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Review of B&W T7 HiFi Bluetooth wireless speaker w/lots of pics!!!

Discussion in 'Android Accessories' started by twister6, Nov 7, 2014.

  1. twister6

    twister6 Android Expert
    Thread Starter

    This is a review of B&W T7 HiFi wireless Bluetooth portable speaker. Bowers & Wilkins T7 Bluetooth speaker , also available on Amazon: Amazon.com: Bowers & Wilkins T7 Portable Bluetooth Speaker - Black: Electronics

    Everywhere you look you see wireless speakers. A number of them are budget BT speakers intended to enhance functionality of your smartphone with a louder external speakerphone and general sound boost in comparison to built in speaker. Then you have a handful of mid-fi speakers with an improved sound quality, but still lacking a full body sound or loudness in comparison to wired speakers. When it comes to a quality hi-fi wireless Bluetooth speakers - the choices narrow down significantly while the prices go up in the opposite direction. For the last week I was fortunate to get a chance to test B&W new entry into Bluetooth portable speakers pool, their HiFi T7 model. Here is what I found.

    B&W doesn't need any special introduction, this legendary UK company has been around for many decades and made their name known designing and manufacturing some of the best HiFi loudspeakers. Their venture into headphone world was equally successful with likes of P- and C-series models that feature both excellent sound performance and exquisite design. They also scaled down their design to portable speaker models, but limited to Apple users due to a support of AirPlay only protocol. Finally, they decided to expand their product portfolio with universal Bluetooth wireless support, featured in their latest T7 model.

    I always find unboxing of any B&W product to be a very satisfying experience where you know from a get-go this is a premium product. Except in this case the first thing I noticed was a WEIGHT!!! Being used to lightweight speakers, T7 was quite noticeable in your hand at 2 pounds, yet still very compact with dimensions of about 8.5" x 4.5" x 2". Though some might find extra weight as a negative impression, I was pleased about it knowing it got hefty driver guts! The next impression was about a unique combination of its premium design with metal grills and honeycomb dampening frame and... rugged rubber material covering its top/bottom and sides. Such design combo works quite well together considering this is an upright standing speaker where you get a chance to enjoy artwork of front and rear panel presentation, while rubber seal around it prevents speaker from sliding around, leaves all the control buttons covered for protection, and also makes these buttons shaped and easy to identify by a touch without actually looking at it.

    Starting with a top, you have a dedicated -/+ volume buttons where you can adjust the volume with a single click at a time or hold it down for a faster change. Next, you have Play/Pause button to control the playback with a single click, and a hidden gem of double clicking it to skip to the next track. Also you have a bluetooth pair up button with an adjacent blue status LED. Every button requires a little bit of force to push it so there is no accidental tapping. Pair up was effortless, and it connected to media audio right away. I tested wireless connection to operate without a problem at a distance of 45 feet in open space. When you turn the speaker on you get a very pleasant audio chime tone, and you also have a specific tone once pair up is complete. Since this speaker doesn't support speakerphone protocol, you can't pick up your calls from it. Also, if your phone supports aptX codec, T7 will take a full advantage of its reduced audio compression to preserve quality of the original audio source.

    On a side you have a power button with 5-led indicator of battery status. Once you turn T7 on by long pressing power button, the corresponding amount of LEDs will lit up for a few seconds, and later you can check the battery status by a short single press on this power button. And speaking of power, the only included accessory was a proprietary AC wall power adapter which came bundled with different international tips. Proprietary connector is not very convenient, especially when you are traveling and can't rely on universal micro-usb cable. But considering T7 battery endurance of a whooping 18 hours, in this case a wall adapter means a faster charging time and battery longevity to keep you unplugged for a very long time. Besides, in my opinion this is not exactly an outdoor rugged speaker you would take with you on a camping trip expecting to be away from a power supply for an extended period. The power plug connector goes in the back of T7 and has a tight fitting to keep it from being accidentally unplugged while charging. Next to the power connector you have 3.5mm AUX input to connect an external wired source, a micro usb port for Service (assuming future firmware updates), and a reboot pinhole to reset BT connection and clear everything to defaults. I was a bit surprised 3.5mm male to male audio cable and micro-usb cable was not provided with accessories. Though micro usb cable is very common and every household probably has a dozen of these already, not everybody has 3.5mm audio cable.

