BOWERS & WILKINS ADDS FLEX TO FORMATION SERIES
Bowers & Wilkins has barely rolled out its first foray into wireless multi-room audio products with its Formation Series, before announcing a new addition to the family.
It seems like only yesterday we were discussing the range in-depth with a representative of Bowers & Wilkins Australia as the entire suite was delivered to our office for review.
We speculated that while the range was already comprehensive at launch, it would likely continue to grow over time. We noted the absence of a more portable, or smaller alternative to the Wedge. And it felt like only yesterday because it was. Just hours later, Bowers & Wilkins announced its Formation Flex.
It’s a compact desktop design that can function either as a single wireless speaker, a stereo pair, or in multiples for multi-room use – or with any other Formation speaker for a whole home audio system including the Formation Bar and Formation Bass for 5.1 surround sound.
The Formation Flex features the same decoupled double-dome tweeter tech found in the award-winning 600 series speakers. The Flex is also equipped with a 100mm woven glass fibre Mid/bass driver all pushed along by a 100w amp.
If our early experience with Formation Series is anything to go by, and it will be, Formation's app will see you playing music through the Flex in moments. In fact, of all the wireless multi-room audio platform we've used, Bowers & Wilkins Formation Series is hands down the most intuitive and most reliable system we've seen to date when it comes to setup.
Acoustic design aside, what makes this of particular interest is B&W’s own mesh network that runs independently from a home Wi-Fi network, keeping the load off it and allowing ultra-tight synchronisation between all speakers on the network. This, says B&W, results in a 1-microsecond sync disparity between a stereo pair – which is beyond the limits of human hearing. As a result, there’s no ‘time smear’ or compromise to the stereo imaging, the company says. The Formation Flex runs at up to 24-bit/96kHz resolution, which is best-in-class.
As you’d expect from this iconic manufacturer of conventional hi-fi loudspeakers, the Formation Flex employs B&W design best practice. The cabinet is made from extremely tough plastic and uses the company’s Matrix construction inside – effectively a lattice of cross-bracing to stiffen the structure to minimise sidewall flex. This makes for lower colouration and improved timing. The front baffle sports a decoupled double-dome tweeter, inspired by that used in the 600 Series. It features Dynamic EQ, a real-time digital signal processing system that optimises the performance of the system.
Andy Kerr, B&W’s Product Communication Director, told StereoNET that the company’s move into wireless digital loudspeakers complements the conventional wired passive hi-fi range – “it’s simply not a case of either/or.” He explained that despite the recent restructuring of the company, Bowers & Wilkins remains “totally committed” to its hi-fi business, but thinks there is huge potential for wireless digital speakers when done right. Initial impressions were very positive indeed, but lookout for a full review soon.
Greg Lee, Bowers & Wilkins CEO, added:
Once again, we're introducing world-class modern design – a product that is purposely built for superior acoustics but designed to fit into your home aesthetic and make a statement. And one of the key features is the full home scalability, the Flex lets the consumer expand through the entire home with additional Formation products that we introduced in the Spring.
Formation Flex will be launched overseas at the end of September, but while the Australian launch date has not yet been confirmed, it will sell for $749 RRP.
You can audition the entire range of Bowers & Wilkins Formation Series at the 2019 StereoNET Melbourne Hi-Fi Show, October 18-20, Pullman Hotel - Albert Park. Tickets on sale now.
For more information, head over to Bowers & Wilkins.
StereoNET’s Founder and Publisher, born in UK and raised on British Hi-Fi before moving to Australia where he worked as an Engineer in both the audio and mechanical fields.