Bowers & Wilkins Welcomes A New Chapter with 007
An inside look at the arrival of the sound pioneer’s newest collaboration and one-of-a-kind celebration at Abbey Road Studios.
The art of sound is a skill practiced by many, mastered by few. For bonafide musicians, producers, and anyone who has been remotely close to a recording studio, Bowers & Wilkins’ audio equipment is all too familiar, as the British company’s sound systems have helped create, power, and inspire the musical work for artists all over, helping bring some of the most iconic records in history to the world. Think Nile Rodgers, Lady Gaga, and Sam Smith, to name a few of the notable creatives who have flexed their talent and fine-tuned their latest works using some of Bowers & Wilkins equipment. The strum of a guitar string, the sizzle of a cymbal, every piercing note of a violin–none of these sound sweeter than through one of the 800 series loudspeakers that echo the halls of storied studio, Abbey Road–including the latest tunes of two of the James Bond’s series soundtracks: Skyfall (2012) and Spectre (2015).
As the James Bond film series tips its hat towards Daniel Craig and his final bow as the beloved secret agent, the memorable music that has helped define the overall look and sound of the Bond brand continues to live on–with Bowers & Wilkins helping usher in an updated melodic DNA for the latest films. With the diamond anniversary of the iconic film franchise this year, Bowers & Wilkins are helping celebrate the milestone–as the brand’s hero offering, the Px8 headphones, get the ultimate upgrade with the ‘007’ Limited Edition version. Delivering lower distortion with a dreamy sound resolution, all set with a “Midnight Blue” Napa leather (inspired by James Bond’s suit color from the first film, “Dr. No”, in 1962) with dazzling aluminum arms and metal detailing, the headphones are equally as suave and dapper as the man himself, delivering a sonic and visual wave of cool–as all paths of the collaboration lead towards Abbey Road Studios to honor the arrival of the new release.
On an evening in early November, Bowers & Wilkins, and a few 150 lucky individuals from around the world, all gathered together inside the iconic studio for an experience one could never forget. Suited up with a martini in hand (shaken and not stirred, of course…), partygoers were dazzled in a fête of legendary proportions, as Abbey Road transformed itself into a nostalgic hub that celebrated the film’s history–with highlight clips playing against the walls, costume replicas on display from the very first Bond movie ever, and even a 007 martini bar. With Abbey Road having been geared up with Bowers & Wilkins sound systems since 1988, the two forces helped immerse attendees into their respective worlds, and of James Bond’s. As studio 1 housed the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to perform Bond tracks such as Adele’s “Skyfall”, Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger”, and the ultra classic “James Bond Theme” with composer David Arnold who scored five of the films, guests were even granted the privilege of joining the orchestra and sit alongside some of the world’s most gifted musicians. Once the orchestra delivered a memorable performance, guests entered the studio’s control room with Abbey Road engineers to listen back on the songs through Bowers & Wilkins flagship 801 D4 loudspeakers to learn how the mixing process really is.
Diving deeper into what makes Bowers & Wilkins a brand to be reckoned with, VMAN caught up with Andy Kerr of Bowers & Wilkins, as the Director of Product Marketing discusses the house’s storied legacy and what connects the brand to James Bond.
V Magazine: What has the journey been like for Bowers & Wilkins as a whole, having had long-standing involvement within the music space? How has the brand evolved throughout the years into what is today?
Andy Kerr: We’ve always had music at our core. Our founder, John Bowers, was a music enthusiast who became a loudspeaker engineer – not the other way around. His determination to deliver what he called the ‘True Sound’ of the performance – for music to be relayed exactly as the artist intended it to be heard – is written deeply into our identity. Today, we’re globally renowned for our ability to make category-defining audio products for people who love music: not just passionate end consumers, but also musicians, composers, producers and studio engineers. Excitingly, we’re also evolving fast. Our challenge over the past 20 years has been to learn how best to apply our True Sound philosophy to a much broader range of products – and along the way, to understand how best to reach out to a much wider audience of music lovers. Today, we make over-ear and in-ear headphones, soundbars, wireless speaker systems of all sizes, automotive audio systems for some of the world’s most respected car brands and even speakers designed for boats and other outdoor applications. We’ve become much more than solely a loudspeaker brand: we now consider ourselves a premium audio brand, with expertise that spans a broad range of audio categories. But we approach everything we do across that diverse portfolio with the same determination that the outcome will be a product that lives up to our globally renowned reputation for premium design and engineering excellence – and which will also deliver the True Sound of your music, whatever that music might happen to be. It’s an exciting new landscape, one that presents us with constantly evolving engineering challenges, but I’m certain John Bowers would approve.
