I’ve been sitting on the announcement for the new Bowers & Wilkins 700 S3 loudspeakers for quite some time, thanks to the moratorium until September 21. I feel like so much has happened since then, and I’ve been so many places. But I took lots of notes, and I still remember being quite impressed with what I heard.
I was in Seattle on a Sunday at the end of July, the last day of the Pacific Audio Fest, and then the very next day I was on a plane to San Diego so I could visit the Sound United offices in nearby Carlsbad. (Plus, my visit to Denmark in late August made the Bowers & Wilkins event seem like months ago.) I understand why Sound United chose to bring in the press so early to speak with Bowers & Wilkins’ Director of Marketing and Communications Andy Kerr–it’s been a busy few months for everyone in the industry and windows for opportunities are limited when schedules are tight. High-end audio is busy making up for lost time, and the new Bowers & Wilkins 700 S3 series is a good example of that.
This is a very important introduction for Bowers & Wilkins, especially since it’s one of the best-selling lines they’ve ever had. But if the 700 series is the bread-and-butter, the 800 series is, as Andy Kerr himself stated, “the heart of Bowers & Wilkins.” I immediately agreed with that–just a few months ago I reviewed the Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4 loudspeakers, also relatively new, and they exceeded my expectations. They’re really big and powerful and yet smooth, a combination that really captured my imagination. The kicker–Andy Kerr told us that much of the technology developed in the latest 800 series can now be found in the more affordable Bowers & Wilkins 700 S3 line.
So yes, I was interested in making a quick trip to San Diego to hear the new Bowers & Wilkins 700 S3 family of loudspeakers, again with a number of reviewers from other magazines. And while San Diego isn’t as exotic of a location for this third generation Southern California native as Denmark or Germany, I still had a wonderful and memorable visit.
The New Bowers & Wilkins 700 S3 Loudspeakers
So what’s new with the Bowers & Wilkins 700 S3 loudspeakers? In a word, everything. Nearly every single part of the loudspeaker has been redesigned and manufactured in-house. (That means all three speaker factories I visited this summer make their own drivers.) Most of the designs, as I mentioned, were taken from the 800 S4 series.
First of all, the cabinet shape of the Bowers & Wilkins 700 S3 line has changed completely. It’s a slimmer set of enclosures than the S3s, with a new curved front panel. If you have trouble telling one 700 series from the other, this is the most obvious tell. The curved baffle combines with a ring-like structure around the driver to stick out from the baffle and reduce the cabinet’s effect on the sound.
While the actual tweeter dome for the Bowers & Wilkins 700 S3 speakers is carried over from the S2, everything else has changed. That housing for the “iconic” tweeter assembly has been changed–there’s a new tube system within the chamber, and a vented coil is used for higher SPLs. I saw this newer tweeter assembly in the Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4, but in a longer version.
When it comes to the midrange and woofer drivers for the new Bowers & Wilkins 700 S3 loudspeakers, even more has changed. These drivers are aerofoil paper cones with carbon fiber skins, again made by Bowers & Wilkins.
The midrange drivers in the new Bowers & Wilkins 700 S3 line are dedicated designs with spring mounting to offer a huge range of movement while still remaining decoupled. The spiders are better described as “bird wings” to reduce air pressure–they are light and they look delicate, but they’re actually very stiff.
Finally, the crossovers have changed from S2 to S3–some bypass caps and resistors have doubled-up values. As you can see, the Bowers & Wilkins 700 S3 line is a further refinement of the basic designs, with more attention focused on how each part can perform better within the whole structure.
Bowers & Wilkins 700 S3 Listening Sessions
Finally, the big moment we’d been waiting for–we got to take a listen! Sound United has (at least) two rooms for listening sessions, a big room and a small room, plus there’s an insanely great home theater room that impressed me like few others have.
We started in the small room, with the smallest member of the Bowers & Wilkins 700 S3 line–the $1,800/pr 707 S3s. You already know what this two-way monitor guy is going to say, right? Yep, I left Carlsbad thinking about this little speaker the most.
I really enjoyed the Bowers & Wilkins 707 S3 monitors for a number of reasons. First of all, they do what the much-more-expensive premium two-way monitors do, and that’s sounding big and open in a fairly large room. This is just a 5″ woofer and a carbon dome tweeter, nothing hiding in the box other than solid engineering. I’ve come to expect that sort of wizardry when the MSRP heads for the five-figure mark and beyond, but for $1,800 a pair?
