Review: Bowers & Wilkins 702 S2 Signature

Refined signature edition

They look gorgeous, but it's not just the cosmetics that are appealing with the B&W 702 S2 Signature.

702 S2 Signature
Bowers & Wilkins 702 S2 Signature

Our verdict

Magnificent glossy cabinet design. Incredibly refined sound with good resolution, appealing warm sound and very potent bass. Easy load for most amplifiers.
Lacks some dynamic contrast in the treble.
  • Type: Three-way floor-standing speaker
  • Bass: 3 x 16.5 cm Aerofoil membrane
  • Mid: 15 cm Continuum FST
  • Treble: 25 mm carbon
  • Sensitivity: 90 dB / 8 ohms
  • Frequency response: 46 Hz – 28 kHz, ± 3dB
  • Dimensions / weight: 108 x 20 x 33.7 cm / 29.5 kg
  • Other: Glossy Datuk wood veneer
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Price: £ 5599

Something must be wrong. I looked over all of the cables, connections and checked that all the elements were in phase, let alone connected. The sound from the brand new signature version of the Bowers & Wilkins 702 S2 sounded flat, undynamic and stuffy. It was certainly not what I expected when I put the beautiful speakers on the floor in front of the facility.

When we tested the original version two and a half years ago, we were extremely excited about the sound, so this was disappointing.

I still decided to give them a try. 48 hours of recording I thought could help. Otherwise I just had to unpack them and return the speakers.

Two days later I checked that there was still sound in the listening room, and it did, but I did not think the sound was that far better. Disappointed, again.

I left the system to play for a few more days, this time with a louder sound, and crossed my fingers.

That helped! The sound had opened up noticeably, there were suddenly details in the soundscape, and the bass sounded tighter and better defined. The next few weeks were a gradual upswing as the speakers became more recorded.

Which tells me that B&W’s Signature edition of the 702 S2 needs to be played for a while before they are at their very best. But then they are also at the very top in their price range, and in my experience an even better speaker than the original they are based on.

Technical improvements

Most special editions rarely have anything more than cosmetic changes, and are often made in small series at a higher price. Whether it is to satisfy the designer’s ego, or the accounting department’s bottom line, I will not speculate, but they have no acoustic value that makes them worth spending money on.

Bowers & Wilkins is not in the habit of making special editions of its speakers, unless it involves sonic improvements. Some of them are so special that there is no regular version of them. Like the snail-shaped B&W Nautilus, and later the Signature Diamond 40 with a diamond tweeter in a marble housing on top.

The complex treble construction of the 702 S2 Signature.

These are based on the floor-standing 702 S2, which we know from before. But here, B&W’s engineers have worked to further refine the sound. The 700 series places itself between the affordable 600 series and the high-end speakers in the 800 series. With cabinet constructions from 600, and much of the technical taken from the sharing shelves for the 800 series.

The cabinets of the two Signature editions in the 700 series have been given a new cabinet design in glossy lacquered Datuk wood veneer, which looks much better in real life than in photos.

702 S2 Signature is easy to place, and not very demanding to operate.

Inside, the crossovers have been upgraded with better capacitors, more powerful cooling and a new low-frequency capacitor for the floor-standing 702 S2 Signature.

The unique tweeter with a complicated membrane construction in carbon composite, is mounted in an elliptical chamber, made of a piece of milled aluminum and placed on top of the speaker

The floor-standing 702 S2 Signature has three 16.5 cm large bass elements with B & Ws Aerofoil membranes, made in a convex shaped sandwich with three layers for better rigidity and lower distortion. While the silver-gray 15 cm Continuum midrange is located at the very top of the cabinet. Which otherwise comes with a platform that is screwed to the underside, and fabric grills that are attached with magnets.

Beautiful warm sound

It is not uncommon to see treble elements placed outside the cabinet of a speaker. B&W has been doing this for decades because they think it’s worth the extra cost. If desired, lower distortion and a better stereo perspective are achieved, among other things.

Well, there are countless speakers, also in this class, that sound great with the treble element placed on the front of the case, but that does not mean that it does not work with the treble on top of the 702 S2 Signature.

Because it does. With Hegel’s brilliant H390 as the engine, the 702 S2 Signature plays beautifully. The three bass elements extend well under the knowledgeable direction of the Hegel amplifier, and the bass quality is shockingly good. Double basses sound so well defined and the depth of the bass sound is so deliciously realistic, that I never missed a subwoofer or a larger speaker.

The pictures do not do the cabinet quality justice.

The midrange is open and rich in detail, there is air between the notes, and the vocals have such a rich sound that the vocalists sound frighteningly close. With the combination of McIntosh C2700 and MC312, I get even more control, and the sound image grows more in depth. You do not need 300 w to power a pair of 702 S2 Signature, a 30 w Rega io managed an excellent, but a powerful motor gives you better control over the bass, dynamics, and perspective.

If I have to put my finger on something, it has to be the extremely neutral treble. The first impression is that it rolls off very early, that it has a secluded role in the music. It does not have quite the same energetic resolution as the AMT tweeter in an Audiovector speaker, but is also not as enclosed as the tweeter in an Audio Physic can be.

If you listen, there is nothing missing in the string sound of classical music, in the edge beats of a snare drum, or in the harmonics of brass winds or flutes. You only notice it when it is actually there, when it is needed.

Not only do they look good, the 702 S2 Signature can also rock the room better than most, and the three bass elements set a lot of air in motion when you turn up the volume. The regular version of the 702 S2 can do the same, but the Signature version sounds more refined, it brings out more nuances in the music, and the speakers release a little more detail in the soundscape.

Just remember to give them plenty of recording time.

Finally a signature plaque with substance.

702 S2 Signature: Conclusion

The B&W speakers are ones that embrace you with warm sound, generous bass and more insight and nuances than the speaker it is based on, 702 S2. The Signature version’s upgraded cabinet design is beautiful, you can hear more of the music’s nerve and soul here, and with the right amplifier it takes a step towards the performance of B & W’s more expensive 800 series. There are not many speakers in the same price range, which are as usable and as nicely dressed as the 702 S2 Signature. Few match it on the sound, which is perfect for almost anything you want to play.

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