The Bowers & Wilkins MM-1 is a stereo speaker system for the desktop, offering a taste of audiophile sound from the British loudspeaker specialist

In specialist audio circles, B&W loudspeakers need little introduction. Bowers & Wilkins has been making hi-fi speakers for music enthusiasts since the 1960s, and more recently is renowned as a supplier of reference monitors to prestigious recording and mastering studios, in particular Abbey Road.

Two years ago the ballon went up for cheap ‘n’ cheerful iPod docks with the arrival of Zeppelin, a one-piece speaker designed by B&W for Apple’s portable player. Shaped like a high-tech rugby ball, it staked out new ground for a kind of high-end audio for iPods, wrapped in an iconic piece of industrial design.

Now B&W has MM-1, a two-piece stereo speaker aimed more squarely at the desktop PC market.

The Bowers & Wilkins MM-1 speakers may look unassuming in their cloth-noir guise, but these modestly sized blocks – just 17cm high – are packed with advanced drivers and electronics that put the vast majority of desktop speakers to shame.

In the best tradition of hi-fi speakers, the Bowers & Wilkins MM-1 is a stereo system with no added sub-bass boxes that need blending in sonically or hiding away visually, each box featuring two speaker drivers.

A 75mm mid-bass driver handles the lower end of the audio range, while a 25mm tweeter carries the high notes. Not just any regular tweeter, mind – B&W majors on using an acoustic technology it dubs Nautilus tapered tube, which ensures the sensitive high-frequency diaphragm is not coloured by unwanted air pressure acting on its rear surface.

To maximise the available amplifier power and provide the cleanest signal to the speaker drive units, the Bowers & Wilkins MM-1 uses digital signal processing (DSP) to shape the sound for the system, along with active crossovers to split the sound into two frequency ranges. This accurately channels sounds into the respective low and high-frequency drive units.

Construction quality of the Bowers & Wilkins MM-1 is exemplary, with no visible joins or fasteners around the little cabinets. Most of the Bowers & Wilkins MM-1's essential but unsightly wiring can also be tucked away; the tied cable connecting the speakers, along with power lead and USB cable all chase discretely under the right-hand speaker.

Also on the right speaker, incorporated into the metal trim, are volume + and – controls, and a power standby switch. A small pebble-shaped remote handset mirrors these controls, as well as adding a mute button and track play/pause and skip buttons. Used with the USB input, these let you navigate around iTunes’ playback functions.

As well as an analogue input at the back, another 3.5mm mini-jack socket provides a headphone output.

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