B&W 705 S2 Signature review: luxurious, elegant and musical speakers

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Today we reviewed the B&W 705 S2 Signature compact speaker, a 2-way bass-reflex model that uses several of the brand’s proprietary technologies, including a Continuum midbass driver and a decoupled carbon dome tweeter: the famous “tweeter-on-top” dear to the British brand.

The B&W 705 S2 Signature speakers look great with their ebony finish.

Part of the B&W 700 Series Signature speaker series, is different from the “classic” B&W 705 S2 speaker with its luxurious Datuk Gloss (lacquered ebony) finish, optimized tweeter enclosure and enhanced crossover with audiophile components.

Sold for €3000 per pair, can the B&W 705 S2 Signature speaker do better than the very successful B&W 705 S2, which was awarded the Editor’s Choice label by The Absolute Sound magazine?

B&W 705 S2 Signature: the brand

B&W is a prestigious British hi-fi brand created in 1966 by John Bowers and Roy Wilkins. Bowers & Wilkins has a long history of designing speakers and is best known for its esteemed Nautilus speakers that were released in the early 90s.

Unveiled in 1993, the B&W Nautilus speaker revolutionized the conventional rules of speaker design.

While these prestigious models were redefining the very concept of what an acoustic speaker was, the British manufacturer brought high-quality hi-fi to the masses with the B&W 600 Series. Still a part of the manufacturer’s catalog after several major revisions, the speakers from the latest B&W 600 Series range feature a Nautilus-loaded double dome tweeter and drivers with Continuum or FST cones. These speakers deliver a precise and balanced sound, with a wide soundstage.

Today, the British manufacturer Bowers & Wilkins still has several speaker ranges in its catalog, including the Bowers & Wilkins 600 Series speakers. The manufacturer has just introduced a special edition to celebrate the 25th anniversary of this line: the B&W 600 Series Anniversary Edition. There are also the B&W 700 Series and B&W 700 Series Signature range that includes the B&W 705 S2 Signature compact speaker we’re reviewing today.

The British brand has also designed the Bowers & Wilkins Mini Theatre satellite speakers and is a leader in the wireless speaker market with its B&W Formation range. Lastly, many subwoofers like the iconic spherical B&W PV1D are part of the catalog.

B&W 705 S2 Signature: packaging & accessories

The B&W 705 S2 Signature speakers come in one cardboard box and are held in place with two pieces of polystyrene. Each speaker is protected by its own white synthetic fabric cover. A wedge is fitted underneath the body of the tweeter to hold it in place and prevent it from getting damaged when removing the speaker from the box.

The B&W 705 S2 Signature speakers come with two magnetic acoustic fabric grilles, a set of adhesive non-slip pads, two plugs for the ports, a user manual and the warranty card.

B&W 705 S2 Signature: presentation

The B&W 705 S2 Signature compact speaker is a 2-way bass-reflex model that uses a Continuum driver and a decoupled carbon dome tweeter. The B&W 705 S2 has the same dimensions and technical features as the “standard” version of the B&W 705 S2 speaker, but is characterized by its splendid lacquered ebony finish and many enhancements.

B&W 705 S2 Signature: Datuk Gloss

The B&W 705 S2 Signature bookshelf speaker has a luxurious lacquered ebony veneer finish called Datuk Gloss. The cabinet is made by one of the most prestigious Italian cabinetmakers. Nine coats of lacquer are applied to each panel to achieve a perfectly smooth appearance and to highlight the wood grain that is unique to each model. This elegance is further enhanced by the use of a magnetic grille (no notches on the front panel) and the absence of visible screws around the midbass driver. Underneath the terminals on the rear panel of each B&W 705 S2 Signature speaker is a metal plaque engraved with “705 Signature” and “Bowers & Wilkins”.

A real-wood veneer, nine layers of lacquer, a metal plaque indicating that this is a special edition: the B&W 705 S2 Signature speaker is particularly appealing.

Whether or not you like speakers with a lacquered wood finish, you have to admit that the B&W 705 S2 Signature’s veneer is particularly impressive. The finish is exemplary and it looks luxurious. It’s easy to fall in love with, especially once you’ve heard the magnificent Continuum driver.

B&W 705 S2 Signature: Continuum driver

The B&W 705 S2 Signature speaker is equipped with a 6½” midbass driver with a Continuum cone. Introduced for the first time on the speakers in the B&W 800 Series Diamond range, the Continuum cone is the most important breakthrough in midrange reproduction for the manufacturer since the introduction of aramid fiber.

Its woven cone with a silvery sheen ensures a very low level of distortion and is characterized by its rapidity and very low distortion, which ensures a precise and natural reproduction without any coloration.

B&W Signature S2 Signature: FlowPort

The B&W 705 S2 Signature speaker’s Continuum driver is loaded in a bass-reflex enclosure using a rear-firing port. The latter uses FlowPort technology to eliminate all turbulence in the airflow and avoid generating unwanted noise. The small concavities on the surface of the port, similar to those found on golf balls, allow the air to flow evenly and, above all, quietly. As a result, the lows remain solid and perfectly rhythmed, without any noticeable delay or noise, even at high volume.

