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B&W: Transforming a brand

In a world of poor quality audio products, Bowers & Wilkins have remained true to their values of performance and exquisite quality. In doing so, they have brought iconic design and extraordinary acoustic engineering to the eyes, and ears, of millions.

From Abbey Road Studios, to Skywalker Ranch, to the world. Our twenty-year collaboration with Bowers & Wilkins has seen the evolution of their entire portfolio and their ascendency to become the industry’s definitive audiophile brand.

The globally respected 800 Series loudspeakers have been the audio industry’s go-to speaker for decades. Used to monitor some of history’s most influential recordings at Abbey Road & Skywalker ranch, their design was driven by John Bowers’ founding guidance that sound should be reproduced without any distortion and exactly how the recording engineer intended.

Every Bowers & Wilkins product is therefore created to achieve these extraordinary acoustic levels, and as such their form is always a result of gaining the very best sound experience. Indeed, the unique curved cabinet of the 800 Series loudspeakers was driven by the need to reduce resonance in the loudspeaker, the cornerstone of their award-winning performance. To achieve such an innovative form, and as no method of manufacture existed, we worked with a Swedish furniture maker to create the technology required to form the iconic bent wood cabinet.

“The best loudspeaker isn’t the one that gives the most, it’s the one that loses the least.” John Bowers Founder, Bowers & Wilkins

The audio entertainment industry, just as in all our other clients’ industries, has experienced seismic change over the years. Native’s role is not only in the design of revolutionary products which define moments, but in helping our clients navigate these market changes to enable them to become the disruptors, not the disrupted.

In 2006, when the iPod was beginning to dominate the market and questions were being raised about the future of high-fidelity audio, Native created the world’s most successful iPod speaker dock: The Zeppelin.

This new icon, which represented a completely new way to listen to music, captured the imagination of the world, and transformed Bowers & Wilkins into a global brand.

As with all previous and future products, Zeppelin’s form was guided by acoustics, not simply aesthetics. The elongated shape perfectly balanced the tweeters with midrange drivers and subwoofer, delivering unequalled depth of sound and clarity. With seamless interface between the speaker and the iPod, the Zeppelin is still the market benchmark over a decade later.

The success of Zeppelin exposed the potential of new markets and opportunities. It became clear that headphones were an obvious category for Bowers & Wilkins to enter. But how could the precise sound created by their loudspeaker drivers be replicated in a headphone, while retaining the same principles of quality and integrity? This was the challenge.

Working with B&W acoustic engineers at the world-famous Stenying Research Establishment in southern England, ingenious and innovative solutions such as ultra-linear neodymium magnets and highly optimised Mylar diaphragms were developed to provide loudspeaker-quality sound in the confined space of a headphone.

In addition, every internal and external component was considered to enable parts to be replaced, or the whole headphone to be recycled at end of life. Combined with supreme comfort and the finest authentic materials, the P5 became yet another new benchmark in acoustic quality.

And although the P5, and all subsequent headphones, have been generously awarded, perhaps the most transformative accolade came when Apple decided that their flagship stores should only use Bowers & Wilkins headphones to demonstrate their devices. The quality and obsessive attention to detail that signify all B&W products were essential to the formation and success of this inspiring partnership.

Through the identification of adjacent market opportunities, we have enabled Bowers & Wilkins to build a world-class portfolio of partnerships and collaborations. Our development of creative automotive guidelines and ability to deliver automotive quality design implementation have been central to B&W’s success in building lasting relationships with BMW, Maserati, Volvo and McLaren.

Bowers & Wilkins continue pushing forward by remaining true to their values of performance and exquisite craftsmanship, their recent purchase by one of Silicon Valley’s leading entrepreneurs is testament to this ceaseless pursuit of perfection.