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Bowers and Wilkins DB1 review

Bowers and Wilkins' new flagship sub is a triumph of audio engineering

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Our Verdict

For

  • Deliciously effortless and unobtrusive, yet mighty and profound - an iron fist in a velvet glove!

Against

  • Doesn't go as low as its rivals here

Bowers & Wilkins 800 Diamond Series loudspeakers deserve to be partnered with an equally high-end woofer. Which is why the Brit brand designed the DB1 – a 2 x 12-inch driver behemoth fed by a 1,000W amp.

The enclosure is sealed and sits upon a square plinth that houses the DSP system. If you turn the woofer over, you find you can disconnect some bolts, swivel the base through 90˚ and thus change the alignment of the woofer drivers with your room (you might want to go along a wall), while still keeping the display of the subwoofer showing. Neat.

B&W supplies a lovely set of bits with the DB1. For a start, there's a soundcard dongle for a laptop, then a microphone on a gooseneck and wires to connect them. Owners should use this. I can attest that, while the sub sounds fabulous un-tuned, (I tried it that way for a while) what happens when it has run the test tones is wonderful.

Fully room-applied equalisation, with response down as low as a snake's belly, results in tight, taut control and astonishing hi-fi-like experiences from a good source.

Chopin on fire

As well as the movie selections that I played with, one of the most amazing and revelatory demos in a very long career was a Chopin piano piece in stereo, recorded in a church. Through a pair of stand-mounted speakers it was pleasant, tinkly, very posh, but with no bass at all.

Then, the woofer was fired up. Suddenly, just like the time I was sat in front of the Steinway Model D £150,000 speakers, I could feel the acoustic space the piano was recorded in. There was no bass, no lows at all, but there were large chunks of the acoustic signature of the church. Sub-sonic swells and lumps of soundwaves bounced around with huge wavelengths that all added up to the awesome, sepulchral acoustics of a house of God.

For a fat reviewer who thought he knew it all, it was quite revelatory. With other material, the sheer totality of grip and accuracy that B&W's flagship woofer could muster, and the effortless melodic tracking of bass in music, was impressive – the DB1 is capable of acts of incredible delicacy and grace, like an elephant picking up a single blade of grass with the tippy-ends of its trunk. But like the elephant, it can make the ground quake, and with the action movies I screened it could lift you out of your seat.

Engineering excellence

It might seem absurd to some people that a high-end subwoofer should cost so much and be so very powerful, but this is still a triumph of compact engineering. The same cone area, or rather more, than one of the mighty-sized 15-inch or even 18-inch woofers of this world has been used, with a very big, yet not megalomaniacal, amplifier.

And with its shiny cabinet and a dozen super-strong Neodymium magnets holding the neat plastic and cloth grilles over the twin drivers, it looks very sexy indeed.

B&W's DB1 is fit to partner the finest of speakers, and (with a sorry nod to Eclipse TD) may just be the finest, most accurate subwoofer in the world.

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