BOWERS & Wilkins set the bar high for other Bluetooth speaker manufacturers.
Bowers & Wilkins T7 speaker
IF there is one area of tech that has been saturated by substandard products, it is surely the Bluetooth speaker market. In the past year, there has been a deluge of poorly constructed and underpowered devices. Some purported to be fit for purpose in a home entertainment setup; in reality, only a handful deserve pride of place in the living room, with the majority best suited to a spare bedroom or, worse still, the garden shed, such is the lacklustre sonic performance on offer.
An unfortunate repercussion of this trend has been a general mistrust of Bluetooth options among discerning audiophiles who have long wondered whether the wireless technology could ever deliver top grade fidelity. It is a question that has also been occupying the minds of the R&D team at Bowers & Wilkins, the Worthing-based firm which counts Abbey Road studios among its most loyal customers. Having waited for the opportune moment to fuse its engineering heritage to this emergent market, the T7 is its first multiplatform portable wireless speaker - and it is a delight.
A classy, fluent design also helps to prevent distortion and shaking
At around the same size as a slim hardback book, the first thing that hits you about the T7 is its elegant design, with a restrained minimalism at work. The controls blend in subtlely to black rubber casing around the edges, while the grille itself is bordered by a honeycomb fascia of interlocking panels. It looks the part, but serves a dual purpose. Firstly, it provides a classy, fluent aesthetic; secondly, when the volume is cranked up and the bass notes pulsating, it gives the output a clarity and ensures the squat, sturdy unit does not shudder or shimmy around shelves or tabletops. The T7’s overall design closely resembles a series of honey supers and thankfully, the sound is creates is suitably sweet.
Technically, the device makes use of aptX, a new form of audio coding which preserves the integrity of the audio and minimising latency issues. In layman’s terms, it means your music sounds as close to the original recording as possible. And the T7 - capable of linking to up to eight devices - does justice to a wide range of genres, producing a range with precision, clarity and vigour. Despite its petite size, the unit summons deep and satisfying low frequencies from Led Zeppelin’s back catalogue while streaming from an HTC One, with its twin 50mm drivers and force cancelling bass radiators allowing the volume to be cranked up high without fear of distortion.
Some wired loudspeakers come nowhere close to matching the T7’s sonics
Yet power does not come at the expense of delicacy; this is a speaker which provides immaculate balance across the sound field. Every instrument in big band recordings fizzes and sparkles while the vocals in pop tracks are clear and pronounced. Frankly, there are wired loudspeakers in a similar price bracket to the T7 that come nowhere close to matching its sonics - this is the high water point for sound quality in Bluetooth speakers.
The audiophile-level standards of the T7’s internal components are matched by impressive power usage. Bowers & Wilkins claim it is possible to receive 18 hours playback of rock music at 75% volume, but after testing an array of tunes with the volume set around the halfway mark, we had yet to recharge the unit after a week, even after using it for two to three hours a day. The likelihood is this is a speaker you will want to show off in the home, but if you want to take it on your travels, such a performance guarantees it will always be a welcome and impressive companion.