Last week, Bowers & Wilkins invited us downtown in New York to show off their latest audio line, Formation. The lineup is predicated on five launch products, all sharing the same Formation namesake at the beginning: Bar, Duo, Wedge, Bass and Audio.
Featuring support for AirPlay 2, the company is touting the innovations presented in the Formation line as top-tier wired audio fidelity achieved wirelessly, all with the same setup simplicity of a $249 everyday-consumer level speaker.
If you want to read how Bowers & Wilkins plans on selling you on this make-no-mistake-ultra-premium line, check out their full press release at the bottom. In the meanwhile, I’ll share my thoughts with the brief closed room audio demos I was presented.
Formation Duo, Formation Bar & Bass, Formation Wedge
The Formation Duo is a carbon-domed, tweeter-on-top tech and Continuum cone driver set of wireless speakers. If that technical audio talk has you a bit confused, just know this — the engineering and audio tech in the Duo is the same as it is in Bowers & Wilkins wired speaker line.
As the name aptly implies, the Duo is sold in a set of two for $3,999.
Now, for four thousand dollars, these things better sound incredible. Fortunately, I can confidently confirm these triumphantly resound over a pair of stereo HomePods, which I happen to listen to music from daily at home.
It’s not just that the Duo can get extraordinarily loud (because they definitely can), but rather the shear depth and motion of the sound which makes these things truly worth their weight in gold.
Now I’m sure a trained audiophile could come into the room and compound a list of technical criticism, but to my rather average tech-enthusiast ears, I walked away giving these an A+.
One of Bowers & Wilkins most accentuated points was how the sound creates a sensation of reality. Close your eyes, they asked us, while Nirvana and Billie Eilish soar through the room.
Sounds rose, as they said they would, appearing to come from high up in the room. Other sounds felt deep, rushing at your feet, then fast up your body.
Some tracks were specifically live performances at large concerts or festivals, where the performers were deliberately physically far apart. B&W played these to demonstrate the speakers’ ability to create a depth of sound.
From left to right, Formation: Duo, Bass, Bar, Audio, Wedge
If the audio quality of the Duo intrigues you but aren’t looking to shell out used car cash, the most moderately priced speaker of the lineup, the Wedge, might be for you.
At $899, the Formation Wedge is designed to be a super high-performing speaker, blended with a unique 120-degree elliptical ‘wedge’ shape. Offered in both black and white, B&W brought forth an upscale New York City interior designer to praise both the sound quality and aesthetic.
No longer will she have to build a visually appealing set of plants surrounding a home speaker she lauded, the Wedge can stand all alone, even in the most lavish homes.
I mention lavish homes because if it’s not already clear from the pricing these are for the wealthy, Bowers & Wilkins launch event certainly made that unmistakable.
Hosted in a 30 foot ceiling penthouse loft at Hudson Yards in Manhattan with a terrace surrounding all four sides, it’s obvious the company sees potential buyers as a resident of such a home in the first place. At any rate, these speakers have one target market — the ultra-premium.
Wrapping things up is the Formation Bar, a $1,199 nine driver TV sound-bar with a dedicated center channel. Additionally, the Formation Bass is sold to pair alongside either system (Wedge or Duo) at $999.
Ultimately, one of the final yet key aspects B&W dug at was the simplicity of the system and future alterations. They asked us to envision the difficulty of adding a new subwoofer to a currently setup high-fi audio system. For most people, the drudgery would prevent them from even attempting the job. Here, it can be as simple as plug, pair and play, with (hopefully) all the same quality as a previous multi-thousand dollar wired audio system.
Bowers & Wilkins Redefines Uncompromised Wireless Sound with the Introduction of its New Formation® Suite
New suite of audio products leverages exclusive technology to produce the Highest Form of Sound™, wirelessly
MENLO PARK, Calif., April 22, 2019 – Bowers & Wilkins, the leading global performance audio brand known for its innovative technology, today introduces the Formation® Suite of wireless audio products for whole-home sound without compromise. The product suite seamlessly blends high-fidelity performance with convenience, redefining the industry in true Bowers & Wilkins groundbreaking fashion.
“The Formation Suite is the newest and most technologically innovative line of wireless products our development team has ever created. We are setting a new bar in the world of wireless sound, proving that wired fidelity can be achieved wirelessly,” said Greg Lee, CEO of Bowers & Wilkins. “The all new Formation Wireless Technology enables a fidelity never experienced on a wireless system before. Now consumers can get the high-performance audio quality that they expect from Bowers & Wilkins with the convenience wireless systems offer. With Formation, we’re taking the superior quality sound Bowers & Wilkins is known for and coupling it with an unmatched, easy-to-use, wireless listening experience, making it the new standard in whole home audio.”
With over 50 years of acoustic expertise, consumers can expect to experience an immersive, seamless, high-fidelity soundstage, wirelessly. Featuring Bowers & Wilkins’ iconic audio engineering and the all new patented Formation Wireless Technology, the Formation Suite is the Highest Form of Sound.
- Patented Robust Mesh Network – developed to cover your whole home without impacting your home network quality. Our patented mesh network enables seamless sound and a new industry standard for streaming quality and speaker synchronization.
- Perfected Speaker Synchronization – imperceptible in-room synchronization of one microsecond between speakers allows them to work in perfect harmony to provide an industry-defining listening experience. It sounds like you’re listening to a live music in your living room.
- 96/24 Bit Audio Resolution – high-resolution streaming with twice the fidelity than the leading wireless speaker brand that creates denser, richer, best-in-class sound without information loss.
The Formation Suite includes five products at launch:
- Formation Bar – Nine optimized drive units provide a wide soundstage including a dedicated center channel, so you always feel like you’re in the center of sound action.
- Formation Duo – With the same carbon-domed, tweeter-on-top technology and Continuum cone driver as Bowers & Wilkins’ industry-defining wired speakers, now experience legendary sound, wirelessly.
- Formation Wedge – Uniquely characterized by a 120-degree elliptical speaker shape, with dedicated full-range stereo sound components experience room filling high-resolution stereo sound.
- Formation Bass – Opposed drivers, powerful amplifiers and Dynamic EQ provide accurate audio depth and dimension without distortion. Pairs with other Formation components for the ultimate audio immersion.
- Formation Audio – Patented Formation Wireless Technology turns any traditional passive system into a high-fidelity streaming system for a best-of-all worlds sound experience.
Each of the products in the Formation Suite includes a streamlined user interface, taking just moments to set up and start playing, as well as world class modern design that was purposely built for superior acoustics.
“Three years ago, we had the vision to take Bowers & Wilkins 50 years of acoustic history and success and combine it with Silicon Valley automation expertise, creating an amazing user experience that is simple, powerful and incredible to listen to. Today, it’s amazing to witness that vision come to life, ushering in the next chapter of sound experience. The Formation Suite introduces consumers to wireless sound technology that is unparalleled in the audio space and showcases the true innovation this company is capable of and this is just the beginning. There is so much more to come,” said Gideon Yu, Co-Chairman of Bowers & Wilkins.