A defining feature of the British manufacturer’s bass-reflex speakers, the FlowPort can be found on the B&W 705 S2 Signature speaker.

As always with B&W speakers, the B&W 705 S2 Signature comes with foam plugs so that you can completely or partially block the vents. This makes it possible to adapt the sound reproduction in the lower frequencies if necessary, notably when the speakers are placed close to a wall or in the corner of the room as these placements can accentuate the bass level.

We didn’t have to use these plugs during our review of the B&W 705 S2 Signature speakers, as they were placed about 30cm away from the wall and the bass reproduction was entirely satisfactory.

B&W 705 S2 Signature: carbon dome tweeter

The B&W 705 S2 Signature speaker’s frequency response reaches 33kHz. Even though frequencies above 20kHz are inaudible to humans, this ensures the preservation of harmonic frequencies and more accurate audio signal phase, resulting in a more coherent soundstage.

To achieve this, Bowers & Wilkins’ engineers have developed a brand-new tweeter with an aluminum dome that is 30 microns thick and solidified by a carbon coating that is sprayed on. It is paired with a second section consisting of a 300 micron profiled carbon ring that is fixed onto the inner surface of the structure. The rigidity of the whole structure is optimal, which greatly limits distortion.

Moreover, the B&W 705 S2 Signature speaker’s tweeter is physically separate from the speaker cabinet. It is housed inside a separate enclosure that is made from a solid block of aluminum and decoupled from the cabinet using damping gel. Protected behind a steel grille, it also benefits from Nautilus technology: a conical tube filled with absorbent padding is placed behind the tweeter to suppress rear sound waves and therefore reduce unwanted resonance. This unique design offers a very precise and detailed reproduction of high frequencies, which adds exceptional depth and clarity to the soundstage.

B&W 705 S2 Signature: audiophile crossover

The B&W 700 Series Signature speaker range features a completely revamped crossover design with new audiophile-grade components selected for their performance, including special Mundorf bypass capacitors. According to the manufacturer, these modifications allow the B&W 705 S2 Signature speaker to provide a more extensive and precise reproduction and better spatialization.

The B&W 705 S2 Signature speaker is equipped with two pairs of beautifully crafted screw terminals compatible with bi-wiring and bi-amping. They are also compatible with banana plugs.

The B&W 705 S2 Signature speaker has a maximum power handling capacity of 120 watts for a sensitivity rating of 88dB and an impedance of 8 ohms. Bowers & Wilkins recommends an amplifier capable of delivering between 30 and 120 watts of power. It’s best to use a hi-fi amplifier or A/V receiver with a good amount of headroom to fully enjoy the speaker’s musical performances.

B&W 705 S2 Signature: key specifications

Design

  • 2-way speaker
  • Bass-reflex enclosure, port with FlowPort technology
  • Magnetic fabric grilles 
  • Screw terminals compatible with banana plugs and bi-wiring/bi-amping

Drivers

  • 1 x decoupled tweeter, carbon dome, Nautilus enclosure
  • 1 x 6½” midbass driver, Continuum cone

Measurements

  • Power handling capacity: 120W RMS
  • Recommended amplifier power: 30 to 120W RMS into 8 ohms
  • Frequency response (-6 dB): 45Hz to 33kHz
  • Frequency response (-3 dB): 50Hz to 28kHz (in the reference axis)
  • Sensitivity: 88 dB / 1W / 1m
  • Distortion at 90 dB: < 1% (from 100Hz to 22kHz)
  • Nominal impedance: 8 ohms (minimum 3.7 ohms)

General

  • Dimensions (wxhxd): 200 x 407 x 285mm
  • Weight: 9.3kg (per unit)

B&W 705 S2 Signature: listening conditions

For our review of the B&W 705 S2 Signature speakers, we connected them to the NAD M33 WiFi/Bluetooth amplifier using QED XT40i cables with banana plugs. The speakers were placed on a pair of NorStone Stylum 3 Satin Black speaker stands. The NAD amplifier allowed us to listen to CD quality and Hi-Res music on Qobuz and from a collection of digital tracks shared over the local network, all via the BluOS app. We also connected the Pioneer UDP-LX500 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player’s RCA stereo outputs to the NAD M33 using a pair of NorStone Jura RCA cables so we could listen to some audio CDs.

B&W 705 S2 Signature: listening impressions

Together with the NAD M33 amplifier and its impressive amount of power on tap, the B&W 705 S2 Signature speakers offered us unparalleled proximity to the various artists we were listening to.

Midrange

The tonal accuracy and the vibrancy of the Continuum driver help to rouse a wide range of emotions in the listener, particularly by reproducing vocals with great tonal richness and astounding accuracy.

With “Melody” (Serge Gainsbourg – Histoire de Melody Nelson), the impression of being close to the signer was quite amazing. The texture in his voice was almost tangible. The different hits on the drums are also excellently rendered, while the violin strings have substance and intensity, expressing their many nuances with their entire harmonic range.

