The middle range speakers in the 700 S2 Series bring the best of Bowers & Wilkins within budgets that are acceptable to Hi-Fi enthusiasts. There are seven models available: three floorstanders, three bookshelves and a centre speaker. They are all available in Gloss Black, Satin White or Rosenut (also known as Rosewood). B&W doesn’t disclose the internal structure of the speakers. The series sticks to the classic parallelepiped shape with a heavy, rigid construction. Two models use a tweeter-on-top design, which is housed in a solid body. Seen before in the 800 Series, this feature is only found in the top-of-the-range 702 column and the largest bookshelf speaker - the 705.
These two models make up the Signature series. Taken from the 700 series, the 702 Signature column and the 705 Signature bookcase’s speakers use an identical construction and design. One of the exciting new features is the exclusive Datuk Gloss lacquered finish, a variety of chocolate-coloured ebony. And it doesn’t stop there. These speakers use improved passive filtering: new capacitors and new heat sinks, as B&W aim to take their performance up a notch. To make sure it’s a 700 Signature speaker you’re looking at, you just have to check for the plate screwed on at the back. Here we’ve gone for the 705 Signature bookshelf model, a compact speaker designed for music lovers with modest room sizes.
• Price: 3000 €
• Type: 2-way bass-reflex bookshelf speaker
• Speakers: 1x 16.5 cm woofer, 1x 25 mm tweeter
• Frequency response: 50 – 28,000 Hz (+/-3 dB)
• Sensitivity: 88 dB
• Normal impedance: 8 ohms
• Recommended amplifier power: 30-120 watts
• Weight: 9.3 kg
• Dimensions (W x H x D): 285 x 407 x 301 mm
General appearance of the 705 Signature
The 705 Signature is a so-called bookshelf speaker. In the past, this meant that it would simply be placed on shelves between books and knick-knacks, though the different uses for this type of speaker have hugely evolved. Nowadays, manufacturers recommend giving them their own space. B&W sells support stands, marked as FS 700 S2, which are highly recommended for this use. They are adapted to the 705, but you may be able to reuse your existing speaker stands if they are suitably robust.
If you place the speakers on a piece of furniture, note that they are 30 cm deep and that the vent is placed at the back, meaning that you have to keep them far enough away from the wall. The same goes if they are placed on stands. Small rubber studs are placed underneath the speakers to prevent the lacquer finish from scratching.
The 705 Signature reproduces the bass and midrange frequencies from a 16.5 cm woofer. This woofer uses the ‘Continuum’ cone first introduced in the 800 Diamond series. Presented in a grey finish, it has a mesh of coated synthetic fibres which reduce resonances that would get in the way of the music reproduction. It is combined with an aluminium chassis which improves the mids’ reproduction and works better than the zinc chassis found in previous generations.
The tweeter is taken out of the speaker and placed in a solid aluminium body finished in black lacquer. Originally created for the 800 Diamond series, the solid body tweeter is optimised to resist any resonances, standing almost independently in its own enclosure. The bullet-shaped body is only connected to the speaker via a soft rubber mount. The tweeter has a carbon dome cone developed for the 700 Series, which goes much higher in frequency (up to 47 kHz) to reproduce every detail of the high registers without rupturing.
At the back we find the Flowport vent, something B&W have long been using. The mouth of the vent is studded with small dimples like a golf ball. The aim is to suppress any air flow noise. Just below, the double terminal block is equipped with straps, making dual-wiring or dual-amplification possible options.
Positioning the 705 Signature
As previously mentioned, it is important to provide a stable base for these bookshelf speakers. We put the 705 Signature on Atacama stands that were weighted down with sand and placed on points, positioned about 60 cm from the rear wall and side walls. The stand was not too high, which is important when it comes to the tweeter. The tweeter stood at about 40 cm high, something which is essential for a bookshelf loudspeaker. After several tests, directing the speakers towards the listening point gave us the best results.
We didn't need to break in these speakers since they had already been used by some of our colleagues. With an average sensitivity of 88 dB and a power handling of 30 to 120 watts under 8 ohms, it’s better to go in at the top of the scale, or higher even provided that you stick to normal home listening levels. We connected the 705 Signature to an integrated 2x100 watt Accuphase and then to a Parasound A23 (2x125 watt) power amplifier. The source was a Bricasti M5 Streamer running under Roon, an app which has integrated Qobuz in Hi-res.
The speakers wonderfully replicated the jazz club atmosphere in Herman’s Habbit, taken from the La La Land soundtrack, and a beautiful soundscape unfolded before us. The different instruments sounded out in turn with precision and stability in both breadth and depth - the saxophone top right, the piano bottom left. It was missing a little lower bass so the double bass struggled ever so slightly. Though let’s not forget that we are dealing with a two-way bookshelf speaker which is, after all, compact. On the other hand, the reproduction was transparent – as if the speakers had held a magnifying glass up to the music.
On the track Jean Pierre from Marcus Miller’s album Free, the bass materialised perfectly in centre stage. We sat back and enjoyed the precise touch and the slightest string vibrations which sounded somewhere between piqué and round. It was lively, punchy and precise, allowing us to follow the instruments effortlessly. The cymbals sounded like cymbals - sharp but without any aggressiveness. When the harmonica came in, it sat on the right with a rare accuracy and an impressive presence.
Finally we switched to Alicia Keys’ latest album for some soft R&B. The swirling synths unfolded behind the speakers to support Alicia Keys’ voice in the foreground. The percussion brought to light the continuum woofer’s capabilities, producing a very dynamic dry bass. This combination created a real harmony which accentuated her voice. If we had to sum up the 705 Signature in one sentence, it’d be ‘a window into your music’.
Pros and Cons
Palpable feeling of atmosphere
Limited low frequencies
The Bowers & Wilkins 705 Signature sound is refined and precise – really important attributes that you don't find nearly enough in Hi-Fi. There are loads of speakers which take the highs as high as they can go. Mastering the reproduction of the high register is a complex science, but the engineers at B&W have clearly mastered it rather well. The low register is modest in the 705 Signature, making the speaker ideal for small rooms. Other speakers of the same size can go much lower, but not necessarily with the mid-high control of the 705 Signature. To reach the lower registers, there’s the 702 Signature column which is ideal for larger spaces. Otherwise, supplementing the 705 Signature bookshelf speaker with a high-performance speaker - such as the B&W PV1D - offers an interesting alternative. In any case, we recommend that you combine these speakers with an amp that isn’t too stingy in terms of current, and it’d be even better if it had a solid bass. The 705 Signature is an out-of-the-ordinary speaker that isn’t just made for sitting on a bookshelf. It deserves to go with a well-thought-out combination of products.