B&W 702 S2 loudspeaker Page 2

All the same, the 702 S2 made a strong fist of it, delivering a fast and punchy sound showing a surprising amount of midband detail. That new Continuum cone cut through this murky mix far better than expected, offering a genuinely open and accurate rendition. I wasn’t expecting to be able to get quite so far into the mix, yet the 702 S2 dutifully delivered. The new 700 series hasn’t brought about a dramatic transformation in B&W’s house sound, so you won’t get a soft or overly romanticised version of the music played.

The Carbon dome tweeter proved interesting. It’s ever so slightly bright compared to some soft domes and ribbons, but it never grates. It gives a ‘well lit’ quality to the treble that made the looped hi-hats on the Beatmasters track really power the song along. You would never call it harsh, but neither does this new tweeter present itself as the world’s sweetest and most subtle. Tonally, it’s a good match for the rest of the speaker – it sounds very well integrated with the midband and you never get the impression that you’re listening to several speakers in one.

There’s a refreshing uniformity to the 702 S2’s sound, the spaces between the notes proving clean and clear, with no smear or smudge. This reinforced the impression of the 702 S2 as a tight, taut and accurate transducer, and not one prone to coloration or artifice.

1217bw.bac.jpgDavid Sylvian’s ‘Buoy’ [from Everything And Nothing; Virgin VJCP-68248.49] underlined this – the track has some powerful saxophone work and the speaker was able to carry it smoothly, yet convey the instrument’s natural reedy timbre. The tambourine work showed the Carbon dome to be fast and was very explicitly etched, but again the speaker’s high frequencies had a slightly diminished sense of the silkiness and delicacy that some rivals are capable of conveying.

Bass, however, is impressive. The 702 S2’s three low frequency drivers together seem capable of shifting large amounts of air – although this never sounds like a bottom-heavy loudspeaker. Indeed, compared to many, it is if anything a little bass-light. Part of the reason for this is that the company doesn’t appear to have engineered in any obvious peaks for artificial showroom appeal, so the speaker sounds even and extended without ever being overpowering.

Propulsive Bassline
4hero’s ‘Morning Child’ [from Play With The Changes; Raw Canvas Records RCRCD02] made this quite clear. It’s a warmish-sounding track with some very strong bass-guitar work and a wide range of acoustic instruments playing further up the range. The 702 S2 served up a powerful bottom end, and even when the volume was advanced to pretty high levels the loudspeaker hung on in there, refusing to fall apart. The taut yet propulsive bassline gave a great sense of progress to the song.

However, this loudspeaker is not the most tuneful down below – some other speakers that have less bass still manage to deliver it in a more melodic way. This characteristic was more evident on slightly jazzy, soul music such as this. The more louche the recording gets the more you notice it. It was also apparent on The Jam’s ‘Smithers Jones’ [from Compact Snap; Polydor 821 712-2]. The big B&W sounded lots of fun and impressed with a punchy and solid feel, with a surprising amount of detail across the midband from what is another pretty average sounding recording.

I enjoyed the bright, crashing cymbal work, the clean and intricate rendition of Paul Weller’s vocals and the tight bass drum sound – yet the bass-guitar seemed to be working more in a percussive way than a tuneful one.

So it’s a dry, well defined sound alright, and it pulls the listener towards focusing on the music’s rhythmic rather than tonal qualities. This isn’t so much a criticism as an observation – all loudspeakers, and speaker brands, have their own ways of doing things. Running the gamut of my new wave and classic rock collection, this speaker impressed greatly – but always the accent was on the percussive, with large amounts of detail thrown in as if for good measure.


The same attributes that make it so good at playing this sort of music appear to bear fruit for classical too. Bernard Haitink’s beautiful take on Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No 2 [Warner Classics 7493942] showed this loudspeaker’s innate clarity and lack of coloration, as well as its general demeanour. The London Philharmonic Orchestra came across with great scale and physical presence, with the 702 S2 being able to deliver musical crescendos at high volumes without complaint.

Spatial Impressions
As the score becomes more complicated, the speaker retained its calm and controlled manner, with no sense of it falling into disorder. At the same time, its excellent soundstaging really came into its own, the big B&W recreating the recorded acoustic on a large scale. Image location inside this proved excellent, and the 702 S2 was able to hang instruments at the back of the hall impressively far away, giving a fine sense of space.

A superb recording such as this also showcases just how well integrated this speaker is – there’s a seamless transition from the low bass to the high treble, with no part of the frequency spectrum obviously standing out, aside from that ever-so-slightly well-lit upper treble.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
It’s hard not to be impressed by the new B&W 702 S2. Like an 804 D3 that has shrunk in the wash, it offers a tantalising taste of the 800-series sound but without spending serious amounts of money. If you want a powerful, tight, detailed and spacious floorstander then there’s a great case to be made for this. It’s not the sweetest and most romantic speaker on sale, but that doesn’t make it any less capable.

B&W Group Ltd
West Sussex
0800 232 1513