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Bowers & Wilkins 705 S3 Signature

Bowers & Wilkins has been putting its signature on some very select examples from its loudspeaker ranges since 1991’s ‘Silver Signature’ standmounter. Every subsequent Signature model has, with one important difference, followed the template that model laid down: ‘Signature’ models are optimised versions of established models, specified without too much concern for expense and with a whole lot of extra attention paid to signal pathway and crossover design. The finish of the cabinet gets some extra consideration, too. The only deviation from the original concept is that new Signature models, unlike the ‘Silver Signature’, tend not to have been swatted with the ugly stick. 

The third series of the Bowers & Wilkins ‘700’ range of loudspeakers was launched back in September 2022. From that range, the company has selected the 702 S3 floorstander, the HTM71 S3 centre channel, and the 705 S3 standmounter to get the ‘Signature’ treatment. And of those models, it’s the 705 S3 Signature that I’ve been fortunate enough to spend an extended period with.

At first glance, there’s not a whole lot of difference between the models to justify the ‘Signature’ addendum. The 705 S3 is a fairly compact (413x192x337mm, HxWxD) two-way standmounter with a rear-venting bass port and a 25mm ‘carbon dome’ tweeter arrangement that sits outside the body of the cabinet in almost a kilo of machined aluminium. ‘Tweeter on top’, Bowers & Wilkins calls this arrangement, and it’s hard to argue with the description - the idea is that positioning the tweeter this way improves audio imaging and time-alignment. The design also allows the mass of the tweeter body to be used as a heatsink for the dome.

The same 165mm ‘Continuum’ mid/bass driver as is fitted to the 705 S3 occupies the main body of the cabinet. Here as in the 705 S3, it’s positioned higher in the cabinet than would be possible if the tweeter was positioned conventionally within the box, which in theory means it’s capable of generating more energy.

Visual differences, then, are subtle and probably invisible to those who aren’t already familiar with the 705 S3. The bright trim around the tweeter and mid/bass driver enclosures is now gold, rather than silver, in colour. The grille protecting the tweeter is a more open design, derived from the 800 Signature grille mesh. And where the 705 S3 is available in gloss black, satin white or Mocha finishes, the 705 S3 Signature is yours either in ‘midnight’ blue or Datuk gloss. My review sample is in Datuk, a real-wood veneer sourced from a sustainable supply from Alpi in Italy, and thanks to nine coats of primer, base and lacquer it’s literally possible to see your face in it. Oh, and on the rear of the cabinet there are new speaker-cable terminal posts - they have more brass and less lead, in an effort to facilitate an even cleaner signal path.

These are all worthwhile changes, of course - but they don’t really seem enough to justify the £800 price premium over the 705 S3, do they? Other equally significant internal changes and upgrades, though, are completely invisible.

New capacitors have been sourced from German specialist Mundorf. The company’s ‘M-Cap Evo’ uses ‘Angelique’ (a proprietary copper alloy) wire lead outs, and the number of bypass capacitors has been doubled from four to eight. There’s an upgraded motor system for the mid/bass driver, including a new spider featuring a revised resin mixture in an effort to improve dynamics and lower distortion, and there are new, improved inductors too.

Upgraded crossover design, revised signal path, optimised tuning… it’s been the Bowers & Wilkins Signature mission statement for over three decades now. How does it work out this time?   

Sound quality

It’s been my experience that some reasonably pricey loudspeakers can be a bit of a slow burn, revealing the secrets of their character and attitude over time. It’s safe to say the Bowers & Wilkins 705 S3 Signature is not one of those - it doesn’t exactly grab you by the lapels, but does give you everything it’s got right from the get-go.

And it turns out that ‘everything it’s got’ is an awful lot. If you’ve an appropriately talented system to put them on the end of, if you’ve some appropriate speaker stands, and if you’ve a medium-to-upper-medium-sized room you’d like to fill with balanced, energetic and thoroughly engaging sound, the 705 S3 Signature could be just the ticket.

