The Bowers & Wilkins 702 Signature floorstanding loudspeaker (buy at Crutchfield) sits at the top of the 700 Series, with only the 800 Series Diamond and the $70,000- per-pair Nautilus above it. With an asking price of $7,499 per pair, the 702 Signature speakers are certainly aspirational—but also a possible “endgame” speaker for many in the hobby worldwide.
Bowers & Wilkins is one of most well-known audiophile loudspeaker makers in the world, having been in business since 1966. The company’s commitment to great sound is evidenced by having one of the largest research and development budgets of any speaker manufacturer on the planet. Bowers & Wilkins is known for its attention to detail in design, its robust build quality, and its preference for an accurate “studio sound” in its products. That might be why Abbey Road Studios in London and Skywalker Ranch in Northern California use Bowers & Wilkins 803 D4 Series audiophile speakers as their reference.
What Makes the B&W 702 Signature Speakers Special?
- The 702 Signature speakers are downright gorgeous. My review samples were finished in the sustainably sourced Datuk Gloss wood veneer with a high-gloss finish that’s absolutely stunning.
- The three 6.5-inch bass drivers can deliver deep, dynamic bass that is accurate, rich, and textured—thus making the 702 Signature a great loudspeaker for both music and home theater.
- The isolated carbon dome tweeter that sits atop the speaker results in tremendous air and detail in the high frequencies.
- The six-inch decoupled midrange driver delivers lifelike, accurately placed vocals that are clear, articulate, and detailed without ever sounding harsh. This is the same driver material used in B&W’s flagship 800 Series.
Why Should You Care about the Bowers & Wilkins 702 S2 Signature Speakers?
- The 702 Signature speakers are an upgraded version of the highly regarded B&W 702 S2 model. They keep the same form factor and drivers but employ next-level crossovers, cabinet finishes (Datuk Gloss or Metallic Midnight Blue), and trim.
- These limited-edition speakers are for the discerning listener who cares just as much about fit and finish. They’re drop-dead gorgeous, which creates pride of ownership for both their looks and their performance.
Some Things You Might Not Like About the B&W 702 Signature Speakers…
- The design aesthetic of the provided satin-black MDF plinths does not measure up to the elevated style of the rest of the loudspeaker. The plinths look as though they were a last-minute add-on, lacking the typical attention to design detail for which Bowers & Wilkins is known. If speaker stability is not an issue in your room environment, just leave them off.
- The Bowers & Wilkins 700 Series currently lacks a Signature center-channel speaker. Those looking to incorporate the 702 Signature speakers into a home theater setup are advised to consider the Bowers & Wilkins HTM71 S2 for timbre-matching, but the finish options for the HTM71 S2 are different than those of the Signature line. Depending on how and where your speakers are placed, the difference in finishes may or may not be an aesthetic concern.
- The 702 Signature speakers are rear-ported, so the ideal placement is away from the wall (2 feet or more) to avoid bass “boosting” or “loading” in the corners behind your speakers. The package includes two-piece foam plugs that can be inserted into the ports to alleviate the issue, but the plugs will also reduce the overall amount of low bass energy delivered. If your room requires that you place your speakers up against the wall, you might want to look for a front-ported or sealed-cabinet speaker design instead.
- It’s important to consider the type of amplification you pair with the 702 Signature speakers. I found that the speakers were not overly difficult to drive, but you’ll want something more substantial than a $500 bare-bones receiver to get the best results from these speakers. A mid- to high-end receiver from the likes of Marantz or Denon, or a standalone amplifier with ample headroom to deliver the punchy bass and airy highs that the 702 Signature speakers are capable of, will be a good fit. I employed both a Denon AVR-X8500HA receiver and a Classe CA-5300 amplifier for the majority of my listening, with great results. I also tried out a Marantz SR6015 receiver for a short period and found it more than up to the task, as well.
