Bowers & Wilkins has released a suite of wireless home audio products it calls its ‘Formation Suite’, that uses a proprietary mesh wireless network to stream 24-bit/96kHz audio between the different components. (Click on image above for larger view.)
The range combines multiroom operation using this mesh network (called Formation Wireless Technology) with a wide range of other connectivity options, including traditional home networking via Ethernet and Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Roon readiness, and Bluetooth including the aptX HD codec and AAC in addition to the base-level SBC codec. As for the visual design, B&W hasn't held back, as you can see from these images. And so confident of its technology is B&W that the new range is described throughout as "takes just moments to set up and start playing".
Leading the suite of products is the B&W Formation Duo powered loudspeaker system, which has a 25mm carbon-dome tweeter-on-top ‘borrowed from B&W’s 700 Series, plus a 165mm Continuum bass/midrange driver ‘borrowed’ from B&W’s 800 Series. Both are driven by a 125-watt amplifier to deliver a claimed in-room frequency response extending from 25Hz to 33kHz.
In addition to its proprietary mesh 24-bit/96kHz wireless network the B&W Duo powered speaker system is also compatible with WiFi, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect and Bluetooth, and will synchronise with any other Formation product, but in particular with the new B&W ‘Formation Bass’ subwoofer (pictured below). This new unit features a Class-D amplifier with on-board DSP that drives two 165mm long throw bass drivers, for which B&W claims a frequency response of 20Hz to 150Hz.
Both units are now listed on B&W’s US website as being available for purchase, with the B&W Duo retailing for $US3,999 per pair, and the B&W Formation Bass subwoofer for $US999.
The design stakes are raised still further with the multi-faceted Formation Wedge, a stereo system 28cm across, delivering its sound from twin 25mm double-dome tweeters, twin 90mm FST midrange drivers, and a single 150mm woofer, backed by a quoted 240W of power. This unit has a US price of $US899.99.
There's also a Formation Bar for your TV sound, which builds on the successful performance of the company's Panorama soundbars with another fascinating aesthetic with its swirling diamond facets and shining silver endcaps. Rather than aiming for pseudo-surround, the 124cm-long Formation Bar delivers three-channel sound from a total of nine drivers - 3 x 25mm double-dome tweeters and 6 x 65mm woven glass-fibre mid/bass cones arrayed as pictured below.
As with the other speakers, the Bar can stream music at 24-bit/96kHz as well as playing your TV sound from its optical input. Previous Panoramas have proven more musical than most soundbars, so hopes might be considered high for use as a combination movie/music unit. The Bar has a US price of $US1299.99.
Also available is the Formation Audio Wireless Hub ($US699) that allows you to integrate your existing passive components, such as your turntable and CD player, into this new B&W system.
‘Now the uncompromising Bowers & Wilkins audio heritage is married with 21st-century streaming convenience,’ said Angus Fischer of B&W Australia. ‘It finally enables high-quality wireless streaming to your existing passive system or from existing passive components—CD player, turntable, or other pieces—to wireless Formation speakers, anywhere in your home. Our analogue-to-digital converter ensures there are no time lags or breaks in the sound, even between rooms, while our 96/24-bit streaming maintains legendary Bowers & Wilkins sound resolution.’
Local Australian availability and pricing have not yet been announced, but for more information about these and the other models in the Formation Audio range, you can contact B&W Australia.
You can view the company's Formation introduction video below.