Factory Tour: B&W

I recently was lucky enough to have a tour of the Bowers &Wilkins (B&W) Loudspeaker factory in Worthing, England. The full story, and loads more pictures will be published in the February issue of Home Theater Magazine (out mid-Jan), but I couldn't wait until then to show you at least a couple of images of how undeniably cool and painstakingly precise the loudspeaker build process is. . .

Stock beauty shot caption: O.K., so I didn't take this professional shot of an 800D in an anechoic chamber, I'm not that great a photographer. I did, however, want you to see the beauty before I showed you some of the steps it takes to achieve greatness.

1) The Factory Floor at the Bowers &Wilkins Loudspeaker facility in Worthing, England.

2) Bowers &Wilkins is world-renowned for using Kevlar in the drive units of its speakers. The Kevlar, bought from DuPont, arrives in its raw state and is heated to 190 degrees centigrade, thus rendering the Kevlar pliable, it is then punch- shaped where it takes on the distinctive shape of a driver.

3) It is then painted, or doped, to aid in rigidity of the punched Kevlar. Each is then weighed---not more than 1gm of doping paint can be used per driver as it could potentially affect the performance of the speaker.

4) The 5-inch cutting tool in action.

5) There are 13 people in the factory who are attaching the surrounds to the Kevlar at any given time. A special glue is used for this purpose that is also used by the McLaren Auto Racing team—this glue is not for use by the general public and due to its intense chemical compound, it only has a 4-week shelf life.

6) Ferrite magnet and spider assembly underway.

7) Heavy goods lifting machinery ensures the flow of speakers are properly and safely packed.

8) Assembly of the diamond tweeter magnet.

9) The diamond tweeter housing is isolated and decoupled from the main speaker cabinet. Ensuring no vibrations are transmitted for pure sound quality.

10) Factory Manager, Dave Ford, shows a list of just some of the step-by-step process that goes into building an 800D speaker. There are 235 parts and the speaker weighs 250 pounds.

11) The world famous Nautilus speaker awaits the hand spray, paint, polish, lacquer treatment. The Nautilus is Bowers and Wilkins longest series in production; since 1993. There is currently a year waiting list and any color combination is possible. A current client is awaiting a pair in pink; a rather interesting choice I thought

12) The dazzling brilliance that is Nautilus upon completion.