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Bowers & Wilkins M-1 Mini Theater 20 Speaker System Print E-mail
Monday, 01 May 2006
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Bowers & Wilkins M-1 Mini Theater 20 Speaker System
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ImageEver since HDTVs started working with Richard Simmons and eating a healthy diet, their significant others (high-performance speakers) have been forced to follow suit. Before you break out the drywall saw to bury some in-walls in your 2x4s, B&W has a creative new loudspeaker system that has audiophile soul and, as James Brown would say, are “super bad” (“bad” meaning “good” in this case).

The Mini Theater concept from Bowers and Wilkins comes in three different configurations, depending on the level of subwoofer in the package. Each of the three levels uses the same identical complement of five identical M-1 speakers. The MT-10 package is mated to the 85-watt AS1 subwoofer at $1,250 for the package. The MT-20 utilizes the 150-watt AS2 at $1,499 (which B&W sent for review), while the MT-30 that sports B&W’s much-heralded 500-watt PV1 at a cost of $2,500 for the 5.1 package.

The M-1 speakers priced at $200 each are a curvy two-way vented design, nine-and-five-eighths inches tall, four-and-one-half inches wide, and six-and-thirteen-sixteenths deep, weighing a mere six pounds apiece. The rated frequency response is 80 Hz - 23 kHz, with a sensitivity of 85dB, meaning that this speaker’s load is not the easiest to drive. The M-1s have a max power rating of 100 watts into eight ohms.

The M-1’s solid-feeling enclosure comes in three different colors: black, white or silver (the color of the review system). The aluminum housing and the glass-filled ABS front baffle makes for a very rigid and damped enclosure. Although the M-1 does borrow from the new 800 series by implementing the Nautilus tube loading for damping and neodymium magnets employed in the higher-end products, the one-inch metal dome tweeter and four-inch glass fiber midrange drivers were specifically designed for the M-1.

The M-1 tweeter enjoys some of the refinements made during the development of the reference-level 800 series speakers. The four kHz crossover network is actually just one carefully selected component. This approach demands that the rest of the design be most exacting in its execution.

The AS2 subwoofer, which has a 10-inch mica cone driver residing in a sealed enclosure, employs active design. The AS2 comes in both black and silver. This 34-pound mighty mite is twelve-and-three-quarters inches high, twelve-and-three-quarters inches in width and fifteen-and-a-half inches deep, powered by a 150-watt class-B amplifier that allows the AS2 to have a frequency response of 32Hz-125Hz. The controls for phase, crossover frequency, EQ, volume and mode are brilliantly located on top of the AS2 in a recessed panel that is out of sight, yet gives you the access that we all yearn for, all the while keeping the top surface from looking cluttered. This location makes sense in avoiding that annoying need to do handstands while adjusting the controls of a subwoofer.
The AS2 provides a single knob with three EQ settings that can adjust the response of the sub to your room’s modes, a crossover frequency knob that spans 20Hz to 140Hz at -6dB, volume, a simple two-position +/- phase adjustment and a mode switch that powers the AS2 on or puts it in standby or auto, which will turn the sub on once a signal is detected.

B&W takes great interest in the design details of their products, whether you are talking about their M-1s or $20,000 reference-level loudspeakers. Small details are well thought-out and executed. For instance, the speaker terminals are hidden by virtue of utilizing the vertical support of the M-1 as conductor for both speaker connections. The actual speaker cable connection is made within the stylish chrome-plated base. Removing the rubber foot of the base exposes the terminals themselves. Removing the rubber foot reveals an inset that captures two differently-sized Allen wrenches, one for the speaker terminals and one for the removal of the base for either a wall bracket or stand.

B&W provided four stands ($250 per pair) that came with the Mini Theater 20. These are also notable. Standing thirty-seven-and-three-quarters inches tall, each one consists of a ten-inch diameter by three-eighths-of-an-inch-thick powder-coated base, a powder-coated hollow aluminum extrusion that is elliptical in cross-section and a series of plastic molded parts that fit around the stem of the M-1 like a glove, so that the speaker wires are totally enclosed and out of sight until they exit at the back of the base. Attention to detail took this product to the next level, something that B&W does better than anybody.


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