Andy Kerr is absolutely in love with music. And Bowers and Wilkins are one of the most admirable music companies in the UK. So, Andy naturally joined them as the Director of Product Marketing and Communications. As he tells us, “B&W have a reputation for individuality. They only make the products they want to make. And they are known for being brave.”
Join us for Part One of the interview, as Andy shares the unique B&W story…starting with a spy.
From MI6 to Loudspeakers
Acoustic Architects: Tell us about the inception of your company.
Andy Kerr: John Bowers started the radio station in the South of the UK when he was serving in the 2nd World War. He was actually recruited by British Intelligence and working for MI6 listening to communications in enemy-occupied Europe. He met his business partner, Roy Wilkins in the Radio Communication Corp of MI6. So, in 1946 they started a radio business together in Worthing, South UK, selling loudspeaker kits to enthusiasts.
When did they start to build and sell their own speakers?
By the end of the 1960s, they were modifying and selling unique speakers. If you came in and asked nicely, Bowers would sell you a loudspeaker pair. Then in 1966, an opera singer named Kathleen Knight, who had previously bought a pair of speakers from John Bowers, passed away. And she willed John a large sum of money, conditionally upon John giving up working in the shop and embarking on the endeavor of making the incredibly unique loudspeakers that he loved. So John went on his way to start B&W Loudspeakers
What sets your company apart from competitors in your field, making your company unique?
John Bowers was different and brave. Sadly, he died in 1987, but his philosophy was, “To capture the human spirit.” And to convey it honestly. Certain brands will try to manipulate the character of the sound or to add bass, to make it more exciting and less gritty. Or to make an artist sound perfect. But with a B&W speaker, raw emotion and incredible talent are as real as if you were in the room with that person.
Consequently, recording studios hold B&W in very high esteem. They are found in Abby Rd Studios and Sterling Sound Skywalker Ranch, among others. We don’t choose to make professional recording studio products, but the way they are made is great…and good enough for recording studios to use.
How has the company and its philosophy evolved over the years and what influenced those changes?
We attempt to translate, as best as possible, that belief and approach to sound that John Bowers had into every product. But the portfolio has expanded.
What allows Bowers & Wilkens speakers to stay competitive in the market?
Apart from the philosophy and a holistic approach, we have a substantial research & development facility and end-to-end manufacturing. From the sketch to the digital rendering to printing it. And we try to produce all the possible component parts. To make a meaningful difference we try to do everything differently. We learn more, apply it, create the product, then learn more again. Every small detail, no matter how mundane, contributes to the overall experience. The greater the level of understanding, the greater the experience can be. Small changes are accumulative.
The Vintage Line
Tell us about vintage B&W speakers.
Nautilus is the vintage line and it was John Bowers’ last project. It’s a loudspeaker that doesn’t sound like a loudspeaker because John wanted the audio to come through as real as possible. A loudspeaker cabinet fundamentally influences the sound that the speaker makes. The box that houses the speaker should be completely silent and you should only hear the moving discs. With the Nautilus, John wanted to get away from what you hear from the box. The Nautilus is designed to keep air pressure from hitting the back of the box so the vibration doesn’t interact with the sound. The shape of the Nautilus is actually functional. The appearance was tweaked later, and it is now 27-years old.
Make sure you catch Part Two of our interview with Andy next week. As he and Kathleen Wilkins share more about enviable speakers from Bowers & Wilkins.
Responsive Living, the term coined by Acoustic Architects founders Aaron Flint and Spencer Hauldren, is the concept of seamlessly enhancing the client’s unique lifestyle using smart home technology. Responsive Living allows you to interact with your space via touch input, voice command, and predictive automation, placing you in full control of your home.
If you would like to learn more about bespoke audio for your smart home, feel free to connect with us. We will be happy to schedule a demo with you.
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