706 S3 2-Way Stand Mount Loudspeaker is essentially the same cabinet as the 705 S3 with the tweeter mounted internally. Bass reach is great and is the same as the 705 S3. The last 706 S3 was our best-selling bookshelf speaker and we are sure the new S3 version with all of its improvements shared across the line will carry on that tradition.
If you want to bring that legendary B&W sound found in studios and post-production facilities into your office or home, but want the speaker to disappear, put the 706 S3 in your bookcase and you’ll see why it's our best-selling bookshelf model.
707 S3 Bookshelf Speakers
With the 707 S3 2-Way Stand Mount Loudspeaker you drop to a smaller cabinet size which makes them great for tight spaces. You still get all of the great new tech in the 700 S3 models with a 5” midrange/woofer unit. These are roughly 2” shorter and 1” less depth than the 706 S3.
These do image really well and fit nicely on a small bookcase. It will take a bit of power to get them going though, as they have a sensitivity rating of only 84 dB. We see these being great for surround speakers on a stand as well.
However, if you are considering something for your main speakers for the $400 difference in cost (at the time of this article) and the 706 S3, we recommend you spend the extra money to get much more extended bass and an easier to-drive speaker which will translate into better dynamics too.
Bowers & Wilkins 700 S3 Center Channel Speaker Models
There are two center channel speakers in the new lineup and to our ears, the choice between them is extremely simple!
If you need to put the center channel inside a smaller cabinet, the HTM72 S3 2-Way Center Channel Loudspeaker is the right model for you. It is compact and will blend well with the other 700 S3 speakers. It uses the same tweeter as the smaller bookshelves and 704 S3 with two 5” Continuum midrange drivers.
However, if you have the room to put your center on top of the cabinet, the HTM71 S3 3-Way Center Channel Loudspeaker is the one to get. It is miles ahead of the smaller one and in fact, is one of the best center speakers we have heard for its price.
You’ll get the top-mounted separate tweeter, the same incredible 5” Continuum midrange driver as the 704 S3 with two 5” woofers. The clarity you get in voices with the HTM71 S3 is fantastic.
It is a lot larger physically but worth every penny.
Getting easy-to-understand and very clear dialog is the foundation of a great home theater. When you can go one step beyond that and have a center channel that allows you to hear all of the little subtle emotions in the performers' voices you are really getting something special. For us, the center channel is probably the most important speaker in a home theater.
If you are putting together a home theater system with the 700 S3 speakers and have the room, get the HTM71 S3. The only reason you should even consider the smaller one is if the HTM71 S3 would not fit physically.
We hope our overview of the new Bowers & Wilkins 700 S3 series has helped you better understand what models are best suited for your room and budget. Both our Raleigh and Charlotte locations will have demos on display for your listening pleasure. We invite you to come to check them out. If you have any questions about these or anything related to audio or home theater, please be sure to contact us via chat or email, give us a call, or drop by one of our stores.
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