REVIEW: BOWERS & WILKINS 702 SIGNATURE – After previous experiences with the 700 S2 series, now a special version of the 700 series from the Worthing-based Bowers & Wilkins. Especially on the outside, because with a beautiful ebony veneer, beautifully polished clear coat, a silver ring around the midrange and a silver grille for the tweeter that is mounted on top of the housing. And especially on the inside. Because the exchange filter has been overhauled. What difference that makes to the original crossover filter in the 700 S2 series is of course not fully explained in this introduction, but we would like to reveal that it has a very positive effect …
Recently Bowers & Wilkins announced the 700 Signature series consisting of a bookshelf model, the 705 Signature, and the 702 Signature floorstander discussed in this review. The 700 Signature series is not a new iteration of the 700 line, but more of a Special Edition. That is also the reason that the smaller floorstanders and smaller bookshelf models do not receive the Signature label. The British have only further improved the best speakers from the existing 700 Series.
Bowers & Wilkins 702 Signature: Specially inside
Where Bowers & Wilkins itself mainly focuses on the outside, I want to talk about the inside first. Because that inside seems a bit underexposed in all press communications and that is unjustified in my opinion. The British are not always modest when it comes to their speakers, but now in my opinion they are doing themselves short by paying so much attention to the changes on the outside. Fortunately, we look further.
If you compare the specifications of the 702 S2 and 702 Signature you will see that it is exactly the same. Same frequency range, same harmonic distortion, same weight and so on. The acclaimed Continuum driver for the mids and the Aerofoil drivers for the low tones are also back, as well as the carbon dome tweeter with a breakup frequency of no less than 47kHz for a stress-free sound in the audible range. There is nothing else to discover there, except for that beautiful color. Nothing new under the sun, so if you are spec horny. The innovation is therefore only limited to small, but important parts that have been improved, so that a different speaker can be played than the 702 S2. For the exact specifications and more information, I would like to refer you to theBowers & Wilkins website .
Bowers & Wilkins 702 Signature: Changeover filter
What makes the 702 Signature much better than the 702 S2 (shit, already revealed) is the modified crossover filter. The Signature series has therefore undergone modifications to the bypass capacitors in the form of better variants from Mundorf. Larger heatsinks have also been fitted and in the case of the 702 Signature – due to the three-way construction – an improved capacitor is available for the low frequencies. Changes to a crossover and associated other tuning can bring about such large changes that you can greatly improve the level of an already good speaker. Then link them to a good amplifier and you are the buyer.
Specially from the outside
Then about the exterior, because it also has a special look. Fortunately for the indecisive among us, the Signature series is only available in a single color scheme. Bowers & Wilkins calls the finish itself ‘Datuk Gloss’. In my memory, Datuk is not a name for a color and after some google I see that the term Datuk is a title that shows respect in Malaysia. That sounds suitable for this speaker.
The color can be characterized as ebony. The wooden veneer is lacquered in a high-gloss finish and the grain is therefore particularly beautifully emphasized. Whether it is bad that the Signature is only available in a single color scheme will mainly be a matter of personal taste. This is also the case here at home. I think they are really beautiful and they shine towards you. On the back there is a special type plate.
Bowers & Wilkins 702 Signature: Like a magpie
I really felt like a magpie unpacking the huge boxes. It really is a beautiful layer of lacquer and veneer. In addition, the black tweeter on top with silver-colored grille is very nice and the silver-colored rings around the other drivers make it a very chic speaker. The fact is that you have to love it. The responses from the corona limited number of visitors during the review period were either ‘terrible!’ or ‘what beautiful speakers!’.
My own dear wife belongs to that first category, for example. My three children belong to that second category. Never before have I had to take the kids away from a pair of speakers so much. They attracted them like a true magnet. As if they had an ice cream man in front of them with more flavors than they’d ever seen. Just bizarre. The middle one of just four responded aptly to my call not to touch it with: “yes, but daddy, I can’t just look at them, because they shine so beautifully!”. He was petting them almost obsessively, much to the annoyance of me and the hilarity of my other half. So there was a lot of cleaning in the beginning. Fortunately, in the long run ‘the new’ was gone and I no longer had to worry about chasing my own children away.
