By Lam Seng Fatt
It has been a while since I last heard a pair of B & W speakers at length. So when The Experts Group offered me a pair of bookshelf B & W 705 S2 speakers for review, I quickly drove to Gardens, Mid-Valley Megamall in Kuala Lumpur to pick them up.
These speakers are the only ones in the 700 Series which are bookshelf and have the solid body tweeter-on-top design that features technology trickled down from the 800 Series Diamond speakers.
Also trickled down from the 800 Series Diamond speakers is the Continuum cone used in the mid-bass driver. this woven and coated material provides well-controlled break-up modes and results in an open and neutral midrange. There is no mention in the company’s website on what the material is but B & W says it is the “biggest step-change in midrange performance since Kevlar”.
More on the technologies from the website: “Milled from a solid block of aluminium, the solid body tweeter housing design creates an acoustically optimised housing for the tweeter – one that’s exceptionally inert and resistant to resonances. The Carbon Dome tweeters are a brand new technology purpose-built for the 700 Series. Delivering a dramatic improvement on the aluminium double-dome tweeter, they raise the breakup threshold to 47kHz, for pinpoint imaging accuracy and detail.”
At the rear are the Flowport which is part of the bass-reflex design of the speaker and terminals for bi-wiring. The B & W 705 S2 is a smallish standmount speaker measuring 340mm (13.4 in) high, cabinet only, and 407mm (16 in) including the tweeter; 200mm (7.8 in) wide and 285mm (11.2 in) deep. Each speaker weighs 9.3kg (20.5 lb), so carrying it is not a back-breaking exercise. The speakers come in white, black and rosenut finishes.
It is relatively sensitive at 88 dB and its frequency response is 50Hz – 28kHz ±3dB. The new tweeter can reach up to 33kHz before the -6dB point kicks in.
The recommended amplifier power is 30W – 120W, but I used my 300-watter Bryston 4B SST and the speakers did not seem to mind the extra power.
I placed them on my reference TAOC AST-60HB speaker stands and listened to them just slightly toed in. I started off using Kimber 12TC speaker cables to link them to the Bryston. I noted that they sounded a bit muddy overall.
That was when I decided to replace the Kimber with DH Labs Q-10 speaker cables to bi-wire the 705 S2 speakers. Immediately, I noticed the improvements in sonic quality – everything sounded much clearer and better defined. So If you own these speakers, I think it is mandatory to bi-wire them – the improvements are truly remarkable.
Then I decided to toe them in some more about 7.5 feet apart so that they formed part of an equilateral triangle with the listening position forming the third point of the triangle. In this position, the soundstage opened up and the depth improved. Images were better defined and there was more space between singers and musicians. If you have a pair of the B & W 705 S2 speakers, you have to do two things – bi-wire them and listen to them using the equilateral triangle method.
Given the size of the speakers, you cannot expect them to delve down to the nether regions, but that does not mean the bass is light. Though the bass response is rated to go down to 50Hz, the bass was lively and pacey. Due to the new technologies and materials used, the sound was very clean and neutral and the highs were light, open and transparent, thanks to the Carbon Dome tweeter. Voices were rendered in a natural way without sibilance.
On the whole, the sound was neutral and well balanced. The only negative point is that at its RRP of RM12.600 a pair, there are quite a number of competitors including a few very competent ones that cost less.
B & W products are available at The Experts Group’s B & W showroom in the Gardens, Mid-Valley MegaMall, Kuala Lumpur.