Bowers & Wilkins’ Formation Suite is a stylish, high-end Sonos competitor

When it comes to wireless home audio, there’s Sonos, and then there’s everyone else. Now, that growing list of competitors includes Bowers & Wilkins, which has just announced its Formation Suite, a group of wireless home audio products that is clearly aimed at buyers who desire a higher level of design, and audiophile-grade performance in a wireless audio system — and who won’t be fazed by the higher prices B&W is asking for the experience.

Running a patented mesh network, B&W claims the Formation Suite is capable of delivering perfectly synchronized sound, with one microsecond of delay between its flagship Formation Duo speakers, and milliseconds between all Formation components. The system is also capable of handling lossless high-resolution audio formats at up to 96/24 bit resolution. Rounding out its high-end specs, all components have Ethernet, AirPlay 2, and Bluetooth 4.1, with AptX HD support, and a USB port for system updates. The Formation Suite is compatible with Spotify Connect, and Roon.

Like Sonos, The system will be controlled by B&W’s Formation app (iOS/Android), though the company didn’t release any details around which music services the app will support at launch.

At launch, the Formation Suite is comprised of five products:

  • Formation Bar ($1,199): A 48-inch wide soundbar with nine drivers, six amps, each with 40 watts of power, dedicated center channel, and an optical audio input.
  • Formation Duo ($3,999/pair): Available in matte black or gloss white, these powered speakers are similar to B&W’s 800 Series Diamond speakers, with a carbon-domed tweeter on top, and the company’s Continuum cone driver. Two digital amps on board each speaker each produce 125 watts of power.
  • Formation Wedge ($899): A standalone powered speaker with five drivers, and five discrete digital amps (4×40 watts, 1×80 watts), that can produce a wide stereo soundstage.
  • Formation Bass ($999): A subwoofer with two opposed drivers, and 250 watts of amplification.
  • Formation Audio ($699): A wireless connection module that lets you stream audio to an existing hi-fi system, while also connecting non-wireless sources like turntables to the rest of the Formation system.

There’s no question the Formation Suite looks gorgeous, and it’s hard to argue with the specs that B&W has chosen for each component. We think it’s safe to assume that its audio quality will be superb, however the true test will be seeing if the company has managed to deliver the same class-leading simplicity and flexibility that Sonos is known for. We’ve been impressed by the hi-fi chops of other wireless systems, like Denon’s HEOS line of wireless home speakers, only to be let down by a less-than-ideal control app, which ultimately takes away from the ability to enjoy a system of this caliber.

We’re also curious about the choice to limit the Formation Bar to just an optical input. Without HDMI, there’s no support for Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, or lossless formats like Dolby TrueHD. There’s also no way to offer control over the TV or other components via CEC, another advantage of using HDMI. Sonos made a similar choice when it introduced its PlayBar, and PlayBase. But its newest member of the home theater family, the Sonos Beam, corrects that omission.

Check back with us in the coming weeks, as we hope to get our hands on a Formation Suite so we can give you are full impressions of this new wireless home audio system.

For now, B&W Formation Suite products are only being sold at specific brick-and-mortar retail locations, with no word on when or if the company will add online sales via its website, or retailers like Amazon.com.

Music

B&H bundles Bose SoundTouch 10 and Amazon Echo Dot in smart speaker deal

The Amazon Echo Dot and the Bose SoundTouch 10 Wireless Music System are some of the best smart speakers in the game. Save $50 at B&H when you bundle both together, and upgrade your audio experience today.
Home Theater

These awesome A/V receivers will swarm you with surround sound at any budget

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to shopping for a receiver, so we assembled our favorites for 2019, at multiple price points and all loaded with features, from Dolby Atmos to 4K HDR and much more.
Home Theater

Sonos Beam vs. Sonos Playbar: Which home theater soundbar should you buy?

The Sonos Playbar and Sonos Beam: United by all of the features that make Sonos superb, they're two soundbars intended for very different situations. Which one is right for you? We put them head-to-head to find out.
Home Theater

Sonos is now compatible with Google Assistant, but Apple Music must wait

Sonos is rolling out a free update to its software that makes its full range of Wi-Fi speakers and components compatible with Google Assistant and gives Sonos One and Beam owners a new voice assistant option.
Movies & TV

ESPN Plus is a great sports companion. Here's everything you need to know

ESPN's streaming service, ESPN Plus, arrived in 2018, but it isn't a replacement for your ESPN cable channels and it differs from other streaming apps in a few key ways. We answer all of your questions in this guide.
Movies & TV

Tired of Netflix? Here's where to find free movies online, legally

We've spent countless hours digging around the web to find the best sites for streaming free movies online. Not only are all of these sites completely free to use, they're also completely legal and trustworthy.
Deals

Don’t miss your chance to save $700 on a 65-inch Vizio P-Series 4K TV

Walmart has launched a corker of a sale on a 65-inch Vizio 4K TV that's perfect for aspiring cord cutters and satellite fans alike. This deal sends the price plummeting from $1,700 to $1,000.
Deals

This 50-inch Samsung 4K TV is an absolute steal at $420

Need a 4K TV, but on a strict budget? Walmart has the answer: A 50-inch Samsung 4K TV for $330 off. You'll need to act fast to avoid disappointment though, as we've learned that the retailer is running low on stock.
Deals

The best wireless noise-canceling headphones are now on sale

In need of a reliable set of noise-canceling wireless headphones? You've come to the right place — Drop has knocked a cool $70 off the Sony WH-1000XM3, dropping (pun intended) the price of the cans down to a healthier $280.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix right now (May 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Movies & TV

These are the best movies on Hulu right now (May 2019)

From dramas to blockbusters, Hulu offers some great films to its subscribers. Check out the best movies on Hulu, whether you're into charming adventure tales or gruesome horror stories.
Home Theater

How to wall mount a TV: Tips and tricks to cut down on frustration

This how-to guide includes a video on how to wall mount a TV, along with other tips and tricks about the process. Step by step, we'll take you through what you have to do to successfully get your TV on your wall.
Movies & TV

Skip the flowers and sunshine this spring and watch the best shows on Hulu

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

Prime-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.