Let me start with that I am not a big fan of the B&W sound although the diamond tweeter is a huge improvement over the metal dome tweeter.
I have heard B&W with all three brands you mentioned and Classe sounds the best to me.
IMO, Classe sounds much better than Rotel with the B&W's. Classe being owned by B&W probably has a lot to do with it. Is the price difference worth it? Only you can answer that question. I have never owned Classe but, have never read anything about them being unreliable.
Some of the best sound I have ever heard was B&W 802D with McIntosh MC402. Fantastic! Classe is good too - fairly similar to McIntosh really. The best choice between the two will probably have more to do with looks because they look way more different than they sound. As for me, I am not a fan of the blue TFT displays...
FWIW, B&W also owns Rotel.
I have heard both the 802D and 803D with a C46pre and MC402 power combo, and IT WAS OUTSTANDING WITH BOTH!! IMO I would opt for the 803D's and spend the extra cash on the music! I didn't hear that much difference between the 802's and 803's. I also heard the 803D's with the McIntosh MA6900 integrated (200W) and it was pretty impressive as well, but I still would have bought the 402. For me the only difference between 802's and 803's was asthetics. As far as long term investemt and reliability I can't speak for Classe, but my father has had McIntosh gear for 30+ years and it works as good as the day he bought it; and that along with the sound quality is why I am buying it!
I have owned Classe and McIntosh with B&W 802D speakers.
I owned a Classe CA2200 amp and CP500 preamp and had it paired with Signature 805 speakers and really enjoyed this system, it was fun. (Unlike Arthur, I really liked the touch screens, a lot.) I heard the 803D speakers at my local stereo shop and it had moments of magic, which led me to purchase the 802D's. Unfortunately I could never capture that magic at my house with the 802D's.
This led me to sell the Classe gear and purchase a Musical Fidelity kW500 integrated amp, which I felt did a better job. I later purchased a McIntosh MA2275 integrated amp which obviously didn't have near the power, but this was a very nice piece, and better sonically. Lastly I purchased the McIntosh MC402 and C46 combination, which I feel was better than the Classe, per your question.
All this said and as mentioned, I never could get the 802D's to sound at a level I felt they should. If you decide to get 802D's, I'd suggest the mono-blocks, whether it be Mac or Classe.
Having heard the 802D's side-by-side with Wilson Sophia II's, at a dealer, I would recommend the Sophia's, although they are slightly more.
Thanks for the responses. Ltecyclist: I also didn't hear a lot of difference between 802D and 803D but they were being powered by 5 x 200W Rotel amplifier so I don't know if they would sound better with a higher power mono setup.
I'd go for the 803D. To me they're better balanced and can work off the lesser power amp but they still need plenty of power. I would recommend 803D with either MC501, bigger Classe, Pass X250.5 or X350.5 or the bigger Levinson amps.
I heard 803D and 802D and I honestly think 803Ds are a better choice, unless the room is gigantic.
Don't forget, 803D are capable of playing very loud very clean. All they need for that is a proper amplification.
Regardless of which of the 2 speakers you choose, I don't think MC402 is the proper amp if you want uncompressed dynamics and soundstage. MC402 would be fine for low level listening for 803D but it would not do the dynamics the way some of the other amps would.
With B&Ws, amplifier is the most important component.
Thanks for responding Audphile1. Please bear with me as I am new to high end audio and am still learning.... If the MC402 is 400 watts per channel and the Pass Labs is 250 watts per channel how does the Pass Labs outperform the Mcintosh? In other words how does a 5x250 outperform a 2x400? Is the Pass Labs simply a more efficient amplifier or does it just "sound better" because of its components...? The 500w mono Mcintosh sounding better is easier to understand for me. By bigger Classe , do you mean the 400w monos or is there a multichannel Classe that would do the job e.g the 5 x200....but again, how would a 5x200 Classe outperform a 2x400 Mcintosh? A multichannel would certainly give me more flexibility. Thanks so much; your patience is appreciated.
Sorry Audphile1, I just looked it up and realized the PassLabs you mentioned are monoblock amps...my mistake.... so it sounds like in your opinion monos are really the way to go with these speakers. Are there any multichannel amps that would be suitable? multichannel gives me more flexibility for possible conversion to surround sound later on. How about bi-amping a 5x200 to get 400w a side? How would that compare to separate monos? My local dealer is really pushing the 5x200 Classe. Thanks again.