Listening To The Bowers & Wilkins 702 S2 Signature Speakers…
To evaluate layering and soundstaging, I streamed several tracks from Qobuz, including “When the Lights Go Down” from Prince’s album The Vault – Old Friends 4 Sale (buy at Amazon). This jazz-inspired track has a lot to unpack, starting with two sets of bongo drums playing off each other—one to the right and the other to the left of the center soundstage. When the bass guitar joins in, the Bowers & Wilkins 702 Signature speakers locked it in place dead-center, where it belongs. The piano then entered just a bit to the left of the right speaker, with plenty of natural sparkle on the high notes and a laid- back tone on the lower notes. Prince begins singing at the 2:40 mark, adding another layer to the mix. Through it all, the 702 Signature speakers presented the layered tune with appropriate rhythm and tempo while also presenting a sense of space between individual instruments in a believable soundstage. Through this B&W system, everything sounded just as it should, with seamless cohesion between drivers, thanks to the upgraded crossovers. Playing this track through the 702 Signature speakers easily highlighted Prince’s musical versatility.
To check out the low-end capability of the 702 Signature system, I used Qobuz to stream the track “Bad Guy” from Billie Eilish’s debut album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (buy at Amazon). When I turned up the volume, the foundational beat provided by the bass and kick drum was rock- solid. It felt as though the kick drum was thumping me right in the chest, but it wasn’t muddy—rather, it sounded as clear and deep as it should. The 702 Signature speakers are rated down to 46 Hz, and they definitely live up to that, providing plenty of bass impact. The stacked harmonies of Billie’s vocal come through with crystal-clear detail thanks to the decoupled midrange driver, which enabled me to discern three distinct yet nearly identical sets of vocals layered on top of one another. And when the bass was supposed to be distorted, beginning at 2:31 in the track, it definitely was—providing a rumbling energy in the listening room that I could feel.
Do the Bowers & Wilkins 702 Signature Speakers Hold Their Value?
This is a well-made loudspeaker build by an A-List manufacturer and sold in most of the best retail locations in the word. The company’s deep history in pro audio, the countless rave audiophile reviews, and the use of state-of-the- art technology make for a speaker that people will want to own for decades to come.
Who Is the Competition for the B&W 702 S2 Signature?
The limited-edition Focal Aria 936 K2 (buy at Amazon) ($6,598 per pair) and the Monitor Audio Gold 300 ($9,000 per pair) are two notable competitors to the B&W 702 Signature speakers. Standing just a bit taller than the 702 Signature, the Focal Aria 936 K2 has drivers of similar size and number, with the tweeter being a one-inch inverted dome housed in the cabinet rather than the dome tweeter isolated from the cabinet like on the B&W. Focal employs aramid for the midbass and bass driver cone material, rather than the flax material used in the standard Aria line. The cabinet is an ash gray finish on the sides, along with Focal’s signature leather-lined front baffle. In my opinion, the aesthetic of the Focal Aria 936 K2 just doesn’t quite measure up to the beauty of the gorgeous Datuk Gloss finish of the B&W 702 Signature.
The Monitor Audio Gold 300’s cabinet is approximately the same size and weight as the 702 Signature’s, although the cabinet is a bit wider to accommodate the larger dual eight-inch bass drivers, compared to the three 6.5-inch bass drivers of the B&W. There’s also a matching Gold Series center, surround, and subwoofer if you’re after a home theater setup and the matching aesthetic is critical to you.
Final Thoughts on the Bowers & Wilkins 702 Signature Speakers…
I was already impressed with the performance of the Bowers & Wilkins 702 S2 model when I reviewed it. The Bowers& Wilkins 702 Signature edition (buy at Crutchfield) elevates that performance a significant step closer to B&W’s flagship 800 Series. And the addition of the gorgeous Datuk Gloss finish and other accompanying aesthetic improvements could easily cause someone to mistake it for a speaker costing twice as much (or more). The blending of the already highly resolving carbon-dome tweeter, decoupled cone midrange, and fast bass drivers have been improved further with the addition of the 702 Signature’s upgraded crossover network.
The B&W 702 Signature speaker is definitely a potential endgame speaker for all but the wealthiest of audiophiles. And if it is just another step in your audiophile journey, I expect you’ll be pleasantly surprised with its resale value when the time comes. The B&W 702 Signature is one beautiful speaker, from both a performance and aesthetic perspective.