Second, $1,800/pr USD is an interesting price point, because I don’t know what’s currently out there that I love for that kind of money. There are some nifty two-way monitors for a grand, and some really nice monitors at the $3K level. This is a no-man’s land in 2022–there used to be a lot of great choices at under $2K. This might be a new standard.
We moved through the rest of the Bowers & Wilkins 700 S3 stand-mount monitors, to the 706 S3 with a slightly larger (165mm vs 130mm) woofer than the 707, then to the 705 S3 which is the first to use the “iconic” tweeter assembly.
We also compared some of the 700 S2 speakers to their S3 counterparts. For instance, that wonderful little 707 S3 had a more coherent sound than the S2, and sounded far less like a box. With the far more ambitious 705 model, the S3 version sounded more isolated from what else was happening in the room, letting the music flow with just a bit more energy and drive.
One thing we noticed about the Bowers & Wilkins 700 S3 line, in relation to S2, is that the degree of improvement varies between each of the models. While some models are very different than their predecessors, some–like the 705 S3 and S2–look very similar. Here, you can see that the curved baffle is the major difference between the 705s, but there are big gains in the overall sound.
Finally, we moved over to the bigger room where we listened to the larger floor-standing models in the Bowers & Wilkins 700 S3 line–the 703 S3 and the 702 S3. At first glance they look very similar, and there is only a $1,000 gap in the MSRPs. But the 702 S3 has a new, elegant plinth to accommodate the new downward-firing port.
In addition, we were able to compare the old 702 S2 with the new S3, and the sonic improvements were perhaps the most noticeable of the day. The 702 S3 was simply far better with transients and decay, and I could hear a lot more detail. This, quite frankly, is a lot of loudspeaker for just $7,000/pr.
My takeaway from the Bowers & Wilkins 700 S3 press event is far more than just “Bowers & Wilkins fans will be excited about these new products, and you should contact your dealer for an audition!” As I mentioned in my 805 D4 review, my introduction to this company has been a long time comin’, and I don’t have a lot of pre-conceived notions about the sound. The 805 D4’s were spectacular, and we’ll be talking about them more at the end of the year when PTA offers our awards. But the Bowers & Wilkins 700 S3 line might be even more impressive, because it gets this high level of performance into the homes of even more audiophiles.
I’m ready for my 707s!
707 S3–$1,800/pr USD
705 S3–$3,400/pr (dedicated stands $800/pr)
HTM 72 center channel–$1,500
HTM 71 center channel–$2,500
Finishes available (North America)–black, white and mocha
Bowers & Wilkins new eight-strong line-up of floorstanding, stand-mount and center-channel loudspeakers delivers the best-performing, most elegant range in the class.
The new Bowers & Wilkins 700 Series is empowered with many of the same technologies found in the brand’s flagship range, the 800 Series Diamond, as trusted by many of the world’s most famous recording studios. The new 700 Series brings studio sound home, with elegant, high-performance models that will suit every décor and preference.
The new 700 Series continues Bowers & Wilkins policy of deploying concepts and technologies cascaded from its flagship range. An exhaustive three-year development program has seen nearly every element of the new range transformed, from cabinet design, construction and finish through to key acoustic and mechanical improvements.
Beautiful design, premium detailing
The new 700 Series continues to be Bowers & Wilkins most comprehensive range, featuring eight models including three floor-standing speakers, three stand-mount speakers plus two dedicated center channels for home theater use.
In a first for the 700 Series, the new range introduces slimmer cabinets featuring a curved front baffle and drive units mounted in external ‘pods’ that form a direct visual and technical link to the 800 Series Diamond range. This revised form dramatically reduces the impact of the loudspeaker baffle on sound quality by minimizing the ‘cabinet diffraction’ effect, and as a result, the new range is better than ever at ‘disappearing’ acoustically, so you can just concentrate on the music, rather than the sound of the loudspeaker cabinet.
The new cabinet forms are not only more svelte than before – they’re also offered in an all-new Mocha finish, a beautiful, highly grained wood that perfectly complements the revised proportions and premium detailing of the new 700 Series cabinets. Mocha joins the Gloss Black and Satin White finishes previously offered to form a three-strong range of options for most markets globally: a fourth Rosenut finish will also be offered exclusively in Asian and Pacific markets.
