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Speakers

Bowers & Wilkins' shiny new 700 series gives kevlar the bullet

Bowers & Wilkins' new 700 series of high-end loudspeakers ditches kevlar drivers for "Continuum" material, among other improvements.

705-s2-satin-white-on-stand

Bowers and Wilkins

Goodbye Yellow Glass Dome! Bowers & Wilkins is clearing out its iconic kevlar drivers, the same material used in bullet-proof vests, in favor of the silvery "Continuum" material it developed in-house. 

The process began with the 800 series last year and continues with the 700 S2 series, available starting today. The series begins at $1,250 (£800 in the UK and AU$1,500 in Australia) for the teeny, tiny 707 S2 and culminates in the king-sized 702 S2 floorstander at $4,500 (£3,300, AU$6,500). 

It's a wide range, with three floorstanding models, three standmount speakers and two dedicated center channels in a choice of gloss black, satin white and rosenut finishes. All are available now.

B&W is always tinkering, and subscribes to the notion of trickle-down -- what was once a flagship feature eventually makes it in some form to the entry-level. The proprietary Continuum material provides the latest example. The company won't say what exactly it's made of, only that it's a metallic woven material with better sonic response than kevlar.

Other improvements include decoupling the tweeters from the cabinet in the higher-end units. The speakers themselves are now Carbon Braced and feature metal grilles to protect them from knocks. The larger floorstanders also include new aerofoil-shaped cones with a paper skin for bass woofers.

How do they compare? 

We heard the whole range at an event in Boston recently and found that the speakers do indeed sound clearer than their CM counterparts. Read the full review of the 707 S2 for a deeper dive into how this technology shapes up, and look out for the Audiophiliac's take on the 705 S2 soon.

707-s2-satin-white-grille-off-copy

The B&W 707 S2

Bowers and Wilkins

Here's the specs for the 700 S2 range, starting with the most-expensive:

702 S2

  • $4,500, £3,300 or AU$6,500 a pair
  • Three-way floorstander
  • Three 165mm Aerofoil Profile bass drivers, 150mm decoupled Continuum FST midrange, 25mm carbon dome tweeter in solid body tweeter-on-top

703 S2

  • $3,500, £2,400 or AU$4,700 a pair
  • Three-way floorstander
  • Two 165mm Aerofoil Profile bass drivers, 150mm decoupled Continuum FST midrange, 25mm carbon dome tweeter

704 S2

  • $2,500, £2,400 or AU$3,800 a pair  
  • Three-way floorstander
  • Two 130mm Aerofoil Profile bass, 130mm decoupled Continuum FST midrange, 25mm carbon dome tweeter
705-s2-rosenut-grille-off-copy

The B&W 705 S2

Bowers & Wilkins

705 S2

  • $2,500, £1,800 or AU$3,500 a pair
  • Two-way stand mount
  • 165mm Continuum bass/midrange, 25mm carbon dome tweeter in solid body tweeter-on-top

706 S2

  • $1,800, £1,100 or AU$2,200 a pair
  • Two-way stand-mount
  • 165mm Continuum bass/midrange, 25mm carbon dome tweeter

707 S2 (full review)

  • $1,250, £800 or AU$1,500 a pair
  • Two-way stand-mount
  • 130mm Continuum bass/midrange, 25mm carbon dome tweeter

The two center speakers are the three-way HTM71 S2 and the two-way HTM72 S2.

If you've followed Bowers & Wilkins for a while, you'll remember that the company last had a 700 series in the mid-00s. It was replaced by two sets of CM series (which stands for Compact Monitor). But the company acknowledges that this name didn't suit the floorstander speakers that arose from it, and have reverted to the 700 name again.

The new names bring the range in line with B&W's flagship 800 series. So the 705 becomes the 805, the 704 becomes the 804 and so on. But why no 701 or 700? B&W representatives were enigmatic on the subject, telling CNET the reason is to leave room for potential future products.

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