B&W loudspeakers - hifi and home cinema speakers including surround sound, studio monitors, floorstanders, bookshelf, centre, in-wall speakers and subwoofers.
Throughout his lifetime, John Bowers, the founder of B&W Loudspeakers, strove relentlessly to get as close as possible to a transparent reproduction of recorded sound.
Born in 1923, near Worthing on the south coast of England, John spent the war years as a special operations executive in clandestine radio contact with allied resistance operatives in occupied Europe. He specialised in electronics and radio-transmission and after the war he opened a retail hi-fi store in Worthing with his business partner Roy Wilkins.
One of John’s passions was classical music. An avid concertgoer, he was disappointed by the sound reproduction that the best equipment of the day offered and set about improving the quality by modifying existing loudspeakers. Eventually, he started building his own designs in the workshop at the back of his hi-fi store.
In his relentless pursuit of perfection, John quickly built a reputation for himself, and his client base started to grow as more and more people seeking better sound reproduction came to his workshop to buy his custom-designed speakers. One of his greatest fans early on in his career was an elderly lady, a Miss Knight, who was so impressed with his knowledge of classical music and so pleased with the speakers he made for her that she left him £10,000 in her will for him to develop the business and pursue his research. So, in 1966, John Bowers and his lifelong friend Peter Hayward founded a separate manufacturing company, then called B&W Electronics, transferring to part of the present site at Meadow Road, Worthing in 1972. They agreed from the outset to live modestly and plough any profits back into the business to further research into the quest for the perfect loudspeaker.
At this time, much of the interaction between loudspeakers and their surroundings was not well understood. The basic motor principle and electric circuits were common knowledge, but what happens to a cone under dynamic conditions was unknown because the movements were too small and rapid to visualise. These were the days before lasers, with their ability to detect minute vibrations. John hired extremely talented engineers and invested in the development of diagnostic tools and measurement equipment and in 1976 he opened a dedicated R&D department with a team of specialist acoustic and electronic engineers who had a wealth of modelling, testing and design tools at their disposal.
Throughout his career John enjoyed a close relationship with recording engineers who provided vital feedback on how loudspeakers could be improved. As a result of this relationship, B&W’s famous 801 was launched in 1979 and soon became the reference speaker in nearly all of the world’s classical recording studios, including EMI Abbey Road, Decca and Deutsche Grammophon.
The phenomenal success of this product pushed B&W to the fore of all loudspeaker manufacturers. In typical fashion, John Bowers used this success to fund even more research and development, and in 1982 he created a dedicated research and development facility for his team of engineers in the picturesque village of Steyning in West Sussex. Dubbed the “University of Sound”, the Steyning Research Establishment now houses some 20 graduate engineers and support staff with expertise in a wide range of disciplines.
John realised that, to have a truly successful company, it is not sufficient simply to have outstanding products. They have to be backed up by efficient sales and marketing support. Never content to rely on the home market, he always looked to develop a strong export base and quickly developed overseas markets and further the presence of B&W products worldwide.
John Bowers passed away in 1987 but the culture he created was so firmly embedded in his company that his mission remains undiluted. Now under the chairmanship of Joe Atkins, supported by a strong team of dedicated people from many different parts of the world, reflecting its global outlook, B&W has enjoyed substantial growth in recent years. But the passion for music, so deeply engrained by Bowers and remembered by many still at B&W that worked for him in the early days, remains a core value of the company he founded.
Of the many amazing products that have come from the Steyning Research Establishment, probably the most famous is the Nautilus. Launched in 1993, after 5 years development and to widespread acclaim, the Nautilus has been described as “possibly the best loudspeaker money can buy”. The technology used for this model has subsequently been used in the whole B&W product portfolio. More recently, B&W has received widespread acclaim for Diamond Tweeter domes, the result of another extended research project, which are generally acknowledged to offer the finest reproduction of high frequencies yet accomplished.
The quest continues.
Prestige: The Prestige range incorporates our most advanced technological achievements in product design and materials. The products share the same commitment to delivering the most dynamic listening experience both acoustically and aesthetically.
800 Series: With an impressive list of advanced technologies, including our groundbreaking diamond dome tweeter, and a comprehensive model range to suit a wide variety of applications, the 800 Series sets the benchmark in high-end audio
Custom Theatre 800: The CT800 Series provides the ultimate custom installation home theatre experience, with sound quality and dynamics that completely envelope and immerse – the definitive cinema experience.
700 Series: With beautiful real wood veneer cabinets housing serious driver design and technology, the 700 Series sets a new standard for this premium sector. It's simply a better listening experience.
600 Series 3: The B&W 600 Series has become synonymous with superb value performance in both 2-channel stereo and home theatre. Now, Series 3 continues that tradition, while raising the standards of sound quality at this level by drawing on our vast experience in the high-end sector.
FPM Series: Bowers & Wilkins’ range of Flat Panel Monitors presents pioneering B&W technologies in stunning, streamlined contemporary enclosures. Designed with a minimalist sensibility, each model possesses a level of poise and elegance all too rare in high-end home cinema and audio components.
Mini Theatre: Mini Theatre is a high-performance, compact home cinema system available in three system configurations. Based around the diminutive M-1 satellite speaker, Mini Theatre systems provide new levels of resolution and clarity in this product category.
