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Bowers & Wilkins MM-1 review

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Summary

Our Score:

10

Bowers & Wilkins is on something of a roll. With the Zeppelin and Zeppelin mini iPod speaker docks, the P5 headphones and now the MM-1 PC speakers adding to the company's already enviable legacy we're starting to wonder whether they'll ever build a bad piece of audio equipment.

The Bowers and Wilkins MM-1 speakers definitely look the part. The combination of the spun aluminium top plate and accents with a black cloth grille is minimalist, but far from plain. Really these speakers shouldn't be allowed on any old desk, but only on glass (or at a push vintage wood) surfaces framing a 27in iMac - probably in a museum of modern art. They're more deserving of entry than anything spewed forth by Tracey Emin, for certain.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that minimal equates to unsubstantial, though. The price certainly isn't. At £399 a pair the MM-1 speakers will prove well out of reach of many. But as we often have to point out with ostensibly expensive products - value isn't in the price.

There are numerous details that show just how much thought has been put into the creation of the MM-1s. The cable running from left to right, for instance, seems particularly sturdy, and the (plastic) base of each speaker has a small cutaway to accommodate the wiring as well as a small space to hold it. If you don't need the full length, you can stow the remainder away in this cavity, which is a neat idea.

The cable joining the two speakers together is fairly short, and no extension is available or easily possible as a proprietary connector is used. This is by intent, as the MM-1s are near-field speakers. As the descriptor suggests, this means that the sweet spot of the MM-1's - the point at which you should place yourself to hear them at their best - is close to them. This is in contrast to traditional Hi-Fi speakers, from which you'll generally want to place yourself a fair distance to get the best results. Moreover, being PC speakers, the MM-1's obviously benefit enormously from this near-field design, as it's pretty much impossible to place them on a desk in an unfavourable position.

The left hand speaker does nothing more complicated than radiate sound. The right hand unit, conversely, accepts the MM-1's mini-USB input, the cable from the left speaker and the power input. The presence of a USB port is important to note, because it is via USB that the MM-1s get audio from your PC.

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stranded

May 27, 2010, 12:03 pm

Though i prefer plain designs (primitive and metallic) this is not bad at all.


I think they will sound good. Thumbs up for the review.

David 46

May 27, 2010, 1:15 pm

I thought these speakers were only available via the Apple Store? I don't see them listed in SSVA.

Hugo

May 27, 2010, 1:18 pm

There was a short period when they were exclusive to the Apple store.


But now: http://store.sevenoakssoundand...

Cheap-Information

May 27, 2010, 1:25 pm

Thank you for the review,





I currently have the Teufel Concept B 200 USB Speakers.





Would these be a worthwhile upgrade and is there any static noise when no music is playing?

FreQ

May 27, 2010, 2:52 pm

I currently use Aego M's, which are good quality, nice speakers. These look like they might be a good upgrade sometime, although I'm in no pressing need atm.





£400 seems quite steep though, the Aego's were only £100 and whilst I'd rather pay for quality, £400 is quite a jump. Does anyone know if these are available in stores like John Lewis - so we can hear them before splashing out?

Digital Fury

May 27, 2010, 5:05 pm

I'm actually expecting my 27" iMac tomorrow and was looking into these, but they are quite expensive for a pair of desktop speakers.

Peter

May 27, 2010, 5:49 pm

Not actually that expensive in this range considering genelec 6010A are around £169 per speaker without USB / volume / headphone jack and no remote.

James Reckitt

May 27, 2010, 7:09 pm

I would have ordered a pair of these straight away (I'm a HUGE B&W fan!) but the small size and lack of sub concerns me. I'm currently using, with my PC, a set of Bose Companion 3's; how do they compare?

Rich Morris

May 27, 2010, 8:35 pm

I got MM-1 the first week they came out at the apple store and have never regretted it. I had to decided between the MM-1 and the Bose music monitor which sounded better at first then I notice the B&W where not connected by USB but by the 3.5mm stereo jack so I get them to change it and WOW that's when they came life, Yes they expensive but you get what you pay for and in the case of the MM-1 this is a balance and natural sound, a lot of sets especially the 2.1 sets have too much base which for me ruined the over all musical experience.

PoisonJam

May 27, 2010, 9:32 pm

What HiFi gave a similarly glowing review. I'll be getting a pair of these as soon as I get my bigger desk (and can afford them!).





@ James Reckitt - you mention you're a big B&W fan but have doubts over the lack of a sub but I can't think of much in B&Ws range that isn't a home cinema speaker set that uses a sub. Your Bose set has small satellites and a large sub so I'd be more inclined to think it will lack a lot more in the mid - low-mid range vs the B&Ws, though I admit I have never heard them and I'm just speculating.

philehidiot

May 27, 2010, 10:39 pm

It seems to me if you're going to spend £400 on a pair of speakers then you're going to be knowledgeable enough in the area to know that on board sound is cack and be able to afford a proper sound card. Personally even for a laptop I'd rather have the choice of buying an x-fi USB unit and pay less for the speakers without the USB stuff.

Moogle Stiltzkin

May 28, 2010, 4:30 am

These seem pricey >:x hm





The one i have is a pair of Aktimate Minis. Their awesome for pcs :}





A step below it there is the AudioEngine 5 :x

HisEnormity

May 28, 2010, 5:55 am

HOW MUCH!!!

James Reckitt

June 1, 2010, 4:32 pm

@PoisonJam - That's a fair point, but the size of the units (sub or not) concerns me. If you look at their 685/686 speakers there's noticeably weaker bass response with the smaller 686's, which are still much much larger than these!





I listen to a lot of music (from jazz to prog. rock to heavy metal) and I admit, my Bose system does lack in mid range, it's just whether I'd sacrifice bass for better mid range...





Ahh well, either way, I think a shopping trip is in order, to hear these babies in the flesh! :)

Cheap-Information

July 22, 2010, 6:48 pm

Just bought a set of these and they are noticeably better than the Teufel Concept B 200 USB Speakers that I previously had.





They do have a white noise when not on mute on my Macbook Pro, I have spoken to B&W and they say that they are releasing a firmware patch in the next month to deal with this.

Ramosa

August 14, 2010, 7:03 pm

"The cable joining the two speakers together is fairly short" ... Couldn't you just have given the length and let us decide what we define as short? :-p





So, I have 3 questions I need answered before I can purchase these speakers:





1) Length of speakers cable


2) Does it have ASIO?


3) Can you plug a second PC into the Aux-in, thus having 2 PC's share the same speakers (only one with DSP effects of course)

Cheap-Information

September 4, 2010, 1:05 am

1) The cable is just over 1 metre in Length.


2) I don't know what ASIO is.


3) You can plug the 2nd PC into the "Aux" jack and have two PCs running off the same speakers.

steveliddleSK

September 8, 2016, 7:34 pm

ASIO is Audio Stream Input/Output :)

Went from a pair of nice creative 2.1 speakers to some no name usb backup set, plugged in these speakers and was like wow !

MP3's are highest rate possible, but do have some flac

The speakers are on either side of a 4k screen, they are designed to be short, something to consider when ordering ?

PC case is under the screen and to the left, so the usb lead is long enough

Hazmatt999

November 20, 2016, 12:41 pm

The Dac will only play 16 bit so testing with 24 bit is a bit pointless unless you used a seperate DAC as i do now so i can play 24 bit. I still love theses speakers it puts a smile on my face every tome i use them which is nearly daily. The Bass is nice and tight and with the right files no sibilance. Sound,size and looks make this still the best for my requirements.

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