B&W Formation promises true hi-fi sound from a wireless multi-room system
Consider us excited. Bowers & Wilkins has launched not one but five new wireless products as part of a fully-fledged multi-room family, called B&W Formation. The long-awaited product of B&W’s partnership with a Silicon Valley technology company, B&W Formation aims to deliver true, wired hi-fi sound quality from a series of wireless products capable of delivering whole-home audio.
The B&W Formation range consists of five products at launch: the Formation Duo active wireless speakers, the Formation Wedge wireless speaker, a Formation Bar soundbar, a Formation Bass subwoofer and the Formation Audio wireless hub. And they’re aimed squarely at the premium audio market, with prices to match.
The Formation suite of products has been designed entirely in-house and uses a patented mesh network. B&W’s engineers were adamant that a seamless connection between products and across rooms was crucial, and the company claims the Formation range delivers an industry-leading, “imperceptible” synchronisation of under one microsecond between the Duo speakers and milliseconds between components. B&W says this is way ahead of the competition.
There’s a B&W Formation app, available on Android and iOS, for controlling the system and streaming music services, as well as support for Apple AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Roon Ready, aptX HD, Bluetooth 4.1 and 96/24-bit high-resolution audio.
Leading the range is the B&W Formation Duo, a pair of fully active, wireless speakers. They use the same 6.5in Continuum driver found on the B&W 800 Series and a 1in carbon-domed tweeter, decoupled and placed atop the speaker. The Formation Duo come with a suitably futuristic look, available in white or black, while still being instantly recognisable as a pair of Bowers & Wilkins speakers.
The B&W Formation Wedge is the dedicated wireless speaker, which sports a 120-degree elliptical design, and can be considered a thorough update of the famous B&W Zeppelin. Inside you’ll find five speakers, each with its own amplification; 2 x 1in double-dome tweeters, 2 x 3.5in FST midrange speakers and a 6in subwoofer.
If you’re wondering about connecting older passive products to a Formation system, that’s where the Formation Audio comes into play. This svelte slice of electronics allows you to connect a CD player, turntable or other product to the Formation multi-room system. This wireless hub has digital and analogue inputs and outputs (RCA and optical).
And it’s not just pure audio products, the B&W Formation Bar and Formation Bass are a soundbar and subwoofer aimed at upgrading your AV experience. Nine drive units including a dedicated centre channel inside the Formation Bar aim to ensure clarity of sound as well as plenty of bang for your buck.
And if you want more bottom end, the legendary B&W PV1 has been reimagined in the shape of the Formation Bass wireless subwoofer, which uses 2 x 6.5in opposed drivers and Class D amplification.
We were given an exclusive look at the products ahead of the launch and it’s clear B&W means serious business, with the hint of more products to come. Such a system has been in the works for some time but was always reliant on perfecting the wireless technology, which the Eva Automation acquisition seems to have made possible. Together with B&W’s famous speaker engineering skills, it could be a match made in wireless heaven. As Gregory Lee, B&W’s new CEO, told us: “There isn’t a company that can do it better than we can.”
The B&W Formation system is on sale now in the US, and is due on sale in the UK on 29th April, with UK prices still to be confirmed at the time of writing.
We look forward to giving the B&W Formation products the full What Hi-Fi? review treatment very soon.