Bowers & Wilkins’ team of acoustic engineers is constantly pushing the limits of their understanding of audio technology. The result of this dedicated pursuit of perfection is an almost constant flow of technological advances that continue to keep the company’s products (at least) one step ahead of the competition. Here we look at one of our most recent innovations – the solid Body Tweeter found on the 800 Series Diamond.
Bowers & Wilkins has long been an advocate of Tweeter-on-Top technology; the first loudspeaker to feature it was 1977’s ground-breaking DM7. Over the intervening 40 years, the technology has been developed significantly, but the concept remains the same: if you free the tweeter from the confines of a baffle, you minimise acoustic reflections for a more natural sound.
It is then a case of finessing the technology for increasingly impressive results, both in terms of the tweeter diaphragm itself – with the progression from aluminium to carbon-braced to double-dome to diamond – and the vital elements that surround it.
The element that has had most attention in the past 20 years is the tweeter housing. The Nautilus project revealed that a tapering tube was the best way to minimise unwanted acoustic reflections from the back of the tweeter diaphragm, and this technology is still a staple in many Bowers & Wilkins products in one form or another.
800 Series Diamond
However, for the new 800 Series Diamond, extensive research and computer modelling of the tweeter housing revealed a lot of unwanted resonance in the old 800 Series models. It was flagged as an area that, if improved, could lead to a significant lift in performance. The way forward, the engineers decided, was a more solid, higher-mass tweeter housing.
Solid had certainly been tried before: the wonderful Signature Diamond, designed by Sir Kenneth Grange, had a pure Italian marble tweeter housing – an incredibly inert platform in which the driver could work. However, for the 800 Series Diamond the designers took a different approach: a tweeter housing milled from a single billet of aluminium.
The new housing, named the Solid Body Tweeter, has the required extra mass and highly controlled break-up modes, works as a heatsink for the tweeter and also has integrated tube loading. The resulting sound, to which anyone who has heard the 800 Series Diamond will attest, is a dramatically improved treble performance, even though the Diamond diaphragm itself remains the same as in the previous generation.