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Bowers & Wilkins Steps Up Custom Efforts

Bowers & Wilkins raised its profile in the custom-install market with a broad custom-speaker launch that reflects what a spokesman called “the most effort ever delivered by [our] engineers in terms of performance and application requirements.”

The 12 speakers in the new CI 600 series, priced at up to $1,200/pair, and the six speakers in the CI 700 series, priced up to $1,500 each, are the company’s first custom speakers developed to be part of comprehensive groups, the company said during the CEDIA Expo. They also deliver higher performance, less obtrusive design, and simpler installation compared to the company’s previous models, a spokesman added.

The top-end CI 700 series ships by the end of the year, followed in the first quarter by the CI 600 series. They’ll join 10 current models remaining in the line.

The CI 600 series consists of three 8-inch in-ceiling models priced at $600, $850, and $1,200 per pair; four 6-inch in-ceiling models at $400, $550, $700, and $1,000 par pair; two 6-inch single-speaker stereo models at $350 and $500 each; two 6-inch in-wall models at $550 and $750 per pair, and a 5-inch in-wall model at $550 per pair. All feature narrow bezels for unobtrusive placement. The round in-ceiling models come with square-grille option.

The six CI 700 speakers consist of three 14-inch-square in-ceiling models at $750, $1,000 and $1,500 each, and three in-wall models at $600, $800, and $1,500 each. Their visible bezels are 0.26 inches wide.

All CI 700 models come with enclosures whose internal volume delivers deep bass yet fit through a wall cutout into a standard 2×4 stud bay to allow for retrofit installations, the company said. To further simply installation, the speakers were designed so that installers could first fit the combination frame/enclosure into the wall cut-out, then place the one-piece baffle/driver combination into the frame. The baffle is held in place by locking pins. The ceiling models’ enclosures use a curved back to add strength.

The three CI 700 wall models feature Flow Port venting to boost efficiency and output, Nautilus tube-loaded tweeters, and cast bass-mid driver baskets. The three ceiling models are 14-inch-square models that protrude little from ceilings built from 2×8-inch or larger joists. The ceiling models also feature 45-degree baffles to direct sound to listeners. All six models feature 88dB–90dB sensitivity.

In the CI 600 series, Bowers & Wilkins designed low-profile speakers with “very thin” bezels for lower visibility. The bezel’s visible edge can be firmly cinched to the sheet rock to avoid gaps that plague other bezel designs, the company added. The speakers lack grille scrims that reduce sound quality, the company said.

To simplify installation, the 600 uses QuickDog mechanisms and on-frame speaker terminals. Installers place the frame into a wall cutout, then reach through the wall to push down the self-locking QuickDog mechanisms, which tighten the frame more securely than conventional screw-down dogs, the company claimed. Installers then snap the baffle and its drivers into place. Speaker-cable terminals on the frame mate with terminals on the baffle to further simplify installation.

As the 600 series speakers move up in price point, they get Kevlar cones, Nautilus Swirl tweeters, larger voice coils and magnets; and cast driver baskets. The step-up in-ceiling models also add tweeter that can be positioned at 0, 15 and 30 degrees. That, combined with a three-position bass-mid EQ switch, lets installers balance the response of a physically directed tweeter with a fixed bass-mid driver, the company said.

Carryover speakers are the Signature 8NT and DS-8 models; the angled flush-mount in-ceiling CCM-816 and CCM-818; the flat-panel-friendly LCR-7; the CWM Cinema 6 LCR; the entry-level CCM616, CCM618 and CWM6120 models; and the recently added ISW-4 subwoofer with SA-250 amplifier.