What is Bowers & Wilkins Formation?
Bowers & Wilkins has set itself the goal of making True Sound wireless possible with the Formation system, in all rooms in the house. The British have previously developed wireless audio systems, but always with techniques and standards from others, all of which had their limitations. Formation was developed in-house and should enable wireless streaming in high quality and without limitations in its own ecosystem; a platform on which products can be connected and communicate with each other.
The Formation products support Apple AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect and Roon. Via Roon, it also offers support for high-res streaming services such as Tidal and Qobuz. Control is from the Formation app. In this app you can add speakers, change settings and also place speakers in specific rooms in the house. With the app you can play music in one or more rooms, but all Formation products also have a Form button to bring music to the room where you are.
The line up
The Formation line-up consists of the Formation Wedge (compact stereo speaker), the Formation Duo (a pair of active stereo speakers), the Formation Bar (soundbar), the Formation Bass (subwoofer), the Formation Audio (hub on which you can connect a record player or CD player to make it part of the Formation system) and the Formation Flex (a compact speaker for smaller rooms or to use as a surround speaker in a home cinema setup). All these products can play together seamlessly and can be placed in any room in the house.
To make True Sound wirelessly possible, Bowers & Wilkins has developed its own technology for wireless communication. Each Formation product contains six separate radio transmitters (plus a seventh for Bluetooth). Two of the six communicate with your wireless router, two operate at 5 GHz to talk to another Formation product within a room or to nearby areas, and the two remaining use channels around 2.4 GHz to communicate further away. exchange data with other Formation products. In many cases, a Formation product will first attempt to operate over 5 GHz. If that doesn’t work, it quickly switches to 2.4 GHz. This approach is much more complicated than with typical multi-room products.
In recent months, we have reviewed the most important products from the Formation line-up. For example, we tested the Formation Duo stereo speakers, we listened extensively to the Formation Wedge and we created a complete surround setup with the Formation Bar, Bass and Flex. Below you will find the most important conclusions from these reviews.
Formation Bar, Bass and Flex
With the Formation Bar, Bass and Flex, Bowers & Wilkins has a stylish, premium solution for those who want a surround experience without the hassle and without wires. The movie experience is taken to the next level, with powerful, deep bass and a seamless surround reproduction, while the music reproduction makes many other soundbars pale. It cannot be compared to a stereo setup, but the soundbar definitely lets you enjoy your favorite music. Both the Bar and Flex provide a neutral, open view with a good balance. Even as a stereo pair, the Flex offers a great solution to fill smaller spaces with a lively and rich sound. However, there are still some areas for improvement. In terms of hardware, the Formation speakers offer everything you need,
You can of course expect a lot from a speaker of 999 euros and luckily the Bowers & Wilkins Formation Wedge does not disappoint. This uniquely designed and sleekly finished speaker is easy to use and offers an audio reproduction that is not easily matched at this price point. The Wedge provides a very comfortable listening experience with a relatively wide soundstage and does justice to your favorite music without effort. The Formation system makes it easy to expand to other rooms in the house and, thanks to the integration of Roon, Spotify, AirPlay 2 and Bluetooth, you can effortlessly stream music to where it is desired. In the future, direct integration of services such as Tidal will be added. However, there are also minuses or points for improvement, such as the fact that Roon (500 dollars! ) is required to play local music and the lack of a USB port. All in all, we can only be positive about the Bowers & Wilkins Formation Wedge. If you are looking for a streaming speaker that is in the upper regions of this market segment in terms of performance and can be used within a premium multiroom system, then the Formation Wedge is an absolute must.
The price of 3,999 euros (excluding the standards for 799 euros) does not make the target group of the Formation Duo very large. Bowers & Wilkins therefore focuses mainly on hi-fi enthusiasts who are looking for a wireless multi-room system but do not want to compromise on audio quality. The set is also interesting for those who have been working with multiroom for a while and still want a step higher in terms of sound quality. The Formation Duo is a sublime stereo pair in that Formation line-up and will certainly appeal to the audio enthusiast who wants to run as few cables as possible. In the field of multi-room audio and active speakers, Bowers & Wilkins hits the nail on the head with this set. You have to love the design, but there is a good chance that you will quickly fall in love with the audio reproduction.
A new app for Bowers & Wilkins Formation
In our reviews of the Formation system we are very enthusiastic about the hardware and audio reproduction, but in terms of software there is still something to gain for Bowers & Wilkins. Fortunately, that has been worked on. In fact, 2020 is all about improving the app and software for the Formation products. No big new hardware announcements, but a well-functioning system with optimal ease of use.
As a result, a new and improved version of the Bowers & Wilkins Home app was launched in March. The Bowers & Wilkins Music app is the one that Formation system owners have probably been looking forward to for a long time. This app contains integration of Qobuz (including hi-res, 24-bit 96kHz files), Tidal, TuneIN and SoundCloud. More services will be added to the app later. The Music app collects all the music from the services linked by you and displays it in an elegant and easy-to-use interface. Here you will find albums, individual songs, playlists and radio stations. In addition, the app offers personalized music suggestions and a Bowers & Wilkins selected playlist.
Previously, owners of a Bowers & Wilkins Formation audio product had to stream their favorite music via Spotify (Connect), AirPlay 2 or Roon. The Home app was mainly focused on the installation of the speakers and was still a long way from a complete app that can control all your favorite music. The Bowers & Wilkins Music app is now changing that, for both iOS and Android users. Initially, the app will be used alongside the existing Home app, which still requires the installation of devices. Soon, that functionality will also be transferred to the Music app.
Bowers & Wilkins Formation- Conclusion
If money is not really an issue and if you go for the highest audio quality, the Formation multiroom system from Bowers & Wilkins is a serious option. High-quality materials, premium designs and above all high audio quality are the starting points of this system. An important advantage of Formation is that the network that is set up for the loudspeakers – and has been developed by Bowers & Wilkins itself – works very quickly and without delay. In addition, you can also use the small Formation Flex speakers as wireless rear speakers in a surround setup with the Formation Bar soundbar, and the Formation Audio makes it possible to link ‘dumb’ devices and audio systems. The software is being worked on and Formation will soon offer music selection and control via its own app.