Bowers & Wilkins
Bowers & Wilkins
Bowers & Wilkins

Bowers & Wilkins

The founder of the global brand of speakers – Bowers & Wilkins Loudspeakers, John Bowers devoted his entire life to one mission – he strived to make sound recording playback of the highest quality and clarity. The company was founded in 1966 in Worthing (England) by Bowers and his childhood friend Peter Highward. The main condition that John and Peter agreed on from the very day they founded their life’s business was not to spend profits on personal needs, to be more modest in their requests, and to invest all the money again in the development of perfect acoustic equipment.

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John Bowers assembled his first acoustic systems for customers by hand in a small electrical goods store where he was manager along with another friend, Ray Wilkins. Bowers received a capital of 10,000 pounds, with the help of which he managed to found B&W Electronics, in a will from an elderly client of his, Mrs. Knight. Knight liked the speakers John had assembled for her so much and was so impressed by how well the young man knew her favorite classical music that she decided to help the seller develop his business. Mrs. Knight’s money was not wasted – already in the year the company was founded, Bowers and his friends created the first AC-P1. The company’s first loudspeaker system, the P1 (1967), was a success, and John Bowers used the profits to purchase a set of audio testing equipment – an oscilloscope and a pen recorder – allowing it to carry its own calibration certificate on every speaker sold by B&W Loudspeakers Ltd.

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The P1 was redesigned as the P2, which had the same look but used a different speaker. 1968 – DM1 (Domestic Monitor) and DM3 systems. However, John Bowers’ real goal was to design and build the speaker system entirely in-house. This goal was achieved in 1969 with the DM70 loudspeaker – one of the major milestones in the history of Bowers & Wilkins, and the first to be completely assembled in the B&W factory. The DM70 had electrostatic tweeters and midrange speakers and an unusually curved body. The reviews were extremely positive, which contributed to a significant increase in sales, and also opened the door for Bowers & Wilkins to enter the European and global markets. By 1973, exports accounted for 60% of all Bowers & Wilkins production, leading to the company winning its first Queen’s Award for Industry. In 1972, the company moved production to a more spacious building in the same city, and decided to keep the office in the old one. At the same time, Kenneth Grange, one of the founders of the Pentagram company and the leading UK designer of that time, came to Bowers & Wilkins. One of Kenneth’s most notable works with B&W was the design of the Signature Diamond series of speakers. The B&W DM6 speakers, the world’s first to use Kevlar, were also designed by Kenneth – manufactured in 1976, they were distinguished by their unusual shape and memorable appearance.

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B&W DM70 

The next step towards improving sound was taken in 1977, when the company decided to separate the tweeter from the main body and place it in a separate box on top. The company still uses this tweeter placement format in its solutions to this day, but the first speaker with this arrangement was the B&W DM7. In 1979, B&W introduced the 801 speaker, ushering in an era of high-quality high-end acoustics. The “800 Series Diamond” speakers are still the company’s top series today. John Bowers was distinguished by the fact that he bet on the development of engineering science in the field of sound recording and always kept in touch with developers, who in turn supplied him with news about new achievements in the field of improving audio systems. Thus, in 1979, the exemplary model B&W 801 appeared, which in a short time won the most respected studios around the world – EMI ABBEY ROAD, Deutsche Grammophon, Decca and others. Bowers & Wilkins tested Kevlar superfabric, which is now used to make body armor, as a material for the speaker cone and proved that this fabric effectively stops not only bullets, but also standing sound waves. The DM 6 diffuser model developed by Kenneth Grange, in which Kevlar was first used, was patented by the company and became the standard for natural sound. Three years later, the first version of the new model, 801, was released onto the market, which was distinguished by previously unheard-of sound quality, which was provided by isolated speakers in separate housings.

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B&W Nautilus 

John Bowers, despite the wild success of the 801, continued to invest most of its profits in funding research in the field of sound recording. Now he was able to establish an entire research center in West Sussex, where he invited an excellent team of engineers to work, who began to further develop advanced ideas in the areas of interest of Bowers & Wilkins. 1993 – B&W engineers, after five years of fundamental research, created the Nautilus high-end speaker system, with an unusual shell shape in the form of a clam and a number of design features. The main innovation of acoustics is Nautilus loading pipes. In 1997, the company introduced another original solution, which was subsequently used continuously –

Flowport (a proprietary type of bass reflex port). 1998 – an important milestone in the company’s history – the release of the Nautilus 800 Series, one of the most popular series of speaker systems in professional circles. The 800 Series is used in music studios around the world, most notably Abbey Road Studios. In the future, the 800 series will become one of the leading ones for Bowers & Wilkins; many developments are associated with it. It was in the 800 Series that the company applied all its vast experience in creating acoustics, and it is this series that is constantly improving and developing to this day. The year 2005 was marked for the company with the release of a new creation of engineering – Diamond Domes tweeters. For the first time, synthetic diamond was used as a material for the tweeter dome. Sound quality has risen to new, even more unattainable heights – there seems to be no limit to the perfection that Bowers & Wilkins specialists achieve by combining science, engineering and music.


B&W Zeppelin 

In the 2010s, the company entered the mobile acoustics market, releasing Zeppelin Air (2011) and a line of headphones (wireless on-ear and over-ear). John Bowers Company is 45 years old. What’s next? There is no limit to the perfection of the recorded sound, which should be indistinguishable from the original, says the founder of Bowers & Wilkins. He and his team today continue their research in the world of sound recording, conduct new developments, remaining at the forefront of their business, and maintain tribute to the company’s traditions, which were laid back in 1966.