Bowers & Wilkins Formation DUO arrive at AudioStream

I sent the picture opening this article to my father and he responded right away with, “When did you get the B&Ws?”

I mention this because even though he’s not an audiophile per se, he instantly recognized the distinctive Bowers & Wilkins tweeter-on-top silhouette. A design cue sure not to be lost on the hip, urban 30-somethings seeming to be in B&W’s crosshairs (along with many other traditional hi-fi companies) of late.

This is a form that has risen to an almost iconic status in the last decade, but that some may remember had its debut in 1977 with the DM7 loudspeaker when the tweeter was first “liberated” from the cabinet. B&W’s latest loudspeaker model to sport this design is the subject of this post: the $3,999 USD Formation DUO.

Not only a new bookshelf model, but one designed for multi-room use as part of the company’s first foray into the wireless active loudspeaker market in the guise of the Formation series of products. The DUO is a true wireless model (up to 24-bit/96kHz file resolution, Wi-Fi, Apple Airplay 2, Bluetooth/aptX HD ) featuring an B&W in-house wireless circuit architecture specifically built to minimize playback latency between stereo point sources to one-millisecond.

Powered by 2x125 Watt Class-D digital amplifiers (one per driver), the DUO’s transducer compliment is derived from other B&W family series of speakers – specifically the mid/woofer is a modified version of the Continuum ones found in the 800 series and the carbon dome tweeter is derived from the 700 series. The cabinet is sealed and drivers are isolated within the chassis via B&W’s Matrix bracing technology. There are two pin-specific plugs on the base of each unit for AC power (I found the white cables provided to be a bit stiff/low-price, and would have like to seen Bowers provide a more supple, cloth-covered mains patch at this price point, and more specifically, for the more decor-conscious clients the clean white – or dark grey – color scheme seems targeted at). There is also an Ethernet port for hard wiring into your LAN (Local Area Network) if necessary and a USB port for firmware updates. On the front, lower fascia are situated a power button, volume up/down and Play/Pause buttons for hands-on control.

Hard connections aside, the big news here is how fast and easy the DUOs can be set-up on your wireless network (2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi transmitter/receivers, along with aforementioned Bluetooth) and how deep their bass goes for the modest 6.5-inch low-frequency units. Of note was zero cabinet vibration or resonance noticeable even with my hand firmly planted on the unit’s curved back. Initial listening showed classic B&W house sound of clear, resolution-tuned highs, punchy mids and deep, clean and extended bass (listed as down to 25Hz) with incredible 3D- spatial imaging on recordings where it is present.

The review units I received came with optional stands ($799 USD), but I wanted to first try the DUOs without them to get a feel for what they can add (if anything other than placement convenience) to the sonic presentation.

Look for a full, in-depth review in the near future.


Everclear's picture

Hip hip hooray :-) ........

Everclear's picture

It would be nice to see B&W Formation Duo capable of WiSA also :-) ........

Rafe Arnott's picture
Not sure if that could come with firmware upgrade or not – it's more a consortium/resolution certificate than anything else right now – but Dolby Atmos and DTS-X would be nice options, but they're UPnP available via apps like iStreamer I believe. Then there's Roku, Apple TV, etc.
Everclear's picture

Agreed ......... WiSA also enables speakers to sync with TV displays like the new LG TV for example ....... See WiSA website :-) .........

Rafe Arnott's picture
"WiSA is both a hardware and software specification for delivering high-resolution digital audio wirelessly from a source device to a maximum of eight powered speakers within the same room... Though it shares many attributes with wireless multi-room speakers like those made by Sonos, Denon, Yamaha, and others, WiSA is not a multi-room, whole-home music system.

"As a stand-alone wireless audio technology, it is not intended to join any of these other wireless audio ecosystems. It’s strictly for passing audio wirelessly within a single home theater setup and it is not compatible with non-WiSA Wi-Fi or Bluetooth speakers."

Everclear's picture

So, I would assume, if the hardware is permitting, WiSA can also be used for 2-channel and multi-channel surround sound music and sound (like sync with TV for movies and music) ....... Probably WiSA can also be used for music alone, without display (TV) ......... Am I right? :-) .........

Everclear's picture

The above in the same room, of course :-) .......

Anton's picture

When I first encounter a product, I like to ask myself, "At what price would I buy these?"

They would be a slam dunk at half off.

Talk about convenient as an audio toy! And pretty.

A man can pray for a sale.