When does a loudspeaker
stop being a loudspeaker
and become a computer speaker? When does a computer speaker stop being a computer speaker and become a loudspeaker? These two questions have been on my mind a lot recently, as I've done my evaluation of the new MM-1 loudspeakers from Bowers & Wilkins. While Bowers & Wilkins labels their new MM-1 speakers as "computer speakers," I'm not entirely sure if that doesn't sell them short, for I've found them to be very capable, albeit powered, near-field monitors that just happen to connect to a computer or portable device.Additional Resources
• Learn more about Bowers & Wilkins and its products
Retailing for $499.95 a pair the MM-1s are compact, stylish and built to a standard that is decidedly Bowers & Wilkins. Dressed in black speaker cloth top to bottom and accented with a brushed aluminum top and center band that bares the family name, the MM-1s are the epitome of understated elegance in a sector of the marketplace that seems to favor brash design and bold colors. The MM-1s are a two-way, fully active loudspeaker design complete with Nautilus tube tweeters and a three-inch bass/midrange driver. They feature an internal 18 Watt digital amplifier that consumes 12 Watts of total power when on and less than one Watt of power in standby mode. The MM-1s have a reported frequency response of 38Hz to 22kHz.
The MM-1s can be driven via a USB connection with your computer or laptop as well as via a three and a half millimeter auxiliary input, making them ideal for mating to your iPod, iPhone or iPad. The MM-1s also have a headphone input that automatically mutes the sound coming from the speakers and directs it to your headphones. The right MM-1 speaker houses all of the necessary electronics for both speakers, as well as the pair's on/off switch and hard volume controls. Speaking of controls, the MM-1 comes standard with a small river rock-like remote that can power on the speakers as well as place them into standby, as well as the ability to control volume, play/pause, track skip and mute.
In terms of sound the MM-1s are supremely capable performers, possessing the essence of the Bowers & Wilkins sound in a more compact and lifestyle-oriented wrapper. The midrange is very musical and decidedly non-digital sounding despite the MM-1's all-digital build and design. The Nautilus tweeter, even when used in such a compact chassis, possesses great extension and poise when played back at reasonable volumes. As for the bass, the MM-1 performs quite admirably. While other desktop or computer speakers plunge lower with the help of a subwoofer, the MM-1's bass is far better integrated and musical than the competition - even if it doesn't go as deep. What is most surprising about the MM-1's sound isn't that they sound good; it's the fact that they image like a pair of stand-mounted monitors. The MM-1s cast a soundstage that is unlike anything I've ever heard from a computer-based speaker system before; one that is rife with detail but also one that is very cleanly and clearly defined with a surprising amount of air. During my audition of the MM-1s I tried them out on a variety of systems ranging from my Mac Pro tower in my office to my laptop down in the kitchen. I even went so far as to mate them to my iPad dock for a touch screen music system on the cheap in my guest bedroom. Truth be told, the iPad MM-1 combo proved to be one hell of a small room system that sounded great and was supremely functional. I can think of dozens of applications where the MM-1s would be not only appropriate, but welcomed additions to one's whole home audio/entertainment system - none of which involve them being directly connected to a computer or laptop.
Hence my confusion over whether or not it's appropriate to simply call the MM-1s mere computer speakers.
• The MM-1s look every bit a high-end product and perform like one too.