B&W 700 Series Speaker System Reviewed

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I have to confess, I have a soft spot in my heart for B&W products. I am a fan of the English sound which B&W has historically exemplified. I rarely hear a B&W product that I don't like, and there are quite a few that I really love.

Additional Resources
• Read more floorstanding speaker reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Find an amplifier to pair with the 700 series.

Although I have had a number of speaker systems in my life, what I considered my first real "high-end" system was the Nautilus 804, 805, HTM2 speaker system. This system was used as my reference in my home theater prior to my being seduced by an even higher-end KEF Reference system. I truly loved that Nautilus system, as it made me feel that I had finally arrived in the world of high-end audio. Their analytical and transparent nature made it relatively easy for me to review audio gear because they would faithfully reveal the nature of the upstream components for better or worse. Although I had courted B&W for some time for a set of speakers for review, it was not until I established myself in the audio reviewing world did they offer up a reference set of speakers. True to their conservative nature, instead of the Nautilus system I requested, they offered me the new 700 series to "start me out." The 700 series is the replacement for the HTM series, speakers that, although I liked, I never truly loved because even the top line HTM9 front speaker did not have the open airiness of the Nautilus line, and also seemed to have a slightly muddier, looser lower end. Yes, I know the Nautilus is more money, but hey, I am allowed to voice my hyper-critical opinions. Although somewhat disappointed, I never look a gift horse in the mouth, and gratefully accepted the 700 system for review. I needn't have worried, because as it turns out, the 700 is a more than worthy successor to the HTM line, and frankly, comes close the Nautilus 804, which is a bit more money.

Unique Features
The new 700 series has a nicer, smoother, cleaner look than the previous HTM series. The build quality is simply impeccable, the wood veneers excellent and the finish furniture quality. The 703 front speaker uses the same drivers as the Nautilus 804, and the HTM7 fit right into the center of my Salamander rack, giving a very clean look to the system. Instead of the direct radiating speakers that I usually prefer for the rear, this time I chose the wall-mountable dipole DS7 (they are selectable as monopole/dipole, but I mainly ran them in the dipole mode), which are designed to be more for movies rather than high resolution surround sound. My only gripe with the cosmetics of this system was the black color of the DS7 -- apparently there are no wood finishes available for this speaker. They are meant to be wall mounted, but I think that a wood finish would be appreciated. The ASW750 subwoofer has a very high powered amp with a 12-inch driver, and it also has a very clean look.

Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
The 703 comes with carpet spikes, and I placed included small rubber feet on the bottom of the center channel speaker. The rear speakers were placed on a stand in the back of the room, but eventually were wall-mounted. All speakers had excellent binding posts, and the front and center were biwired, except the rear DS7s.

Read more about the performance of the 700 series on Page 2.

HTR Product Rating for B&W 700 Series Speaker System

Criteria Rating

Performance

4

Value

4

Overall

4

Disagree with our product rating? Email us and tell us why you think this product should receive a higher rating.


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B&W-704.gifThe 703s were placed to the sides of my cabinet, about four feet from the back wall and three feet from the side walls. The center channel was placed in the open center area of the triple cabinet, and the DS7s were mounted on the rear wall about eight feet off the floor.

Final Take
I started listening in two-channel mode to just the 703s with and without the subwoofer. As the 703s now cost $3,000/pair, not far from the Nautilus 804 price of $3,500/pair, some comparison is inevitable. The classic B&W smooth, neutral midrange was evident right away. Just slightly forward, yet expansive and clear, vocals and instruments come smoothly off this speaker. Highs are more airy and expansive than I remember with the CDM9, and come very close to that of the 804, but don't quite reach the openness of the more expensive speaker. The bass region has definitely improved over the CDM9, as it is tighter and not quite as "loose" as the CDM9 was (and the CDM9 was never that "loose" to begin with). The 703s do not have copious amounts of bass but I have been ruined a bit by the KEF Reference 207s. Although the sub was useful for movies and home theater, I was perfectly happy with the 703s alone for music listening.

