Bowers & Wilkins Formation Duo

Audio

Bowers & Wilkins Formation Duo

Pros

  • Clear sound
  • Beautiful speakers, beautifully finished with good materials. This also applies to the stands
  • Wireless high-end speakers
  • A lot of power for two ‘normal’ speakers

Cons

  • The price is a bit high
Bowers & Wilkins Formation Duo Review

Introduction

Bowers & Wilkins has a wireless series, the Formation series. After my previous review of the Bowers & Wilkins Formation Wedge, it is about time for the outermost speakers of this series, the Bowers & Wilkins Formation Duo. Let’s find out how these sound.

Specifications

Let’s kick off the specifications with a video of the renewed series, the Formation Duo.

Model:
Formation Duo

Description:
Wireless High-Performance Speaker System

Technical features:
Apple® AirPlay 2® technology
Spotify® Connect
Roon Ready
Bluetooth In
Digital Signal Processing (DSP)
Digital amplifier
Dynamic EQ

Drive units:
1x ø25mm (1 in) Carbon dome high-frequency
1x ø165mm (6.5 in) Continuum cone bass midrange

Frequency response:
25Hz to 33kHz

Amplifier power output:
2 x 125W

Input voltage:
100V – 240V – 50/60Hz

Power consumption:
Below 6 Watts (Sleep)*

Connections Network (RJ45 Ethernet or WiFi):
USB – service only

Bluetooth:
Bluetooth® v4.1, Class 2
aptX HD
AAC
SBC

Dimensions Height:
395mm (15.6 in)
Width: 197mm (7.8 in)
Depth: 305mm (12 in)
Weight 10.6kg (23.4 lb)

AirPlay 2 compatibility:
iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch with iOS 11.4 or later, Apple TV 4K or Apple TV (4th generation) with TV OS 11.4 or later, Mac or PC with iTunes 12.8 or later.
*Formation products create a mesh network. Each product in this network dynamically chooses the optimal path to route audio data between products, to ensure a robust streaming experience. We have therefore certified Formation products for High Network Availability (HiNA) and conform to the appropriate power requirements set out in the ErP directive.

Unpacking

It is time to unpack the Bowers & Wilkins Formation Duo and FS Duo (the latter are the stands, I’ll get to that later).

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

The Bowers & Wilkins Formation Duo comes with four cables and a manual. Two of the four cables are with a UK plug and the other two with an EU plug.

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

It is time to take a look at the Formation Duo. In my opinion, the dark with the ‘metallic’ tones ensures that the speakers look beautiful. And that is secretly allowed for this price range. The Formation Duo also comes in a white version, which also really doesn’t look out of place in your living room.
I am glad that the Bowers & Wilkins logo is not too prominent, which can be distracting.

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

As the 800 series, 705S2, and 702S2 from Bowers & Wilkins have in common with the Formation Duo, the tweeter is neatly shielded separately from the speaker, in an aluminum housing, placed ‘on top’ of the speaker.
That does finish off the speaker as well, just try to imagine that it is not on top of it, and just in the speaker itself. That would look a lot barer.

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

The back of the speaker is bare.

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

At the bottom, per speaker, are the connections. A service port with which the speaker can be updated, etc. (can only be used by Bowers & Wilkins). A reset button to reset everything, a power connection, and a network port. Of course, there is also Bluetooth and WiFi in the speakers. In fact, the Formation series sits on its own WiFi network which the entire Formation series sits on and connects to.

Bowers & Wilkins say the following about this:
Formation is our exclusive wireless technology. Enjoy a seamless, high-resolution listening experience regardless of the size of your system. Our wireless speakers use a robust and independent network for perfect synchronization in different rooms and unprecedented sound quality, time after time.

Of course, options such as Apple AirPlay 2, Spotify, and Roon Ready are not missing.

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

You can, of course, choose to use the speakers without stands. Then you only have 1 cable that you have to hide (if you use WiFi). Otherwise, there will be another network cable.

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

It’s time to bring in the stands.

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

Bowers & Wilkins packed the stands of the Formation FS Duo quite a bit.

