The MM-1s are an interesting product. There are few other well known audio manufacturers that are still in the market of desktop computer speakers - most brands have abandoned the space, preferring to focus on mobile, or home theatre solutions. Bowers & Wilkins are different then, stocking a USB interface stereo pair aimed squarely at Mac users.
At $599, the MM-1s command a high price, so the expectations for them are great.
Aesthetically, the MM-1s are utterly stunning. They’re the distillation of what you want from high-end audio, and what you’d expect from B&W: simple shapes, strong lines and beautiful materials.
The two speakers evoke feelings of reliability, and of careful design. Each seam is clean, discreet and wherever possible, hidden. In the hand, they feel well weighted, and the soft touch fabric is tight.
Each speaker module is ringed by a brushed aluminium band, that bares the logo, and either volume controls, or an LED status light. The LED changes colours depending on the input source, moving between purple, amber and blue. This mirrors the functionality of the Zeppelin and the A5/A7. An odd choice perhaps, as these speakers are designed solely as computer monitors, connected via the included USB cable.
The included remote is rubbish. Let’s just get that out of the way. It’s small, glossy plastic shell is a strange choice and one that clashes with the premium feel of the speaker unit. Avoid it.
Sonically, the MM-1 is a mixed bag. The decision to use dual speakers with integrated amplifiers is great, as you naturally have lovely separation between channels. During my testing, the MM-1 performed admirably on the mids and highs of most songs. Miles Davis’ Blue in Green had beautiful reproduction of the haunting opening trumpet lines, and Bob Dylan’s harmonica in All Along The Watchtower was also faithfully belted out.
However, as we delved into the deeper end, the achilles heel of the MM-1 became obvious.
These two speakers are simply not geared to reproduce low end sound with the emotion and personality that you’d expect from $A599. Gesaffelstein’s Pursuit sounded hollow and meek. It was bitterly disappointing, as in almost every other area these speakers are truly wonderful.
This isn’t a cheap shot at a set of speakers that aren’t tuned to the lower end like a pair of Beats headphones, either. I personally don’t listen to a great deal of bass heavy tracks, but occasionally Portishead or even Björk will call for a more substantial lower end than these speakers can offer, and that’s a true shame.
By choosing a two-speaker system sans subwoofer, each speaker has additional work to do, and unfortunately, even with two drivers per speaker, they struggle to not distort and flake out during well rounded low ends.
The sweet spot for the MM-1s is also less than a meter from them. They’re not designed to throw sound, rather, be appreciated directly in front of them. This is similar to many other 2.0 desktop speakers, but it’s certainly a note to be aware of.
So what's the takeaway from the MM-1?
If you’re music is decidedly classical, jazz, or singer songwriter heavy, then I’d say these are the best desktop speakers for you. However, if your tastes venture far from those genres, I would find it hard to recommend them. For the same money, Bose’s Companion 5 speakers have a richer, more balanced sound - albeit with the addition of a dedicated sub, and also connect via USB for digital throughput.
The one hopeful point here is that the MM-1’s have been around since February 2010. An overhaul isn’t due, but it probably can’t be far off. The addition of B&W’s flow port technology that's seen in the A5 & A7 for a better bass response would be all I’d need to be pushed over the edge. Here’s hoping.
Ease of Use 9/10