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.
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.
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.