Bowers & Wilkins VM1 Speakers and AS1 Subwoofer Reviewed
This subwoofer has a selectable music/movie mode which operates easily for "precise presentation of material." Our reviewer was impressed with the overall sound of the VM1 and AS1 which "filled my room up like sails on a windy day." The sound was "near perfect" and "each note stayed the course"
When my workday is done, I like to slide into my deep sofa chair, sling my legs over one wonderfully tall armrest and lean my head back against the other. With everyone else's agenda behind me, I can relax and rewind. I sometimes choose to listen to music; one of my favorite DVD-Audio discs: Faith Hill's Cry is soothing to my soul and I find her music restoring. That great big sofa chair is also wonderful to watch movies from.
To me, home theater is a part of my lifestyle. Though it hasn't always been that way. In the early days, I had front and rear speakers that were nothing more than large pieces of furniture with transducers in them. Installed in a small condo, this made for a rude intrusion.
With the ever-growing popularity of plasma displays, many companies are moving towards an in-wall or on-wall solution for sound. In keeping with the clean and un-intrusive nature of the plasma, many consumers are settling for cheap, poor-performing home theatre in-a-box solutions. The thought of degrading a wonderful picture by adding poor sound makes me cringe, but until recently there haven't been a whole lot of high-performance options...
Unique Features - The B&W (Bowers & Wilkins) VM1 is an extension of the highly acclaimed LM1 (Leisure Monitor) speaker line. The VM1s are a flexible speaker, able to occupy all five positions in a home theater setup with little intrusion. Each can be mounted vertically or horizontally on a wall bracket (included) or affixed to an optional floor stand. There are also small foot-type stands included that are highly effective. The VM1 is slim and slender in design and comes in a silver, black or white finish. As a center channel speaker, the VM1 can be laid horizontally or placed vertically on its short foot stand atop your TV, The body of the VM1 is molded of a high-strength polypropylene, and features contemporary styling, including a tactile elastomeric trim. B&W's dimpled Flowport is integrated into the rear of each VM1 speaker. On the front is the B&W logo tag that is also flexible--able to rotate according to the speaker's vertical or horizontal positioning.
The AS1 subwoofer is an active, entry-level subwoofer equipped with an 85-watt amplifier. Bass extension passes through a 6.5-inch woofer with a frequency range of 27Hz to 100Hz and also has a selectable music/movie mode. The music/movie switch operates easily for precise presentation of material with a frequency response of 34-75Hz (music) and 27-75Hz (movie). This switch is a unique offering in a subwoofer, as is its location: conveniently, along with the volume level switch, on the top surface of the sub, other than on the rear panel where many other subwoofer brands offer their controls.
Continue reading about the VM1 and AS1 on Page 2.
Unlike the VM1, at the front of the AS1 is B&Ws Flowport. Many bass cabinets have "turbulence" in and out of the tuning port. The Flowport design uses golf ball aerodynamics to smooth the airflow and reduce acoustic interference. The AS1 has a fit, unobtrusive appearance and is offered in a contemporary silver finish with gray grille or sleek black ash with matching grille.
Installation/Setup/Ease of Use - Next to my giant black Zenith 55" rear projection display, the VM1s were hardly noticeable. I installed the front UR and surrounds onto the optional floor stands. While they looked good next to my "big screen" I was disappointed that the base-plate of the floor stands did not include carpet spikes. This made them a bit unstable. Setup was a snap. Each floor stand took all of two minutes to unpack and assemble--even the hex-wrench required is affixed to each speaker. I used the small footprint stand for the horizontal installation of the center channel on top of my display. Each VM1 features five-way binding posts for speaker connectivity. I connected these speakers to my Marantz SR8200 A/V receiver, using a Rotel RDV-1080 DVD player as the source. My cables include Revelation interconnects throughout and WireWorld speaker cables.
Final Take - When I'm listening to anything in 5.1, I want to hear details; some details are obvious; others are not so obvious. Nonetheless, all details are important and a good speaker ensemble and subwoofer will present them all--accurately. I found that the VM1 speakers and AS1 subwoofer filled my room up like sails on a windy day. With The Count of Monte Cristo, the sword fighting scenes sounded crisp and brilliant--exactly what I've come to expect from a B&W speaker. Each sound of a steel blade slicing shirt or skin, or clashing against another was near perfect; each note stayed the course. The midrange per- formed marvelously, meeting the tweeter smoothly and effectively. The AS1 sub didn't cop out with deeper passages. Through Faith Hill's DVD-Audio Cry the VM1 again produced vocals and details flawlessly and effortlessly. I could hear the guitar pick scratching against the strings on a few tracks--always a true test of a speaker's will. Though the AS1 pleased my ears, I am not one to make the house shake--and neither is this sub. Nevertheless, the AS1 is a solid performer providing good low-end bass for mild to medium levels.
It is never easy to switch gears from my typical "reference system" that is made up of Infinity KAPPA series speakers, Integra processing and Krell amplification. After all, a $1,250 speaker system has a lot of catching up to do with an $8,000 speaker system.
The B&W VM1s make one recalculate an investment of over 4 times the cost. While most "lifestyle" speakers aren't worth mentioning, the VM1s boast a delightful performance with B&W heritage. Add to that the wonderful ergonomics and resulting flexibility and I argue that it will be a long time coming before a rival is found.
VM1 5-Year limited warranty Foot-stands/wall-mounts included Floor-stands optional 21" x 5" W x 3.5" D Weight: 6 lbs. each Frequency response: 75Hz -- 20kHz Finishes: black, white, and silver MSRP: $200 each
AS1 5-Year limited warranty 85-watt vented box enclosure 6.5" woofer Frequency range: -6dB at 27Hz and 100Hz (music/movie mode) Inputs: Line in (RCA/phono), speaker level in Outputs: Line out (RCA/phono), speaker level out 14.9" T x 9.8" W x15.2" D Weight: 24.2 lbs. Finishes: black ash vinyl w/black grille or silver w/gray grille MSRP: $250