A Trip Down Memory Lane: The Monitor Loudspeaker Builder Extraordinaire
John Bower assembled some extraordinary loudspeakers using other manufacturer’s components. They he decided that he needed to make his own drivers. He became B&W with his partner Roy Wilkins, developing and manufacturing world class products.
Research and development drove the company. John was a perfectionist who was always trying to improve the product. His speakers became the darlings of both audiophiles and recording engineers the like. Today, B&W loudspeakers are used as monitor speakers in almost all of the major recording studios.
Here are some of the major speaker design breakthroughs pioneered by B&W:
- The use of Kevlar fibers, impregnated with a stiffening resin. This composite material proved to provide controlled rigidity and internal damping, minimizing distortion (AudioEngine uses this same material).
- The latest models use a a proprietary composite Continuum cone which is said to have less coloration than the Kevlar.
- Phase linear transmission – the speakers are mounted in different vertical planes.
- A tweeter separate from the main speaker cabinet.
- The ‘Nautilus’ speaker resulted from research commenced by John Bowers into ‘perfect dipoles’. The Nautilus project was one of the most extensive research and development projects undertaken. Instead of open-backed drivers, it uses drivers loaded by reverse-tapered horns, or exponentially diminishing tubes, to absorb the rear radiation.
- The diamond tweeter developed to create an optimal ratio of tweeter dome mass and material stiffness.
The appearance of most B&W speakers seems somewhat unusual. They may not look like fine furniture cabinets. However, form follows function. They are shaped in such a way as to make the music sound beautiful. After listening to them for awhile, I would say that few people would want to part with them. Just change the decor of your listening room to match them!
John Bower is no longer with us, but his speakers have become legendary. What he started continues to this day. There are numerous very expensive high end loudspeakers. The difference is the sound of a B&W almost makes the price seem reasonable.