Bowers & Wilkins 705 Signature loudspeaker

Back in June 1994, I reviewed the Bowers & Wilkins John Bowers Silver Signature standmounted loudspeaker. This speaker cost a breathtaking $8000/pair at that time, and I subsequently bought the review samples and their matching slate stands. It was the best-sounding speaker I had used in my Santa Fe listening room: When the company's then-owner, Robert Trunz, visited me a couple of years later, he told me that he hadn't realized how good the Silver Signatures could sound. But after I moved to Brooklyn, in 2000, the Silver Signature never worked as well in my new listening room. I still own the speakers, but they currently live in our storage unit.

In February 2004, I reviewed the Series 1 B&W 705 loudspeaker. I was impressed by this affordable two-way standmount, writing, "The 705 might not have enough bass or go loud enough for those wanting affordable full-range performance, but within its limitations, the new B&W is an astonishingly good loudspeaker. It offers clean, grain-free, uncolored sound for just $1500/pair. You'd have to spend a lot more to get significantly more quality."

That original 705 was replaced in 2017 by the 705 Series 2, which cost $2999/pair. To my regret, I missed out on reviewing that version (footnote 1). When I learned that Bowers & Wilkins was introducing an optimized version of the 705 S2, called the 705 Signature and priced a penny less than $4000/pair without the matching stands, I asked for review samples.

The 705 Signature
Other than being a two-way, reflex-loaded standmount, the 705 Series 2, which remains in B&W's lineup, is a very different loudspeaker from the 2004 version. The original tweeter's aluminum-alloy dome was replaced with a dome formed by vapor-depositing a layer of carbon on a 30µm-thick aluminum diaphragm, reinforced by a profiled peripheral ring of 300µm-thick carbon attached to its rear. This stiffens the diaphragm and endows it with greater resistance to bending, allowing it to operate with perfect pistonic motion up to a frequency well above the audioband. The first breakup point is stated to be at 47kHz. The S2 tweeter's motor is derived from the one used in B&W's 800 D3 line; it has a vented pole-piece so that the backwave can be absorbed within a bullet-shaped enclosure machined from a solid aluminum billet. That billet, which is mounted on top of the woofer enclosure with a compliant support, weighs more than 1kg and also acts as a heatsink for the drive-unit.


The 705 S2 woofer replaced the original's woven-Kevlar cone with a cone formed from Bowers & Wilkins's proprietary, silvery, woven Continuum material, which they make themselves in the UK. The ideal material for a speaker diaphragm is very light, very stiff, and has very high self-damping. Continuum is said to get close to that ideal—in particular, it has better self-damping than the Kevlar cone that B&W used in Series 1. Self-damping helps the cone avoid the abrupt transition from pistonic behavior to break-up mode. It also means that waves propagate through the cone material less easily and reflect less readily from the surrounds, so the standing waves formed in the cone are reduced in level—less self-noise, as it were.

The same unit is used in the Signature model, reflex-loaded with B&W's flared "Flowport" on the rear panel, where small dimples reduce turbulent air noise. The same tweeter is also used.

The new Signature version features an optimized crossover to get the most performance from the drive-units inherited from the 705 S2, including specially treated and upgraded bypass capacitors sourced from Mundorf. Electrical connection is via two pairs of binding posts, with jumpers for single wiring.

The 705 Signature's enclosure features what B&W calls a Datuk Gloss finish. This ebony-colored, sustainably sourced veneer, supplied by specialty Italian wood company Alpi, has nine coats of finish applied, including primer, base coat, and lacquer. Further emphasizing the elegant appearance, the woofer has a bright metal trim ring, and there is a Signature identity plate on the rear panel.

Setting up the 705 Signatures came as a relief after dealing with the enormous, 330lb Göbel Divin Marquises I reviewed in the October 2020 issue. After removing the plastic-foam spacer that supports the tweeter housing for shipping, I sat the 705 Signatures on the 24"-high Celestion stands I use for bookshelf speakers. (The central pillars of these stands are loaded/damped with a mix of birdshot and dry sand.) I placed the B&Ws where the small KEF LS50s have worked best in my slightly asymmetrical room. After some experimenting with positioning, the woofer of the left-hand 705 Signature ended up 36" from the LPs that line the nearest sidewall and the right-hand speaker's woofer was 45" from the bookshelves that line its sidewall. Both woofers were 76" from the wall behind them. With the speakers' ports open, this gave the best transition between the lower midrange and upper bass. The 705 Signatures were toed-in to the listening position, and I didn't use the vestigial woofer grilles, preferring the appearance without them.


