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B&W Bowers & Wilkins MM-1 (unboxing and first ride)

post #1 of 45
Thread Starter 
Got home and found a set of Bowers & Wilkins MM-1's waiting for me at the door!

With a childish smile I quickly unboxed them and gave them a try on my MacBook Pro.

I'll get right to the point (I do intend to write a full review after a few days of listening): are they worth the money?

My answer should be YES, but bare in mind these are a very specific design: they are intended for low volume listening (as you might have guessed).

You all know these babies feature an internal DAC (which I am appreciating right now), as well as DSP. The processing unit has the responsibility of adapting the low end to volume levels, to prevent the drivers from overloading.

The results are easily audible: if you raise the volume, you loose detail on the low end, and some of the meat in the very low end. They will still produce a lot of sound, but they will show their limits: they are simply small drives!

What they do INCREDIBLY, is perform at low volumes. The amount of detail and balance is unheard of.

These speakers love human voice. Be it male or female, they are simply great with vocals. The high end is crystal clear (without overdoing the highs), the mids are rich and elaborate. The bass is downright natural and it's image is so colorful and precise, it's quite incredible.

They also perform greatly with pianos, as well as full orchestras. The imaging is very spacious and tricks your mind with ease (given you set your ears in the sweet spot... obviously).

They lack the necessary stance to reproduce intimate guitar playing, if not at the lowest volumes. And I might go as far as claiming that they sound almost "dull" with easy listening music (I'm simply too spoiled by low-end radio music reproduction to appreciate the beautiful natural sound of the B&W MM-1's with pop music).
These things really have a magic touch with orchestral music, and opera... well it's just that good!

Quite surprisingly disco music will perform well (I guess the DSP is very sophisticated... enough to give the initial "thump" of the base, while cutting off the fat before the drivers get dirty... giving you the impression of detail and power of a little subwoofer).

One issue they have is how directional they are. They do deliver acutes at wide angles, so a small room can be filled, and the experience will be good enough from everywhere, but for it to be the €499.00 B&W thing, you need to be right in the sweet spot.
The speakers about 1m apart, and each 1m from your head. You must also place your ears slightly above them, but not too far.
I am very tall, so I need to go find a couple stands to raise them of at least 25cm from the desk surface. Otherwise the listening experience when sitting at the computer is basically ruined. That's how much the sound changes.

But when you're there... OMG the image is so clear, and so spacious. And voices and instruments are so clear. Clearly in front of you.
With pianos you simply feel there, it's a Steinway & Sons a few feet from you... you can hear every indecision, every press of the foot.

Devil is in the details so beware.. with the B&W MM-1's you will definitely look him in the face!

sorry if this post looks disorganized, I'm liking the music too much to bother concentrating on what I'm writing!!
post #2 of 45
Thread Starter 
Ok I'm listening to Fever Dream - Our Endless Numbered Days... and I just felt overcome. There are no tears but there was definitely something moving in my belly!

It was as if we were all together in the courtyard of some farmer house in a remote Greek island, with him playing just for me.

OK, I could also clearly notice the noise on the voice track... that is the downside of going too high end on the listening equipment: you start noticing the low end stuff on the recording equipment!!
post #3 of 45
want pictures
post #4 of 45
Thread Starter 
And they will come my friend. Please bare with the poor quality tho. I only have an iPhone to take them with!

Will post them when I'm back from work, if you desire any specific ones, just ask.

In the meantime, a few details:

1) the speakers look much cheaper in photo than in real life: the base is not made of cheapo plastic, as it may seem, instead it is finished with soft-touch rubber. very nice to handle, has a nice grip on hard surfaces and works as a damper!

2) the remote control is much, much, much smaller than I thought (I imagined it being close to a mouse in size). A piece of beauty, it sits on its battery cover (also rubberized), so it doesn't slide across the desk. It will send commands to whatever software has focus on your computer. So if it is VLC playing a FLAC, rather than iTunes, you're good to go! Just keep it in front of the other windows.

3) the interconnection cable is fixed on the left speaker, and only about 1m long. These babies are meant to sit right next to your display (I guess they would barely make it across a 30" cinema display).

4) the speakers are painfully light.. both to handle AND to look at. I find it surprising how much you can be fooled when you close your eyes, and when you later open them up again, you are kind of deluded by their polite looks. Don't get me wrong, they are beautiful, but maybe a little too far as an understatement.

5) I am confused right now, I don't know if I'm going to keep them: they are really good only for acoustic/instrumental/classical music. these are no all-rounders. I might as well keep them and use my Grado HF-1's for the pop/rock/electronic stuff.
post #5 of 45
Thread Starter 
B&W Society of Sound on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
B&W MM-1 Package Opened on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
B&W MM-1 Right Speaker on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
B&W MM-1 Right Speaker on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
B&W MM-1 Remote Control on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
B&W MM-1 Remote Control on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
B&W MM-1 Remote Control on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
B&W MM-1 on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
B&W MM-1 on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
B&W MM-1 Box on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
B&W MM-1 Box on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
B&W MM-1 on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
B&W MM-1 Box on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
B&W MM-1 on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
B&W MM-1 Right Speaker on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
B&W MM-1 Quick Start on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

OK, they are definitely burning-in (and my ears are adapting in the meantime). The low end is getting a little richer. Still you can easily feel the need for a subwoofer here: it's a matter of compromise, you simply can't get this amount of clarity in your tunes for this amount of money without leaving something behind.

These babies will also point at you how lame your MP3's are. They have such a resoluted sound, they will underline all compression artifacts.
But feed them some well-compressed music, or even better some of the FLAC's you get for free from Society of Sound (after purchasing the speakers), and you will understand what sublime recording means.

