Bowers and Wilkins' Formation range: wireless speakers that actually sound awesome

null
Image credit: Bowers & Wilkins

If you love the sound of a full audiophile Hi-Fi system, but hate the hassle of trailing cables and complex setups, the new Bowers & Wilkins Formation multi-room speaker system could be the perfect audio addition to your home – if you have a lot of cash to spare, that is. 

The premium range offers an alternative to the kind of multi-room speaker system used by Sonos, and currently comprises five products: the Formation Bar soundbar, the Formation Bass subwoofer, the Formation Wedge wireless speaker, the Formation Duo stereo speakers and the Formation Audio wireless hub. 

The new range, which costs between $899 / £899 / around AU$1650 and $3999 / £3499 / around AU$6400, is currently available in the US and will be launched in the UK on April 29. Currently, B&W hasn’t released official Australian pricing and availability, but we will update this article as soon as we know more. 

Voice control on the way

With modern, sculptural designs, all of the new products utilize a proprietary wireless mesh developed by B&W that works alongside your home's Wi-Fi network. This means you can have a multi-room setup with speakers streaming music in every room of your house without taking up precious bandwidth on your network. 

The devices can either be controlled via an app on your phone, or via the physical controls on the products themselves. Given the cost involved, you may expect them to support modern comforts like built in voice control from the likes of Amazon Alexa or Apple’s Siri – but they don’t (yet, anyway). 

While the Formation range doesn’t currently support voice assistance, Product Communication Director at Bowers & Wilkins, Andy Kerr told us to expect it in the near future:

“Of course we’re going to have voice control”, he said. “We are just working to make it work better first."

The B&W Formation Duo (Image credit: Bowers & Wilkins)

The B&W Formation Duo (Image credit: Bowers & Wilkins)

Breathtaking audio

The most expensive product of the range is the B&W Formation Duo ($3999 / £3499 / around AU$6400), a pair of active stereo speakers in typical Bowers & Wilkins style – with carbon dome tweeters that sit on top of the curved cabinets.

We had the chance to hear the Formation Duo speakers in action, and they sounded unbelievably clear. St Vincent’s acoustic rendition of Savior sounded particularly impressive, with immense piano riffs and crisp, detailed vocals, rich bass tones and a warm analogue timbre.

The Duo provide such accurate imaging that it feels as though you are in the room with the artist as they perform, with even the height of the vocalist and their position in relation to the microphone conveyed in perfect precision – all in all, they sound breathtakingly good.

While we didn’t hear the other products in the suite, they’re bound to sound fantastic if they use similar audio technology to the Formation Duo – and if you’re looking for something ever so slightly cheaper, the Formation Wedge ($899 / £899 / around AU$1650) could be a great way to get that high quality sound in your home. 

Kerr told us that the Formation Wedge is “the spiritual successor to the Zeppelin”, the company’s previous wireless speaker, which made our list of the best Bluetooth speakers

With a 120-degree elliptical shape, and full-range stereo sound, this architectural speaker should be able to fill a room easily without the need for wires. 

The B&W Formation Bar and Bass (Image credit: Bowers & Wilkins)

The B&W Formation Bar and Bass (Image credit: Bowers & Wilkins)

More to come

Kerr told us that the Formation Wedge is “the spiritual successor to the Zeppelin”, the company’s previous wireless speaker, which made our list of the best Bluetooth speakers

With a 120-degree elliptical shape, and full-range stereo sound, this architectural speaker should be able to fill a room easily without the need for wires. 

If you’re looking for a speaker to boost your home cinema system, the B&W Formation Bar ($1199 / £999 / around AU$1830) could be the way to go. With nine driver units and tweeters at either end of the enclosure, this soundbar promises to deliver a wide soundstage to improve any listening experience. 

Kerr, told us that the company wants the Formation Bar to be “something you can use for music as well as film”.

If the soundbar alone isn’t bassy enough for you, you can use it with the Formation Bass subwoofer ($999 / £899 / around AU$1650), which packs 250W of audio power into a cylindrical frame.

The final product in the range is the Formation Audio, a high-fidelity streaming device that allows you to connect legacy products like a turntable or CD player to products in the Formation range via analogue and digital inputs and outputs.

Despite releasing five products at launch, Kerr said that B&W are going to be launching “a whole suite of products over the next 36 months”, so we can look forward to more high-end, aesthetically pleasing speakers in the near future. 

Whether future products in the Formation range will be similarly expensive to the five flagship models remains to be seen, but we aren’t expecting any huge price cuts; after all, the Formation range is an aspirational line aimed at those who don’t mind reaching into their pockets for an ultra-luxurious listening experience.