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B&W 700 Series learns from the best

B&W 702 S2 Speaker


B&W's new 700 Series is a premium range of speakers that bridges the gap between the affordable 600 Series and the stunning, remortgage-the-house 800 Series Diamond. The 700 Series inherits components and design features from the 800s as well as introducing other not-previously-seen touches. Although the 700 Series replaces the CM Series, the enhancements are so extensive that it's perhaps more appropriate to view the 700s as a completely different range. Which is probably what B&W intended, given the name change.

For stereo listening, the 700 Series offers a choice of three stand-mount speakers (ranging from £799 to £1799) and three floorstanders (£1999 to £3299). Centre channel and subwoofer options are also available to form a home cinema set-up. The most affordable standmounters and floorstanders have narrower cabinets than their bigger brothers. The wider options take advantage of the space available by accommodating larger drive units for the bass and mid-range. The top-of-the-range model (the 702 S2) also takes advantage of extra height available; the 702 S2's tweeter is housed outside the cabinet (see below), allowing the 702 to accommodate a third bass unit (in addition to a mid-range driver).

Like the 702 S2, the top stand-mount speaker (the 705 S2) has the tweeter mounted outside the cabinet within a housing milled from a single piece of aluminium. This solid home - previously only found on the 800 Series Diamond - isolates the tweeter from the main cabinet, reducing resonance. The new, carbon-heavy tweeter is employed across the range and raises the gap between the frequencies humans can hear and those the unit can produce - the tweeter has plenty left in reserve, producing high frequencies with great clarity.

The stand-mounters reproduce the mid-range and bass via a single drive unit; the floorstanders can accommodate separate drivers for each. With the 700 Series floorstanders, the mid-range is communicated via Continuum Cone drive units. The units and the decoupling approach to their mounting have both been used to incredible effect on the 800 Series, filling many a listening room with evocative vocals.

Whilst the Aerofoil Profile bass units found on the floorstanding models are a new design, they are yet another example of a component's design benefitting from the proven performance of the 800s. The units help the 700s remain extremely composed at louder listening levels.

Plinths are supplied for the floorstanding speakers. For optimum positioning of the stand-mount speakers, the FS-700 S2 speaker stands (£399) are the perfect partner and come in black or silver. They offer cable management, mass loading (filling the columns with, say, sand to reduce resonance) and can be bolted to the speakers. The speakers themselves are available in Rosenut, Gloss Black and Satin White cabinets (with co-ordinating grilles).

All speakers are worth experimenting with in terms of positioning as a small move closer to or away from a wall can noticeably affect the amount of bass produced. Sometimes, though, it's not feasible to move the speakers further into a room and, to help reduce the amount of bass if it's a touch too forceful, speaker manufacturers often supply foam bungs to insert into the speaker's rear ports. B&W's bungs are different, though, consisting of two pieces, allowing for different degrees of tuning. Both pieces can be inserted into the port to block the bass' escape completely; alternatively, a smaller port is effectively created by inserting just the outer, doughnut-shaped piece.

This article includes numerous mentions of B&W's 800 Series Diamond and the technology that's filtered down to the 700 Series. Perhaps, instead of viewing the latter as an all-new speaker range as suggested above, it's even more appropriate to view it as a more affordable, more conventional-looking 800 Series Diamond. They're available now at Hi-Fi Stereo.

Date of article:17/11/2017

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