Best B&W speakers Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best Bowers & Wilkins speakers you can buy in 2020.
British outfit Bowers & Wilkins has made some of the best hi-fi speakers to ever grace our testing rooms. Founded in 1966 by John Bower in the workshop of his electronics shop in Worthing, West Sussex, the firm has long been synonymous with sonically impressive, design-led speakers.
So what should you look for when choosing B&W speakers? Something that has been reviewed by What Hi-Fi? of course! You'll find a full-fat review attached to each product in this comprehensive list, and the star-rating listed below.
Now, think about the type of speaker that's right for you. Floorstanders require a fair bit of space in which to operate, so might be better suited to bigger rooms, while bookshelf speakers (aka standmounts) can either be mounted on a stand or fixed to a wall using brackets, so are potentially more versatile.
Thanks to its relatively new Formation range, B&W has moved effortlessly into the realm of wireless multi-room speakers too; we've included both an excellent stereo pair and a one-box option in this list.
Then, there's the technology. Traditionally, Kevlar was the material of choice for B&W's midrange and bass drivers, but the company now uses its own material, dubbed Continuum. Bowers & Wilkins claims it reduces the degrading effects of the vibrations of the mid/bass drivers, resulting in a cleaner sound with less distortion. You'll find it's used across all of the speakers on this list.
Finally, you'll need to turn your mind to the topic of coin. Thankfully, Bowers & Wilkins covers a lot of budgetary bases, with offerings under £500/$600 all the way up to, well, a lot more. On that note, let's find you some new B&W speakers...
The Bowers & Wilkins 606s (listed, below) walked off with What Hi-Fi?’s top speaker award in 2019. And with the 600 range now 25 years old, B&W decided to celebrate by upgrading the series' core models in 2020. The 606 S2 Anniversary Edition hasn't been tweaked a great deal – there's the addition of an oak finish to go along with the existing black and white options, an inscription on the tweeter surround to mark the Anniversary status, and an upgraded crossover that now features better-quality capacitors – but remember, this was an Award-winner to start with.
Given the modest nature of the engineering changes, we weren't anticipating a great deal of difference in the sound. We were wrong. While retaining a broadly similar sonic character, the 606 S2 Anniversary Editions prove significantly more capable than their predecessors. The biggest differences are heard in the bass: the S2s are cleaner, more insightful and have notably more punch.
The original 606s are fine speakers, but this new version is obviously better across the board. Considering the relatively minor engineering alterations that’s a real surprise – but a thoroughly pleasant one. Every inch a 2020 What Hi-Fi? Award-winner.
Read the full review: B&W 606 S2 Anniversary Edition
A What Hi-Fi? 2019 Awards winner. Oh, you need to know more? Very well.
The 606s might look a little vanilla for a B&W product, but rest assured there's plenty of technical wizardry at play. Thanks to B&W's Continuum cone technology (which has trickled down from its more premium models), they produce a brilliant sound, with clarity and openness across the frequency spectrum.
They're an energetic and enthusiastic listen too, with great pace, precision and an entertaining grasp of rhythms. There's loads of detail to feast on, and dynamics still reach far and wide even at low volumes. So they're ideal for after-hours listening without waking the kids.
Then there's that size. They're positioned perfectly: not too big, not too small, but just right for almost any set-up.
All these elements added together make for a hugely appealing package - make no mistake, these are some of the best budget speakers around.
Read the full review: B&W 606
Smaller than the 606s, the 607s are the most affordable B&W speakers in the firm's 600 Series. Not that they feel cheap in any way – the design is as on point as ever, fitting seamlessly in with the rest of the 600 Series.
They also deliver in the sound department. The performance is bursting with energy and enthusiasm, with plenty of punch and dynamism for good measure. The audio belies their diminutive dimensions, too: the bass is deeper and more responsive than the size would suggest, but never overwhelms, making for a nicely balanced output. There's bags of detail to get your teeth into, too.
B&W decoupled the tweeter from the front panel, reducing the effect of vibrations from the mid/bass driver. That makes the sound cleaner than ever.
They're a dab hand at positioning, making them versatile enough for pretty much any room in the house. Small, powerful, adaptable... simply put, these are miniature marvels.
Read the full review: B&W 607
If we had to sum up the Formation Duos in a word, it would be 'divisive'. Why? The aesthetic won't appeal to everyone, plus they're far from cheap. But if you want a wireless pair of standmount speakers that nothing comes even close to right now, you've just found them.
Let's start with the sound, which is actually anything but divisive. The Duos are deadly precise speakers with excellent clarity and agility. They make you want to dig out tune after tune just to hear what they can do.
