B&W 702 Signature Loudspeaker Page 2

Two-part foam pieces, comprising an outer ring and an inner 'bung' are supplied for bass tuning, but I found these speakers to be uncommonly room-friendly, with little of the bass output coming from the port. While the use of the bung may tighten things marginally by increasing air resistance in the port, they do little to alter the amount of bass power these speakers deliver – which is considerable.

sqnote Effortless Groove
If memory serves, the original 702 S2 speakers were impressively detailed, fast and gutsy-sounding, and it's on these qualities that the 702 Signatures improve. At very low levels they sound a little soft and lightweight, but haul the levels up to normal domestic listening settings and they stir into life with a focused, open sound as impressive as it is for its soundstaging as the way it presents the timbres and textures of voices and instruments.

Those who like it loud, by the way, will appreciate the fact that these relatively compact speakers are perfectly capable of shaking the sofa without the sound getting confused or strident, or the bass messy. Yes, these speakers have what's perhaps best described as very commercial bass – as PM notes in his Lab Report it doesn't actually go that low, but it is powerful and very apparent – but it's kept well in control, making it exciting rather than annoying.

Fire up Monty Alexander's take on 'Rocking In Rhythm' [My America; Telarc SACD-63552] and the 702 Signatures really slam into the dramatic opening before settling into an effortless groove, the growling bass underpinning the piano and percussion as the track bops along.

Similarly with 'Canción del Mariachi' [Desperado soundtrack disc; Epic Soundtrax EPC 480944 2], performed by Los Lobos and Antonio Banderas, the speakers make light work of the propulsive rhythms, while delivering plenty of insight into both the vocals and the metallic sound of the guitar strings. It's definitely an attacking sound, but a hugely enjoyable one.


Switching pace to Dire Straits' 'Wild West End', from the band's debut album [Vertigo UIGY-9032], the 702 Signatures demonstrate their unforced, effortless and yet highly detailed sound once more, with a highly natural image and soundstaging, if a slight tendency to make the movement of fingers on fretboards a little too obvious. But what becomes apparent from this track, and a spin of the familiar 'In The Mountains', from the Espen Eriksen Trio's Never Ending January [Rune Grammofon RCD2173], is that the speakers cast an image that's very much on the plane of that Continuum midrange driver.

So, from a slightly low listening position, there's a suggestion of the performers being on a stage before the listener, and not on the floor in the room. It's not an unpleasant effect, just a slightly unusual one, and with the jazz trio track it's hard not to like the rich thud of the drums and sonorous tone of Eriksen's piano, along with the way each instrument is clearly defined and placed.

That clean balance, allied to no shortage of power, serves well the demands of classical music: the brass of Wagner's Götterdämmerung Prologue [Gustavo Dudamel/Orquestra Sinfónica Simón Bolívar de Venezuela; 48kHz/24-bit] sounds suitably menacing, while the strings and woodwind are treated with delicacy and precision as the piece develops into 'Siegfried's Rhine Journey' with its intertwining textures. Meanwhile the great swirling build of Richard Rodgers' 'The Carousel Waltz', played with brio by the John Wilson Orchestra [Rodgers & Hammerstein At The Movies; EMI Classics 50999 3 19301 2 3], is handled in an entirely persuasive fashion, the sense of the unstoppable fairground ride spinning relentlessly evoked with real style both in the playing and the way the 702 Signatures deliver the music.

Serious Punch
Feed these speakers with something really big, hard-hitting and complex – and what better than ELP's three-part 'Karn Evil' [Brain Salad Surgery; Razor & Tie, 96kHz/24-bit] – and the 702 Signatures show what they can really do, especially at 'bass felt as well as heard' levels. All three performers are crystal clear, even in the most frenetic moments, with Greg Lake's slinky bass figures thundering away, Carl Palmer's big kit going like the clappers, with serious punch and liberal gongage, and Keith Emerson's keyboards and synths swooping, swooshing and grinding through the mix with a superb old-school electronic bite.

Around about the second part of the piece, I wrote in my listening notes 'This isn't prog – it's actually trio jazz on the grand scale', and that's exactly how it sounded via the 702 Signature speakers, with all the crispness and acuity of timing you'd expect from a tight little jazz trio, just delivered with a huge multitracked swipe. Glorious stuff!

Hi-Fi News Verdict
Yes, the sound of the 702 Sigs has been both refined and, I suspect, given a slightly more commercial edge. This isn't the purest-sounding design around, but it's both hugely enjoyable and musically very rewarding. They are very room-friendly and easy enough to match, provided you give them some amp power to work with, and the tried-and-tested in-house drivers work well in this swish new cabinet.

B&W Group Ltd
West Sussex
Supplied by: B&W Group Ltd
0800 232 1513