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Bowers & Wilkins 707 S2 review: Space-age materials and beautiful design for high-end music

The Bowers & Wilkins 707 S2 speaker looks stunning and sounds highly detailed, but it's best as a surround or paired with certain kinds of music.

Ty Pendlebury Editor
Ty Pendlebury is a journalism graduate of RMIT Melbourne, and has worked at CNET since 2006. He lives in New York City where he writes about streaming and home audio.
Expertise Ty has worked for radio, print, and online publications, and has been writing about home entertainment since 2004. He majored in Cinema Studies when studying at RMIT. He is an avid record collector and streaming music enthusiast. Credentials
  • Ty was nominated for Best New Journalist at the Australian IT Journalism awards, but he has only ever won one thing. As a youth, he was awarded a free session for the photography studio at a local supermarket.
Ty Pendlebury
5 min read

When it comes to building speakers there are only so many materials manufacturers can use to construct their drivers -- paper, kevlar and aluminum are popular options. And then there's Bowers & Wilkins, the storied speaker brand known for such audiophile-grade gear as the legendary Nautilus and the D805 series speakers, which use actual diamonds in their tweeters.


Bowers & Wilkins 707 S2

The Good

The Bowers & Wilkins 707 S2 is a worthy upgrade to the CM1 S2 with better features and an even nicer appearance. The speaker sounds extremely detailed and has a surprising amount of bass. It would make an excellent set of surrounds in a 706 S2-based system.

The Bad

The treble-forward response can accentuate percussion over vocals a little too much.

The Bottom Line

This speaker looks stunning and sounds highly detailed with the right music. But don't expect it to rock the house.

The 707 S2 reviewed here is the most affordable in B&W's brand-new 700 series, all of which ditch kevlar for "Continuum" driver. It's made of super-secret material that first appeared on the company's 800 D3 series and has now trickled down. The 707 S2 directly replaces the CM1 and appears similar in size and construction. B&W being B&W, however, it's replaced almost every internal part, including the tweeter and driver.

Bowers and Wilkins 707 S2

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The result is a supremely detailed speaker which excels at audio you might consider "high-end." Think chamber music , blues jazz and singer songwriters. It also offers a surprising amount of bass in a very small footprint and sports a luxurious finish. Is it the absolute best speaker for the money? No, but it would make the most sense as part of a 700 series surround set, especially when used as a rear speaker.

As any restaurateur knows, the second most-affordable bottle of wine is often the best seller -- and that could hold true here. If you're looking at a stereo speaker from the 700 line, try saving up for the 706 or 705 instead. And if you want a better speaker for the money, nothing I've heard beats the Elac UB5 ($450). The B&W 707 S2 is available now in the US ($1,250), UK (£800) and Australia (AU$1,500).

It's a looker

The Bowers & Wilkins 707 S2 includes most of the improvements the company has made in its flagship 800 series, including that new Continuum driver. While the company is mum on what these proprietary drivers are made of, I do know two things -- they're actually painted silver, and B&W says they offer less distortion than kevlar.  

The 707 S2 is a compact monitor in everything but name at 11 inches tall and 6.5 inches wide. It houses a 5 inch Continuum driver and a decoupled one inch aluminum tweeter set above the mid/bass.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The sample I received came in an attractive satin white but it's also available in gloss black or rosenut. It's well constructed as you'd expect from the company, with elegant touches such as a tweeter guard and gold binding posts. The speaker is rear-ported with the company's dimpled FlowPort-- which means keep it away from walls -- or you could use the set of foam bungs included in the box.

The speakers do come with a magnetic speaker grill, but unless your housemates are amateur knife jugglers, skip the drab covers and let these lovely speakers show.

The sound: fine details, forward treble

We reviewed the 707's predecessor, the CM1 S2, back in 2014 and found it a charming little speaker with one main "flaw" -- a pronounced treble response. The true is same of this speaker. While we weren't able to compare the two in our testing lab, we did hear them compared at an event in Boston recently. As a result of the upgrades the new 707 seemed to offer finer detail and a better soundstage than the older CM1. But a lot has changed since we last saw the CM1 -- not least of all the emergence of Elac America. It's tougher to release a small standmount today given the outstanding performance-to-price ratio of the Uni-Fi UB5.

It's customary to begin a hi-fi review with a piano concerto or earnest singer-songwriter, but no. Having heard the B&Ws before, I wanted to see if they could rock! "Incomplete" by Bad Religion is not the usual audiophile fare, but damn it's a good song, and a balanced speaker should be able to play anything you throw at it. Singer Greg Graffin's voice came to the fore of the punk track but it seemed over analyzed in a way we'd never heard. In comparison, I'd never thought of the Elac UB5s as laid-back until I heard them play the same track back. The Elac provided the even-handedness I craved.

OK, now let's listen to something that really tests high-end characteristics such as spaciousness and detail: Alt-J's new "Relaxer" album (24/96). The low thrum that kicks off opening track "3WW" is a test for most speakers we've subjected it to. The Elacs were able to convey the deep note without breaking up while the B&Ws made it pulse too much and verged on distortion. On the other hand the Elacs struggled to convey as much of the track's dynamics as the B&W -- the "surprise" ELO-like chorus sounded a little flattened on the UB5s, despite being driven by a hefty Rotel RA-1592 amplifier. Both sounded suitably sumptuous and larger than life, though, filling the compact CNET listening room without issue. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

I wondered what would happen if I traded up to another model in the series -- particularly the 705 S2s with their external tweeter. The natural sound I sought returned, and the 705's bass response was more at ease in my testing room. Even if you have a small space it's worth saving up for the $2,500 705 speakers (that price converts to about £1,920 or AU$3,130). They crushed both the Elac and the 707, making me anxious to see how well the new Elac Adante AS-61GB will perform at the same price. It should be a very interesting match-up.

The B&W wasn't my favorite with difficult arrangements, but when I gave it a kick drum, a bass guitar and a voice, I was in hi-fi heaven. The B&W was able to make more out of Andrew Bird's "Puma" than the Elac, tying together all of the instruments and giving the track real thump.

Likewise "Find the River" by REM was imbued with a pleasant airiness, picking out the details in Michael Stipes' church hall vocals, although the Elacs managed to seem both bigger and more relaxed at the same time.

Percussion effects are the things that stick out the most when listening to the 707s -- something that doesn't happen with most speakers shy of a par of Revels or Totems. If you're a budding percussionist this is probably useful, but for many listeners the vocals are the most important part, and those vocals can be overwhelmed at times, as they were with Midnight Oil's "Power and the Passion."

Should you buy it?

The B&Ws are compact and beautifully built, but I wouldn't necessarily describe them as flexible, neutral or even economical. Yet some people like speakers with a forward sound, and as such they are the most forward of the 700 series I heard.

As the rears in a surround sound system based on the say the 706s or 705s these little speakers would excel, but as the main event there are plenty of cheaper speakers which will give you a more structured and musical experience. Try Elac's UB5 or B&W's own 685 S2 instead. Another option for a similar price is the KEF LS50, a favorite of resident CNET Audiophiliac Steve Guttenberg. 


Bowers & Wilkins 707 S2

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 9Sound 8Value 6