Am I the only one who thinks B&W is mid-fi?

I know that title sounds pretencious. By all means, everyones taste is different and I can grasp that. However, I find B&W loudspeakers to sound extremely Mid-fi ish, designed with sort of a boom and sizzle quality making it not much better than retail quality brands. At price point there is always something better than it, something musical, where the goals of preserving the naturalness and tonal balance of sound is understood. I am getting tired of people buying for the name, not the sound. I find it is letting the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. In these times of dying 2 channel, and the ability to buy a complete stereo/home theater at your local blockbuster, all of the brands that should make it don't. Most Hi-fi starts with a retail system and with that type of over-processed, boom and sizzle sound (Boom meaning a spike at 80Hz and sizzle meaning a spike at 10,000Hz). That gives these rising enthuists a false impression of what hi-fi is about. Thus, the people who cater to that falseified sound, those who design audio, forgetting the passion involved with listening, putting aside all love for music just to put a nickle in the pig...Well are doing a good job. Honestly, it is just wrong. Thanks for the read...I feel better. Prehaps I just needed to vent, but I doubt it. Music is a passion of mine, and I don't want to have to battle in 20 yrs to get equipment that sounds like music. Any comments?
Mikez, I guess I have not heard them(B&W) in a long time! They were never like that years ago, if anything they were sort of laid back,not so much as some Britt speakers but not JBL's. There is more to a good speaker than just flat response though,and Sure B&W speakers are pricey, they are imported from England, what the hell would you expect?
I just wonder if you have you ever had a pair in your own system? Or did you listen to them at a dealer or worse yet at a show? I find it strange how many people try to evaluate products based on hearing them under very poor conditions,with other products they have never heard and then make judgments about part of the system. Maybe it was the room, the amp, the cables.......? God save the Queen
Perhaps you never heard the original Nautilus speaker.:0)
IMHO one of the best sounding speakers ever made.Completely blew away my Wilson's !
Would have bought them in a minute if I had the scratch.
Yes, I agree and my Hi Fi buddy agrees. A while back I got a good deal on a pair of those CDM 1s (I think they were called) that bs'er Sam Tellig raved on and on about. To me, they sounded exactly like you said, very sizzly and fatiging to listen to. I couldn't wait to get rid of them. Hearing some of there other models recently, I can only say: Too bad, in the late seventies and early eighties B&W used to make good stuff, now it's just more "product".
This post is all boom, sizzle and fatiguing.
MikeZ and Fdaltoaolcom. I see you both have contributed to a combined total of 3 posts, and 2 of the three is this post. Welcome, but how much experience do you really have? B&W speakers tend to be very revealing (some ruthlessly revealing), so if you heard boom, sizzle and were fatigued, I will have to conclude that possibly something in the rest of your system is suspect.
I second Bowbow. B&W's have a sound of their own just like every other speaker and if you like it or not it's just a matter of personal taste. I, among others, feel that they make some phenominal sounding products (N802 for example) and represent a tremendous value in high-end loudspeakers.
I have a friend who has a nautilus 802 home cinema setup and it sounds good. I now use an old set of dm110's for the surrounds in cinema and they are good as well.

for audio I find them less than convincing. The top B+W models need lots of power, and need to be turned way up to get detail. Difficult to match, too. So I can't say Im a big fan.
no, you're not the only one
I don't know why some people need to bash certain brands of audio equipment.
My B&W 804 Matrix with Pass Aleph 3 and Audible Illusions Linestage are a wonderful setup for classical music.
Perhaps you have not seriously listened to the mid-fi speakers that are available. I recently purchased some NHT Super One speakers that were dealer demo's because I was looking for an inexpensive set that I could live with while my favorites were being repaired. In the process I have recently listened to Yamaha, Sony, JBL, Polk, Klipsch, Boston Acoustic, and Infinity. I ended up buying the Boston Acoustics but returned them because the sound, while initially promising proved harsh (sizzle? it seemed even worse than that and did not improve despite continuous play for three days) and impossible to listen to for an extended period. (I also bought them because they had binding posts that would accept my banana plugs and not the inexpensive spring clips that most of the other speakers had!) All of these speakers except the Boston's had "boom problems" as you say to varying degrees.

Since my speakers are still in the shop (3 months and I've given up hope), I am currently looking for new speakers. On the B&W speakers there is a tremendous difference as you go up the range. The low end 300 bookshelf size has a very slight boom in the bass, and a few other minor problems that result from compromises at their cost. The 602 S2 had a slight boom in the bass. When I auditioned it there was also quite a bit of port chuffing noise on some material, but this may not be the case with better amplifiction. Both of these speakers were far better than any of the mid-fi speakers that I listened to.

