What is the Bowers & Wilkins 705 S2?
First up, in the time since the CM Series has appeared, Bowers & Wilkins has launched the 800 Series. This is a big deal for the company because they represent a significant move from materials that we indelibly associated with the company. The 700s are the first other members of the family to make this transition. The reactivating of the 700 Series name is also significant. The original range was both popular and successful. It also made use of plenty of 800 Series technology so the parallels are clear this time around.
There is also the rather inescapable fact that the 800 Series is a bit on the pricey side. The technologies in them work extremely well but with the budget available, this is not entirely surprising. The 705 S2 represents a chance to experience how this design thinking works at a rather more terrestrial price point. I’m not going to pretend that £1,700 is ‘lose down the back of the sofa’ money but it’s a more attainable figure than the £4,500 required to secure a pair of 805 D3s. So, just how close to the reference does the 705 S2 get?
As such, the Continuum cone is still a weave. It is still light and strong and it still finished with a central dustcap. The new material comes into its own at very high frequencies where it avoids breakup and other aberrant behaviour better than Kevlar. This might sound slightly irrelevant – who cares what a driver is doing outside of the audible spectrum? – but there is a reasoning behind it. This behaviour at very high frequencies has an effect on the cone’s performance at lower levels as that movement that has been induced is still present. As digital material in particular is sometimes being released without output at these frequencies, this behaviour now matters.
The tweeter is also something that borrows from the parts kit of the 800s. The ‘tweeter on top’ idea has been present in Bowers & Wilkins speakers for some time and it continues here in the larger members of the 700 Series. The tweeter itself is not the exotic (and expensive, don’t forget expensive) diamond dome of the 800 Series. Instead, Bowers & Wilkins has used a carbon covered metal dome that is placed in its own housing. This serves two purposes. The first is that the tweeter itself is completely decoupled from the main body of the speaker and the effects that it might have on it (and the smaller members use a less elaborate method of decoupling). The second is that the enclosure itself can be used to create the optimal shape for the rear enclosure, overall volume and the form of the tweeter. While this arrangement was also in use on the preceding CM6 S2, the 705 S2 uses a housing made from a solid billet of aluminium to help the overall inertness of the enclosure.
The cabinet itself is also visually in keeping with the CM Series and when you peer under the skin, it is also very similar. Given that this cabinet was the principal advancement of the CM range, it isn’t too surprising to find it in use here. The cabinet is a stiff, MDF assembly with internal bracing (although not the ‘matrix’ style arrangement used in the 800 Series). The result feels study and very well damped. The use of flat sides and fairly sharp corners winds up looking rather contemporary too.
The result is a handsome speaker. The tweeter ‘pod’ will divide opinion slightly but the standard to which it has been executed is of a uniformly high standard and this makes all the difference. The proportions are elegant and attractive and this is helped by the finish options. The 705 S2 is available in the black seen here, a gloss white and a rosenut veneer. They are all clean, modern and appealing finishes and help the 705 S2 sit in most environments quite happily. This is further helped by the optional stand. This really sits off the basic proportions of the speaker very well and securely couples it to the stand via bolts. At £400, they aren’t cheap but the end result is visually and sonically effective.
How was the 705 S2 tested?
Fast forward to 2017 and things are a little different. Importantly, everything I liked about the 705 S2’s ancestor is still here in spades. Listening to the 24/44.1kHz download of Dead Can Dance’s Anastis, this is still a hugely spacious and assured speaker. The vast presentation of Children of the Sun is beautifully captured and before you are much more than 90 seconds in, you are dialled into the scale and presentational delivery of the speaker. This is notable for a few reasons. The bass response remains excellent for a standmount but in the 705 S2 it is better integrated with the midrange and there is a control and – for want of a better word – taughtness, that lends the 705 S2 a sense of immediacy that is appreciated almost regardless of the material you play on it.
The work that has gone into the mystery composition of the Continuum cone pays dividends too. The Kevlar drivers of old imparted a very definite character to the performance – and not necessarily an adverse one either as Bowers & Wilkins sold a great many speakers in that time – and listening to a simple, high quality recording like Fink’s Sunday Night Blues Club reveals that this new cone is pretty much able to deliver what the signal path is sending it- that is to say, the potent, slightly dark tonality of the Naim is well handled and delivered without any significant alteration. This does mean that the Bowers & Wilkins isn’t going to work terribly well with soft or dull electronics but equally, it is extremely hard to provoke.
Where the 705 S2 moves on from its predecessors is that as well as this supreme capability, there is a simple and palpable sense of joy to the way it makes music. Listening to the Tidal stream of Primal Scream’s Kill all Hippies, where you might once have had an accurate but rather matter of fact take on the track, the 705 S2 gives you all its snarling, maxed out brilliance. There hasn’t been a bassline or time signature that this speaker hasn’t simply taken and made immediately compelling. In some ways, dare I say it, this is a more entertaining speaker than the supremely capable 805 D3. There have been times where I’ve simply dialled out of the electronics and focussed on the music and surely that is the point.
- Outstanding sonic performance
- Beautifully made
- Handsome appearance
- Fairly demanding of partnering equipment
- Stand is a little expensive
Bowers & Wilkins 705 S2 Speaker Review
Ease of Use
Value for Money
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.