Statusnine, your first reply to Audphile1 were excellent questions, as IMO his comments were without merit and didn't make sense. The Pass amps he suggested are NOT mono-blocks, as you state in your second reply, they are two channel amps, just as the MC402, yet they are very good amps as well.
Take the time and go to your dealer and listen to each setup he suggests. You can determine if you really like it or not. Even better would be if he'd let you take home the setup you prefered best in the store to try, but speakers of that size are not always allowed out for loan.
If you go with the 802D's, I suggest mono blocks. Just my opinion.
Statusnine, McIntosh and Pass are very different amps.
X250.5 is a 2-ch amp, 250w/ch into 8ohms. It doubles into 4 ohms. It's a different design from MC402.
X250.5 provides about 36 watts/ch of pure class A which is great for low level listening. Also, the Pass amp is more dynamic, effortless and explosive than the McIntosh. MC402 is a fixed 400w/ch no matter the load. B&Ws will dip into a 3ohm territory where the X250.5 will have an advantage over MC402. I heard MC402 with 803D and own X250.5 and to me the X250.5 is a better performer.
Bottom line is - you got to do your own research which should not be limited to these forums. Listen to as many amps as possible and draw your conclusions from there.
Audphile brings up a good point about B&W's dipping down to 3ohm territory. The MC402 has 3 sets of taps on the back, 2ohm, 4ohm and 8ohm. Although B&W rates their speakers at 8ohm, you would not want to use the 8ohm taps, rather start with 4ohm; McIntosh recommended this to me when I was using B&W speakers because of the way they behave.
I never tried the 2ohm taps with my 802D's, which I now regret in light of the results another poster in another thread
got with his (older) 801's when switching to the 2ohm taps.
I suspect your dealer could get some fine results with the Classe gear he sells; just let your ears be the judge.
Spectron Musician 3 SE - my friend with 802D has it. Midrange lush like (first class) tube amp and it is probably the best amplifier to drive speakers with difficult load- it has increadible control, stable up to 0.1 Ohms load, headroom with 3500 watts peak power over 500 msec.
Do internet research - it drive Martin Logan Summit, Audio Analyses ribbons, Magnaplanar 20.1 and non plananr like MBL 101
In January 2008 TAS issue there was excellent review, forgot what speakers were used and I know that in month or two Stereo Times will have rave review - speakers Apogees
I think with your speakers you must investigate this amplifier
Statusnine, A few things in MHO. I've owned B&W's now for 8 years. I've heard all of the 800 series and matched with different amps. I would say don't buy 803D or 802D unless you can buy the proper amps to push them. Good power and plenty of reserve is the way to make B&W's really sing. Everyone I've ever read or heard say they don't like B&W hasn't given them the power they deserve and speaker placement is going to be very critical. Its hard to listen to speakers at a dealer in my opinion because most of them don't seem to take the time to get the best placement. No rotel is going to give these speakers what the need, please don't get a rotel for 800 series speakers they deserve better. Rotel is distriuted by B&W not owned by B&W and may sound fine for some of thier lesser speakers but not the 800'series. I would stick with mono blocks to be sure you give them power and something in the 350 to 500 watt range. Classe A cam 400's or 350's (new or used) and in the mcintosh the 501 monoblocks. Also not sure what the rest of your system is but make sure you have good source components as either of the speakers you are looking to get deserve it. FYI the 802D will be my next speaker unless they reinvent the series between now and when I buy and the three amps I listed are the ones in the running to be matched up with them.
Beerdraft... I totally agree. I just returned from listening to the 802D's with the Classe Cam-400 monos. Extraordinary combination. Having heard it, I would now never spend the $$ on 802D's without high end mono amplification and am no longer considering Rotel. Would still love to hear 802D's with the Mcintosh monos but really hard to get that combination since the B&W delaers don't sell Mcintosh. Hard to imagine the Macs could sound any better than the Classe 400 monos. I also noticed a huge difference from Rotel preamp with Classe preamp so I agree that all compnents really need to be top notch. Next up, may try some tube pre-amps with the CAM400's. Thanks for your input.
One other thought.....I've read some comments that people can't hear the difference between the 803D and 802D. I agreed when listening with Rotel 5 x 200 amps...but...when using Classe amps, either 200w/ch or the 400 monos, the differences became much more striking and the 802's blew the 803's away.