On the higher priced B&W speakers, the CDM1-NT also had a slight boom in the bass and very slight sizzle in the highs (perhaps not broken in yet). The B&W CM2 and CM4 have none of the bass boom problems and acceptable highs, but have problems with a muddy upper midrange on complex material. The Nautilus 805 has the silkyest highs I have heard from a speaker as well as holographic imaging, but still has some boom in the bass. (I prefer the word bloom because it is just a few bass notes that are very slightly overdone.) With the Nautilus 805's I was drawn into the music and wanted to listen longer than I had time for at the moment. I am considering purchasing them, but I must listen to several others in their price range before I make my decision.

I agree with one of the above comments that B&W speakers are very revealing of inadequate front end equipment. I think a high current amplifier that has tight control of the lower octaves (probably not cheap!) would be a good match for the B&W's from the 600 series on up. As for the high notes, I urge you to postpone your judgement until you have heard a Nautilus series speaker (or any speaker with a Nautilus tweeter) that has been properly broken in. This reportedly takes forever (months???) and many dealers do not have a product playing for long enough to do this (for obvious reasons).
If you don't like them, don't buy them, but don't think that you have the ultimate golden ear and what you perceive is good must be the only good thing out there. Did you ever question the quality of the recordings you are listening to? If you are going to bash a brand name why don't you include the system you had them set up in, and specific models of speakers you did extensive listening with.
They have always been sold to the public as speakers the mastering engineers use. Many do.
Even if the B&Ws were flat (and some are more than others) then you might think them unmusical due to poor quality recordings/and or poor reproduction chain. And then there's the possibility that flat frequency response is not all there is to speakers sounding like music (or not even the primary quality).
Voicing speakers is very tricky and the one size fits all approach does not work. That's why there are 1,000 speaker manufacturers out there, and 1,000s more in garages. I say, if you don't like the sound, make your own!
I feel most people do not use quality high end or matched components while owning B&W. I think that is why they are sold often without even knowing their full potential. Different strokes for different folks and my 801 III with North Creek's keep me happy even when compared to the Nautilus or any other brand.
Krell1 (and others) you're right. I still laugh at a review on Audio Review where one guy trashed some high end B&Ws because they did not sound good connected to his Yamaha receiver. Another person returned their B&W P series to the store for being too harsh, and went out and purchased Cerwin Vega. I can only imagine what cheap gear the rest of the system must have been composed of.

B&W are used as monitors by many sound studios for the simple reason that they accurately play back what they are given, good or bad.

I tend to agree with Mikez. Let's not discredit him just because he's new to the site. Time will tell if he's just a s#!t disturber.

I listened to the Nautilus 800s (absolutely gorgeous to look at) played through an all Levinson setup.

390S CDP/Processor
380S Preamp
33 Monoblocks

Those of you who respond with things like "maybe it was a bad recording", or "maybe it was setup with poor electronics" crack me up. I would hope that most of us know to audition systems with good source material. Obviously, you can't refute the the "quality" of the electronics that the 800s that I heard were setup with.

The speakers sounded very flat and lifeless, IMHO. I had to really crank the volume to get them to come to life. I was very surprised. I wanted to be impressed. I was not.

I don't think that it was the recording - I tried a few different discs. It wasn't the electronics. And...I'm pretty sure that it wasn't the room. About 4 months earlier, I heard the Nearfield Acoustics Pipe Dreams setup in the same room and they were INCREDIBLE!

Other B&Ws that I've listened to recently are less exotic; N805, N803 and both of them were very fatiguing to these ears. Additionally, there has ALWAYS been something that sounds better at that given price point.

To each his own...but I don't find anything to get excited about when listening to the B&W line. I've come back to them time and again, figuring that I must not have been giving them a fair shake, or that perhaps they were not setup very well, etc.

I've tried to like them, but - honestly - I don't see what all the fuss is about.

It's all about buying a name and an image. Kind of like McIntosh....but that's a whole different debate!
first, it's spelled "pretentious". second, your post is not pretentious anyway, it's ridiculous. you're apparently seeking to validate your OPINION, as if it were somehow more correct than any other opinion.
Very interesting! There are old Agon threads that describe Levinson as being "sterile, clinical, lacking in palpability, soft, dull, and to get it right, proper speaker matching with them is important". Are you sure it is the B&Ws?
I've heard a Levinson / Revel system that sounded great. Many dealers that sell Levinson, also sell Revel. Those two companies are owned by the same parent company. They better sound good together. That does not mean B&Ws are bad speakers.