V: How did the idea of collaborating with the 007 James Bond film franchise come about?
AK: Our two brands share a strong British identity, including a preference for refined, cultured design and a strong association with premium values. And beyond that, there’s our powerful connection to cinema in general, and to the Bond franchise in particular. Over the decades, music has become an intrinsic element in the James Bond universe: you can’t think of any Bond film without thinking about the music that accompanies it. Of course, a brand with music at its heart is a perfect fit for that rich legacy. Used as studio monitors, our flagship 800 Series Diamond loudspeakers have been used to help create the scores to several Bond films, including Skyfall and Spectre, and have also played a pivotal role in the creation of the recently released Bond 25 album.
V: With the Midnight Blue finish having been inspired by the suit worn by Bond in his first on-screen appearance, why was this the decision Bowers & Wilkins went in when finalizing the design of the headphones?
AK: As part of our initial exploration into what a new collaborative product could look like, our industrial design team were invited by EON Productions to visit the Bond Archive and essentially explore through countless priceless props from the various films. Right from the start, the Midnight Blue tuxedo just seemed like a very natural fit for us (if you’ll forgive the pun): it’s a classic color, a very understated and sophisticated British look that we felt would lend itself very well to being used on a pair of our headphones. Alongside that, there’s also the notion of ‘firsts’. The Midnight Blue tuxedo visually represents the beginning of the whole James Bond film story in many ways, as it was worn by Bond in the character’s first on-screen appearance in Dr. No, so it seemed like a good place to start the story of our new partnership.
V: After visiting the factory, it’s undeniable that the attention to quality is apparent in every product. From large-scale speakers like the Nautilus to the Px8 headphones, how are we seeing the varying levels of skill when it comes to this headphone release? Are there any scaled-back details or just an overall thread of brand DNA that those who are familiar with the classic speakers might find in the headphones?
AK: Although at first glance you’d imagine that the parallels between loudspeakers and headphones appear to be limited, in practice they are underpinned by strong engineering connections. Structural approaches are similar, for example: in both types of products, we choose to use computer-optimized forms that are as stiff as possible in their own right and, ideally, constructed from inherently stiff materials. This minimizes energy wastage caused by the transfer of energy from moving component parts – the cones and domes that make the sound – into the structures that house them. Of course, we have to use slightly differing approaches to achieve similar outcomes: the Turbine Head housing on top of an 801 D4 weighs 18kg, and you’re not about to wear that on your head any time soon! All the same, the engineering principles are related. The same applies to our understanding of cone design. In Px8, we use an all-new Carbon Cone that is directly inspired by the Carbon Dome tweeter we use in one of our premium loudspeaker ranges. This lighter, stiffer and lower-distortion cone ensures more accurate sound than any cone we’ve used previously. Of all the many parallels, one of my favorite design details is one of the simplest – but arguably also one of the most effective. In the ear cushions inside Px8, each Carbon Cone is carefully angled (by about 15 degrees) from the vertical to ensure that the cone more effectively ‘points’ at your ears. It’s precisely the same approach found in recording studios and one that is also commonly used in home systems. Essentially it ensures that all of the sound from all of the surface area of the cone arrives at your ears at the same time (because your ears are naturally somewhat angled to your head). The end result is a more believable soundscape with better stereo imaging than is typical for a pair of headphones.
The Bowers & Wilkins Px8 ‘007’ Edition is available now on BowersWilkins.com
Kevin Ponce is V’s Digital & Beauty Editor.
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