This month, Inspired Dwellings travelled to Worthing to visit the Bowers and Wilkins offices. Our team listened to demos of various speakers, and got to enhance our knowledge of one of our key suppliers.
So, where did Bowers and Wilkins begin? John Bowers & Ray Wilkins launched the company in 1965, where it began as a small electrical shop supplying radios and loudspeakers. Miss Knight, a woman who was incredibly impressed with the speakers which B&W had made for her, left the company £10,000 in her will. This money would contribute to the development of the business, and help the company stay true to their main objective – to create the perfect loudspeaker. Since the P1, the first loudspeaker in 1966, B&W has come a long way, and has continuously strived to deliver their customers high quality loudspeakers.
B&W has also partnered with various automobile companies after initially being approached by Jaguar – the car enthusiasts of the team found this particularly interesting! B&W were given a restricted area of the car to work with and install its speakers, which was frustrating as they felt they could not deliver what they were truly capable of. However, as the partnership continued, Jaguar became more flexible and worked with B&W to come up with the best space to dedicate to speakers. Since then, B&W has also formed a key partnership with Maserati. They have a shared passion for ‘engineering excellence, technological innovation and true performance’.
Two of Bowers and Wilkins’ patents, which have differentiated this company from other audio companies, are the Matrix and Kevlar feature.
The Matrix was created by B&W and to this day remains exclusive to them. It is essentially a series of interlocking panels placed inside the speaker cabinet to enable a more rigid structure, and create a sound as good as what you would hear if you were listening to it live.
Kevlar is a fabric which can break up standing waves as good as it blocks bullets when used for bulletproof vests. B&W was the first audio company to learn of the unique advantages of Kevlar (when also combined with a special formulated resin). The combination helps prevent the distortion of the mid-range sound coming out of the speakers, and is thus why the ochre yellow Kevlar is a trademark of the natural sound of B&W speakers.
The B&W patents have largely contributed to delivering the perfect loud speaker. Following our history lesson on B&W, and demos of various speakers in the B&W offices, Inspired Dwellings have put together some information that will hopefully give you an insight into what you could experience in your very own home.
Inspired Dwellings began our day in the home cinema room where we were lucky enough to experience the Custom Theatre 800 (CT800). This series delivered on both ends of the spectrum; subtlety and power. During our time in the cinema room, we watched various clips from films including Iron Man and Inception. The sound was remarkable – conversations were crisp and clear, whilst the action scenes were accurately portrayed and brought to life.
The design of these speakers enable them to seamlessly fit within theatre cabinets, and they were invisibly placed around the cinema screen. We were only aware of the exact positioning of the speakers when some spot lights were turned on. This demonstrated that smart technology does not need to be intrusive in your home.
Next, we were taught about the CI (custom installation) series, including the series CI 600 and CI 700. The speakers from the CI 600 have been extremely popular with Inspired Dwelling’s clients due to the reasonable cost and high quality sound.
We learnt of the ease of installation of these speakers, and one of our designers even had a go fitting two parts of the speaker together – it clicked smoothly into place. One of our engineers commented that they had “never seen such a simple installation process of in-ceiling speakers before”.
The CI 600 are ‘near invisible to the eye, but infinitely pleasing to the ear.’ The traditional yellow coloured Kevlar drivers for the first time were created in dark blue so that the drive units do not stand out once the grilles are attached. Two other key features to mention are the variable angle-tweeter and the EQ switch. The EQ switch works to balance the angled tweeter with the bass-mid driver to ensure that wherever you are in the room, you receive the optimal sound.
Moving on to the CI 700 Series, which was one of the teams’ favourite demos of the day, we learnt of the challenge faced by B&W. The challenge was the issue of the unpredictability of the way sound travels, combined with the fact that the speakers in this series are in-wall and in-ceiling. They overcame this by taking control of the volume of the air surrounding the speaker – by integrating a back box to the speaker, and then attaching a reservoir box on either side of this back box, it ensured that the sound quality was not compromised.
Demos included a clip from the films Gravity and the Book of Eli, and Adele playing live at the Albert Hall. We found that the speakers produced a sound so clear that we felt as if we were a part of the audience, standing amongst the crowd at the Albert Hall.
A member of our Sales team had some positive feedback to add about this series – “An impressive, visceral sound, with the perfect blend of precision and raw power. The system reproduced the subtle audio of Gravity’s space scenes, whilst the Book of Eli’s gun-slinging showdown was rendered with clarity (you could hear a distinct tonal difference between the crack of a handgun and a shotgun’s throaty bark).”
Besides delivering the best sound, this series takes into account flexibility to maximise performance in a minimum amount of space.
After a satisfying lunch, we had look at the series 600, which includes the dual layer aluminum bass driver and the tweeter decoupling technology. It also features the classic B&W’s yellow woven Kevlar cones. The drivers however use anti-resonance plugs, a new kind of dust cap found in the centre of the Kevlar cones. The plug has a solid construction, thus does not hinder the resonance on the cone. The result is a smoother, more transparent sound. These speakers combined with subwoofers can enhance a media room to create an amazing audio experience.
To end with, we had a look at the CM floor standing series which combines technology taken from across the B&W range. However it does comes with two changes, the Decoupled Double Dome tweeter and the Tweeter on Top.
The Decoupled Double Dome tweeter is a tweeter protected by a thin and light aluminium dome, surrounded by a thicker ring. This prevents audible distortion to create a beautiful sound.
The ‘Tweeter on Top’, is designed to be aesthetically pleasing, and to eradicate the issue of a normal cabinet construction, where a time delay occurs when the sound waves meet the sharp edges of the cabinet. Secondly, both outputs, from the tweeter and the midrange driver, are better aligned, producing the perfect sound.
Inspired Dwellings had a fantastic day out at the Bowers and Wilkins offices in Worthing. Not only was it insightful to all of us, but it was also a thoroughly enjoyable experience. If you are interested, or have any more questions about the Bowers and Wilkins range, please do not hesitate to get in contact with Inspired Dwellings on 020 7736 6007.