I wonder if the parent of Levinson/Revel have tuned their product differently from most brands, so you'll hopefully buy the whole system from them to get the proper synergy and the best sound??? They would'nt be the first.

It really comes down to system synergy.

One reason B&Ws have become very popular is they sound great with a very wide variety of electronics compared to other brands. Many B&W dealers sell other British gear. Makes sense.

Wow such hostility. The guy is just expressing his point of view. Isn't that part of the reason we have forums? He wonders why people pay a lot of money for speakers that don't sound good to him. Those of you that own them seem to be taking it very personaly saying he has few posts so his opinion is worthless. I agree with him. Maybe you would listen to my system and think it was crap. Certainly you have a right to that opinion. But using the logic that mastering engineers use them so there are good. What does that prove? A lot of studios have used Yamahas as well. Does that make them good? Many engineers use very cheap i/c's and cable are they correct on that also?

He is just expressing an opinion and wondering what others think. Not attacking all B&W owners. After all it is not your fault you were born with ears like that.
I think they generally offer good value for the money. A lot depends on the particular model and on the partnering equipment; without these caveats it's impossible to generalize. Having said that, I've never bought any of them myself, as I haven't ever been emotionally moved by them. They seem technically good but lacking in "life" to me.
It seems strange to me that the two posters who dislike all B&W speakers are both new member who just signed up and are making their first posts. I wonder if they are existing members who set up an alias to hide their identity?
From my perspective (I own N803s) B&W is an established speaker manufacturer. Their business is speakers. Their focus is speakers. They have knowledgeable staff that DESIGN speakers. They release the results of their design into high-end models and filter the technology down to lower-end speakers. It is not a 'fly-by-night' outfit that throw things together and hope the result sounds good. Hence my conclusion is that the speakers they release are designed to do what they do, at a given price point (component quality, cabinet quality). They're neither awesome value for money nor money no object designs (except for the original Nautilus). They do what they're supposed to do. So if you pick a hi-fi range they'll be hi-fi, and if you pick a mid-fi range they'll be mid-fi.

Anyway I, for one, think it's very silly to get excited about awesome products from competing manufacturers where marginal performance differences seem to count for so much. There's much more important things to do like enjoy the music rather than 'the system'. End of rant.

ps. At least your post generated some interest !
Is it ridiculous to state an "opinion" in a forum? Is it in poor taste to attempt to gather other opinions to perhaps shed some light on your own? Taste are, indeed, relative, and "validating" ones opinion seems a relatively healthy thing to do. I am sure that we all do this to some extent... I have owned a number of B&W speakers and have mixed reviews overall on the quality of their sound. Let me just say that since moving on to other higher quality speakers (Audio Physics, JM Reynaud, Gershman) I have been able to feel the music and hear things previously unavailable to me via the B&W line of speakers. My system is comprised of a Rogue Magnum 99 pre-amp, Antique Sound Lab Monoblock 845 amps, JM Reynaud Trente speakers, Audio Aero Capitole CD player and Mapleshade speaker cables and interconnects.'s just that calling B&W speakers "mid-fi" is a tremendous insult to many, whereas merely saying that he doesn't like B&W sound characteristics would be much less insulting-- and more clearly a personal opinion. The poor choice of thread wording is HUGE here, IMHO;>). Your thread title is not so much pretentious as it is insulting. B&W is a well respected high end company. Someone once implied that my speakers were "mid-fi" too, and I blew up-- on line-- but I'm over it. Cheers. Craig
Presentation is everything. I was not calling B&W owners bad listeners. I can see how that came across. To each their own. Thanks for the understanding...
Thank you greatly for your understanding. It wasn't an attack on their owners, but ANY audio company should put as much passion in a $500 dollar speaker as a $50,000 one.
Always listen
Absoultely. The orignal natulis was quite a speaker to be rekoned with. Where my thred came out of is what happened there? To that sound?
Mike Z
I dont think B&W is mid-fi even though they make a wide variety of speakers in different price ranges.I dont really like the lower end speakers sound but i do like the 801s and 802s and the Natilus are even better sounding.Am I playing favorites because I have a pair...not really i listened to the speakers for a long time before I decided to buy the pair i have now.I can say you need lots of power to drive the 801s but the 802 series 3 dont need as much power as the series 2,and they sound very satisifying,.And of course everybodys entitled to their opinion.Cheers.
Hey Mike! Great that you are back! You certainly got us going. Congratulations!!