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

The Bowers & Wilkins logo is also printed on the base of the stands.
Caps or needles can be placed on the bottom of the base. These are also neatly included with the Formation FS Duo set.

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

It goes without saying. Plug the screw holes from the ‘pillar’ into the base and tighten the screws.
The great thing about the FS Duo stands is that they have a hole at the bottom that allows the cables to be neatly tucked away. After all, you can also have the cables ‘stick out’ at the back of the speakers. But getting rid of it through the bottom is a lot neater.

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

You can choose needles or caps per foot. Needling is fine when using carpet or the like. Using caps is ideal for laminate/wood floors. Needles on laminate – as I had done with the 702s (because they were readily available)… you’ll notice that. After all, you get pits on your floor.

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

And the result: the power cable can be hidden neatly and out of sight.

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

The stand itself also has an opinion about it! It looks so very ‘satisfied’ (Especially that round part at the bottom side)… That’s how I generally look when the holidays arrive! 😀

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

The moment I start talking about other speaker manufacturers, the stand also has an opinion about that…

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

Anyway… The speakers themselves look cool. Whether you put them on a stand or just want to put them on a table/cabinet/whatever. Both will fit.
Although I have a wide TV cabinet, with space on both sides next to the TV, I still find it aesthetically pleasing when the speakers are placed on a stand next to the TV.

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

The only controls on the Formation Duo are the four buttons on the front (okay… and the reset button on the back, but I don’t count those for now), the previous/next pause/play, and the Formation button. The latter has multiple functions.

Bowers & Wilkins wrote this out so beautifully in the Formation Duo manual that I just quoted it here.

The Bowers & Wilkins Home app allows you to select and play any available sound source and audio stream. Just as the playback of conventional sound sources must be initiated via a command to start playback, Formation streams must also first be initiated via their app, e.g. Spotify, or a music library app like Roon. Each app shows your Formation Duo space as a playback device available in conjunction with Airplay, Bluetooth, or, in the case of Spotify, Spotify Connect. Once streams are played on the Formation network, they can be selected via the Bowers & Wilkins Home app or the Formation button on the front panel of a Formation Duo speaker. Tap a Form button to cycle through the available streams and sources.

In short, by pressing this button, different audio streams can be switched. Suppose someone is in a room in the attic (second floor) listening to music through a Formation speaker. Someone else is on the first floor playing different music via a Formation Wedge. Then you can use the button on the Formation Duo (on the ground floor, for example) to switch between the available streams.

The button also has an indicator/led that can immediately show the status of the speakers.
Flashing white: Start-up in progress
Pulsating Yellow: Ready for setup
Blinking yellow: Firmware update in progress
Pulsing white: Audio pull in progress
Pulsing Red: Error – Contact support
Solid red: Error – Contact support
Flashing red: Factory reset in progress

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

The LED itself is not particularly disturbing, by the way. You see it almost only in case of startup or other issues – as described above. Otherwise, the LED is off.

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

So, here we have both speakers on their Formation FS Duo stands. I must confess that I do think this looks cooler too!

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

The funny thing is, I put quite a few speakers in that corner. And in some cases, it is really easy to hear that a speaker is not well placed at a ‘tight’ angle. It can’t get rid of its ‘air/sound’. This is not the case at all with the Formation Duo.

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

In the review of the 705 S2 & 702 S2, I already went deeper into the technology of the Continuum cone. Therefore, in this review, I will not let it come back again.

Music & Movies

As a reviewer, I come across tremendously cool products, sometimes also products that can take your breath away. In my opinion, the Bowers & Wilkins Formation Duo is another such case.
Like the Bowers & Wilkins 705 S2, I have been able to use the Formation Duo for several months (since early December).
And oh my goodness… what speakers!

The 705 S2 eventually moved to another room for review. The Formation Duo stayed neatly in the living room, and for a reason. In my opinion, these speakers give just as much power and sound as a complete column. And that’s quite strange. You would think that columns with 2 or 3 speakers in them can generate much more sound. They do, but it doesn’t feel that way. The Formation Duo set can make your TV vibrate on its stand, and … that’s just great.
You know I’m quite a fan of the 702 S2, but after all these months I feel like I prefer these Formation Duo speakers over the 702 S2. And that’s saying something.