Matching with the amplifier (and with personal taste)
During the review period I listened to the 702 Signature extensively on three amplifiers. I started with my trusty Anthem MRX 720. With 2 x 140 Watts at 8 ohms and 2 x 170 Watts at 6 ohms in stereo, it is certainly no weakness. But nevertheless just a little shortcoming in the management of the B & Ws. The Anthem MRX does not like the minimum impedance of the B & Ws very much and at high volumes you notice that the device loses control and if I really turn the volume knob up far, the Anthem even jumps out in protection mode. The B & W’s dip to about 3 ohms at certain times. Did it sound bad? No, certainly not at low to medium volume, but there is room for improvement.
It’s a shame that I don’t have an Anthem STR, because she would have liked to try it out. What was possible at this short notice was to arrange a Rotel amplifier. A call to Bowers & Wilkins and a day later the Rotel RA-1592 was (again) in the house, now primarily serving as the power amplifier behind the Anthem. That went a lot better. There was more control at higher volumes, the bass became a bit tighter and the stereo spread increased a bit. The sound also came off the speaker a bit better, but the latter may still be a matter of further anticipation, because the Signatures were brand new when I received them and they ‘only’ played for over a week when I switched on the Rotel. was going to close.
In the meantime, the speakers have been tuned in for a few weeks and the sound is nice and loose. The display has become deeper, wider and more ‘3D’ during the build-in period. What I have done in the meantime is replaced the standard metal jumpers for homemade jumpers from a piece of AudioQuest SLiP 14/4 and gold plated spades. That also makes quite a difference, it was just a bit more balanced. It is a pity that most speaker manufacturers do not immediately supply a good set of jumpers, but that aside.
The last few weeks of the review period has the brand new Denon PMA-A110(separate review will follow soon) served as (final) amplifier in my setup and the combination of this Denon with the Signatures was, in my personal taste, the best of the past period. That amplifier does have a bit less power (2 x 80 Watts at 8 ohms and 2 x 160 Watts at 4 ohms) than the Rotel with 2 x 200 Watts at 8 ohms, but the match was just a bit better suited to my personal taste. That is just another sign that you really should always listen to the dealer before you purchase and you should therefore not blindly stare at specifications. Because in this combination, the high and middle sounded just a bit more refined, as if a rough edge had been cut away. Still just as sparkling and pronounced as before, but as if the facets of a slightly too coarse diamond had been polished just a bit better. It appealed to me just a bit more and ensured that I could listen to the speakers even longer. And then this is just a specific combination of speakers with amplifier without having to switch speaker cables or without the presence of a power conditioner. After all, everything in your chain influences the display. The fact is that the Signatures let you hear what you are doing and are changing in your setup. They are quite accurate. The fact is that the Signatures let you hear what you are doing and are changing in your setup. They are quite accurate. The fact is that the Signatures let you hear what you are doing and are changing in your setup. They are quite accurate.
Compare with the 702 S2?
I couldn’t directly compare the 702 Signature with the 702 S2. I don’t have the latter a) at home and b) the ability to remember certain sound properties does not extend beyond a few hours as far as I am concerned, and therefore certainly not over several years. So if you, as a reader of this review, are looking for that, I have to disappoint you unfortunately. Searching in my notes at the time, the 702 S2 were especially more sensitive to a correct placement and the Signature is a little less critical in that respect and even benefits from a placement a little closer to the wall. I did not have to move the Signatures for very long or often to achieve a satisfactory result. Something I did experience with the 702 S2.In addition, the middle area of the 702 S2 and 705 S2 could sometimes be a bit too present in my memory. But as I said, I can’t do more than base myself on my memories and notes.
Truckloads of music have passed again in recent weeks. Ranging from Fleetwood Mac to Metallica, Miles Davis to Eminem and everything in between. And in my notes I systematically find the following remarks: clear highs and mids, fast reproduction of rhythms, high level of detail over the entire range, wide soundstage and excellent bass reproduction. That sums up the Signatures nicely. They are very precise in their representation and grab you without a moment of weakness where you can wriggle free. They are not speakers for background music. No, listen. Really listen to goddamn music! That’s what they almost scream. And man, did I listen. Night after night I was late in bed because I just didn’t want to stop. Delicious when a set can do that with you. Addictively delicious.