Once I had finalized the positions of the Bowers & Wilkins 705 Signatures, I started my serious listening, driving the speakers with the Parasound Halo JC 1+ monoblocks I reviewed in the June 2020 issue.

The dual-mono pink noise track on my Editor's Choice CD (Stereophile STPH016-2) sounded evenly balanced, uncolored, and smooth when I sat with my ears just below the 705 Signatures' tweeters, which were 39" from the floor. The image of the pink noise was narrow and stable, with no "splashing" to the sides at any frequency. If I sat upright so that I was level with the tweeters, the treble started to sound a little accentuated, and the balance sounded hollow if I stood up.

Footnote 1: Kal Rubinson reviewed the floor-standing 702 S2 in May 2018.
B&W Group Ltd.
US distributor: Bowers & Wilkins
54 Concord St.
North Reading, MA 01864
(978) 664-2870

tonykaz's picture

Every pair has its own unique grain pattern, they say.

The Wood is an Architectural product that comes in a wide range of species but only one specie is available from B&W.

No-one seems willing to say that these Loudspeakers ( and stands ) are made in China, even the very few internet images of its rear label panel are blurred enough to conceal the printed "Made in China" declaration while all the rest of the imaging remains beautifully clear & sharp. hmm. B&W does seem proud that they actually make a few 800 series somewhere in Europe.

So, the loudspeakers are drop-dead gorgeous, probably more beautiful than anything I own. ( I do have some French Impressionist Paintings in Storage that are NOT as glitzy as these 705 Signatures )

Country of origin is a big thing now-a-days

Tony in Venice

John Atkinson's picture
tonykaz wrote:
No-one seems willing to say that these Loudspeakers (and stands) are made in China . . .

I do note that fact on the Specifications page of this review, Tony. I have always felt that including the country of manufacture is relevant information for the readers.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

tonykaz's picture

Thanks for writing

I missed it,

I only looked at "Manufacturer",

I didn't think to look at Seriel Numbers.

I applaud you, yet again.

Still, I did a quick Internet Search of all things B&W only to find a lack of accurate information. ( which is the anxiety source of my observational comment here ).

Made in China listed under Serial Numbers leads to the possibility that differing Serial numbers will have differing countries of origin, wouldn't it? ( perhaps that is the case, or is it? ) .


Mr. Micallef's report on that Austrian Integrated Amp might be the best and most captivating Audio writing I can remember. I hope you guys double his word budget, he might be the best that's out there. "lift my jaw up with a shovel" ! ( I'll have to double check but I don't think that he uses ly words or superlatives, for gods sake )

Tony in Venice

ken mac's picture

Much appreciated.

tonykaz's picture

are you the Mr.KM that I'm complimenting?

There is a type of complementing that would apply to what you are doing for Stereophile .

Tony in Venice

BillBrown's picture

I was interested to see your measurements, the "tailored" response clearly seen, this consistent with all of the measurements I have seen of modern B&Ws. Someone is certainly voicing them with a common goal. Clicking on the measurements of the Diamonds from years ago shows that wasn't previously the case, when my impression was that they were frequently used as recording monitors and much more neutral. I'm not sure that this change in direction is a good one.


MZKM's picture

You don’t even have to look at the Diamonds; J.A. linked his measurements of the original 705 (which costed just $1500), and the measurements are miles better than this modern Signature model (and also higher in sensitivity).

The prevailing assumptions online (especially due to all the news about executives jumping ship and being sold) is that this tailored sound is to make them stand out in show rooms, that the excess HF energy could be seen as added detail.

BillBrown's picture

I certainly think your second paragraph is true and almost mentioned it, especially since B&W expanded more into the "big box" stores (Best Buy, etc.).

JHL's picture

...before comments inevitably turn to rank assumptions about amplitude response, I see that this speaker's amplitude is superb at distance, the only metric that could matter, assuming amplitude is all that relevant. It also significantly betters the arguably over-rated small KEF.

Other than that we'll have to contend ourselves with what the expert reviewer heard and now reports, always a point of contention among the "objective" reader whose unique talent in spotting lines on graphs none of the rest of us can expect to achieve. Hidden in plain sight, as it were.