And then it also comes down to possibilities and sound… and that is often a thing with wireless speakers.
Still, I tested extensively with the 705 S2, on the Naim Uniti Atom, alongside the Formation Duo. Besides the fact that the Formation Duo just has a lot more power than the 705 S2, I don’t feel like I’m missing details in music or even movies.

For example, all this time I have accessed the speakers via WiFi and via AirPlay 2 from my Apple TV (4K) and LG OLED TV – wireless. And that too works like a charm. Easy even…

My wife and I enjoyed watching different series and movies. As said before, I had to set the bass of the speakers, I live in an apartment, to -5.

The sound is full and beautiful. If you watch John Wick or something like that, you are drawn into the movie. It became a routine for us that we let the sound run over the Formation Duo, even when watching TV.

And then musically; you would expect wireless speakers to sound like earplugs for 3 bucks. Nothing could be further from the truth. The songs I normally listen to sound just as wonderful. And that’s crazy.

I always pick up the song from Above & Beyond – Miracle (Acoustic).
It’s still a funny feeling, playing such beautiful songs through wireless speakers and also feeling genuine. The voice sounds beautiful, and the orchestra is full and above all present. It colors the room. Of course, music is subjective, that’s why I’m also curious about who might not like these speakers (and why?).

AC/DC – Back in Black remains a classic, great to listen to, even on the Formation Duo. The Duos do play it away with ease. The guitars and drums come through wonderfully. The deep tones also just sound very good. Simply amazing.

Where I ended the review of the 702 S2 with the Noisia Radio podcast. Let’s continue with a podcast by Vision (sequel to Noisia Radio).
No matter how deep those songs below the podcast may be, the Formation Duo blasts it nicely through the room.

In my opinion, it doesn’t matter what kind of music/movies you throw at the Formation Duo. You will be pleasantly surprised.
I can list here again a whole list of songs I listen to, and how it sounds. But it just doesn’t deviate from other songs. These are just really good speakers.

Software

The Formation series uses two apps. One to play the music (from a library and other services, such as Spotify, Tidal, etc.), the other to adjust/fine tune the Formation range.
Programs such as Roon can control the speakers themselves from the application.

Let’s start with the Formation Setup app. By granting the Bowers Home access to Bluetooth, the speakers can be found.

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

Once found, they can be added to a space. Multiple speakers can be added to a space. Of course, you can also choose to assign a name to the speaker yourself. In this case, I choose the ‘common name’ Game Room

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

The app instructs the user to place the speakers at least 2 meters apart. Once the speakers have been placed in the correct position, it is time to pinpoint the left speaker. This simply involves clicking the Formation button on the (left) speaker.

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

Then it is time to connect the WiFi network, so that a connection can be made easily via, for example, AirPlay 2.

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

The speaker is connected to the network and can then be used immediately. After completing the entire setup, a new setup can be started.

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

It is a nice option that the app immediately ensures that you can update.

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

The app, as shown in the first picture below, is what it normally looks like – if you’re using the app. From here, it also explains how to use Formation Duo.
For example, via a Roon, you have to select the Formation Duo from within Roon. This is even possible on the app on your mobile (from Roon). Of course, with the Formation Duo, there are also possibilities to use other physical devices, such as a record player. For this, you need to purchase the Formation Audio. Since the Formation series is on its network, Formation Audio will send the music from the ‘record player’ (or something else) through that network.

The various ‘scenes’/rooms can be controlled via the My Home. In this case, if I go to the Game Room, I end up at the Formation Duo.

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

From the settings of the Game Room, you can immediately see whether the devices have received the latest update. If not, they can be included in the update cycle immediately. Of course, you can also add another Formation product directly in that room.

