No one should be blamed for not quite understanding the Formation catalogue of products because it takes quite a bit to fully digest what it’s all about. This is a new direction for Bowers & Wilkins taking things towards the wireless direction and lets it kick off with the Flex. Some software trickery has been done to make these small speakers to sound a lot larger than they are, providing the most bang for your money. Due to its size, they certainly crumble when volume is in the upper registers and lack the low down which is to be expected.
Then there is the Bar which performs like most soundbars where the focus is on speech and therefore requires the Bass which functions as a subwoofer to compensate on the low end. The Duo is their flagship speaker in the Formation lineup and is what we will be paying most of our attention on today. Moving onto the Wedge, it functions like a surround stand alone speaker that we are used to. They can each work on their own but it is recommended to have the Audio hub in order to have wireless speakers work seamlessly. It is also required should you wish for a television or turntable to be in this ecosystem.
Loud, powerful bass
A much needed hub
Airplay 2, Chromecast, roon and others
25 - 33,000 Hz
The Formation Duo uses components from both its 700 and 800 series speakers which makes it good value when you look into how much their traditional speakers cost. They look modern whereby corners are rounded off and no wood finishing is available. Either colour attracts dust, needless to say it is more visible in white. I’ve heard loyalists not liking how they look, I am neutral on this and I’ll leave that up to what you think. There’s no need to buy an amplifier as one is built into these pumping out 250 watts which may not seem a lot until you hear them in person. Ten-seconds is all it takes for you to notice that they do not sound like a pair of bookshelf speakers. They are not small for its kind but compared to floor standing speakers, they do not hog as much space.
As with any B&W speakers today, clarity is apparent and that’s likely to be the first thing that you pick up. And on these Duos, it is the low end. A sub is not required given there is ample and if you are into electronic music, these will satisfy you. Midrange is certainly heard but more is appreciated. The thing is, bass does muddle into the mids where that can be tuned down in-app but it didn’t stop my head from being rattled by its extrovert qualities. This is where it doesn’t sound like the two century of Bowers that I know. Could be down to what the market desires, could be that class D amplifier shaping the way these speakers sound.
The bass coupled with an overly crisp top end did give a bit of a listening fatigue after half an hour of listening which made me a little sad as this is my favourite audio maker. They are impressive should this be your first time encountering them and it is likely for your guests to be equally impressed but all things high fidelity, this is not that sound.
The boomy bass aside, there’s an app for setting up and another for controls which is one too many. I’ve reached out to Formation Duo owners on Instagram for their wisdom on this and they tend to have theirs connected to ethernet and Roon over the native app. This says a lot because nothing is more irritating when you want to use them and all you get is no speaker found.
The Audio hub is often bundled together with the Duo and if you look hard enough, the stands too can be had at no cost which does make this setup more appealing. Even with those thrown in, A$ 6400 is a big pill to swallow so be sure to spend enough time listening prior to committing to the Formation Suite.