    Looking at the design from an audio perspective, T7 features two 50mm front facing speakers and dual force-canceling bass radiators. When you look closer at the grill, you can clearly see the outline of forward firing drivers on each side of a front bass radiator and another bass radiator on the back. A close attention was paid to housing of each driver, mounted in a rigid steel basket to make sure vibration is kept down to a minimum. That was also a main principle behind honeycomb frame which provides extra dampening while suspending heavy drivers in the enclosure. Even at the max volume, there was zero vibration on the surface where I had T7 sitting on. According to B&W, there is also a built in DSP and audio quality D/A converter. I assume Service port access is for any future firmware updates related to optimization and improvement of DSP performance. Overall the construction felt very solid and well build with a quality which can justify premium price. But it will only remain a 2 lb eyecandy brick if there is no sound quality to back it up!

    So how does it sounds? It has a sound signature you would expect from a wired speaker designed by B&W! The sound has full warm body, deep rich bass, and slightly recessed mids. Low end has a deep extension with a powerful sub-bass and rounded mid-bass with a bit of spillage into lower mids. Other than that, bass was well controlled and even at the max volume level didn't distort or sounded muddy. Mids are detailed and smooth, warm, though do lack some clarity. Treble is also very smooth and non-fatigue with a bit of roll off. For some people who will jump in with premature conclusions, you have to realize these are warm tuned speakers with a very unique sound signature. As a matter of fact, I compared it playing the same tracks both wireless from my Note 4 and wired (through AUX port) from FiiO X5 - and found the sound to be literally unchanged which is quite remarkable. I do have to admit this sound sig had a big contrast to a lot of other thin bright one dimensional sounding speakers I tested in the past. Also, I noticed that position of the speaker will play a significant role in perception of the sound. When I placed it down on the floor, I wasn't able to hear details of upper mids/treble content. Not until I placed it up on the table or higher on a bookshelf, I was able to really appreciate the rich content of the full sound spectrum. It was very interesting to see how these were designed and tuned similar to a regular wired speaker that requires a proper positioning in order to get full benefit of its potentials!

    We all have different taste and different perception of sound. Until now, my favorite BT wireless speaker was UE Boom, but I was never satisfied with its bass. T7 really fulfills that gap and also makes you realize how thinner Boom sounds in comparison. Also, in comparison to a similar models of Braven 855 and Bose SoundLink, I found Braven to have more distortion and sounding dull while SoundLink (also a highly regarded speaker) to have a muddy low end and not being able to reach the same loudness level. Other cheap speakers have more focus on high frequencies while leaving bass sounding hollow and thumping, instead of a meaty deep bass of T7. Another interesting observation, I found T7 to be highly responsive to EQ where you can tame down the bass and boost highs for more clarity. With other speakers, no matter how much you boost low frequencies, they simply can't physically reproduce it or they add sound artifacts with Eq boost.

    Overall, the final sound analysis always depends on a type of music you are listening to, the environment where you are listening at (acoustics of the room plays important factor), and your phone source (aptX support helps significantly with a reduction of sound compression affecting low and high frequency extension). So my advice, look at reviews as a guidance to narrow down your choices, and still try to find a time to audition and to compare. I found B&W T7 to satisfy my bass craving and to make me feel like I was listening to a hifi wired speaker, something I haven't experienced with any of my other wireless speakers. My only wish for B&W is to take this portable wireless speaker experience and to extend it into their P7 series of headphones!

    Here are the pictures.

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