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

The only two options that can be adjusted are the Treble and Bass. The other tones cannot be adjusted (at least not on the Formation series itself). Believe me when I say that the bass of the Formation Duo is decent. For two ‘relatively small’ speakers, a lot of sound comes out. It looks just like my 5-month-old daughter. Plenty of sound coming out too… 😛

To put it to the test right away, let’s kick off with a podcast that can be started via my iPhone. As can be seen at the bottom, multiple spaces can be set via ‘Available Spaces’.

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

This is also nice, should you run into problems. The speakers themselves also provide a lot of information.

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

This was also the moment I thought… yeah, that bass needs to go down in the app!

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

Bowers & Wilkins | Music
Bowers & Wilkins ensures that all different services can be controlled in one location with the Music app.
This way you can have everything in one place from TuneIn to LastFM, Qobuz, and NTS & Soundcloud.

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

Pairing a (for example) Tidal ensures that playlists appear directly on the home screen in the app.

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

Of course, you can click through your playlists if you have linked Tidal to the Bowers & Wilkins Music app.
The good thing about this service is that you don’t need 100 different apps to listen to music. That’s a bit of convenience. The moment you also start playing music via, for example, Roon or Tidal, it also sounds good.

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

Below are several options such as Library. The library makes it easy to switch between music, podcasts, and radio. The search option can be used to search for the query you entered.

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

Conclusion

The Bowers & Wilkins Formation Duo has been alternating with the B&W 705s over the past few months. Where I had the 705 s2s hooked up to a Uniti Atom. Of course, it is quite a different sight to just put down separate speakers without a (power) amplifier.

I have owned both speakers since the beginning of December – hence the beautiful photos with a very beautiful (choice of the big boss of the house) Christmas tree in the background. After several months it also feels ‘good’ to write a review about my experiences.

It is clear that the Bowers & Wilkins Formation Duo is not very cheap. The fact that you do get something cool in return makes it a great set for me. The Formation Duo does have a great sound. Over the last few months, I have been genuinely surprised many times by how much power these speakers have. This is not a simple set… no, no… These speakers with 125W each really (and certainly at low tones) have the ability to make the crockery in your cupboard vibrate. I have – sincerely – lowered the bass/low tones via the Bowers & Wilkins app. The bass is at -5. -6 is the maximum. Even that is more than enough in my opinion (in an apartment). I know there is a Formation Bass, but I honestly wonder why you should buy this one. Maybe to be able to hear the very lowest tones. If you don’t want that, then you can get along quite well with the Formation Duo in my opinion.
With the Bowers & Wilkins 705 s2, I would understand that people would want to add a subwoofer. With the Duo… yes, I think you have to experience it without and then already feel that it sounds really good and above all full. However, if you have a living room where a waltz is normally held with 55 people, then I do understand.

The funny thing is, the use of ‘wireless’ speakers made me think of a lot of crashes, not being able to connect and I know what all. With the Formation Duo, I had one problem in 7/8 months. I couldn’t find the speakers (that was also during the time when I was switching to another mesh network – possibly related). Solution; just reconnect the plug and everything worked again.
During these months I also did not wire the speakers to the Internet, something that is of course possible via an rj45 plug. Through my TV I was able to connect to the speakers via AirPlay 2 or even Bluetooth.
You can also connect directly to the speakers from an Apple TV – and very easily, the remote is also the volume control.
The Roon integration also works very well. I was able to play a lot of music via Roon via my home network (again wirelessly). There was no lag or noticeable loss of quality.

The thing that leaves me most amazed is that ‘wireless’ speakers can sound so clear and full.

I get nothing for this review, Bowers & Wilkins doesn’t tell me what I should or shouldn’t talk about. But I’m bummed that the speakers have to go back. What a cool set of speakers. This is a set that I would like to keep longer (forever especially). Also in this case my wallet is like an onion, when I open it I spontaneously start crying. I tap the speakers and say; “see you next time.” Who knows…?

The Bowers & Wilkins Formation Duo gets 5 out of 5 stars from me. More than deserved.

BOWERS & WILKINS FORMATION DUO

Let’s start a discussion

Want to discuss with us: click here for Reddit and here for Discord.

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