Bowers & Wilkins has such a strong brand position in conventional loudspeakers that it’s easy to forget what a leader the company has been in lifestyle audio and active loudspeakers as well. Back in 2007 the Zeppelin was the first premium iPod docking speaker (remember them?) at a gasp-inducing price of $999 — surely madness!
But it wasn’t madness, it was the future. The Zeppelin’s exceptional design and performance showed that quality could sell, and an ongoing series of Zeppelins tracked the changes from ye olde iPod docks to modern wireless operation.
With the relatively recent change in B&W’s ownership, expectations have been high for a new series of electronics-based products to arrive - and those have just been announced in the new Formation suite (story here).
Meanwhile B&W has had the T7 Wireless available as a little jewel in its electronics range. And a jewel it is, especially in its gold edition, though even in the less flamboyant black edition it sparkles as a design. Within its outer rubberised bumper surround, the inner cabinet is transparent (see below), lined front and back with a bees-wax hexagonal matrix, so that the main rectangular speaker enclosure and grille almost float in space, its surroundings both transmitted through the outer cabinet and reflected by its acrylic front surface.
This effect is not only beautiful but utilitarian, that ‘Micro Matrix’ structure designed to physically brace the cabinet against vibrations, something further assisted by symmetrical design in all three planes — twin 50mm drivers mounted in ridged steel baskets flanking a central bass radiator behind the front grille, and a second bass radiator firing from the rear; opposing radiators are likely to cancel each other’s vibrational forces, while allowing significantly increased bass output.
The power behind the active drivers is quoted at 2 × 12W, while the company notes the use of high quality digital-to-analogue conversion to maximise the audio quality, and of DSP in delivering the optimal control and response to suit the drivers. It’s a good portable size at 21cm wide, weighing 940g, and promising 18 hours battery life.
How does it do? Well even during warm-up it was clear we were going to enjoy the T7. Everything was emerging with an enjoyable musical balance — no treble shriek, no midrange shouting, and an impressive warmness from a sizeable bass from a unit so small. Nor does the bass sound pushed — it was strong when the source material was strong, and only weak if the music itself was light on bass, as it should be.
Bluetooth quality was remarkably high; aptX is available for phones that support it, and though unstated in the manual we think AAC also, as the T7 didn’t suffer the treble breakdown on Lizzo’s Juice we’d heard elsewhere. It even delivered some impressive stereo effects when used desktop at reasonably close proximity. Listening to Come On (Part I) from the recent released 50th Anniversary edition of ‘Electric Ladyland’ had Jimi Hendrix’s left-channel guitar solo pushed far to the left of the box; the panned stereo of The Beatles Esher records made its separation even more clear.
It’s a premium portable through and through. The arrival of the new Formation series may see the T7 ends its run in the company's lines fairly soon, but not for any reason of being out of date or irrelevant; it's a great little player. We simply loved the T7 Wireless.