I guess we have learned that we should not match B&W with Levinson. Danheather did not like the match at all. Kheart sais he has owned a number of B&W speakers with mixed results. There is a new Levinson thread that Kheart posted on, saying he has owned a number of Levinson products with mixed results. I assume he owned both at the same time.

I personally don't care for B&W sound either. I have compared them extensively with several others in an unsuccessful attempt to see what all the clamor is about with the B&W sound. In a direct A/B comparison, the Thiel 2.3's sounded much better (to my ears) than the N802's. To each their own though, right???
I am intersted in knowing what Mikez finds better than B&W at the vaious price points.

I have owned the speakers in the lower B&W ranges. I bought them after comparing them to true mid-fis like Paradigm and Klipsch. I can see why someone may like the B&W as their sound is distinctive and they manufacture on a different level than most other hi-fi brands, but i have found them to be very competitive. To me, they are less distorted and more open sounding than the majority of speakers in that range.

I find B&W a little less competitive is in the upper leagues. I like the 800 series, but Thiel and others are a tough bunch.
There's a lot of great gear out there, I would bet that at any price point one could find a majority of folks prefering another brand to any speaker one might name. Room, associated equipment, and musical preference are all bigger factors than the last few drabs of musical perfection. If you dig your B&W's or your JBL's, God bless you and screw the labels.
The only thing that i will contribute to this "fiasco" is that i agree with a previous comment. That comment is that i think that the B&W "house sound" has changed quite noticeably over the years. Whether or not someone likes their earlier work ( which has gone through various stages ) or their more recent or current product line is strictly a matter of personal taste and system synergy.

Tis the beauty of having our own personal music system: we are all allowed to listen to whatever suits us. Sean
Models? What did you listen to? Break-in & electronics make a huge difference. I have no idea what models you listened to, but, I can tell you that I have heard N800's sound good and bad depending upon the electronics, amount of break-in time, and setup. The Nautilus line seems to need at least 200 hours of break-in and the more current the merrier.

My own experience is that Wattage is not as important as the ability to deliver large amounts of current. The change in my system from a 125 W/per channel to a 200 W/per channel had more to do with the new amp's ability to deliver current and it made a great difference. I probably never use more than 10 Watts continuous power at any time, but, you CAN hear the difference with the higher current amp. No compression in the bass or limits in the high-end.

Using Levinson electronics may not be optimal with the Nautilus line and is no guarantee that they were driven correctly. Why not condemn the electronics instead of the speakers? Or, perhaps better yet, condemn the person who setup the system as not understanding the requirements of the speakers - as being terminally "mid-fi"?

Lastly, the difference between speaker sound with my B&W N802's from day one until now is unbelievable. The "honk" & "sizzle" is gone, bass response is greatly improved and the speakers make a large sound stage. B&W will tell you that setup is also important and you must play with the toe-in, etc.

It's easy to setup speakers incorrectly, drive them incorrectly and then blame the speakers. It's a chain and if there is a weak link or incorrect equipment choice, unfortunately, the B&W's will show you that.
I have to admit that I tend to agree with Mikez. Let me explain. I bought my current system almost 5 years ago. The bug started when I auditioned B&W804 Matrix run with Classe/CAL labs elecrtronics at local high-end shop here in LA. The system sounded real good to me compared to my then Yamaha and Cerwin Wega 'system'. I wanted more bass so I listened to 801 matrix. Even better I thought. I asked salesman to show me some more. And he let me listened to Dunlavy V's run all Classe electronics (higher product line) and I thought ' B&W sounds Hifi' . I bought the V's and Classe electronics. Then the Nautilus series came. I frequent the shop often and Auditioned the 802N's and 801's and 805's with Classe and Rotel Electronics, with Rel storm subwoofers( at different instances) and inspite of myself, I blurted out ' But Mark, this sounds like Hi-fi!!, Could you switch-in the IVA'S With every thing remaining same?" Presto!, The 'hi-end' sound was back. Now I do believe in Synergy and that could be the reason. Remember my auditioning took place in last 5 years in diffrent combinations, different rooms, after gaining lot of listening self training. This is just my opinion!. And is not meant to bash B&W speakers. Honest!( I assure you I am not biased, since I like other brand of speakers and electronics that I have successfully auditioned)
I agree. IMHO B&W sound is not very special at all and overpriced. Note I listen almost exclusively to classical music supposedly the domain of the of B&W.
What speakers have people picked over the B&Ws? I've done alot of auditioning to very good speakers (Dynaudio, Revel, Audio Physic, Sonus Faber, etc) before choosing the N803s. The B&Ws had the most natural sound to my ears but I will have to second (or third) the fact that they have a long break in time and that they are very critical of the electronics put in front of them. What speakers do you find to be consistantly a better value? From the $450/pr DM601 to the $11K/pr N801 I've found them to be very strong in their respective price points.
B&W is a big speaker company because of what sells below the Nautilus line (CDM down to the 300 series). Being a British speaker, they tend to sound good with most amps with a British heritage including Creek, Arcam, Cambridge Audio, Musical Fidelity, NAD, and Rotel. This short list is basically all of the major players in budget and mid-fi audiophile gear. It is no wonder B&W sells so many units. They also have great resell value and sell quick when it is time to upgrade; usually 66% to 75% of list. If you buy a used pair you can most likely get most of your money back.
It worked. We all learned something here didn't we? I Borrowed a pair of N 805's and paired them with a dynaco 80 amp, an audioresearch pre-amp, andRega cd player. It sounded nice, not my cup of tea, but I could have lived with them. We also learned that B&W and Levenson don't work well together. And that's what it is all about, us growing as audiophiles.
Certainly not high-end to my ears (except for the original Nautilus Prestige). In my opinion the Nautilus line is tonally impressive (except for the forward, metally sounding tweeters) but not very musical/coherent, soundstaging is below average and way overpriced. Sounds like they're designed on a computer to be tonally correct, but they lack a heart and magic like JM Reynaud for instance.