I'm going to look into having a pair of aluminum stands handcrafted for them. They really need to be lifted!
post #6 of 45
Thread Starter 
again, then again and again.. I ask myself why should I keep them? they can't go loud, they don't have the low end... and then once again it strikes me. When I come across a live performance recording... it's like a lightning.
I am instantly teleported before the stage. I'm not in my room anymore.. I am there.

There are no other words..
post #7 of 45
acolonna, what speakers did you have before these ones, or what HP's do you own?
they can't go loud, they don't have the low end...
what?! that's not promising. if I'm not mistaken these speakers not only have a built in amp, but a dac as well. the good thing about this is the dac will bypass the poor laptop dac, the bad it'll bypass also an external dac. not good.

seems to me B&W approaching the Bose's marketing. not keepers
post #8 of 45
Thread Starter 
Well I haven't owned any since I left my parents home, quite a while ago.
But at the time I used to listen to two sets.

Some old-fashioned big JBL's (probably 1.5 meters tall) made of oak. I only remember they had 70W max input. They have always been my favorite. Fed through a NAD pre and amp, by a Yamaha radio, a very old Philips CD player and a turntable that I simply can not remember of.

The other sets I've spent a lot of time with are JBL's Control-1 (always with NAD amp) and some nice and small D-Box active speakers with passive subwoofer.

I did have a pair of Sony 4-way active computer speakers when I was about 20 years old, but I don't think they earn a position in this discussion.

What I can say is that the B&W MM-1 are really a specialty tool. They are extremely good, but in an extremely narrow field.
If you listen to well recorder acoustic or classic material in lossless format, they will give you goosebumps every time.

If you are used to feeling the punch of bass while listening to Lady Ga-Ga at high volume, that is a clear no-go.

They simply sound natural, balanced, underlining vocals.

To give you an example: yesterday I listened to them at a normal volume for a while. Then when it got late and my flatmates turned in, I had to set the volume very, very low (about 1/20). Normally at such volume you wouldn't be able to make out the title of the song playing.
With the B&W MM-1's you could still visualize the lips of the singer, noticing when vowels were pronounced too closed or too open.

It's really all about clarity and resolution, at the cost of a lesser low end.

By the way, besides the USB input, these speakers have a mini-jack analogue input and output (for headphones).
So if you want to plug in your iPod you can (I haven't tried and have read that they don't do great).
I've also read that they work great as headphone dac/amp (I haven't tried that either, I'm waiting for my Grado's to arrive).

Sure, if you already own a good DAC, you definitely don't want to get the MM-1's. Simply because I can imagine a good portion of their price going into the internal DAC. You would be wasting your money.
post #9 of 45
Thread Starter 
UPDATE: either the MM-1's are burning-in a lot, or my ears are adapting to their natural sound. If I listen to just any 2.1 set of speakers, they sound so fake.
Yes, you can get more bass, but it's always muddier, and it is difficult to get just the right amount of it.

What I like of the B&W's is that you just have to stick with what they setup for you. And I must say I have total blind faith in their expertise!
I say blind because when I close my eyes I can see through my ears with the MM-1's...
post #10 of 45
I've red many good things about MM-1.
Are these good for Metal/Folk/Classic/Emotional music?
Do they fit music like this: YouTube - Winder Best Of...... Tribute to Valfar
(As in clarity of the detail and background noise). My favorite band btw.

How much is the quality decreasing with the volume? I'm not going to blow up my head, but I don't want to listen to whispering either..
post #11 of 45
Thread Starter 
uhmm well lets put it like this: the MM-1's mercilessly underline each and every defect in that recording.
I don't think they would be the right set of speakers for you.

This is more the kind of things I'm talking about:
Intimate performance: Iron and Wine's Fever Song
YouTube - Iron & wine - fever dream
Opera: Verdi's Traviata, Drinking Song
YouTube - La Traviata - Libiamo, ne' lieti calici...
Piano: Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exposition by Evgeny Kissin
YouTube - Evgeny Kissin - Pictures At An Exhibition [1 of 4]
Concert: Elton John's Greatest Discovery (I'm referring to his performance in 1986 with the Melbourne Simphony Orchestra live in Australia, which I couldn't find on YouTube)
YouTube - Elton John - The Greatest Discovery ('70 LIVE at BBC studios

All of these sound like crap on YouTube, obviously.

Listening to the B&W MM-1 I realized they have the amount of detail I've always searched for in the high range.
With other speakers I would always push the highs up, but we all know that doesn't solve the lack of detail.. it just spoils the equalization. With these you have the right amount of highs, but there is just so much more to them..
post #12 of 45
Thread Starter 
Ok, a visual example... in this one you can see Diana's lips moving, and the hairs of the brush hitting the plates... if you close your eyes
YouTube - Diana Krall - The Look Of Love

Oh.. yeah, radio music sounds good too:
post #13 of 45
tried these out. not bad at low to mid volumes. gets kinda harsh at higher volumes.

rather get dyna for a more detailed and full bodied sound
post #14 of 45
Originally Posted by acolonna View Post
uhmm well lets put it like this: the MM-1's mercilessly underline each and every defect in that recording.
I don't think they would be the right set of speakers for you.
Ok. Thanks for your answer.
Looks like I saved some cash with my post.
post #15 of 45
Thread Starter 
Please take my opinion with a grain of salt. I'm trying to convey the caracter of these speakers, yet mine is only a subjective view.
You definitelly shouldn't get them without hearing them first. But you also shouldn't ditch the idea of getting them only based on my thoughts!

If you have any more patience than I do, you can wait to hear them at a store, for what it's worth.

This is not a case like that of Bose.. Where you can be assured quality is only in the marketing effort. Here you have good quality, but it's definitely not mainstream, nor cheap!
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