Bowers & Wilkins began life in the back room of a small local shop in the south coast town of Worthing in 1966, and over 50 years has grown into one of the most respected loudspeaker manufacturers, not just in the country, but in the world. From the very beginning, founders John Bowers and Peter Hayward decided to forego a lavish lifestyle in favour of putting all earnings back into the business in their quest to create the perfect loudspeaker.
The company is named for the electrical store Bowers ran with his friend Roy Wilkins, and gained its wings when Bowers was left £10,000 in a will from a customer who was impressed by his knowledge and enthusiasm for classical music, and the custom loudspeakers he built for her. This design formed the basis of the first commercial B&W loudspeaker; the “Domestic Model 1,” a design that was tweaked over the years and eventually became a genuine classic. Indeed, the DM series continued to evolve throughout the 70s with the introduction of Pentagram founding partner Kenneth Grange as lead designer. This really upped the company's aesthetic game, and Grange's classy, unique designs continue to inspire B&W loudspeakers to this day.
It was also in the mid-70s that the company first started using Kevlar material on their speaker cones, with the bulletproof material also proving as effective in breaking up standing waves as in stopping bullets. The yellow Kevlar cones were to become a staple in all high-end B&W models, and remain so today. The end of the 70s marked the production of the original 801 high-end speaker, which utilised superior drive units, isolated in separate chambers to produce a remarkable, rich sound that made the 801 a fixture in many top studios; a tradition upheld in later years by the 800 Series loudspeakers. Bowers sadly passed away in 1987, but the decade also saw the creation of the now world-famous Steyning Research Establishment; a specialist research lab in which a team of specialist acoustic and electronics engineers worked to create the future of sound. A year after John passed, B&W speakers were also installed in the world famous Abbey Road Studios, Quite a legacy!
Today, befitting its founder, B&W is a brand revered by classical music fans all over the world. Their dynamic range, and famously rich mid-range response, also make them perfect speakers for any music with a lot of depth. They have also embraced the wireless age with aplomb, and have even spread their wings into more affordable markets, so they are no longer just a luxury brand. Their celebrated P series headphones now also mean that you can experience the inimitable B&W sound on a more personal level. If you're in the market for something with a little more depth, look for the yellow cones. You won't regret it!