The Tannoy Definition and B&W Nautilus series have a similar sound, that sound that belies thier studio monitor heritage. However the Tannoy Definitions are superior in almost every way. The Tannoy's have higher sensitiviy, can be driven by tube amps, much better in low-level detail retrieval, and they don't have the tizzy highs of the B&W Nautilus line.
I think B&W are great speakers. But I can't imagine owning one, for the same reason I won't ever own a Sony television. Both are high quality products, but I think both of these products are saturated with a "technicolor" effect. Neither of these components are very natural in their presentation of sources. This is coming from someone who loves Brit speakers such as KEFs and Tannoys.
I think B&W has gone downhill in their crossover design in the current line. This is partially because they changed the way the make them. In many cases they mass produce them on separate circuit boards and then plug them in. They use to make them indivdually in each speaker. This helps production in larger quantities; but it looses something in changing how they traditionally designed them. They are a victim of their own success I guess.

One of my systems has a pair of the original CDM-1. It has a first-order crossover not found in the CDM-1SE or CDM-1NT. I have heard the newer versions and they are not quite as musical. They probably work better for HT though. The original CDM-1 was the one that won all the audio awards including Loudspeaker of the year in Europe, but they don't tell you that in their marketing materials; they make it sound like the current models are award winning.

Speakers are very room sensitive. That's why even if you use exactly the same set up as your other friend's, they can either sound better or worse in your room. Manufucaturers/designers can fool some people some times ( when they bring out a new product for marketing reasons ) but they cannot fool all the people all the times. Good or bad, B & W has been around many many years. They must have done something right in order to stay afloat all these years. It's one thing to condemn a line of speakers, but it's also another for you to reflect how well can you put together an audio system with good synergy and good environment. Spend sometime to understand your environment and learn how to maximize it, you'll be surprised how much better the same speaker can sound and how unfair you've been by saying all these negative things about certain line of speakers until now !
Take this as an advice, not criticism. Good luck.
"They must have done something right in order to stay afloat all these years."

Jayt...I guess we could make the same argument about Bose too, right? *They've* been "afloat" for a long time. Perhaps we've just never heard them setup with the right electronics, in the right environment, with the optimal barometric pressure....

I'm picking up a pair of 901s right away!! I'm sure that they'll be day...when I find that perfect synergy. What a glorious day that will be.
Keymetric, we agree with you. We own the Nautilus 805's
with REL stadium III for the bottom end. We love what
we hear. The speakers disappear. The sound stage is
huge. We get every bit of detail which the amplifier
is capable of delivering.
Is the consensous among the 'mid-fi' camp that the Nautilus line sounds worse than the Matrix, that other manufacturers that are now making better speakers, or that B&W was never particularly good?
if we are searching for the BEST SOUND for our dollar...then you can skip B&W...the hi-fidelity imaging is not there...i own the 602's and have heard the entire line...they have problems in the highs the mids and the lower frequencies...they make a great "family-wife" speaker..nice cabinet...however if the choice was between B&W and the top of the line BOSE...
The Bose is even more wife friendly. Since you like them better than B&W you should buy them.