Alternatives to B&W 805 D4


Hello,

I’m planning to buy a pair of bookshelf speakers that I hope will last for the rest of my life. I’ll turn 50 next year, so it’s not too far fetched!

I’m thinking about the B&W 805 D4 because I'm familiar with this brand, but in this price range, there are certainly good alternatives. The ones I have in mind are the Totem Element Fire V2 and Focal Sopra No1.

My goal here if there is to use the collective mind to learn if there are other makes/models worth considering. Once I’ll have a shortlist, I’ll find places where I can try them to make a final choice because, in the end, we all know the beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I’m using B&W V203/DS3 for decades with integrated amp Arcam Alpha 5 that I recently upgraded with second-hand McIntosh C712 + MC7100. The source is Sonos Connect.

I’m in Montreal, Québec - it could change the availability of some brands.

Thanks for your input.

Papyneau
papyneau
The B&W 805d3 (have not heard the d4) are pretty bright both to my ear and in measurements. I have not heard the Sopra 1 but based on my experience with focal they will be more balanced than the B&W. 
I have not heard the others. 
805D4 measurements look pretty bad to me at least for what I want to hear. If you have some upper hearing loss they could be nice (I mean that…)

https://www.soundstagenetwork.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2629:nrc-meas...


Focal Sopra 1 looks very nice. 

https://www.soundstagenetwork.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2275:nrc-meas...



The Kef Reference 1 has strong bass for a book shelf. Worth a listen if you are not using subs. I think the kefs sound harder in the treble than focal as a whole. Not heard these models but higher models in the same line. 
https://www.soundstagenetwork.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1298:nrc-meas...


Revels sound a lot like focal these days and they are 1/2 the price. That leaves a lot of money for a good sub or two. 

https://www.soundstagenetwork.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2128:nrc-meas...
Another contender might be the ProAc D2R.  I currently own the Proac D-30R but my prior speaker was a B&W Signature 805.  I enjoyed the 805 quite a bit but have to say the move to the ProAc was a significant improvement. You have some great choices out there, good luck.

Would help greatly to know what sound/speaker characteristics are most important to you and what specifically you’d like to improve upon over what you have now. 
Some good standmount options in the same price range as the B&W 805 D4;

Proac D2R
Dynaudio Heritage Special / Contour S20
Marten Duke 2 / Oscar Duo / Parker Duo

I’m not sure if the Mcintosh will match well with the speakers though.
You should give Harbeth and Spendor a listen. Both make fine standmount type of speakers. You should have no problem finding a dealer up in your neck of the woods. BTW, I am not a fan of B&W but that’s just my taste!
https://harbeth.co.uk/
Spendor (spendoraudio.com)
B&W are lovely and highly resolving speakers.  For alternatives in a similar price range I would look at the following -

Magico A1 - aluminum cabinet and sealed and Magico's signature sound which is in the same tonal area as B&W.  Debatably more resolving

Vivid Kaya S12 - One of my favorite speaker lines.  These are a little unusual looking but they sound amazing and are incredible performers.  

Wilson TuneTot - These are a little sweeter sounding than some of the other speakers in this price range and are really lovely.  One perk of these is that near wall placement is possible.  

Focal Sopra 1 is of course a fit and I would second them.  

Marten - Oscar's I know are in this price range and are great.  I would second those.  

Wilson Benesch Precision 1.0 - these are maybe a little warmer than most of the other speakers mentioned here but are very refined.  Wonderful detail and imaging.  

Verdant Audio Blackthorn 1 - These are my speakers and have received some pretty good press.  Check out the review at Enjoy the Music by Professor Michael Bump.  I have a loaner pair that has been beaten up a little that you can try in-home.  

Raidho is a wonderful speaker but has a very different presentation and delivers a much more immersive listening experience.  X1/XT1/C1.2 would be worth looking at if you want that more immersive soundstage rather than having sound presented to you.  

I am a dealer (though in most cases can't sell to you) for Vivid, Focal, Wilson Benesch. Raidho and obviously my own speakers.  


Thanks everyone for the variety of suggestions. Plenty of reading ahead, I counted 17 different suggestions. Amazing!

But I’m puzzled about how I can make a good selection. I can read reviews or graphs, but it will never be enough information to discriminate one over another. I need to listen to them. And I’m not working in that industry nor I have tested hundreds of speakers myself. So the only way for me is to listen to (most/some of) them, on the same amp/source, in the same room at a short time interval. I know places that have one or two of those proposed models but even comparing 6-7 models before a final choice seems irrealistic.

I’m pretty sure you all faced this situation at one point or another. How did you do? Did you just try one and buy it if it sounded "good enough" or at least better than your previous ones?

I know I can go in a store and compare B&W 805 D4, B&W 705 S2 Signature, and Totem Fire Element V2, but if I want to also add a Focal or a Kef, I need to go to another city! And for some of the other proposed models, I would need to fly to another country... not really practical.

Am I doomed? I feel that all future changes to my system (next in line is a DAC) will hit the same wall and I’ll have to ultimately may an educated guess at best, without really knowing if I got "the best" (for me).


