bowers & wilkins

Audiophile Odyssey: Behind the Scenes at B&W, Meridian, and Abbey Road Studios

Among the ancient castles, quaint houses, and picturesque countryside, Great Britain is actually a hotbed of high-end audio. Brands big and small pepper the island country from the southern coast to the northern highlands.

On a recent trip, I had the opportunity to visit three such storied companies: Bowers & Wilkins (speakers and headphones), Meridian (electronics and speakers), and Abbey Road Studios (where the Beatles and Pink Floyd recorded).

It was a long day. OK, day and a half.… Read more

The 404 1,353: Where we go 50 light-years away from Steve Guttenberg (podcast)

Leaked from today's 404 episode:

- Bad Beats: Why was the original Beats Studio headphone so popular?

- Why is the engineer who recorded Nirvana still using analog tape?

- 40 Bowers & Wilkins speakers and the art of sound.

- I hear voices: Could highly directional sound advertising be the next big thing?… Read more

Going behind the scenes at the Bowers & Wilkins factory

The town of Worthing is perhaps not where you'd expect to find a world-class speaker company. A typically British seaside town, the parks and beaches are surrounded by squat brick houses sprinkled with Tudors and people driving on the left.

Just away from the water is the headquarters of Bowers & Wilkins, a storied audio brand with a wide range of audio products, including $180 headphones, $600 iPod docks, and speakers ranging a few hundred a pair to many tens of thousands each. Its speakers are found in homes and home theaters around the world, and even in the one of the greatest recording studios.

On a recent trip to the UK, I had a chance to take a tour of its factory. I took lots of pictures. … Read more

Bluetooth blues: Wired speakers sound better than the best BT speakers

The continuing popularity of Bluetooth speakers mystifies me. The under $50 ones sound pretty weak, but they have a good excuse: they're cheap! Sadly, the $100 models aren't much better: they sound undernourished next to my $52 Dayton Audio B652 stereo speakers, powered by my $25 Lepai LP-2020A+ stereo amplifier. Before we go any further let's put aside for a second the question of how BT sounds; the biggest problem with BT speakers is that it's just one speaker, and can't fill a room as well as two speakers, spread five or more feet apart. … Read more

A powerhouse bookshelf speaker from Monitor Audio

When I dropped by the Park Avenue Audio NYC showroom, I was on a mission to find an audiophile bookshelf speaker that wouldn't break the bank. The store's selection covers a wide gamut, but the majority of speakers are $1,000-plus per pair. Then I ran across the Monitor Audio "Silver" RX1; it's a medium-size bookshelf speaker, measuring a tidy 12.3 x 7.3 x 9.4 inches. At 15 pounds, it feels surprisingly heavy for its size. It has a 1-inch ceramic-coated aluminum/magnesium-alloy dome tweeter and a 6-inch metal woofer. The speakers … Read more

Before you buy an expensive Bluetooth, AirPlay, or docking speaker, read this

This is a follow-up to last week's "Before you buy a sound bar speaker, read this" post, but this time I'm setting my sights on expensive, $400-plus iPod and Bluetooth speaker "docks." They have built-in limitations common to all single-speaker systems. They might have two sets of speaker drivers housed in a single cabinet, but when the drivers are just a few inches apart, "stereo" sounds more or less like mono. In the quest to make these speakers as sleek and lightweight as possible, bass and dynamic range capabilities are limited, compared … Read more

This could be the last hi-fi speaker you'll buy

Nothing gets older faster than high-tech, but the Harbeth P3ESR sounds so good you may never want to replace it with another speaker. That's no hype; I know audiophiles still using similar speakers originally manufactured in the 1970s.

That's when American audiophiles first fell in love with small British monitor speakers engineered and designed by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), and manufactured by a number of companies, including KEF, Goodmans, Rogers, Spendor, and Harbeth. Though the speakers were all built around the same design, known as the LS3/5A, not all LS3/5As sounded exactly the same. Back … Read more

Why do musicians have lousy hi-fis?

I know it doesn't make sense, but it's true: most musicians don't have good hi-fis.

To be fair, most musicians don't have hi-fis at all, because like most people musicians listen in their cars, on computers, or with cheap headphones. Musicians don't have turntables, CD players, stereo amplifiers, and speakers. Granted, most musicians aren't rich, so they're more likely to invest whatever available cash they have in buying instruments. That's understandable, but since they so rarely hear music over a decent system they're pretty clueless about the sound of their recordings.… Read more

Crave giveaway: Bowers & Wilkins P5 headphones, Emeli Sande CD

Congrats to David B. of Manchester, Conn., for winning a Swann MP3 DJ Doorbell in last week's giveaway. This week winner's gets a twofer: a CD by hit U.K. pop/soul recording artist Emeli Sande, and a stylish pair of Bowers & Wilkins headphones for listening to it.

A legendary name in British hi-fi, Bowers & Wilkins is known for making speakers used in many of the world's top studios, including the Beatles' favorite, Abbey Road. You'll be getting a pair of fancy Bowers & Wilkins' P5 noise-isolating headphones, which CNET's Steve Guttenberg, aka The Audiophiliac, loves for their warm, rich, and clear sound (he recently called them out in a post on three awesome-sounding on-ear headphones).

Emeli Sande's debut album, "Our Version of Events," topped the charts across the pond and has gotten raves from reviewers. It hit the U.S. last month, and you'll be getting a signed copy. … Read more

Does size matter? Over-the-ear vs. in-ear headphones

Since in-ear headphones sit in or near the ear canal, they don't interact with the pinna, the bends and curves of the outer ear that direct sound to the ear canal. The pinna also serves as an acoustic filter, enhancing the frequency range of human speech, and it also supplies directional cues, so we can localize where sound is coming from. That's how our ears and brains process sound in real life, but in-ear headphones don't interact with the pinna, so they can't sound as realistic as full-size headphones or speakers. In-ears can still sound great, … Read more