SEVENTH HEAVEN

very fast and always agile, bringing truly propulsive momentum and drive to a bass-led ... for bi-wiring/ amping. POSITIONING. For the smoothest and most even ...
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22/9/03

7:13 pm

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SEVENTH HEAVEN

B&W’s new 700-series neatly fills the gap between its ‘budget’ 600s and upmarket Nautilus 800s

PRODUCT B&W 703 TYPE 3-way floorstanding loudspeaker PRICE £2,000 KEY FEATURES Size (WxHxD): 23x101x36cm P Tube-loaded alloy dome tweeter P 165mm Kevlar midrange driver P 2x 165mm paper/Kevlar bass drivers CONTACT  01903 221500 q www.bwspeakers.com

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he largest of all the specialist hi-fi speaker brands, Worthing-based B&W is noteworthy for the considerable resources it devotes to research and development, with a small army of engineers operating out of a well-equipped, purposebuilt facility some miles away from the main factory in Steyning. It’s this research effort that lay behind the very advanced and radical Nautilus 800 models in 1998, and their subsequent Signature upgrades, and something of the same has now ‘trickled down’ to the brand new 700-series models, which very much fill a gap between the 800s and their ‘budget’ 600-series brethren. There are three 700s all told: an £800 per pair 705 standmount; a £1,300 per pair 704 two-and-a-half-way floorstander; and this £2,000 three-way 703 floorstander, which arrived just a couple of weeks too late for inclusion in this month’s group test. In a sense, these 700s replace the CDM NT models, though perhaps supplant is the better word, as they by no means fit into the same price slots and are claimed to deliver much more of a mid-point level of performance between the widely separated 600s and 800s than their predecessors. The industrial design brief here was to make reference to the cabinet shape of the outgoing CDM NT series – specifically the concept of mounting an external tweeter on top of a sloping cabinet top – but also to incorporate the bent-wood technology that was pioneered in the Nautilus 800s. A further requirement was to reduce the rather angular appearance of the CDM NTs, and also to take acoustic factors into account. The new speaker looks less fussy than its predecessor, with cleaner lines and construction that promises some performance advantages. The front and top are formed from a single piece, giving great strength, while the curve under the top-mounted tweeter will give greater ‘scatter’ than the flat surface used before. The radiused edges have disappeared now, but the enclosure is subtly tapered front to rear, so the only parallel

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HI-FI CHOICE

november 2003

surfaces are the front and back, which will help to de-focus the internal standing waves. Classy real-wood veneer covers all the faces, our samples coming in an attractive American walnut. Crucially, this 703 uses a version of the ‘surroundless’ FST (Fixed Suspension Transducer) midrange driver that was

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B&W 703 loudspeaker [ Review ]

pioneered by the more upmarket Nautilus models, and which provides one of the better reasons for adopting the extra complexity of a three-way, as distinct from the two-and-a-halfway configuration used in the 704. In the vast majority of three-ways, the midrange driver is either the same as, or a scaled down version of, the bass driver. However, the essential difference between a midrange-only unit and any unit required to produce bass (whether bass-only or bass/mid) is that a mid-only driver doesn’t undergo significant cone excursion. Whereas the rubber roll surround at the edge of a driver cone normally has to centre the cone, absorb edge-of-cone vibration and permit generous fore ’n’ aft excursion, a midonly driver has no need for the last of these. B&W has therefore come up with a midrange driver with a heavy but unfixed surround that locates the cone but ignores excursion in order to optimise the vibration absorption characteristics, by using a heavy rubber gasket in place of the usual roll. The result, allegedly, is improvement in dynamic range resolution. Thanks to relative