You will be fine. You don’t need the best speaker ever made just ones you like. They are all colored and limited in reality. 
You can learn a lot from the measurements but there is a lot of subtlety in them so truly reading and understanding them is another thing (not claiming I can). 
I would guess the Sopra 1 is an amazing stand mounted speaker based on hear the larger models and looking at the measurements. 
Here is a binary recording (use headphones) of the Sopra 1 and 805d3 in the same room same song same system. Just YouTube…. So take it with a grain of salt but still interesting.  
https://youtu.be/FxTQvqlsp54


Another long video comparison here. 
https://youtu.be/Msaq4kCYclw
It’s okay. From the 17 suggestions, perhaps 2 or 3 are local and you can go and listen to them.

You can narrow down the choices based on your preferences. In that way, you don’t need to look at options which don’t appeal to you. I don’t know about others, I’ll only consider speakers which look good to me. I won’t bother listening to the speakers even though they may sound like a million bucks if they look ugly to me.
But I’m puzzled about how I can make a good selection. I can read reviews or graphs, but it will never be enough information to discriminate one over another.
Well, that’s why I asked before what sound characteristics and improvements you’re looking for.  Give us that info and at the very least we can help greatly narrow the field for you.  Without that critical info, you’re absolutely right — it seems like a daunting task.  Trying to help here but you need to pony up the basic info to let us do that.  C’mon man, help us help you. 

I’m pretty sure you all faced this situation at one point or another.
Uh, yeah.  And we can help but you need to provide what you’re looking for or we’re all just flying blind here.  Get where I’m coming from here?


@soix:
Yes, I saw the question but I'm not sure I'll be able to articulate a sensible answer :-) The more, I read the more it's clear that there is no one-speaker-that-is-the-best-at-all-styles, so I get your question! But I like, and listen, to a pretty wide range of music types. But looking more closely at my Spotify library, it's mainly female voices of many styles (Holy Cole, Adele, Coeur de Pirate, Elle King, Angèle, ..) but also some classic rock (Metallica, Led Zeppelin, ..,), signers with amazing voices (Louise Attaque, Asaf Avidan, ...), classical classic (Beethoven, Vivaldi, Chopin, ...) and... probably anything in between. 

Looking at the incredible comparaison between Focal Sopra No1 and Bowers 805D3 shared by @james633 (thank you so much for that!), I must admit that contrarily to my initial belief , I appreciate the Focal more that the B&W. I will definitely try them before my final decision. I'm pretty sure I can sacrifice a bit of the warmth and loudness of the B&W for the clarity and precision of the Focal.
This comparaison is even more instructive as my no.2. contender, the Totem Element Fire V2, has even more bass then the B&W, at least on paper (I haven't heard them yet).
Sopra No.1 :45Hz - 40kHz
805 D4: 34Hz - 35k Hz
Element Fire V2: 30Hz - 22kHz

And my understanding is human ears don't pickup anything above 20kHz, so going to 35 or 40 kHz is music for...dog! (Happy to have this assumption challenged as I am in full learning mode!)

Well I would not believe the specs. Looking at the measurements posted above you can see the Sopra 1 and 805D4 reach about the same depth.
I know you said bookshelves but the Revel 226be floor standing speaker would be another option. It will take up less floor space than the Sopra 1 on stands and is cheaper. They sound a lot alike to me. The Sopra is what, $10,000 now with the price hikes?

The Sopra might have a touch more air or it could just be a hair more tipped up too. The Revel counters with being able to play stupid loud if your into loud. Sometimes loud is fun. But both these brands are much better than the B&W 805d3 (probably d4 too). Both to my ear and objectively based on the measurements.


After demoing the Kef reference 3,Wilson Audio Sabrina, Sonus Faber Olympica nova III, Klipsch Cornwall IV, 803d3,804d3, revel 328be among others I bought the Revel 228be.

Anyway listen for yourself in this comparison video linked below. I think you will find they have very similar house sounds. Back to back sound demo, same room, same song, same system of the Sopra 1 and 226be. If I listen to this demo with my eyes closed I have a hard time telling the speakers changed. 
https://youtu.be/Y7xJjesFGKk



Review with kippel measurements here. https://youtu.be/r1JjCVVgIdc


Detailed measurement breakdown here. https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/revel-performabe-f226be-floorstanding-spe...

After more investigation, the Revel 226be are not available in my region, I would need to have the import without actually see or hear them, and the room I have (my office) is small. But they look good for sure.

A contender I'll add to my short list is the Dynaudio Heritage Special as one of the local dealer has a pair so I'll be able to compare them to 805 D4 and Elemental Fire V2. However, no luck to find a dealer to have the Sopra #1 on demo yet, and they are a bit over budget (11.5k CAD). If I can listen to them, I might be able to break the bank.

Thanks everyone for your advices and suggestions. 

And don't miss the next part of this journey, the best song to evaluate a system (it will be speakers in my case):
https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/top-3-songs-to-evaluate-a-system

Cheers!

So it's done... I now own a pair of Focal Sopra No.1. I have them for 4 days and I am truly amazed. It was quite an upgrade from my no-named micro monitor.

I'm using (rather old, but still good) McIntotsh C712 + MC 7100. With a Bluesound Node and trying to figure out if I should replace my good old Spotify account for one that offest lossless/MQA , and if yes, which one. A topic for another post!

Thanks everyone for the hints and suggestions.