Ex­cep­tion­ally de­signed things are fre­quently eas­ier to rec­og­nize than to quan­tify and you only have to turn the new 700 Se­ries 2 loud­speak­ers on to re­alise that you are lis­ten­ing to a new sound ex­pe­ri­ence.

SoundMag - - Contents -

Bow­ers & Wilkins is a di­ver­si­fied au­dio com­pany who have a rep­u­ta­tion for builder big­ger and bet­ter mouse­traps.

Ef­fec­tively, the 700 Se­ries 2 loud­speak­ers take the out­go­ing and long-last­ing CM Se­ries cab­i­nets and change ev­ery­thing else. Since the in­tro­duc­tion of the iconic 801 in 1979, the 800 Se­ries has con­tin­u­ously held the po­si­tion of Bow­ers & Wilkins’ top ref­er­ence speaker line (with the ex­cep­tion of a few one-offs like the Nau­tilus). As you might imag­ine, the next-in-line

700 Se­ries 2 in­cor­po­rates many of the tech­nolo­gies de­vel­oped for the cur­rent 800 D3.

There are three floor stand­ing, three book­shelf/mon­i­tor, and two cen­tre-chan­nel speak­ers in the 700 Se­ries 2 line-up, rang­ing in price from $1,499 a pair for the small­est mon­i­tors to $6,499 a pair for the largest floor standers. This 705 S2 is the top book­shelf/ mon­i­tor with the cherry tweeter on top.

Ini­tial Im­pres­sions: Speed Dat­ing

Though I’ve never ac­tu­ally speed dated, I do like to be­gin ev­ery com­po­nent or sys­tem eval­u­a­tion by au­dio speed dat­ing. This means ran­domly surf­ing through dig­i­tal files on my hard drive to get an ini­tial, in­stinc­tual an­swer to im­por­tant ques­tions such as “Do I ba­si­cally like you?” or “Are you go­ing to bite me (in a bad way…)?” or “What are your likes and dis­likes?” Of course, in au­dio speed dat­ing the ques­tions are mu­si­cal ones, and the an­swers will set the at­mos­phere for po­ten­tial, fu­ture ques­tions and maybe even fu­ture “dates.”

One of the first mu­si­cal ques­tions for the 705s was Jac­que­line du Pré and Daniel Baren­boim’s 1968 record­ing of Brahms’ Two Sonatas for Cello and Pi­ano. This record­ing of the then re­cently mar­ried cou­ple was cap­tured in Stu­dio #1 at Abbey Road, a stu­dio most fa­mous for and through The Bea­tles, and which also has had a long­stand­ing (since the late 80s) re­la­tion­ship with Bow­ers & Wilkins.

This is a fan­tas­tic per­for­mance that is not the pre­sen­ta­tion of a small, thin-sound­ing book­shelf speaker pre­tend­ing to be some­one’s idea of an an­a­lytic stu­dio mon­i­tor. De­tail, yes. But also, a tex­ture and di­men­sion that come from a more fully re­al­ized har­monic struc­ture. From the first notes, it was ob­vi­ous that this was a speaker built for mu­sic, not sounds.

Most loud­speak­ers shift. They rock back and forth like a ship on a sonic ocean.

Per­haps they get com­pressed and ag­gres­sive dur­ing dy­namic pas­sages, or per­haps their sound can be char­ac­ter­ized dif­fer­ently for dif­fer­ent fre­quency ranges. The 705 S2s were not shift­ing. Throw­ing in some quick hits of live J.J. Cale, Tony Rice, or Yo-Yo Ma demon­strated an abil­ity to throw an ab­so­lutely lockedin stage. And these su­per-sta­ble im­ages were not cut-outs.

The warm at­mo­spher­ics on J.J. Cale’s “Old Man,” recorded at Carnegie Hall in 1996, were re­mark­ably free and pal­pa­ble.

And the 705 S2s don’t sound small. In my ap­prox­i­mately 19’ x 14’ x 8’ room (which is open to larger rooms), I was get­ting good mea­sured ex­ten­sion into the high 30Hz re­gion. More im­por­tantly, the only real time that I ac­tively felt like a larger speaker was needed was when lis­ten­ing to Ray Bar­retto’s high-en­ergy Latin al­bum Acid [Fa­nia]. But for this mu­sic, only some­thing like a gi­ant PA stack will do.

On al­most ev­ery other “big” piece of mu­sic thrown at them, the 705s didn’t “tap out”.

This dy­namic com­po­sure was another brick in the wall of trust. It’s one area where small loud­speak­ers are ex­pected to let you down and show them­selves. The 705s did not.


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