Improvements over the performance of the ‘regular’ 705 S3 aren’t night-and-day, but they’re significant and numerous. The unity and coherence of the sound of the Signature, for instance, is absolutely unarguable - it presents even mundane recordings with a sense of singularity and togetherness that’s really involving. The frequency range, from the deep, textured and impeccably controlled bottom end to the bright, shining and equally detailed top, is absolutely seamlessly integrated. ‘Smooth’ isn’t always a positive where sound quality is concerned, but where the frequency response of these speakers is concerned, I use it in the least pejorative sense.

Midrange fidelity is equally impressive - so when a singer is as effortlessly emotive and staggeringly accomplished as Smokey Robinson (for example), the Signatures allow him to communicate in torrents. Where both the attitude and technique of a vocal performance are concerned, the speakers tell you everything you need to know.

Rhythmic expression is similarly convincing - the 705 S3 Signatures hit good and hard, but with tremendous low-frequency variation. They control attack and decay with determination, too, which means momentum levels are always high and bottom-end overhang is basically non-existent. Dynamically, too, they do a complete job - they can track big shifts in volume and intensity without apparent effort or stress, and they are as alert to the minor harmonic variations just as surely as they are to the big headline changes.

With just a little care taken in terms of positioning and toe-in, the Bowers & Wilkins can create a large, organised, easy-to-follow and confidently described soundstage with appreciable space available in both the left/right and front/back axes. There’s an almost three-dimensional aspect to the Signature’s presentation (when given the right content to work with, of course) that is very more-ish indeed.

In every meaningful respect, in fact, the 705 S3 Signatures balance ‘analysis’ with ‘entertainment’ in the most confident manner. Unless it’s a completely visceral and upfront rendition of your music you’re after, it’s hard to know where to find genuine fault here.

Living with

Thanks mostly to bigger mid/bass driver inductors, the 705 S3 Signature is, at 10.4kg per speaker, a little heavier than the 705 S3 on which it’s based. But, given that only a lunatic spends this sort of money on a stand mounting speaker in order to position it on a shelf or similar, that extra weight isn’t really an issue.

Mind you, I’d have to at least mildly question the sanity of anyone who decides to fork out for the bespoke FS-700 S3 speaker stands Bowers & Wilkins developed specifically for use with the 705 S3 and S3 Signature. Yes, they have some cable management, yes they can be mass-loaded, and yes the speaker can be directly bolted to the top plate. But they’re far from elegant, thanks to an oversized bottom plate that makes them look like pendulums, and they cost £799 per pair - which is, I reckon, about double what a thoroughly capable and appropriate pair of off-brand alternatives will set you back. And 705 S3 Signature owners should know that they’re only available in black or silver - neither of which is all that harmonious a match for the ‘midnight’ blue or Datuk gloss finishes of the speaker cabinets.

The 705 S3 Signatures are fairly easy-going about positioning, though, which is always a good thing. The rear-firing bass reflex port means some thought is required when it comes to the distance from a rear wall, of course - but beyond that the Bowers & Wilkins don’t require all that much pandering to.  


It’s conceivable that some listeners might be after a more demonstrative, shock-and-awe sort of attitude when spending this sort of money on loudspeakers - and if that sounds like you, then that’s fair enough. But for me, the balance Bowers & Wilkins has struck with the 705 S3 Signature is approaching ideal.

Listening notes

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans)

Stately in tempo, sky-high in 80s digital details and with some well-behaved low-frequency attack at times too, this is a more layered and complex recording than it might at first appear. The Bowers & Wilkins have no problem opening it up and laying it out, though

Smokey Robinson & The Miracles The Tracks of My Tears

The ratting treble energy that’s so typical of Tamla Motown recordings is fully represented here, but it’s never problematic even if you listen at considerable volume. The 705 S3 Signature gives the recording plenty of bite and shine, but steers well clear of any edginess 

Vince Taylor & His Playboys Brand New Cadillac

Energy, momentum, attitude… this recording has plenty of it, and these speakers make it sound about as much fun as it’s legal to have. The wide-open ‘live in the studio’ sensation is absolutely palpable, too 

What the press say

Why you should buy it

You buy the 705 S3 Signature because the electronics in your system are talented enough to bring the best from them, because you enjoy a judiciously balanced sonic performance, and because you like a bit of visual drama at the same time.

Video review

Pair it with

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