B&W Formation Duo

Active Standmount Speaker Test

B&W Formation Duo Review

With the Formation series, B&W presents a complete wireless multiroom system. Was the long wait worth it? We have examined the current top model „Duo“ and the control unit „Audio“.

Too late – or just-in-time?

Often in their history, the British from B&W did pioneering work and showed the competition the taillights with innovative solutions. However, when it came to wireless speakers in true high-end quality, other suppliers were there first. With the Duo, a compact loudspeaker sporting the Continuum mid / bass driver from the 800 series and a carbon tweeter in the famous Nautilus tube, we have ordered the current top model of the „Formation“ series for testing.

True to their roots

Looking at the Duo, it is also easy to perceive an evolution of B&W‘s design language. The curves are even more pronounced and at the same time more coherent than, for example, in the 700 series. The fact that the cabinet is made of a special plastic and not MDF is hardly noticeable visually. You only notice the difference when you feel it. The reason for the material change lies in the technical requirements for reliable wireless operation. The antennas built into the loudspeaker have an easier life if they don‘t have to bother with wooden walls. Fears that the use of this material would be at the expense of cabinet stability and resonance-freedom are unfounded – the famous B&W matrix interior for stiffening was used here.

So no signs of lazy compromises up to this point, and the integrated amplifiers with around 250 watts of total power per speaker are also rather impressive. The frequency response is optimized by means of the integrated DSP chip. In order for the speakers to show their full potential, they should be screwed to the optionally available stands, which also conceal the only cable required for operation in an integrated canal. They cost 800 Euros a pair.

Also beautifully made is the streaming hub with name „Audio“ costing 700 euro, which offers connection options for analogue and digital devices and is roon-ready. The necessary Roon license costs another 500 Euro in its unlimited form and guarantees the best sound with perfect ease of use. It‘s hardly a surprise that B&W made their system HighRes capable. Further products of the series are the successor of the Zeppelin, which is called „Wedge“ and costs about 1000 Euro – a stereo system in one cabinet–, and the subwoofer „Bass“ for 1100 Euro as well as the streaming-enabled soundbar „Bar“ for 1250 Euro.

Delay? What's that?

An obstacle for many mutiroom-capable systems is the delay between the units, the so-called latency time. This results in loudspeakers of different zones being heard with a slight time delay and a slight echo. B&W has set a new record here with a delay of just 0.1 seconds. Setup and operation are quick and easy once you have downloaded the Formation app. We have done our listening tests with Qobuz as well as with the analog and digital output of a CD player and finally Bluetooth via mobile phone and Youtube.

Not to beat about the bush: what the British have put together here would have impressed us already, if it had been done under the motto "first try" – but it is so much more than that. From a standing start, the developers have created a future-proof, expandable, easy-to-use multi-room system that is also convincing in terms of sound. Even the lowest tones are easily handled by the Duo. To create a sound that is completely effortless even at high levels and with large orchestras such as Rimsky-Korsakow or bass thunderstorms such as "Walking on the Moon", is one thing, but also to conjure up a tonal balance and an amazingly precise spatial reproduction in various listening rooms is another.


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