Leisure Monitors: This range of loudspeakers is designed with versatility and adaptability in mind to make great music available in a variety of unconventional settings. Take music out of the living room and into the garden, the bathroom - the choice is yours.
B&W's ASW active subwoofers have been specifically developed to exceed the demands of surround-sound formats such as AC3, MPEG-2 or DTS. Each model in the range incorporates the high level of technological innovation and quality found in all B&W products.
1966 Creation of B&W Electronics Ltd.
1967 The first commercial B&W Loudspeaker: the P1 , which was built with EMI bass unit and Celestion tweeters.
1968 First distributor appointed – Audioscript in Holland.
DM1 and DM3 (DM stands for Domestic Monitor) are launched.
1969 Dennis Ward, former technical manager at EMI joins the board.
1970 First monitor built entirely in-house: the DM70C.
1972 B&W moves to purpose-built factory at Meadow Road, Worthing.
Launch of D5 and DM4 Loudspeakers.
1973 B&W receives the Queen’s Award for Export.
B&W build programme content monitors for the BBC.
1974 Appointment of industrial designer, Kenneth Grange.
Introduction of DuPont's Kevlar® brand fibre, an extremely tough woven material originally designed for bulletproof vests. B&W developed and patented the method of using Kevlar® for loudspeaker cones to reduce unwanted standing waves.
1976 Launch of the DM6, the first linear phase speaker manufactured in the UK, which was dubbed "The pregnant penguin" because of its stepped baffle enclosure.
1977 The DM7 is launched, which features a free standing tweeter configuration on top of the cabinet to reduce diffraction.
1978 B&W receives its second Queen’s Award for Export in recognition for a tenfold increase in export sales since 1973.
1979 The now classic studio monitor, the 801 is launched. It is tested by EMI and adopted as its standard classical monitor. Decca installs the 801 in all their recording studios.
1981 The DM10 and DM23 are launched, as is the DM22 with its new grille design from Kenneth Grange.
1982 Creation of B&W Research Establishment in Steyning, West Sussex, England.
1983 Launch of the DM110 and DM220 – the first digital monitors to match the high dynamics of the compact disc. DM now stands for "Digital Monitor".
1984 The launch of the acclaimed John Bowers Active 1.
The strap line “Listen and you’ll see” is introduced.
1986 The 20th Anniversary of B&W – World Distributor Convention in Montreux.
Launch of Matrix technology in cabinet construction.
1987 Launch of Matrix 801 .
Death of John Bowers in December.
1990 B&W enters the custom in-wall speaker market with CWM6 and CWM8.
1991 Launch of prestigious Silver Signature to commemorate the company’s 25th anniversary.
1992 Expansion of production facilities at Silverdale site in Worthing, West Sussex, to cope with increases in product demand.
1993 Introduction of Nautilus – after 5 years of research and development the closest to perfect sound reproduction in loudspeaker technology is launched.
Introduction of THX® Home Theatre Audio System.
1996 Expansion of production facilities with a site in Bradford, West Yorkshire
1998 Introduction of casa, a unique multi-room system using active in-wall loudspeakers and a control unit to distribute sound from centralised source components.
Launch of prestigious Nautilus 800 Series, a technical and design advancement of the Matrix 800 series using technology derived from the Nautilus speaker and superior cabinet craftsmanship.
1999 Launch of 600 Series 2 which, by including elements of Nautilus Technology, redefines its market sector.
Launch of lifestyle products - the versatile LM1 and, for outdoor use, the weatherproof WP1.
2001 New dedicated B&W showrooms are opened in Shanghai, Istanbul, Rome and Hong Kong.
Launch of 600 Series 3. Utilising modern materials and contemporary design at outstanding value for money the range is recognised by numerous industry accolades.
B&W moves its Worthing production, warehousing and head office to new premises in Dale Road.
B&W starts work on a second plant in Bradford, England.
B&W acquires its own cabinet manufacturing plant in Agerbæk, Denmark.
B&W moves its Bradford production and warehousing to new premises in Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire.
Launch of 700 Series. The range represents everything that’s best about B&W, such as world-beating Nautilus 800 technologies and handcrafted cabinets.
Launch of FPM Series (Flat Panel Monitors), streamlined contemporary cabinets designed to match Plasma and LCD TV size screens.
The new compact PV1 Subwoofer (Pressure Vessel) is launched. A big sound from a small bubble. The PV1 receives international acclaim.
Mini Theatre Series is launched, providing a home theatre solution that offers performance levels commensurate with full-size designs from tiny pod enclosures.
B&W receives the Queen's Award for Innovation
Launch of the new 800 Series featuring, amongst many other innovations, diamond dome tweeters. The new Series is immediately adopted as a new reference by Abbey Road Studios and press reports across the world report that it brings new levels of clarity to high-frequency reproduction.
B&W receives unprecedented global acclaim and the range surpasses the success of the Nautilus 800 Series, already the most successful premium loudspeaker range ever launched.
To celebrate the new 800 Series, B&W produces a feature-length DVD using beautiful high-definition film, footage with celebrity B&W owners such as Peter Gabriel, Dave Stewart and Alfred Brendel, and over an hour of music. www.bw800.com
The 803D and PV1 receive EISA Award for European High End Audio Component of the Year and European Home Theatre Subwoofer of the year 2005-2006 respectively.
XT Series is Iaunched and, perhaps for the first time, offer uncompromised, audiophile performance from ultra-cool, aluminium cabinets.