Bowers & Wilkins has been a personal favorite of mine in recent years. They’re a maker of audio products with a pretty heavy emphasis on craftsmanship. I was very impressed with the P5 headphones so I decided to give the MM-1 a shot. As someone with undertones of anglophilia, it's a plus that they're British.
When I was picking out speakers, I almost pulled the trigger on the B&O BeoPlay A9 - which I’ve wanted forever. I then realized that most of my time spent listening to music is while working at my desk (on my Mac) so I wasn’t sure how I’d position the A9. I began looking for a more discreet desk solution and the MM-1 seemed like the best bet. Your listening style and distance is crucial when buying speakers - and this will be a key theme in this review.
The MM-1 are priced at $500 and are available in most electronics retailers. It’s priced a bit aggressively but when you compare it with something like the B&O BeoLab4, they're almost a bargain.
My initial attraction towards the MM-1 came from the fact that they’re designed specifically for desk use. I’ve noticed that the sweet spot is within the first meter of the sound projection. These will fill a room but they sound the best when you’re sitting right in front of them. And let me tell you, when they sound good, they sound really good.
The right speaker houses four 18W digital amplifiers that power both of the speakers. This is the key element to the speaker’s rich, detailed sound. These amps are clearly doing some real work because the right speaker gets pretty hot during use.
Each speaker has a tweeter and woofer. I love desk speakers with this layout as it eliminates the need for a separate woofer.
The sound quality of these speakers are phenomenal. Like the P5 headphones I’ve tried, these speakers provide balanced and crisp sound with a small hint of poppy punch. I’d say that the P5 offers a slightly more mainstream flavor while the MM-1 favors producing accurate sound. The MM-1's sound is so revealing that it makes low bit rate files even worse. The sound from the MM-1 is like a photo taken with a DSLR, not an Instagram photo with a filter.
One of the few issues I have with the speakers is the cables. Most speakers require a fairly messy cable setup but the MM-1's adds insult to injury by making these cables pretty thick.
However, the biggest annoyance I have is how the MM-1 requires an external power supply. I hate power bricks and would have preferred larger speakers if it meant an internal power supply.
If you’re wondering, I’ve been keeping most of my cable clutter organized using a BlueLounge CableBox. I like its large capacity but it’s rather poorly made and overpriced so I’d look into alternatives like the Ikea KVISSLE.
The entire speaker is (keyword: seamlessly) covered with black cloth and highlighted by aluminum garnish. The design isn’t innovative but the supreme level of quality impresses instantly. Corners were not cut here.
The speaker’s controls are perfectly mapped to the Mac (also works on PCs). This prevents the need to use the awkwardly positioned hard buttons - they do the same thing your Mac’s volume control does.
The back of the speaker has the line-in and line-out jacks. One thing worth noting is that plugging headphone into your computer won’t stop music playing from the speaker - you have to turn the speaker off first.
A slightly missed opportunity is with the remote. It’s convenient and looks nice but feels a bit cheap compared to the speakers themselves.
The battery cover is also quite hard to remove and the chrome piece is plated plastic. So close B&W. So close.
Overall, I’m throughly impressed with the MM-1. If you’re looking for a compact desktop speaker for music while working, this is it. Keep in mind that the sweet spot is fairly close for these speakers, so don’t buy them if you’re planning to listen at a distance. The balanced, pure and vital sound has won me over completely and the beautiful enclosure is the cherry on top.