Founded in Worthing, England in 1966 by the late John Bowers, B&W (more formally known as Bowers and Wilkins) is now one of the best-known names in the industry. While the average man in the street might wonder when the car manufacturer started making speakers if you mention B&W, it's one of the first names that comes to an audiophile if asked to make a list of the top speaker companies in the business. And unlike many of its competitors, B&W makes only loudspeakers—unless you count its new iPod speaker system as a major departure.
Two years ago, when I visited the B&W facilities in Worthing, England, I heard a demonstration of that company's then-new flagship, the Signature 800 ($16,000/pair). I salivated at the prospect of reviewing a home theater package anchored by these impressive speakers, but ultimately put off requesting them in favor of slightly more manageable and affordable designs.
The model designation "DM" might not sound like anything special, but it has a long history with B&W. Models such as the DM 6, fondly remembered by audiophiles as the "pregnant penguin," enjoyed a modest following in the 1970s, when then-small English speaker company Bowers & Wilkins was knocking out attendees at hi-fi show demonstrations. B&W is now, by most accounts, the biggest speaker company in the UK. Its model range has increased exponentially since those early days, but the DM prefix is still very much alive.
I've never heard of the Italian loudspeaker company B2, but their Titan, which stands about 65-inches tall and weighs in at 286 lbs, sounded spectacular in a very large room. The mids and highs were particularly transluscent, thanks to a pair of ceramic-coned midranges from Accuton and a 6" ribbon tweeter. The smaller speaker on the right in the photo is the Hebe (not heard). Estimated retail prices as of show time were about $75,000/pair for the Titan and $19,500 per pair for the Hebe.
On a recent visit back to Los Angeles I took in the 2016 Newport, California hi-fi-show, more properly known as T.H.E. (The Home Entertainment) Show Newport (though it’s now actually held in Irvine). You can read my observations on the show, along with those from other Stereophile contributors (I write occasional reports and reviews for Stereophile, though Sound & Vision is my main beat) at Stereophile.com. Like virtually all such events (of which there are several in the U.S. each year under various management), this was a show for 2-channel audiophiles. Count me among them, but no more so than for multichannel music, movies, video, and home theater.
The only show in the U.S. that features video as it relates to home theater is September’s CEDIA Expo...
2D Performance 3D Performance Features Ergonomics Value
AT A GLANCE Plus
Bright, punchy picture
High vertical offset with limited lens shift
You wouldn’t expect the type of performance this BenQ delivers for the price, but it will impress even a fussy videophile and blow away
Flat-screen 1080p HDTVs have been dropping in price. Nonetheless, short of a blowout sale, a really big-screen set—say, 70 inches diagonal or larger, even in plain old 1080p, will probably set you back a minimum of $1,500. Compared with prices even two years ago, that’s cheap, but for most buyers it’s still significant cash.
What if you discovered that for less money you could get a picture that’s three or more times the size (by area) of that 70-inch flat-screen set? How does $1,200 sound?
While separate projectors and screens are not for everyone, for many of us they define the essence of the true home theater video experience. A big-screen television is fine as far as it goes, and certainly appeals to a wide market. But nothing quite matches the thrill of watching a theater-like image on a really big screen in a darkened room.