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New wireless speaker models from Bowers & Wilkins and Bang & Olufsen

FCleaning the bike, clearing out the basement, painting, learning to bake bread, tidying up the garden. With such activities, fellow citizens try to survive the epidemic crisis. Our contribution to brainstorming is: just listen to beautiful toys again. We did it – inspired by two fine articles on the topic. Bang & Olufsen has just introduced its latest loudspeaker creation called Balance, Bowers & Wilkins, the other luxury brand with the double name, has been promoting a congenial product called the Formation Duo for a while.

Both models work actively, wirelessly, app-controlled, preferably in a multi-room network and with internet contacts to streaming services. And both reveal the handwriting of ambitious designers. But there are many differences in the details. While the formation duo speakers (pair price 4000 euros) are intended for the two-channel appearance according to old stereo custom, the balance model costing 2000 euros plays solo – in mono operation, one would have to say correctly, but not without ambitions for surround sound .

The round, columnar balance loudspeaker gives a hint of its Danish genes with coarse textile covering, wooden base, perforated intermediate deck made of aluminum and a cover plate also made of light metal. A special sensor lets the electronics wake up as soon as a hand approaches. Then lights shine behind subtle milled symbols on the upper deck and invite you to control your gestures using the touchpad principle: circular movements with your index finger regulate the volume, tapping triggers the jump to the next track or orders the music to pause. A microphone icon indicates the support of the Google Assistant; however, the eavesdropper for voice control can also be reliably shut down using a hardware switch on the underside of the device.

Inside the housing cylinder, two 13-centimeter-large, mirror-symmetrically assembled and horizontally installed bass chassis play music. A tweeter dome and two small broadband chassis radiate the sound to the front, two slightly larger specimens sound diagonally to the rear, in order to provoke all possible variants of room illusions with software support if necessary.

The construction principle of the formation duo, which was designed in England and is available in black or white, seems almost conventional; here the subtleties are in less exotic details. For example, in the separate housings for the tweeters, which are decoupled from the loudspeaker bodies with elastic suspensions, and which thus shine acoustically into the room like flashlights. This concept has a long tradition at Bowers & Wilkins; it goes back to a high-end legend called Nautilus. Other delicacies are hidden behind perforated loudspeaker covers, but definitely deserve a mention: the high-frequency range is covered by membranes made of light carbon fibers, the low-medium range is entrusted by the manufacturer to 16-centimeter-sized membranes made from Continuum – a lightweight plastic developed in-house, the Bowers & Wilkins in all high-end series.

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