BOWERS & WILKINS 705 S2 LOUDSPEAKER
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.
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.