B&W takes aim at Sonos with high-end living room streaming suite
Though many cheaper systems are available, if you want top notch quality, Sonos is the brand to aim for when looking for living space music streaming speakers. Now boutique audio brand Bowers & Wilkins – which has pretty good form in wireless playback throwers – has entered the high-end arena with the Formation suite, a five product collection that could well challenge the luxury market dominance of Sonos.
"The Formation Suite is the newest and most technologically innovative line of wireless products our development team has ever created," said B&W's Greg Lee. "We are setting a new bar in the world of wireless sound, proving that wired fidelity can be achieved wirelessly.
"The all new Formation Wireless Technology enables a fidelity never experienced on a wireless system before. Now consumers can get the high-performance audio quality that they expect from Bowers & Wilkins with the convenience wireless systems offer. With Formation, we're taking the superior quality sound Bowers & Wilkins is known for and coupling it with an unmatched, easy-to-use, wireless listening experience, making it the new standard in whole home audio."
Like Sonos, B&W makes use of a dedicated wireless network – in this case the Robust Mesh Network – to stream high quality audio around the home. The Formation Suite can support audio playback at up to 24-bit/96 kHz resolution for the promise of "denser, richer, best-in-class sound without information loss." And B&W also says that synchronization lag between speakers throughout the living space will be imperceptible.
At launch, the Suite comprises five products. The 4.3 x 48.8 x 4.2 in (109 x 1,240 x 107 mm), US$1,199.99 Formation Bar rocks nine drive units for wide dispersion, including a dedicated center channel. Those drivers shape up as three one inch dome tweeters and six 2.5 inch woven glass fiber cone bass/mid-range drivers, with a system frequency response of 40 Hz to 28 kHz and 6 x 40 W amplifier power output.
The Formation Duo speakers are the most expensive product in the Suite, at $3,999.99, and feature the same one inch carbon dome tweeter as the B&W 700 Series wired speakers and 6.5 inch Continuum cone driver as the company's 800 Series. Frequency response is reported as 25 Hz to 33 kHz and amp power output as 2 x 125 W.
Sporting a 120-degree elliptical shape, the Formation Wedge offers dedicated full-range stereo sound from its two double dome one inch tweeters, two 3.5 inch FST midrangers and single 6 inch subwoofer. Each driver gets its own amplifier – 40 W amps for the tweeters and midrange units, and an 80 W amp for the bass boomer. The Wedge is priced at $899.99.
The lower reaches of the audio spectrum are handled by the $999.99 Formation Bass, which is designed to pair with other members of the Suite. This unit has a 6.5 inch long throw bass driver at each end of the chassis powered by a 250 W amplifier, promising distortion-free bottom end with dynamic EQ.
The final Formation product in the Suite has been designed to convert traditional passive systems into ones that can stream high-fidelity music wirelessly for a "best-of-all-worlds sound experience." The 1.7 x 8.5 x 10.4 in (44 x 215 x 263 mm) Formation Audio hub features high performance analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog conversion. Apple's AirPlay 2 is supported, as is Spotify Connect. This one is priced at $699.99.
All of the Suite products are said to feature a streamlined user interface via a companion iOS/Android mobile app that caters for quick and easy setup.
The Formation Suite is available now. The video below has more.
Source: Bowers & Wilkins