The Nautilus speaker is a snail-like piece of art to start the conversation in your living room

“Wow, what a beautiful piece of art you have there on the fireplace. Who’s the sculptor? Gormley? Kapoor? Koons?” You smile, press a few buttons and soothing, jazzy music starts playing from the “sculpture” they admired “Bowers & Wilkins”, you answer, to the great confusion of your guests.

If you know the name, you must be more of a speaker connoisseur than an art enthusiast. The “ultimate” Nautilus loudspeaker is Bowers & Wilkins’ tube-loaded 4-way system, building upon their famous decades-old loudspeaker design that has often been mistaken for a museum piece or accessory. luxury for the home. Well, who says they can’t be both a functional speaker and a work of art. But more than just giving you something that plays music packaged in a unique shape, the design of the Nautilus is where the adage “form follows function” applies.

Designer: Bowers and Wilkins

You would think that something resembling an artistic snail or a sea mollusk will be all form and function. But over the past 30 years, the Nautilus has proven to be one of the most sought-after luxury speakers on the market. It all started with a goal of creating a speaker unlike anything else on the market and eventually evolved into a design unlike anything else either. Nautilus tube technology has received awards like the Queen’s Award for Innovation because it has been able to revolutionize the way loudspeakers sound with the spirals and tube design that are present in almost all loudspeakers made by Bowers & Wilkins.

John Bowers was “obsessed” with creating perfect loudspeakers that were unlike any others on the market. But when he died in 1987, the team of engineers at the Steyning Research Establishment (SRE), notably Laurence Dickie or Dic for his colleagues, took up the challenge. He wanted to create one that didn’t use the traditional speaker box and instead focused his efforts on mounting the dinghies into straight “drive line” cylinders which ultimately paid off. He also wanted to use stiff piston cones for the pilots, which at the time was something basically unheard of.

Building on the aluminum tweeter concept that came with its 801 speaker, Dic adapted it to larger aluminum midrange cones made from the same material so listeners couldn’t hear any audible transitions. They eventually also created a tapered tube approach for these three tubes as well as the bass driver, making the four speakers provide users with a “seamless three-dimensional soundstage” with the odd but highly functional design that they imagined. . And so, the Nautilus was officially born.

Current Nautilus speakers still carry this three-piece design (front and left and right half sections) and each piece of sound art is handcrafted. They are assembled and then sanded to eliminate visible edges. They are hand spray painted with 12 coats of paint and lacquer, sometimes even more, according to customer specifications. Standard ones are available in silver, black and midnight blue, but they also offer a special service to get the color to match your room’s aesthetic.

All this to say that the Nautilus is not cheap since it costs $60,000. It is definitely an investment for form and function. It may even be more expensive than some of the actual works of art by modern sculptors I mentioned earlier. But if you are not satisfied with the sound that comes from your typical speakers and you also like avant-garde works of art, then the Nautilus speaker is something you can possibly invest in. It also makes good, albeit expensive, conversation. party starter.

Christopher S. Washington