BillBrown's picture

I don't think that "rank" is a needed term or the word "objective" being placed in quotes. The opportunity to discuss the desired room response and correlation with the extensive literature re. preference and perceived neutrality by skilled and unskilled listeners doesn't need to be a bad thing. JA has certainly worked very hard over many years to provide measurements in the effort to correlate subjective impressions with objective data.

My impression is that I might find these initially impressive as alluded to above, but that for long term listening I would probably find them bright and fatiguing. I think this would likely be music-source dependent. I simply prefer a different in-room response. If someone else loves and enjoys them long term that is great!

I do think that B&Ws speakers now are less suitable to monitoring (I picture the original 801s seen in classical recording monitoring environments). The recordings monitored on their modern speakers I suspect would end up "dull."


JHL's picture

...with measured data include an almost insurmountable bias that they and virtually they alone describe sound. This is simply not true. *Rank assumptions* is quite descriptive, especially when sound itself isn't the evident aim of so-called Objectivist practice. Abstracts are his aim, abstracts and criticisms of listeners who look past data.

No one said it's a negative to discuss data and so-called subjective sound, Bill. It's it's just fundamentally incorrect to assume that data describes sound while doing so.

Likewise that JA has provided measured data for decades. That's a free-standing thought - he certainly has - and that data is also free-standing, which I'm trying to point out. But it's subtext as I see it, not pretext, *especially* when simple amplitude response is the Objectivist's nearly universal data bias for sound when it *isn't* sound.

Audio is for hearing and data is presumed to aid, not define it. It's especially not to refute or deny it.

Whether B&W are suited for monitoring is just not shown in this data. In fact they have been used for professional monitoring successfully for a very long time, and apparently for good reason. Here again, the instinct to *assume* sound from data is a bias.

The terms objectivist and subjectivist are reversed. The real Objectivist is the open-minded listener. The pseudo-objectivist simply assumes or projects sound, many times while not having the terms to adequately describe it. He may even disallow "subjective" prose entirely, urgently denying it. That's hardly objective.

BillBrown's picture

I understand what you are saying, and I do agree that there are "radical objectivists," but also "radical subjectivists." I am not in either camp and think both are missing out, dare I say misguided. I don't understand why people limit their data input and not incorporate both measurements and the subjective impressions of skilled listeners that we (?I) have grown to trust. In this case I think JA perfectly described subjective impressions that correlated with his measurements, while also nicely characterizing aspects of the speakers' sound that may not be reflected in measurements.

I am equally uninspired by the subjective comments of the "measurements only" camp as I am by subjective-only comments (especially in speakers as I do believe that there is some correlation between measurements and perception, and that in some designs the choices made can be predicted to lead to certain results that will be described subjectively in a predictable way). I will take the Stereophile way, rather than, say, the ASR or TAS way.

I don't find any of it worth fighting over, though (not that you and I are).

I will disagree with you on these speakers as an effective tool for monitoring. While it is certainly possible that a skilled recording engineer could produce recordings that translate well to different systems, I think they do have flaws in this regard.

Best wishes,


JHL's picture

I'll add that of the flaws associated with both camps, if they are camps, if given one choice, I'd defer to the subjectivist side. Audio is for hearing, not measuring.

Data is an abstract. It is a generation removed from pertinence. It can be seen but it cannot be heard. I'd miss data but the point I'm making doesn't require such an extreme.

The objectivist side has, in addition to its tremendous subjectivity toward and with data, the enormous problem of cynicism. It simply assumes that without data nefarious motives and directives must apply. That is the most subjective of all the flaws of objectivism. It's personal.

Add the two together and we have exactly what we see today: Objectivism is a brew of technical assumption and personal presumption. Not only does it not hear, I doubt it can. And it appoints itself your authority.

The subjectivist, meanwhile, just spins another record. He's completely harmless and if experience is a guide, he evangelizes for the high end while objectivism demeans it. That's another strike against objectivism as a movement. Not against *data*, against abusing it.

BillBrown's picture

Especially re. leaning toward the subjectivist side (particularly with the reviewers whose ears I have grown to trust over 30+ years). But please know I started at 18 :).

I think you describe the negative aspects of radical objectivism perfectly. The cynicism, designations of conspiracy and motive, dogma, and "talking down," contempt, etc. are tiresome. I don't like know-it-alls, as I don't think anyone, certainly not me, knows-it all.