The multi-room feature set, while not perfect (we'd prefer a single app to handle every function), is more than made up for by the superb audio performance. Bowers & Wilkins may have been late to the multi-room party, but boy it arrived with a bang – more fashionably late than annoyingly so.
The speakers bristle with raw energy, and the stereo imaging is completely on-point. They deliver a huge amount of power when called for, while serving up a delicate beauty in the quieter passages.
The downside? They will expose any flaws in recordings, so make sure your source material is up to scratch.
Read the full review: Bowers & Wilkins Formation Duo
The 603s are the lone floorstanders in B&W's successful 600 Series, and the first with magnetic grilles.
Like the others in the range, they feature B&W's Continuum cone material, which originally appeared on B&W's more premium ranges. Compared with the rest of the 600 Series, the results are even more impressive – the soundstage is gloriously spacious, and they deliver bass weight, vocal clarity and detail in spades.
They're rear-ported, which helps give them a huge sense of space (just make sure you don't position them too close to a wall). It's an expansive soundstage that takes you on a sonic journey. The 603s are overflowing with confidence: whether it’s bass weight, vocal clarity or general detail, the B&Ws sound like they know how to handle a tune.
If you have just over a grand to spend on a new pair of speakers, you should definitely take the B&W 603s for a spin.
Read the full review: B&W 603
Taking a step up from the 600 Series is the 700 Series, which represents Bowers and Wilkins' mid-range speaker offering. These are the smallest and cheapest in the 700 Series, but don't think B&W has scrimped on any details: the build is impressively solid, and the cabinet is finished with crisp edges and classy detailing. And - you'll be pleased to hear – this quality continues in the audio department.
The 707s sound astonishingly authoritative, delivering a solid, composed sound, with punchy, powerful bass. They don't struggle at high volumes either; in fact, they tend to sound a little more balanced when you pump up the volume. These are small speakers that sound much, much bigger.
They stay in control even when the music gets demanding, keeping a firm grip on instrumental strands without losing cohesion. Low notes are delivered with plenty of heft yet never threaten to dominate the proceedings. Impeccable.
Read the full review: B&W 707 S2
You can pick up a wireless speaker for relative peanuts, so why would you spend nearly four figures on the Bowers & Wilkins Wedge? Firstly, it's part of B&W's Formation range of multi-room speakers, so it will play nicely with the the Formation Duos (mentioned above) via B&W's own wireless mesh system, allowing for hi-res streaming up to 24-bit/96kHz. So if it's a multi-room set-up you're after, you're in good hands.
But the Wedge is also an exceptional wireless speaker in its own right. And of course, it's in the sound department where the Wedge really earns its keep. Its three-way driver set-up produces a dynamic, entertaining sound with oodles of detail.
Its distinctive design stands out from the competition and the speaker also offers an impressive array of compatibility options: Apple AirPlay 2, aptX HD Bluetooth, Spotify Connect and Roon Ready status should suffice for most listeners.
Pricey, but worth every penny.
Read the full review: Bowers & Wilkins Formation Wedge
The 704 S2s might be slim, but they deliver a bold, generously scaled sound that belies their physical dimensions. They deliver an impressive level of detail, and there's a high level of composure and organisation. This means they always sound in control, even as volume levels head north.
Again, they feature B&W's Continuum cone technology, which builds on Kevlar's strengths in the damping department. There's also great damping courtesy of the FST tech, which – like Continuum – was previously only found in B&W's higher-end speakers. It replaces the conventional rubber surround with a specially designed foam ring that's better suited to damping the resonances in the cone.
Why do we keep going on about damping? Because it makes for a cleaner, less distorted sound. Which is Very Good News for the listener.
But the 704s aren't without their faults. The best at this money boast better rhythmic expression and they're a little lifeless at low volumes. But what more excuse do you need to crank them up?
Read the full review: B&W 704 S2
Even by Bowers & Wilkins’ standards, the 705 S2s are a supremely elegant pair of speakers. On top of each cabinet sits a decoupled, solid-body tweeter which reduces treble diffraction and lets the speaker's main driver be placed higher in the cabinet, thus allowing it to generate more energy.
They produce a weighty, solid sound with a bass depth that's both disarming and impressive given their size. It complements the solid mid-range and crisp treble. While a little overexcited at times, it makes for an upfront listen that – like the speakers themselves – is big, bold and beautiful.
Advice? We’d recommend bi-wiring them for the cleanest, clearest sound. And make sure you place them at least a metre away from the wall behind them in order to let the sound circulate. Even if that isn’t possible, though, we’d advise against using the supplied bungs to attempt to control the bass – a little boom from the back wall is preferable to the muffled toothlessness introduced by stuffing foam into the reflex port.
Then you should be good to go. Enjoy!
Read the full review: B&W 705 S2