With the track The Truth from Prince’s eponymous album, the vocal inflections, from whispers to shouts, were very realistic. The guitar was smooth and nicely articulated, with the added bonus of an outstandingly spacious and open soundstage.

Lows

The lows, although not extremely deep (50Hz at -3 dB), were intense, had great impact and also proved to be rich and subtle when necessary. The sound didn’t provide a powerful “physical” sensation, although we could still feel the low frequency sound waves during the track “Never Undo” (Morcheeba – Blaze Away).

This frequency range was never frustrating and the B&W 705 S2 Signature speakers provided  great sensations, notably with “Money For Nothing” (Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms) and “Woman” (Mumford & Sons – Delta). We were also impressed by the deep and perfectly nuanced sound of the double bass on “The Girl From Ipanema” (Stan Getz – Getz/Gilberto) and “Too Hip to Retire” (Tim Simonec – Whiplash OST).

Highs

The carbon dome tweeter soared with finesse and smoothness, and without sharpness or tension. It effectively illuminated the sound without ever making it tiring. On “Green & Gold” (Lianne La havas – Blood), the cymbals sparkled and the brass instruments accompanied the artist’s singing with beautiful clarity. The same can be said for “Billie Jean” (Michael Jackson – Thriller) with the rhythmic omnipresence of the cymbals and acute strings. It was smooth, lively and exhilarating. Throughout our listening session, we were impressed by the tweeter’s accomplishments, which contributed to the speaker’s excellent performance.

Soundstage

The spatialization of the soundstage also played a part in the clarity and natural delivery of the sound. Everything was in its place and each instrument was well defined without any imprecision or hesitation, but with great accuracy.

The use of width was remarkable. The feeling of depth was also very satisfying, as was the vertical layering of each sound layer. We could precisely pinpoint where each instrument and each artist were in the soundstage with our eyes closed.

B&W 705 S2 Signature: compared to…

Dynaudio Special Forty

Although it is more visually pleasing, the Dynaudio still isn’t as refined as the B&W 705 S2 Signature speaker. The lacquer finish, the absence of screws on the front panel and the beauty of the Continuum cone and the tweeter’s enclosure makes the British speaker one of the most appealing compact speakers on the market.

When it comes to sound performance, however, the Dynaudio has nothing to be ashamed of, even though its acoustic character is different to that of the B&W model. The danish speaker offers softer highs (flexible dome tweeter) and stronger lows (massive voice coil set in motion by a neodymium/ferrite magnet) that are both deeper and more powerful. In contrast, the B&W speaker provides more clarity and definition with its debaffled tweeter, as well as more substance throughout the entire midrange. The lows aren’t as intense, but aren’t any less dynamic, textured or nuanced.

Elipson Legacy 3210

The French speaker has a completely different design than the classic B&W speaker, but like the other models in the Elipson Legacy range, it doesn’t lack charm.

In practice, the French speaker’s aluminum/ceramic midbass driver and AMT tweeter is a match made in heaven for conveying emotion. Dynamism, tonal accuracy, smoothness and a consistent soundstage are present with both speakers. Like the Dynaudio speaker, however, the Elipson model provides stronger lows than the B&W as well as softer and silkier highs. It falls somewhere in between the two regarding the midrange, where the B&W 705 S2 Signature speaker remains superior. The British speaker also provides a more detailed and transparent sound overall thanks to its carbon dome tweeter.

B&W 705 S2 Signature: conclusion

With the B&W 705 S2 Signature, the British manufacturer offers a very attractive compact speaker with many qualities, not least of which is its ability to transport the listener to the heart of the soundscape it creates.

One of this speaker’s main strengths is its uncommonly rich and refined midrange, which allows for incredibly realistic vocals. The performance of the tweeter, with its remarkable smoothness and precision, provides clarity and detail in the soundstage without generating any fatigue during long listening sessions. An extensive and spacious soundstage as well as a sense of dynamism and nuance across the whole frequency range are also present.

When paired with an amplifier that has a hefty power reserve, this speaker will transport you without you having to leave your armchair!

A luxurious finish, an attractive design and remarkable acoustic qualities: the B&W 705 S2 Signature speaker has everything going for it.

What we liked

  • The rich midrange
  • The clarity and plethora of details provided by the tweeter
  • The lively and nuanced lows
  • The smooth and natural sound
  • The overall balance and energy

What we would have liked

  • For the manufacturer to have included a pair of gloves to avoid getting fingerprints on the speakers.
  • Perhaps something other than ebony for the veneer, but that is purely a matter of taste!

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Traductrice et rédactrice avec des goûts très éclectiques en matière de musique et de cinéma. Lorsque je ne suis pas au travail, vous pouvez me retrouver en train de regarder “Lost in Translation” de Sofia Coppola pour la centième fois, ou d’écouter un disque de David Bowie, Kate Bush, Joy Division ou Daft Punk sur ma platine Rega Planar 1. Étant d’origine britannique, je suis également adepte de séries à l’humour absurde comme Monty Python’s Flying Circus et The Mighty Boosh !

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