Thank you for the nice exchange,


JHL's picture

Some people reject the simple handle "The High End". Some reject subjective language - it's not subjective, of course; it's standard common human vernacular relating to a very real experience - because it's not "objective". And many assume data is not just *more* descriptive, but that it actually displace experience. You can't hear that. You must hear this. And so on.

We have it backwards. It's nuts. Nowhere else in life I can think of do we reject the personal to this degree.

Yet audio is for *personal* enjoyment, and that's borne out in the fondness so many have for the well-executed review. The prose resonates.

We have to ask why we do audio. It's either to become reconnected with performance *or* it's to talk about aspects of the abstracts that literally have nothing to do with that performance and instead - and get this part - have to do with what we've preconditioned ourselves to listen for.

Not listen to. Listen for. We've elevated the singular focus of our assumption about sound, which is simple loudness uniformity, to the point that we hear only an excess couple of decibels at 3kHz. Or insufficient output at 1kHz. We've recalibrated ourselves to hear audio as a tone control. It's astounding.

That's bias and that's data bias. Data bias is not only prevalent, it's tracked back into engineering and changed the nature of the hardware. That doesn't mean an amplitude-centric component can't sound authentic; it means that we're potentially preventing ourselves music-centric components that aren't flat.

The way I hear it great audio gets down to one thing: Enough suspension of disbelief that you question how artists could be there in your space, transparent, playing a session recorded in 1973. I am transported and I see, hear, and feel the experience. Time machine.

Everything else isn't worth the effort and cost and it certainly isn't worth the years spent online arguing about a couple decibels here or there.

At some point you have to ask why you're doing this. It's plainly obvious it's for any number of reasons, yet when I read a great review I identify with the real sound in a real space or I realize the component in question is just parts in a box. And I've done that well before I ever get to the data.

Charles E Flynn's picture

From the manual at (bold style added):

For bi-wire connections or bi-amplification (above right), the terminal links should be removed and each pair of terminals connected to the amplifier or amplifiers independently. Bi-wiring can improve the resolution of low-level detail.

jimtavegia's picture

I am looking at the graph and see in Fig 9 that the B & W is at 0db at 10khz and the others are below which would indicate to me that they have less HF energy than the B&Ws. I do see about +3db at 150hz, 250hz, and 6-7khz, but I would not think this is a major issue as it is all going to change in most rooms and placements. I would agree that fig 5 and 9 are quite different.

It is normal for a speaker to measure this different between these plots? Maybe this is something I have missed in reading measurements over the years?

I would think this would be a very likable speakers and with a sub, might be an excellent choice for a small or medium sized room.

AJ's picture

Fig 5 is the (quasi) anechoic response of the speaker, i.e., the initial waves launch of the speaker itself, measured at around 36-50" away.
Fig 8 & 9 are in room, at LP averaged responses, so several feet away.
They would include sum total reflections from boundaries, distance attenuation from air/boundary absorption, room modes in the lower end, etc. All are "pressure at omni microphone" measures.
> 500hz +/- we(2 ears/brain) essentially/dominantly hear the speaker response, below, the room/speaker response.
So Fig 5 is far more representative of what will be heard at high frequency, for those with normal (audiometrics) hearing. "Flat" response in room several feet away, would tend to sound a bit bright.
Luckily, older men, aka, audiophiles, will have quite a bit of HF hearing "attenuation" to compensate.



jimtavegia's picture

I generally look at the in room response of where ever JA1 measures them and take that as to what they would sound like. You are right, as for me and my HF loss, flat does not help me as much, but I think this speaker measures pretty well.

I am still amazed at what Andrew Jones can do with much less money. Glad he can though.

Another poster has talked about what has happen at B & W corporate and where the company has been heading. It is a company with an illustrious history, and regardless this pandemic is not treating many people or companies well at all. I have listened to more music in the last 8+ months of lockdown than I have in the last 10 years I think. I am now into the middle of season two of the Crown and am enjoying it. The TV is showing us human beings at our best and worst on just about every channel.

TJ's picture

"...fair to note that the original 705 performed even better on the test bench. - John Atkinson". A recurring theme ever since they replaced the 800 Nautilus series. The 801N and 805N were so exceptional in both sound and test results.

