Bowers & Wilkins 702 S2 floorstanding loudspeaker

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Bowers & Wilkins 702 S2
Bowers & Wilkins 702 S2 floorstanding loudspeaker

At £3,300 per pair the 702 S2 is a very clever loudspeaker indeed. On the one hand, it replaces the top model from the CM-series. On the other, it trickles down much of technology from the seriously upmarket (£22,500 per pair!) 800 D3. In truth the rather less costly £16,500 per pair 802 D3 are a more realistic inspiration, as they have similar midrange and top end features yet (like the 702 S2) are more compromised at low frequencies. Indeed, the substantially tighter and more open bass was the audible advantage that the 800 D3 had over the 802 D3 when I reviewed the two models back in 2017, and I suspect that a similar degree of compromise will affect this 702 S2.

The new 700 S2-series consists of some six stereo pairs – three stand-mounts and three floorstanders – plus a couple of centre front models and a subwoofer. This 702 S2 is the top model – end of story? (Not quite!) This floorstander shares the ‘tweeter on top’ feature with just the top 705 S2 stand-mount model. Those (such as my son’s better half, I suspect) who find the ‘tweeter on top’ feature aesthetically, er, ‘challenging’ could save substantial sums by opting for the 703 S2 or 704 S2 models. Both feature a very similar tweeter mounted within the box, but also reduce the bass drive significantly: the 703 S2 has just two 165mm bass units; the 704 S2 uses two smaller 130mm bass drivers (perhaps indicating it may be a better match for smaller rooms).

The 702 is a full three-way design, employing a similar ‘surroundless’ (FST) driver as that used in the 800-series, albeit without the latter’s aluminium ‘turbine head’ enclosure. That means of course that the dynamic range will not be as great as that of the 800-series models, but most of the other benefits of an FST driver are fully in evidence.

Crucially, this 150mm cone version replaces the original Kevlar cone material – long a staple of B&W engineering – with a softer woven material called Continuum. The sound quality and the in-room far-field measurements both attest to the superiority of the new material, which apparently spent some ten years in development. One advantage of using a woven material is that its stiffness varies according to whether this is measured along the warp and weft or across the diagonals between them. Because of this variation, the outer edge of the cone starts to cancel and the source therefore effectively reduces in diameter as frequency rises, smoothing the breakup and substantially retaining the distribution. Other innovations in the midband include an aluminium chassis that has been optimised through finite element analysis (FEA), a tuned central ‘bung’ to damp any remaining resonances, and a new, more effective and less costly means of decoupling the unit from the box.

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