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B&W 700 Series Signature Speaker Review
Bowers and Wilkins 700 Series Signature speakers are like a rare wine, auto, or fashion release. They only come out every few years, production is very limited, and they represent some of the best sound B&W knows how to create. Every release sells out quickly and becomes somewhat of a legend high-performance speaker lovers look on with envy.
B&W introduced their very first Signature speaker back in 1991 to celebrate their 25th anniversary. The 4th release of Signature occurred in 2006 with the Signature Diamond and we are happy to announce the 5th release, 14 years later, the Signature 702 and Signature 705.
If you don’t know the history of B&W as a brand, just know that Sergeant Pepper and Pet Sounds were mixed on B&W speakers, plus they are the speaker of choice for hundreds of studios around the world, including LucasFilms. Since their humble beginnings in 1966, they have grown to become one of the largest speaker companies in the world and unquestionably the largest when it comes to high performance.
This is what makes the Signature Series so unique. It is the result of the engineers at the R&D lab in Stening, England being given almost carte blanche on design. B&W has always been all about cutting edge testing to develop new speaker technologies and the 700 Series Signature is just full of new materials and ideas.
700 Series Signature Technology
We thought it would be fun to go over all of the tech that is shared with the two models, then we’ll take a deeper dive into each one.
The development of Continuum™ took the B&W engineers over 8 years and 70 different versions of materials until they came up with something that would surpass the low distortion and break up levels of Kevlar. It was originally developed for the top of the line 800 series and is used in both models of the new Signature Series. The color of the Continuum™ driver is a rich silver, but the important part is how this new material behaves with audio signals. Most drivers add some flavor of their own to the signal in how they react to the sound being fed to them. Continuum™ holds its shape better than anything the B&W team has ever seen.
The resulting sound is incredibly effortless due to its super-low levels of distortion. This lets you hear all of those tiny little details of changes in volume and tone that help these speakers sound more like real instruments.
Carbon Double Dome Tweeters
B&W developed the use of diamond dust for their tweeters in the top of the line 800 Series but wanted to find something more affordable with similar characteristics. This led them to come up with their Carbon Double Dome technology.
There is an inner and outer dome they designed using laser analysis. The small outer dome which goes along the inside edge of the full-dome increases its rigidity while allowing the rest of the dome to be super lightweight. This design allows the tweeter to extend out more than double beyond the range of human hearing to an amazing 47,000 Hz.
When you hear cymbals or strings played back on the Carbon Double Dome tweeter you would think they are in the room. Everything just sounds so light and airy, it's incredible.
Solid Milled Aluminum External Tweeter Housing
This tech also comes from the studio-grade 800 series. The tweeter in both Signature models is mounted in a totally separate enclosure. This greatly reduces any chance of cabinet diffraction allowing the speaker to present an effortless three-dimensional image. Not only is the housing separate, but it's also actually milled from a solid block of aluminum. B&W could have just used a hollow plastic chamber, but it would not have sounded as good. When you think about that for a minute, it shows you B&W’s dedication to great sound. I mean who else mills solid blocks of aluminum just to hold the tweeter!
One of the most striking things about the 700 Series Signature is their beautiful finish. They sourced the wood veneers from Alpi who is a company in Italy that specializes in sustainable wood harvesting. The veneers then get nine coats of finish and we have to say the look is just spectacular! To highlight the luster of the finish, the Continuum™ driver gets a highly polished metal trim ring and the protective grill over the Carbon Double Dome tweeter also has the same bright silver finish. On the rear of the speaker is a special signature nameplate that completes their unique identity.
And while they just look stunning on the exterior, there is a lot of hidden technology inside the cabinet. B&W invented the idea of what they call Matrix cabinet bracing decades ago. These are interlocking vertical and horizontal braces that run throughout the cabinet. The 700 Series Signature used triple bracing for a cabinet that is just solid as a rock!