Axiom05's picture

I agree that B&W seems to have changed their profile goals after the 800 Nautilus series from a maximally flat response to one that is "voiced" to have certain characteristics. Having owned N801, N803 and 802 Diamond speakers, the evolution is clear. However, I still think the Achilles Heal of the system is the FST midrange. Removing the surround leads to the requirement of a large diaphragm in order to have sufficient excursion capability at lower frequencies but gives poor off axis performance at higher frequencies. Of course it doesn't help that they make the mid/tweeter crossover so high in frequency. The two-way speakers seem to do better as the mid/woofer has a traditional surround.

TJ's picture

... which set a new standard for its on-axis response but was constrained off-axis. Likewise the FST midrange. As dazzling and mighty as the 801N was, the 805N somehow sounded more natural and life-like inside its dynamic range. I hope the new company owner takes note of KEF's impressive R&D team, rethinks its branding and gets back to its roots.

DougM's picture

I agree with you. The N805 Signature was, and still is, my dream speaker. I look at what has come after, with the loss of the awesome Kevlar woofer/mid driver, and the poor measurements of the far more expensive Diamond series, and it has me scratching my head. I had pairs of both 601S3s and 602S3s, but unfortunately they needed to be played louder than my ears and small room can tolerate before they wake up and sound balanced, so they were sold. But, I still long for the times when I would turn them up and revel in their magic. I haven't owned anything that sounds as good since, and I've tried a lot of different speakers searching for something that could get that magic at lower volume levels, and I think Monitor Audios came the closest.

AJ's picture

Congrats John! ;-)

robertbadcock's picture

I sincerely miss the aesthetic of the original 705 - the slope of the front panel made it an item of art; and sound.

Of country of manufacture; that to me is also an item of reference - are the employees purchasing homes? Gathering 401Ks, or other benefits from their employ? Can I readily go visit the factory; or at a minimum; tour it online; as I can with Rega, Focal, Pro-Ject, and others?

Respectfully; and not unlike art (most of art - unique items can originate from horrid areas); I'm not one to purpose my economics towards an area of the world that may, or may not more or less be an epi-center of environmental, and human disposability.

Love my B&W items - 601S1s, ASW750, ASW 700, ASW600 - blocks of quasi-industrialist art in the cases of the subs; and of the 601s; well. Icons from um; me, near 20 years ago. Focals have replaced the 601s some time ago fwiw.
Classe amps, Ayre pre-amp, Luxman (Japan days) tuner, etc.
IDK, maybe it is a 'me' thing. Being able to speak of, and listen to; my gear is important.

'Braggin rights'; could be a modern day Greensbergism I suppose.

I do adore these beauties. Way far out of my reach; and I most certainly mean no harm with my words; and I also understand that many items would cost multiples more if made other than in China.

robertbadcock's picture

Just listening (lol, pun?) to this guy makes me want to buy a third TT.


John Atkinson's picture
John Atkinson wrote:
Back in June 1994, I reviewed the Bowers & Wilkins John Bowers Silver Signature standmounted loudspeaker. . . It was the best-sounding speaker I had used in my Santa Fe listening room . . .

The most recent time I heard a pair of B&W Silver Signatures was in February 2017, when I visited an audiophile in Chicagoland for Kyomi Audio's launch of the Vivid G1 Spirit loudspeaker. Before I interviewed Vivid's Laurence Dickie - see - our host Mario took me down to his basement listening room, where he had a pair of Silver Signatures set up. They sounded as fantastic as I remember from my Santa Fe days.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

tabs's picture

Sorry to do this here, but is there any chance you can provide a hint when we might see the LS50 Meta review and measurements? I remember reading somewhere that you already had the Meta passive version in-hand or en route or some such. Thank you for all the hard work!

John Atkinson's picture
tabs wrote:
Sorry to do this here, but is there any chance you can provide a hint when we might see the LS50 Meta review and measurements?

My review of the KEF LS50 Meta will be published in the January 2021 issue of Stereophile, which will hit newsstands and mailboxes around December 12.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

tabs's picture

Wunderbar. Thank you!

Charles E Flynn's picture

The USPS delivery of the January 2021 issue has been completed at an undisclosed location in New England. As proof, I offer this spoiler for the cover: There is a small image of the LS50 Meta, and the text reads: TWEAKED! KEF LS50 META