The overall sound is smooth, smooth, smooth, and almost as analytical as the 804. This can increase the overall enjoyment of the system, as the 703 is forgiving of poorer recordings. It would be safe to say that the 703 is also more forgiving of less expensive electronics. This is due to some extent to the free-standing tweeter on the Nautilus series, which creates an even more expansive sound, but probably makes the speaker even more analytical and critical of poor recordings and electronics.

The center channel is an excellent complement to the 703s, as it is very clear and smooth. The center is best set as "small," as its bass output is not copious, and in the setting that I placed it within the Salamander rack, it also seemed to make more practical sense to avoid boominess. The excellent midrange of B&W speakers really makes itself evident while watching movies, as the dialogue and voices are wonderfully clear. While not quite the match of the Nautilus center channels, again the HTM7 is more approachable and less analytical while still providing a smooth, expansive sound.

Being used to direct radiating speakers, I had to get used to the DS7s' sound. Although excellent for movie/home theater situations, I was not quite as thrilled in music and high resolution surround audio listening. That has little to do with the DS7s, which performed admirably, than my selection of them versus the direct radiating 705s. I did use the DS7s in the monopole mode, and my ears just preferred that way better, but since the choice exists, it is possible to use the DS7 in dipole mode for movies and monopole mode for music. Although ultimately, the 705 may sound a little better for music because it is set up to do just one thing well (be a direct radiating speaker), but the flexibility of the DS7 is probably worth the compromise.

The ASW750 sub has lots of punch -- it will easily shake the floor and get things rockin' and rollin'. Although not quite as tight for music as my REL, it provides a significant amount of tight, smooth, strong punch for home theater and high-resolution audio situations, and definitely goes deeper than my REL.

Overall, this system is simply excellent. More forgiving than the Nautilus series, the 7 series provides much of the performance. Realizing that the price of the speakers without the subwoofer was about $5,250, I did a double-take as the performance of this system is just plain outstanding for that price point. Adding the subwoofer makes this an excellent home theater system. I do realize that $7,000 is not exactly cheap in the big scheme of things, but in a day when people are spending that much and more on a 50-inch plasma, the addition of a high resolution audio system to go with your high resolution plasma will take your experience to a whole new level. Those who add higher-end electronics as they go along will find a level of performance that approaches that of the Nautilus series, making the 700 series system the sweet spot of the B&W line.

Additional Resources
• Read more floorstanding speaker reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Find an amplifier to pair with the 700 series.

Very highly recommended.

B&W 700 Series Speaker System

B&W 703
3 way vented box system
(2) 6.5-inch paper/Kevlar woofers
(1) 6-inch woven Kevlar midrange
(1) 1-inch alloy dome tweeter
Sensitivity: 90dB
Frequency Response: 38Hz- 25kHz
Impedence: 8 ohms
Recommended amp power: 50W-200W
Dimensions: 39.7" x 9.1" x 14.1"
MSRP: $3,000/pair

B&W DS7
2-way closed-box selectable dipole/monopole system
1 6.5-inch woven Kevlar midrange/bass
(2)4-inch midrange/high
(1) 1-inch alloy tweeter
Sensitivity: 89dB
Impedence: 8 ohms
Frequency: 80Hz- 22kHz (monopole mode);
80Hz- 10kHz (dipole mode)
Recommended amp power: 25W-120W
Dimensions: 11.9" x 15.1"x 7.9"
MSRP: $1,500/pair

B&W HTM7
2-way vented box system
1 6.5-inch woven Kevlar midrange/bass
(1) 1-inch alloy dome tweeter
Sensitivity: 91dB
Frequency: 50Hz-25kHz
Impedence: 8 ohms
Recommended amp power: 50W-120W
Dimensions: 12.1" x 17.7" x 11.4"
MSRP: $750 each

B&W ASW750
Active closed-box subwoofer system
12-inch paper/Kevlar cone driver
Amplifier power output: 1000W
Frequency response: 20Hz- 31/100Hz adjustable
Dimensions: 17.2" x 15.6" x 18.9"
MSRP: $1,600 each


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