Bowers and Wilkins, creator of legendary speakers like the Nautilus and, more recently, the Zeppelin for the iPod, has turned its attention to the problems bedeviling computer speakers. Unveiled at the CES in Las Vegas this week, the new MM-1 is a true hi-fi speaker shrunk to fit a desktop. Ironically, the acoustics at the show were too poor for a demo, but we're inclined to trust the company that supplies speakers for the Abbey Road Studios.
B&W has achieved its breakthrough by bypassing the computer's own soundcard altogether. Instead, the MM-1 uses USB streaming to get direct access to the unfiltered digital data. It's then passed through their own Digital Signal Processing - which maximizes bass without need for a subwoofer - and pumped out at four times 18W, with a frequency range of 57Hz and 22kHz.
The speakers themselves are miracles of compressed design, boasting both the famed Nautilus tube-loaded tweeters and a mid-range driver with long-throw design. As B&W are anxious to point out, this is a serious hi-fi speaker that can transform a computer into a real stereo sound system. Even people who prefer to work with headphones benefit: the speakers include a headphone socket to provide the same dramatically improved sound, rather than the tinny compromise music lovers have grown accustomed to.
And it doesn't hurt that they're compact and sexy. With a footprint of only 100mm square, a height of just 170mm and a tastefully high-end finish of spun aluminum and matt black cloth, the MM-1 has a serious audiophile look without the bulk.
Compatible with both iTunes and Windows Media Player, the MM-1 will be available from February.