When Bowers & Wilkins asked us if we were interested in sampling their MM-1 speakers, I had to pause to ensure that this wasn’t a trick question; after all, why would anyone turn down a chance to spend some time with a Bowers & Wilkins audio product? Considering how much we enjoyed both the P-5 Headphones and Zeppelin Mini speaker dock, we could only imagine what the MM-1s had in store. Would they share the same quality of build as the P-5s? Could the sound be as clean and robust as the Zeppelin Mini? Could Bowers & Wilkins possibly maintain the lofty standards set by every one of their audio products? Read on and discover why the MM-1 speakers may turn your office into your new family room…
Though Bowers & Wilkins calls the MM-1s “computer speakers,” I’m hesitant to use that term. Why? Because the term “computer speaker” connotes a certain type of speaker; the type of speaker that reproduces sound that’s good enough for your computer, but far from being appropriate for serious listening. For this reason, I find the term “computer speaker” incredibly misleading when referring to the MM-1s. I do, however, think that the perception of computer audio is changing. Your home computer is no longer just a way to get work done and browse the web; for many of us, it’s a digital hub that connects us to our games, movies and music–and in many respects, has started challenging television for your family’s attention. Due to the expanded role computers play in our lives, the need for good quality audio to experience our media has never been greater–and this is exactly why the MM-1s were created.
Instead of thinking of the MM-1s as computer speakers, think of them as a pair of high-end, hi-fidelity speakers that are small enough to sit next to your computer. In previous articles, we’ve addressed the quality of build and incredible design that Bowers & Wilkins is known for–this also applies to the MM-1s. Simply picking one of the speakers up will give you a clue as to how these speakers are made. While many smaller speakers are fairly lightweight, the MM-1s have a bit of heft to them; part of this is due to the fact that the MM-1s pack 2 drivers into each speaker, not the single driver many lesser speakers do. The MM-1s also feature DSP, (digital signal processing) which allows the speakers to constantly balance the sound digitally; this not only ensures excellent fidelity at all volume levels, but also consistently good sound–again, not something you’ll see on most speakers this size. On the outside, you’ll see the modern. industrial design B&W is known for; the simple, clean lines featuring a light black fabric covering most of the speaker’s surface and brushed metal accents.
As with most B&W products, the design is not just about the form–it’s also about the function. The brushed metal band that bears the Bowers & Wilkins name isn’t just there for show; it also incorporates the power button, as well as volume controls–on speakers of this quality, tiny knobs and dials simply wouldn’t do. Another metal strip down the back of the right speaker has both headphone and auxiliary inputs, while USB and Power inputs are cleverly hidden in the base; Bowers & Wilkins did an excellent job of keeping the exterior clutter-free and pleasing to the eye. B&W also includes the same multifunction wireless remote they include with the Zeppelin Mini; this small, oval remote controls power, volume, track switching, play, pause and mute, and matches the product perfectly.
Now, a question: What would you expect from a pair of desktop speakers bearing the Bowers & Wilkins name. Would it be rich sound at all volumes? Clarity and separation? Strong bass, without the need for a sub-woofer? How about all of the above. Diving into iTunes and listening to a variety of tracks will bring a broad smile to your face. I’ve told you before about my theory on the roll expectation plays in our daily lives–and how our expectations directly affect our experiences. The fact is, we don’t expect speakers of this size to sound this good; It doesn’t matter what audio setup you have in your main room–you will be impressed by the MM-1s.
Now we come to the price: $499 may cause a bit of sticker shock for some–but again, this is expectation coming into play. We don’t expect to pay $500 for a pair of speakers for our computers, especially when you can buy a pair of serviceable ones for around $100. But the MM-1s are not serviceable speakers; they’re speakers made for people that want the same aural experience they have have with their larger speakers…just in a smaller space. For those of you that can afford them, the Bowers & Wilkins MM-1 speakers will make you fall in love with your digital music collection all over again.