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Bowers & Wilkins Formation Flex Review (Speaker)

Rate this speaker:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 47 31.1%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 88 58.3%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 14 9.3%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 2 1.3%

  • Total voters
    151

gsp1971

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I am not surprised by the results. If anything, I was expecting worse.

I own the B&W M1s as part of a 5.1 home theater system, which sold quite well. They are definitely treble-heavy.

Like this:
Red line = on axis response
Brown line = 15o off axis horizontally
Yellow line = 30o off axis horizontally
Green line: -7o vertically
Blue line: + 7o vertically


1648665207420.png



Looking at the main axis (red), the response is not too bad until about 3kHz, then it drops by 6-7dB at 4-6 kHz, and it climbs about 10dB (!) at 6-10kHz. Clearly the tweeter is a mess.

If you sit lower than tweeter axis (green line) response drops by almost 15dB in the 4-6 kHz region. Ouch!

If you sit higher than tweeter axis (blue line) it gives you the best response but you cannot avoid the increase in the 6-10kHz region.

Long story short, no matter how much you fiddle with placement it is impossible to get close to a flat response.

It seems B&W have decent woofers, but can't get their tweeters or crossover right. Only their top Diamond range is decent.

Unfortunately, they are no longer the company they once were. In 2020 they were bought out by US fund Sound United LLC (parent company to Denon, Polk Audio, Marantz, Definitive Technology, Classe, and Boston Acoustics), who have turned B&W away from traditional hi-fi and more into designer of luxury lifestyle products, headphones, custom installation products, wireless speakers, and audio systems for the television market (like the Panorama soundbar).

1652723025526.png
The times they are a-changing.
1652723027922.png


gsp
 

pseudoid

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Once upon time, Airbags were not even optional in the purchase of vehicles.:oops:
Just like Equalization that has become mandatory in the purchase of speakers.
One of them appears to save the user but the other appears to save the manufacturer... Money??:mad:
 

DWI

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Now I'm reminded of the Jim Rogers JR149, a sort of reboxed LS3/5a <https://www.hifinews.com/content/jim-rogers-jr149-vintage>.
I bought a pair of JR149 new in about 1985. Great pair of speakers.

This is of course designed to be a multi-purpose unit in multiple different configurations. It has tremendous connectivity and must be one of the cheapest Roon Ready units on the market. The Devialet Phantom 1 is double the price. As a package, looks pretty good. In the UK it is only £279, about $350, which includes 20% sales tax, which seems very good value.

Screenshot 2022-05-16 at 20.23.26.png
 

JEarle

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When I heard one at Best Buy some time back I was amazed how uneven it was across the vertical axis, as Amir said, especially for a lifestyle product. Sonos One's don't seem to fall apart so terribly on the vertical like these do, to my ear. Are you meant to be sitting in only one spot in your kitchen?
 

sarumbear

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Bleib

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What was annoying was this gargling/low level noise I was hearing in a few quiet tracks.
Why is this still a thing?
 

pseudoid

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How do you use a subwoofer with this speaker?
Didn't @DWI [DrivingWhileIntoxicated:D] post configuration options in his reply #23?
Yes, they may have looked liked a canoe, bongo-drums and a pillow but I used my imagination as if they were speakers.
 
Last edited:

5th element

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I wonder if this is subcontracted out!
I wasn't considering that B&W would do something like that but from the measurements we can see that the tweeter starts to take over below 2Khz. Obviously this is a good design decision, for off axis performance, which is why this has decent directivity and can be EQ'd so nicely.

B&W haven't used a low crossover point, with steep slopes, in a serious loudspeaker for a very long time and mores the pity. If they'd drop this absurd notion that you need to take a 6.5" mid up to 4kHz, with the simplest crossover, for audio nirvana then they could start designing decent speakers.

I'm very surprised that they've gone with the sub 2kHz xover as this isn't their typical behaviour. Maybe they did subcontract.
 

xykreinov

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Another mediocre lifestyle speaker in a sea of mediocre lifestyle speakers.

I wish this segment were more competitive. So far, the only standout portable and semi-portable speakers I know of are the Minirigs and iLoud Micro Monitors, respectively.
 

wwenze

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they are no longer the company they once were. In 2020 they were bought out

2020 is kind of recent

I look back at the products I've seen from them in the past and it still feel the same.

My image of B&W is they produce stuff that are usable* (Note: Debatable) but don't expect measurements comparable to studio monitors. Guess the same can be said even for their normal speakers (bookshelf/floorstander).
 

pablolie

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I know BW has always been a player at the speaker high end... but I'll never forget being totally underwhelmed by the Nautilus speakers a newly millionaire friend set up. Perhaps poorly.
 

DMill

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Just blah from B&W. Great brand that could do more.
 

Maiky76

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DWI

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I know BW has always been a player at the speaker high end... but I'll never forget being totally underwhelmed by the Nautilus speakers a newly millionaire friend set up. Perhaps poorly.
B&W have been working with the same design consultancy since even before Nautilus, including the curved design of the 800 series, Zepellin (a massively successful product) and their headphones. You cannot separate the design and engineering of these products.
 

bennybbbx

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in the step response can see that this speaker have a very long delay of 0.57 sec. to use it for look videos you need be able to set a delay for the video images of this or lip sync is extreme worse
 
OP
amirm

amirm

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in the step response can see that this speaker have a very long delay of 0.57 sec. to use it for look videos you need be able to set a delay for the video images of this or lip sync is extreme worse
This is a streaming device so this kind of latency is expected. I don't know you use this device as TV sound anyway.
 

DWI

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in the step response can see that this speaker have a very long delay of 0.57 sec. to use it for look videos you need be able to set a delay for the video images of this or lip sync is extreme worse
I have a wireless multi-speaker system for music and AV, each unit is a similar price to this one. Mine is designed by ex-B&W engineers and people from the same design team. Using Bluetooth from a 2021 model LG TV, it is totally out of sync. Using Apple TV+ sending the sound to the speakers using AirPlay, it is perfectly in sync. These units have AirPlay. Often you can adjust the timing. These B&W units also have AptxHD Bluetooth, so even with Bluetooth they should sound pretty good, certainly a lot better than non-HD Bluetooth. The sound from my LG TV using Bluetooth is terrible, as well as being out of sync. My units also have Roon Ready and uPnP.

This review does not consider the set-up options and connectivity, but to a large extent that is what these systems are about, and it has excellent connectivity.

This product range is the successor to Zeppelin, which they still sell. If you compare the connectivity, Zeppelin only has standard Bluetooth, does not have Roon, but does have AirPlay2 and Apple TV+ 4K.

This is the best value Roon Ready system and is likely to be a key selling point.
It may be £350, but I suspect most users will have several units.

The next best value with Roon are Naim Qb2 (£900) and Devialet Phantom 1 (£1,000). We have both of those in our house and they are much loved. The Devialet's dispersion makes it brilliant for a clinic workspace. The Naim Qb2 designer is also associated with the B&W design people.

As for the importance of design, I've seen the Zeppelin being used on a $70m yacht.

JBL have won a lot of awards for the design of their speakers and headphones, including two generations of their Bluetooth speakers. The sound is no more important than the design and the interface. The Naim app and connectively for the Qb2 is one of its big selling points.
Screenshot 2022-05-17 at 08.45.56.png
 

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