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B&W's A7 AirPlay speaker offers outstanding sound

Lex Friedman | Feb. 27, 2013
In my testing of AirPlay-enabled speaker systems, it's largely remained true that you get what you pay for in terms of sound quality. Which means Bowers & Wilkins's $800 A7--the most-expensive AirPlay system I've yet reviewed--had better sound very, very good. Thankfully, it doesn't disappoint: It sounds incredible.

The real fun begins once you start listening to the A7. The speaker uses a pair of 1-inch, Nautilus-tube aluminum tweeters; a pair of 3-inch midrange drivers; and a 6-inch Kevlar-reinforced subwoofer. The subwoofer uses a 50W amplifier; the other drivers each get a 25W amplifier.

The result of all that power under the hood? Incredible, deep, full, loud, and wide sound. We often talk about speakers as having room-filling sound. The A7 certainly offers that, as it can get plenty loud. But with this speaker, there's more to it than that: While plunking yourself down in a plum position directly in front of the A7 certainly affords you a premium listening experience, the A7 offers great sound from a surprising distance, and even off-center.

And there's more to the A7's audio than oomph and soundstage. You know how when you put on a pair of great headphones, you hear nuances and instrumentation in your music that you hadn't noticed before? The A7 is the rare tabletop speaker that can achieve a similar effect. The sound is crystal clear, the bass is powerful without being obnoxious, and the overwhelming sense is that you're hearing the music the way it was meant to be heard.

Bottom line

The A7's audio bests that of even the impressive G-17 Air (rated 4.5 out of 5) and the Altec Lansing InAir 5000 (4.5 out of 5). Acoustically, it's just a terrific speaker, and the best sounding of all the AirPlay speakers I have yet reviewed. It also looks sharp, if a bit understated. It's easy to configure, easy to use, and a delight to listen to--all of which, in turn, makes it easy to recommend.


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