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Bowers & Wilkins 702 S3 Signature

Over the past few years, Bowers & Wilkins has formalised its desire to tweak existing designs into a recognised schedule. Roughly a year after a range goes on sale, certain models will be selected to become ‘Signature’ models. Only models that have the company’s ‘Tweeter on Top’ design are eligible – so, in addition to the 705 S3 standmount, the range-topping 702 S3 has now been given the Signature treatment. 

The basic design of the 702 S3 has been left unchanged. It is a large floorstander with a 3.5-way configuration that comprises a 25mm carbon dome tweeter in the aforementioned ‘Tweeter on Top ‘enclosure which is longer than that of the preceding version and vented at the back. It now sports a new grille mesh taken from the 800 Series Signatures, designed to aid dispersion. This hands over to a 150mm midrange driver made from the company’s proprietary ‘Continuum’ woven material that is coupled to the cabinet via bio mimetic suspension that combines minimal interference to the driver with the ability to ensure it moves exactly as it should. In the Signature, this gains a new ‘spider’ - it is coupled to the motor section with a view to improving the clarity of the presentation. Bass frequencies are then handled by an imposing trio of 165mm ‘Aerofoil’ bass drivers designed specifically for low frequency work. 

The biggest internal change here is the crossover. As well as being treated to upgraded components and wiring, the capacitors that control the output signal have been doubled up with a view to further improving the bass response. Connection is made via a new terminal panel, shared with the 705 S3, that is more akin to the one on the 800 Series. The 702 S3 also borrows another design idea from the flagship range - the bass port arrangement. This is now on the bottom of the cabinet, and it acts against a plinth with a fixed boundary. This allows for a large, low velocity port to be used while making the speaker easier to place at the same time. 

The basic measurements of the 702 S3 Signature are unchanged from the standard version and, in sensitivity and impedance terms, this means it is a reasonably easy speaker to drive. As long as you have more than, say, 50 watts at your disposal, the Bowers & Wilkins will behave itself and, thanks to its substantial power handling, if you want to drive it to firmly antisocial levels, it will be happy to do so. 

Sound Quality 

Bowers & Wilkins feels the Signature program is about extracting more potential from an existing speaker rather than making a wholesale change to the way that it sounds. This should not be too surprising - the ‘normal’ 702 S3 is an extremely capable speaker and it would be odd to dispense with its many positive traits. What the Signature does is double down on those attributes and enhance key areas. Listen to vocals through the standard speaker and the result is extremely impressive; move to the Signature and they’re a little more defined and better resolved against the backing instrumentation. Without sounding artificially enhanced, it’s easier to pick out little details in the music that make the whole experience more compelling.

The bass is improved, too. There isn’t more of it - the standard 702 S3 is hardly lacking in this area - but the definition and detail the Signature offers makes it more real and immediate. Even with complex and high-tempo material, the Bowers & Wilkins stays agile and articulate. There are rivals that are faster and more engaging still, but very few of them can match the sheer punch the Signature achieves from that trio of bass drivers. No less importantly, this extension is not contingent on driving the bolts out of the 702 S3 Signature either. At almost any level above tickover, there is a weight and presence that becomes addictive rather quickly. 

As well as hitting hard, the 702 S3 Signature has an exceptional ability to deliver scale. This entails more than simply making everything sound big. Small-scale recordings aren’t left sounding unnaturally large, but they are conveyed with a real sensation of the space they were recorded in. With large-scale music, the effect is incredibly immersive because there is no real sense of congestion or compression even when you run them hard. 

Neither is this the only benefit of that tweaked crossover. The standard 702 S3 is extremely cohesive across its multiple drivers, but the Signature is absolutely exquisite in this regard. The tweeter and midrange in particular have no discernible handover and everything from around 500Hz and up feels like it comes from a single, supernaturally talented driver. Given how much detail and resolution is on offer, this is a surprisingly forgiving piece of kit. It naturally prefers decent mastering, but it won’t result in bits of your collection gathering dust because it tears them to shreds. 

Something that has been an intangible, but generally repeatable, part of the Signature listening experience is that they are more fun and engaging than the standard speakers they are based on. This gain is slightly more limited with the 702 S3 Signature than it was on some previous models, but this is more to do with the standard 700 Series models being perfectly capable of having a good time rather than any limitation of the Signature. Give the big Bowers a piece of music you like though and wind the volume up a bit and it's unlikely you’ll be able to suppress a grin. 

Living with

One of the cornerstones of Signature models is that they are supplied in different finishes from the ‘line’ models. So the 700 Signature models are available in a ‘Datuk’ gloss ebony which was also used for the preceding generation of 700 Signatures. This is joined by a blue lacquered finish that first appeared on the 800 Signature models - it doesn’t look exactly the same as it does on the 800s because the flat sided cabinet doesn’t catch the light in quite the same way, but it’s still a handsome and contemporary finish. The ebony is - to my eyes anyway - a lovely finish that looks more room-friendly than the burl veneer on the 800 Series models. If one finish doesn’t appeal to you, it is likely that the other one will. The finishes are completed by gold trim rings on the drivers which I like more than I thought I would. The level of build and finish, even judged at the price, is excellent.

For what is a pretty large speaker, the 702 S3 Signature is impressively room-friendly too. The downward-firing port and fixed boundary created by the plinth make it fairly immune to being close to walls, and the business of placement is logical and generally repeatable too. As noted earlier, this is not a speaker you will want to drive with a tiny valve amplifier - but neither do you need something that doubles as a welder to get the best results out of it. This is a revealing speaker, though, and it will show up the limitations of less accomplished equipment. 

My only real gripe about the Bowers & Wilkins is the business of extracting them from the packaging. The boxes are end-opening and this means that lifting the tall box off a tall speaker is going to hit the ceiling in many rooms. When they are out of the box, the completely featureless (and largely frictionless) rear panel makes them tricky to get a handhold on, which is something that you’ll need in order to move their 35+ kg bulk around. Once they are in place, this is not an issue - but you’ll need to be strong and careful at the time. 


The Signature tweaks take the largest member of the 700 S3 range and improve its already impressive resume of abilities. What results is a handsome, immaculately made speaker that delivers a taste of an 800 Series floorstander at a more terrestrial price-point. 

Listening notes

UNKLE War Stories

Trapped behind some grizzly mastering is one the best albums of the early 21st century and the Bowers acts like a huge, wood-veneered key to prise it open and reveal the musical quality lurking inside it. 

The Apples Buzzin’ About 

Your default state of being when listening to this absurdly talented group of musicians should be grinning like an idiot - and the realism and cohesion of the 702 S3 Signature will ensure that grin is very wide indeed. 

GoGo Penguin V2.0

The point where jazz ends and electronica begins is the intersection this album lives on, and the Bowers are able to do it the tonal justice it needs while ensuring it goes like the clappers as well. 

What the press say

Why you should buy it

If you have enough space, the 702 S3 Signature is a truly accomplished bit of kit that will handle almost anything you throw at it while looking great at the same time. 

Video review

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