B&Ws without wires

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B&Ws without wires
Friday, April 26, 2019

Bowers & Wilkins have launched Formation, a range of wireless speaker systems that are designed to combine ease of use with sound quality. Formation is based around a proprietary wireless mesh system that’s claimed to deliver left/right channel synch to within a millisecond and to provide multiroom audio without tears. Described as a turnkey solution for combining multiple speakers throughout a house, all you have to do is tell the first speaker the details of your wi-fi network and it passes this onto extra speakers which can be used to play in synch or independently. Basic controls are provided on the speakers which can link up different units, mute etc or full control is available via the Formation app.

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Fully compatible with Apple Airplay 2, Spotify Connect and Roon it can in theory access most of the streaming services that anyone interested in quality would be interested in. At present there is no support for Chromecast but Roon offers lossless streaming from Qobuz and Tidal and Airplay 2 brings a wide range of options into the fold.

The range is topped by the Duo (, top and below, £3,499) which looks like a contemporary take on an 805 and shares the mid/bass cone from that model with a decoupled dome metal tweeter from the 700 series. Shape notwithstanding that’s where the similarities end , Duo has a polymer (GRP) “cracked bell” cabinet that incorporates 125 Watts of Hypex class D amplification and is fully sealed. Making it the first active and the first unported stereo speaker the company ever built. 

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The Formation Bar (£1,000) contains nine drivers in a left/centre/right arrangement all hidden beneath a stretched cloth cover. Essentially a sound bar it has optical but not HDMI input. Bowers has avoided wood in any of the Formation models because the wi-fi antenna function much better in more open enclosures. Most have a very open framework with stretched fabric covering. Bass (£900) is a sub in the PV1 style with opposing drivers in a compact case that’s designed to look good enough to sit near to a Bar in order to create coherent sound.

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Zeppelin is being replaced by Wedge (£900) which doesn’t exactly match its name but there is a three-way loudspeaker system hidden within that sits on a sloping baffle in order provide a bit of height in the sound. It’s 120 degree angled back means that can be placed in a corner, kind of. The final part of Formation at launch, more products are promised to follow, is Audio (above, £600) which acts as a bridge for sources such as a CD player or turntable with phono stage. It auto senses the live input and transmits a digital signal at 24-bit/96kHz to any formation speakers on the network, in fact all transmission within the mesh is at this level regardless of incoming bit/sample rate. Formation is due to go on sale on April 29th.