King of Pop
You will find me again in my Michael Jackson period, so I have been listening to albums by The King of Pop regularly. On the streaming services you can find countless publications that all sound different with more and more compression. I like to go back to older releases of the albums Thriller and Off The Wall. CDs where the dynamic range is much larger than on the more recent remasters or compilation releases. In addition, the new Denon DCD-A110 SACD player, which is currently being reviewed together with the Denon PMA-A110, is also excellent in the reproduction of those old trusted silver discs.
Billie Jean’s characteristic rhythm and intro is a piece of music that flawlessly shows you the differences between the various mixes. And the more recent the release, the more compression and the less the dynamic range. That damn loudness war! So I’m going to work with my old trusted CDs; What a wonderful definition in the intro of that famous track Billie Jean. The drums are not too fat, but certainly not too thin either. The snares and hi-hats are tightly reproduced on the Signatures and the famous bass line is immensely detailed. On the lesser Gods below the speakers, that bass line quickly becomes a knot of hum, but on the Signatures you can clearly hear that there are two different basses. One from a real bass guitar and one from a synthesizer, which are played simultaneously. Basses are neither too greasy nor too woolly. Rather modest even. Real Brits those Signatures, for that matter. The reproduction is very fast and precise and draws you into the music. These speakers make music and remind me of the demos I had of the 800 Series from Bowers & Wilkins. I can’t even give B&W a bigger compliment. This is Premier League level.
While that crazy pop king is mainly about tight beats and the high degree of speed in the reproducers, in my opinion classical music is mainly about being able to listen for a long time without tiring and thus a more fluid reproduction. Classical pieces are usually long and if you are stuck with a set of which the hairs on your neck rise because a piano rattles too much in your ear canal and thus detracts from the experience, it is a true torture if you ask me. . Fortunately, there is no torture with the 702 Signatures. On the contrary.
It is a real pleasure to listen to classical music on these Brits. What a wonderfully smooth reproduction of piano and strings. With both the Rotel RA-1592 and the Denon PMA-A110, every time I listen to pieces that contain a lot of dynamics, it is always goosebumps. Both amps are then able to throw a complete orchestra into my listening room in the blink of an eye and then have that entire orchestra still present, but still when only a single musician plays his or her instrument. The spatial placement is exceptionally good and the details in various shots are almost unbelievably realistic. In addition, the Denon is just a bit smoother and more nuanced than the Rotel. It is therefore especially with classical music that my preference for the Denon is formed in combination with the 702 Signature.
I can best describe the Bowers & Wilkins 702 Signature as a speaker that completely demands your attention. It is therefore not a speaker that you primarily use for background music during your work or during a dinner, they want to demand too much attention for that. Not that it is not possible, but then you are simply doing this beautiful speaker short. He deserves his place in the spotlight.
The reproduction is characterized by the fast and precise character and the fairly neutral tuning. With a pronounced midrange, but not too thick and with the better filter and the new tuning it is really all neatly balanced. The 702 Signature does not shout at you from the back of the room, but is really making music in the foreground. You can not ignore it. Not because of the looks and not the sound properties. Match the 702 Signature with a not too bright sounding amplifier and you will enjoy music for the long haul.
With the 700 Signature Series from Bowers & Wilkins you really get something special at home. Sound wise it is an improvement compared to the already not sick 702 S2. Whether that justifies the price difference of 1000 euros per pair for you will have to become clear from a possible listening session at the dealer. I heartily recommend such a session. As far as I am concerned, it is really worth that price jump. You will not get closer to the 804 D3 for this amount. Yes, they are that good.
PLUS POINTS of Bowers & Wilkins 702 Signature
- Fast and balanced display
- High level of detailing
- Performs at low and high volume
- Beautiful finish
- Bi-amping / bi-wiring possible
MINUSES of Bowers & Wilkins 702 Signature
- Matching plinth was and still is huge
- You get nowhere