Published on December 17th, 2014 | by Greg0
Bowers & Wilkins T7 Bluetooth Speaker: Spendy And Velvety
It’s the season to splurge a little bit! And whether you’re picking up a nice bottle of wine than usual, or spending a bit extra on travel this year, it’s also the time when plenty of tempting gadgets come out with price tags that might give you pause. Audiophiles generally don’t mind spending a few hundred dollars on sound equipment- we’ve reviewed plenty of gear that costs over $1000. But portable audio is a bit of a different category, with different expectations.
All of which is to say that Bowers & Wilkins new T7 Portable Bluetooth Speaker put us in a bit of a quandary. It’s their first take on a wireless Bluetooth speaker, and they nail the details, coming up with their own unique material, an outer shell of sorts that adds both to the sound and the visual aesthetic as well. We’ve loved so much of their gear, including our favorite speaker dock the B&W Zeppelin, and their headphones are among the highest-rated as well. But that reputation sets a high bar in turn, if one that they haven’t always sailed past (the A5, for instance, was competitive but unexceptional).
The feature set and specifications might not be immediately convincing. The power connector and plug is custom rather than a typical USB, which is pretty standard on, well, most every other speaker of this size. Though portable, the T7 isn’t waterproof or even water-resistant, and doesn’t come with a carrying case or pouch, nor a microphone for placing or taking calls. Plus, it lacks an external charging port to help top up your mobile devices in a pinch. That’s especially a shame, as the rechargeable battery is actually quite impressive, offering over 20 hours of playtime in our tests. But the unit certainly stands out in a crowded space thanks to the unusual honeycomb frame- they call it a Micro Matrix and the idea is to dampen vibrations while still offering plenty of bass. The look and feel are premium and distinctive, with plenty of character and style, if not as immediately appealing as their classic Zeppelin.
Weighing in at about two pounds, the T7 won’t take up much space in your bag or on your desk but is nicely dense, a great sign in audio gear. And offers there is some rubber trim for stability, important to prevent shaking and shifting. The onboard controls are a bit hard to see but worked fine, as did the Bluetooth implementation- we had no issues with drop-outs or connectivity problems. We liked the LED battery indicators, and we’re always a fan of the apt-X codec, the higher-definition codec that can help boost audio performance.
Speaking of which, the dual 50mm drivers with 12W amplifiers and twin bass radiators can’t go as loud as some others we’ve seen, but we never noticed distortion nor buzzing or hissing that are prevalent among smaller Bluetooth speakers. There’s no artifacts, and the sound is pretty neutral, supported by some hefty low-end the belies the size of the unit and mids you can feel. The highs, especially on operatic vocals, were crystal clear, a sound signature ideal for jazz and pop, a bit less ideal for rock or hip-hop. It’s a pretty straightforward sound, a little amped up in the mids, well-rounded- and fairly direct, so that listening angle matters quite a bit. We would try to place it on the same level as you’ll be listening. For $350, available online and in stores, the T7 Bowers & Wilkins isn’t the smallest, lightest, or toughest Bluetooth speaker out there- but it’s certainly one of the classiest, and fairly innovative. It manages to be worth the price, though a small reduction would make it quite competitive, and continues B&W’s successful streak of beautiful, highly usable devices with solid and transparent sound.