Deep-pocketed audiophiles, rejoice. Bowers & Wilkins claims its new high-end Formation wireless system is the “new standard in whole-home audio.”
Similar to Sonos, the market leader in Sonos One, while the cheapest Formation speaker is $900., it promises to unite speakers throughout the home with the help of a proprietary mesh network. But true to its , B&W aims higher — a lot higher. Sonos starts at a reasonable $200 for the superb
B&W uses its new Formation app for multiroom streaming but it’s also compatible with Roon. The speakers boast a unique honeycomb design unlike anything else on the market.and audiophile-favorite
Launched at a recent event in New York and available now, Formation consists of five different products. (Note UK and Australian details were not announced, but we’ll update this when we get them.)
Formation Duo ($3,999): The flagship of the range, the Duo (pictured top) is a pair of stereo speakers that incorporate technologies from the company’s 700 series, including a Continuum cone driver and a top-mounted carbon-domed tweeter. The curvaceous cabinet is constructed from a wireless-radio-friendly material similar to that used in the PM1 monitor, the company said.
Formation Bar ($1,199): Nine “optimized” drive units, including 2.5-inch drivers and a dedicated center channel. It offers a digital optical input, though no HDMI, and Dolby Digital decoding only. Despite its similarities to the, the company said the two designs are different.
Formation Bass ($999): It looks like a D-cell battery, but it’s really a subwoofer with opposing 6-inch drivers. It’s designed to pair with any of the other Formation products, but it would seemingly work best with the subwoofer-less Bar.
Formation Wedge ($899): Think a high-end Sonos Play:5. The Wedge features a “120-degree elliptical speaker shape” and a cabinet made in the UK. It includes two Continuum drivers borrowed from the.
Formation Audio ($699): If you want to connect audio components to your system, or make your existing hi-fi stream-friendly, you’ll need this-like box with analog in/out and digital in. Aside from the Bar, none of the other Formation speakers have physical inputs.
Bowers & Wilkins CEO Gregory Lee told CNET that voice control from Amazon Google Assistant was in the pipeline, but was unable to confirm if the speaker would support or not.and
B&W released a spate of multimedia products 10 years ago, which included the Bose, Polk and Denon. It’s taken nearly two years for B&W’s first AirPlay 2 product to go on sale.and the , but the company has concentrated on passive loudspeakers in recent years. Then came when high-end B&W was surprisingly mentioned as a launch partner alongside more mainstream brands like
The mesh network built into the Formation line was created by EVA Automation, the company that bought B&W in 2016. The company says its Perfected Speaker Synchronization system has the lowest latency of any rival, at less than 1 millisecond. It says this contributes to better sound quality, especially in terms of stereo imaging. My tests have found that wireless latency in a stereo system can lead to a phasing effect between speakers as the audio loses sync.
Gideon Yu, co-chairman of Bowers & Wilkins said at the event, “There is so much more to come.” Representatives also hinted at rear speakers to accompany the Bar. The company did rule out Atmos capability, which needs HDMI (the Bar only has optical digital in).
Creating a new wireless multiroom standard seemingly out of thin air can be fraught with peril. In the face of competition from Sonos and Google, systems such as and have fallen by the wayside. Formation is less of a “Sonos-killer” though, as its appeal to the high-end makes it more of a or competitor.