Three years ago, Bowers & Wilkins received a new parent company from Silicon Valley and now the classic British audio system new line of premium wireless speakers. The new Formation Suite starts at $ 900 for a very alien-looking thing called Wedge and ends at $ 4,000 with the even more alien-looking duo. Based on the selling point, these new wireless speakers can do everything a Sonos system can afford and cost three times as much.
The Formation Suite is Bowers & Wilkins' first new products since the company was acquired by Eva Automation in 2016. Eva is the brainchild of Gideon Yu, co-owner of the San Francisco 49ers and former CFO of Facebook. The acquisition makes much more sense as Bowers & Wilkins enters the world of wireless speakers, as Eva's original mission was "to develop products that change the way people interact and think about the home." These new audio products are certainly different.
Apart from the price, which by the way is in the lower end of the Bowers & Wilkins range of products, the company claims that the new speakers stand out with mesh network technology. Each component of the system effectively becomes a node in a mesh network, which, according to the company, "dynamically selects the optimal path for routing audio between products." This allows the speakers to stream 96 kHz / 24-bit high-resolution audio. A couple of years ago, Mario Aguilar of Gizmodo called this standard "impractical overkill nobody can afford." Spotify playlists require more bandwidth, but Bowers & Wilkins targets audiophiles who want to modernize their hi-fi systems.  Illustration for article titled Bowers & Wilkins & # 39; New Alien-Looking Wifi Speakers Want to Record Sonos with High-Definition Ambitions “/>
Photo: Bowers & Wilkins
The company offers many options. The flagship of the new Formation Suite is the aforementioned pair of duo speakers. These speakers feature the same Continuum cone driver as the famous Bowers & Wilkins 800 Diamond series. They also look like a bite sized version of these speakers, with the distinctive carbon dome tweeter over the main driver panel. The Formation Duo also ships with AirPlay 2.0, Spotify Connect and Bluetooth, though you probably want to stick to the mesh network to get the most out of these bad guys.
Flanking the formation duo is the cheaper formation wedge. With the same mesh network technology and high-resolution 96 kHz / 24-bit audio features as the duo, the wedge is more of an all-in-one solution that you could attach to your kitchen counter. The drivers, the tweeter and the submarine are all housed in an elliptical case that bends 120 degrees and distributes the sound throughout the room. The whole situation looks like a spaceship on the wrong side of a wormhole or just a crushed version of the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin speaker.
At the stern are the $ 1,000 Formation Bass, the $ 1,200 Formation Staff, and the $ 700 -Formation sound. The bass, as the name implies, is a subwoofer with opposite drivers that mate with the other formation speakers. The bar is, as the name suggests, a sound bar with nine drivers. The Formation Audio is a small box that allows you to connect a conventional Hi-Fi system to Formation speakers. Bowers & Wilkins also says it has perfected the speaker synchronization. When all these fancy toys are connected, everything is perfectly tuned.
The whole thing seems to be fascinating, if only because the idea of networked speakers sounds very future-oriented. Mesh networks eventually become the best way to distribute large bandwidth connections in homes. And when the dream of high-definition audio and its buzzworthy cousin 3D audio come true, wireless audiophiles need a better way to connect their speaker systems.
On the other hand, the Formation Suite also appears to be a niche series of products for a niche-type listener. To get the most out of the system, this handset needs high quality audio and ears that can tell the difference. Let's face it, though. Some very rich people will listen to these highly compressed Spotify tracks and are excited about the money they have spent.