|Bowers & Wilkins 703 Loudspeakers|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Floorstanding Loudspeakers|
|Written by Bryan Southard|
|Tuesday, 01 June 2004|
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There are few audio companies that carry a brand equal to that of B&W. For many years Bowers and Wilkins, a British speaker manufacturer better known as B&W, have produced speakers that are argued to be at the top of each price class they compete in. Over a decade ago, the B&W Matrix 801s dominated the over $10,000 class with a speaker that was referenced by many professionals in the industry. After 801s came the futuristic yet functional Nautilus speakers. This $40,000-plus speaker looked radically different than anything consumers had ever seen. Sonically, the Nautilus was a masterpiece that employed technology meant to reduce internal resonances. This technology had precisely measured and formed tapering tubes with a conch-like shell form on the bottom. Much like Acura did with their flagship NSX sports car, the Nautilus line of speakers trickled down cutting-edge speaker technology to price categories that everyday music and movie enthusiasts could afford.
The brand new B&W 700 Series employs several technologies derived from their esteemed Nautilus line. This line consists of three different main speaker models that range in price from $1,500 to $3,000 per pair, as well as a center channel speaker, surround speakers and two powered subwoofers.
The B&W 703s are floor-standing three-way loudspeakers that measure 39-3/4 inches in height, 9-1/8 inches in width, have a depth of just over 14 inches and weigh 60 pounds apiece. They are available in five different hand-rubbed veneers, including Black Ash, Cherry, Rosenut, Walnut and Maple. The review models were Maple and carried a retail price of $3,000 per pair.
I am seldom tickled about the look and feel of a speaker in this price class. Comparably priced speakers tend to have a dated, boxy look with little to no individuality. Then, if there is any aesthetic signature, it’s often wacky and has little to do with function or consideration for the look of the rooms they inhabit. The 703s are different.
Upon unpacking the 703s, I was treated to a first class experience. They came wrapped in a cotton cloth and were well packaged. Little subtleties, such as a vacuum-formed package containing the choice of either spikes or silicone feet, were worthy of a stand-alone product. The 703s emerged from the box and upon first inspection were an absolute work of art. The finish was second to none in this price class. The veneers are beautiful and the seams consistent with the finer furniture money can buy. Upon further inspection, B&W had spared very little expense in producing a speaker that could sit beside your homes most elegant furnishings. This scored big points with me, due to my appreciation for architectural and design details, a passion which I would guess is common among other music and film enthusiasts.
At first view, the B&W 703s share a look familiar to that of the Nautilus line, with a cabinet that employs a sloping top and front baffle with a standalone top-mounted tweeter. The lower cabinet has B&W’s famed dimpled flowport, which reduces turbulence in the exiting air, much the way dimples work on a golf ball. The 703s incorporate an all-new six-and-one-half-inch mid-bass driver constructed of B&W’s woven Kevlar and employing an improved balanced drive motor. For high frequencies, the 703s have a Nautilus-inspired one-inch dome tweeter with their tapered-tube loading enclosure for improved clarity. Rounding off the speaker are two six-and-one-half-inch Kevlar/Paper bass drivers. The B&W 703s have a rated frequency resonance of 30Hz to 50kHz at –6 dB. This likely means that bass roll-off starts at or near 40Hz. The rated sensitivity is 90 dB, meaning that they are a fairly easy load and can be driven by almost any amplifier source. The 703s have nice speaker connection binding posts that will accept any type of wire connection. They are bi-wireable and have robust, gold-plated jumper plates for more traditional single-wire applications.