Both 700 Series Signature have a ported cabinet to improve efficiency. A port allows air to move out of the cabinet, but you can get issues of how that airwave reacts with the cabinet. Most ports are just a simple design and almost an afterthought, but as you might have guessed, not so with B&W. Their Stening, UK team tried many different port shapes and designs to come up with the best performance. The dimpled appearance of the Flowport adds to the distinctive look of the Signature Series.
800 Series Level Crossovers
A speaker’s crossover is often overlooked when people talk about what affects the sound of a speaker. A crossover is like the director of a symphony orchestra. It takes the incoming musical signal and decides what and how much of each frequency to send to the different speaker drivers. There is actually a ton of room for errors to occur in speaker crossovers, but it's not something you can usually visually inspect to see if it looks well made since it's inside the speaker cabinet.
The 700 Series Signature gets a lot of their tech from the standard 700 S2 line, but the crossovers get 800 level components. This upgrade makes them sound far more open and effortless than their 700 S2 counterparts. It is not a subtle difference!
The 705 Signature is the bookshelf model in the new Signature Series. The audiophiles at Audio Advice are huge fans of bookshelf speakers. When you put them on a great speaker stand and properly position them, they can give you an amazing three dimensional sound stage.
The 705 Signature, with all of its great driver technology and crossover upgrades has an effortless sound that is almost spooky. When you shut your eyes, the soundstage is incredibly wide and deep.
We think the 705 Signature will be one of the best possible choices you could make for a bookshelf speaker in a small to medium sized room. Their bass performance reaches down to 50 Hz which is pretty darn low. And you could always augment their bass response with a fast subwoofer like the B&W DB4. If your room is larger than around 13 by 18, you’ll probably want to consider adding a sub or stepping it up to the 702 Signature!
The 702 Signature adds even more technology to its arsenal to provide you with sound that can bring on the goosebumps
First, it's a floor-standing speaker with a much larger cabinet than the 705 Signature. The glossy finish just looks stunning on a model this size. We should warn you though, if you are going to put them on either side of a TV, the finish will act like a mirror, which will be somewhat distracting.
In the 702 Signature, the Continuum™ is used exclusively for the critical midrange frequencies. Everything about the tech used here came from the top of the line 800 series and it's really interesting how they implement it all here. First, the driver has virtually no surround, the material goes all the way to the edge. This reduces midrange coloration as there is no surround to add distortion. The driver itself is placed in a cast aluminum basket that was specifically designed to reduce resonances. Then, the whole assembly is totally isolated from the cabinet with a pretty unique approach.
Once again, you can’t see this from the outside, but it's just so cool they go to this much trouble, we feel compelled to talk about it! On the back of the magnet assembly at the rear of the basket is a tapered post. Directly across from this on the backside of the cabinet is a special bracket. The post is hollow where it meets and slides over the bracket, but a spring holds it there, completely decoupling it from the cabinet. That is just taking things to the nth degree, but the performance result is a midrange that has so much more resolution.
To augment the midrange driver, the 702 Signature has 3 6 ½” Aerofoil™ cone woofers. Yes, this is yet another special material developed by the engineers at Stening that has less distortion than their previous woofer materials due to the way they tapered the cone and the material used. The combination of three small drivers gives you the surface area of a huge woofer, but the speed advantage of smaller drivers. The bass impact you hear from the 702 Signatures is just super fast and tight!
If you want to get the best performance from the 702 Signature, we suggest you position it at least 18” off the back wall and just slightly angle (toe) them in towards your listening chair. Be sure and use a tape measure to get them equidistant off the rear wall and angled in the same. We also highly recommend you install the optional support plinth if you are putting them on a carpeted surface. While it will not look as sleek, it will make them sound better with the optional spikes and prevent it from rocking on the carpet.
The sound of the 702 S2 is very special to us and the 702 Signature with its improved crossover steps it up even further. When you take these great drivers and cabinets and give them 800 level crossovers, the sound is simply stunning. They are starting to rival the 804 Diamond which is almost double the price.
We hope this overview of the Bowers & Wilkins 700 Series Signature has given you some insight into which model or models will work best for your music or home theater system. As always, if you have any questions at all feel free to reach out to us via phone, email, or online chat.
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