In a significant step forward for acoustic performance, Bowers & Wilkins now offers its iconic Solid Body Tweeter-on-Top technology in four models in the new 700 Series, representing half the range in total. Now, the 702 S3 and 703 S3 floorstanding loudspeakers, the 705 S3 standmount model and the HTM71 S3 center channel loudspeaker include Tweeter-on-Top. This means, for the first time in a 700 Series range, owners have the option of building a complete 700-Series home theater system featuring Tweeter-on-Top throughout.
The Tweeter-on-Top form itself has been comprehensively re-engineered in the new range. Machined as ever from a single, solid block of aluminum, the new 700 Series Tweeter-on-Top enclosure has been significantly lengthened, reducing distortion and ensuring an even cleaner presentation. This longer form is further enhanced by the introduction of improved two-point decoupling that better isolates the assembly from the loudspeaker cabinet, ensuring a more free and open soundstage.
Beyond these mechanical improvements, the Tweeter-on-Top diaphragm retains the Bowers & Wilkins Carbon Dome tweeter, with its 47kHz first break-up performance, coupled to improved, vented voice coils with new, upgraded magnets. Even models that feature tweeters mounted in the baffle – 707 S3, 706 S3, 704 S3 and HTM72 S3 – benefit from all these changes, alongside a significantly elongated tube-loading system that, as with the Tweeter-on-Top, works to reduce distortion and ensure a cleaner sound.
In all three-way loudspeakers in the new range, Bowers & Wilkins has introduced its revolutionary Biomimetic Suspension – first revealed last year in the new 800 Series Diamond range. Replacing the conventional fabric spider found in the suspension of almost all loudspeakers built over recent decades, the Biomimetic Suspension dramatically reduces unwanted noise from the output of the spider as the midrange cone operates. Used alongside all of Bowers & Wilkins other proprietary midrange cone technologies – including decoupling for the entire midrange assembly, an aluminum drive unit chassis featuring tuned mass dampers for reduced resonance, FST™ surround-less suspension and of course the famous Continuum™ cone material – the result is simply astonishing midrange transparency. Models with mid/bass drive units – 707 S3, 706 S3, 705 S3 and HTM72 S3 – have been upgraded too, with new motor systems and improved chassis for cleaner output.
Bass, meanwhile, uses the latest generation of Bowers & Wilkins famous Aerofoil™ Profile bass cone technology, based around a composite ‘sandwich’ of materials with a carefully formed variable profile aimed at delivering cleaner, lower distortion bass.
Optimized for performance
Ensuring that these drive units are given the best possible platform to succeed, the new 700 Series range introduces upgraded, 800 Series Diamond-inspired speaker terminals that feature more substantial contact connections and are better laid out for use with spade-terminated speaker cable. These feed carefully upgraded crossovers that continue to use Mundorf capacitors as before, enhanced with multiple bypass capacitors and improved heatsinking for even cleaner performance.
All models in the range feature updated, larger diameter Flowports that offer a more substantial output, ensuring a bigger and more expansive sound. In the 702 S3 floorstander, that approach is taken one stage further – and even closer than ever to the configuration of 800 Series Diamond floorstanding loudspeakers – thanks to the re-orientation of its port to fire downwards on its integrated plinth. The result is a substantial and powerful loudspeaker that is, at the same time, easier than ever to integrate into your home.
Finally, all floorstanding models feature significantly upgraded spikes to anchor them to the floor. On 704 S3 and 703 S3, stainless steel M6 spikes are included with their integrated plinths: on 702 S3, heavy- duty M10 spikes are provided. Even stand-mount models in the range benefit from similar mechanical upgrades, thanks to the FS-700 S3 floor-stand, which has been visually upgraded to match the slimmer, curved profile of the new cabinet design, while also offering acoustic improvements thanks to the introduction of those stiffer M6 spikes.
Commenting on the new range, Andy Kerr, Director of Product Marketing and Communications for Bowers & Wilkins said “We’re hugely proud of our new range. By introducing some of the reference- quality technologies of our 800 Series Diamond range into the latest generation of 700 Series, we’ve made studio-quality sound more accessible than ever.”
Designed, built and finished to the standards you would expect from Bowers & Wilkins and equipped with some of the world’s most advanced loudspeaker technologies, this is simply the best 700 Series range yet, offering an unparalleled combination of elegance and performance.