Now I’m working from home on a fairly regular basis, I’ve converted a corner of my spare room/kid’s playroom into an office. It’s got a desk, screens and everything. Despite having a Sonos Play:5 in the room, it’s not really suited me for day-to-day music. For some reason I find it too distracting.
Having looked around for a while for a set of “Hi-Fi” desktop speakers for a while, I looked at the old favourite CreativeLabs Gigaworks T40 (relatively cheap, but too large for my needs) to the more exotic and well-regarded Focal XS Book Speakers. I eventually settled on the Bowers and Wilkins (B&W) MM-1 desktop speakers. At £399 this was right at the top of what I wanted to spend for something that might only get intermittent use, but I discovered that some B&W dealers such as Unilet have a limited stock of reconditioned units for £299. After taking delivery via their sister company Home Media in Maidstone, I’ve had nearly a week of playing with them, and thought I’d share my thoughts.
My primary reasons for selecting the MM-1’s were:
- Size, they are some of the smaller but more powerful desktop speakers I’d come across
- I wanted the option of connecting a Sonos Connect at some stage via the analogue AUX-IN
- Built-in Headphone AMP was also a useful option
- Integrated USB DAC meant that I wasn’t reliant on the iffy one in my Dell Laptop, or lose further desk space to a standalone DAC
My initials thoughts are that I’m very pleased. At the risk of sounding like a Hi-Fi reviewer/wine taster, they are punchy little speakers, they sound fast and sharp. I’ve been listening to a variety of music, but they particularly excel at fast electronica. I’ve been listening to bands like Crystal Castles and 65Daysofstatic (buy FLACs cheaper from here) a lot recently and this has been a great deal of fun. Don’t get me wrong, these speakers don’t have an incredible amount of bass, but frankly you don’t need it. Given that my desk is a rather flimsy Ikea dining table and my head is only 60cm from them, the vibrations would be quickly wearing. The MM-1s sound like they want to tumble the music out as fast as possible, hyperactive even; desperate to share their excitement with you. By comparison my main system (PMC’s and an Onkyo 808) is like a battleship; heavy and powerful, but not fast moving. The MM-1s given half a chance, jump around like lunatics; their enthusiasm is infectious, but so far not tiring.
They are nicely revealing, but obviously not to the level of my other system. As a test of which is a good test of fidelity I can easily tell between the MP3s I’ve ripped in 128kbps and the more recent 320Kbps. However, slower material such as Adele’s 21 in FLAC is more challenging, tracks like Turning Tables are a bridge to far. The power and richness of Adele’s voice is evident and matched with the strings, the little MM-1’s at higher volumes just don’t have the dynamic range to express everything on the track. This is not to say it is disappointing, but maybe a round of lossy compression would give them less work to do.
They look excellent in a low-key brushed aluminium Audi/Hugo Boss suit kind of way, and the (I assume) Bluetooth LE remote is a nice thing, although it could have been given a bit more weight, especially at the full-price. Given there is not pairing procedure to speak off, I wonder if it’s is controllable via a Logitech Harmony remote. But that’ll have to wait for another day.
Out of the box, the system comes with all the cables you’d need, and set up was straightforward. Windows 7 found the devices without incident and selected them as the default playback device.
The observation that’s been made of these speakers previously is that the right-hand one (which contains the electronics) runs very hot, even when not in apparent use. In my case the area is well ventilated, so I don’t see this as a problem, but it does make me wonder about the life-span of the electronics.
All in-all, terrific little speakers worthy of the name of speakers that can be found attached to systems costs 10 times as much.