I upgraded from the 803 to 802 Nautilus (not the Diamond Series). At that point, the 802 had a much bigger sound stage. I now drive them with the 350 watt MF TriVista Integrated, which is a great match -- head turning. If you are going to buy the Diamonds, you should invest in something better and more powerful than the Rotel. The Classe sound very good, but not head turning IMO. Because of the B&W somewhat bright sound, the MacIntosh might be a great fit, as long as you have at least 300 watts of power.
Heard the BW802D driven by Mcintosh 501... PHENOMENAL combo I thought.
I used to own the 802D. Between Classe and Mac I would pick Classe. That being said, I still felt that the Classe we too polite and smooth sounding. I would consider getting something more dynamic as B&W to me sounds slow. A real good choice at a very reasonable price would be a pair of Parasound Halo JC1 monoblocks. I drove my 802D with the Parasound Halo A21 2 channel amp with good success.
I've found that Ayre amps sound great with B&W. You could get away with a V-5xe with the 803D but you'd really need the V-1xe or preferably, the MX-R, for the 802D (and they definitely don't hurt for the 803D).
I have an Accuphase E-450 and an DP-500 player and I need to know if I could drive the B&W 803D with them.My room has 20m2.
What about Accuphase and B&W?
Unfortunately in my country there isn't any B&W 803D on stock.
My personal opinion is that isn't enough juice to really do the job on the 803D. I reccomend at-least 250 watts per channel but you're close and some amps seem to be stronger than advertised. I'm not familiar with accuphase. If I only had 180 watts per channel, I would go with the 803S. They would sing very nice at that power. Just my opinion. I was going to get the 803S because I was only going to have 150 watts mono per channel but then I upgraded to 300 watt mono's and upgraded to 802D. It may work but I know someone who drives the 803D with classe 200 watts per channel and he's in a small room but the speaker just wants more. My opinion is don't under power b&w, they won't sound right.
I have 802D for a few years and I tried to match it with (tubed) Audio Matiere, Classe, Plinius SA-102 and last year with Spectron Musician III SE. The last one is the best in all respect - very transparent sound, huge soundstage, very natural timbre, deep and powerful bass. On the top, it does not create heat like my "little oven" Plinius nor did it consume much electricity.
I think one can drive 802D even with medium power tube amp and enjoy the sound, so good speakers are but to utilize their full potential I feel that only superb and very powerful but musically involving amplifier shoulds be used.
Beerdraft - thanks for your answer, but how big is your room? My room has only 20m2.
Unfortunately I like more 803D than 803S , the sound is warmer,the treble is sweet and the bass is deeper.
I have heard B&W 803D with Classe preamplifier CP500 and power amplifier CA2200 (2 x 200W @ 8ohms)and it sounds ok for me. (the room ~25m2).
Anyway I will do a test if it works together or not.
That room is much smaller than mine. I'm 19 feet by 33 feet. In that size room you may be fine with a good 200 watts per channel. B&W reccomends 250 watts or atleast thats what they told me as a minimum for the 803d but I'm sure they won't try to talk you out of buying. When I was going to get the mcintosh mc275's in mono parralel, they told me I'd be better with the 803S and that they reccomend 250 per on the D's. That is where I'm coming from on this. They will be great either way with the 200 I geuss but would be better with a little more, but then again what wouldn't be. With the room size should be fine though.
I wonder where the anti B&W brigade is? :) B&W sound seems to polarize people - you either think it's pretty ho-hum or you like it. When I heard the 802D's driven by Classe amplification - I could not pick a fault with the sound. But then again I could not pick anything I liked either. Since I have to "love" my equipment before I spend thousands of $ on it, I passed on this one.
I know Paul Messenger (Stereophile, Hifi Critic, Hifi Plus, Hifi Choice) uses Naim with his 800D's and Andrew Harrison of Hifi News uses Chord with 802D's.
Not my taste. I prefer the Bel Canto ref 1000's. The other amps i have heard with B&W are the ASR Emitter II and the Anatek Mono's.
I just got my 802D's hooked in yesterday. I've had limited listening on an entirely new system. Mcintosh C500T, Two MC2301's, and B&W802D. So far I know I don't have the speakers postitioned right and wanted to try to do that tonight but my neighbors came over and now I'm too tired to listen properly. All I know is WOW, on the diamond tweeter, I need to get this equipment burned in and need to get speakers placed properly as they are just still where I put them for the first time. The stage isn't quite there but I think it will be once I move around a bit. The bass is phenominal, love these 2301's, man love the whole setup but need some work in.
I read most of the threads-thanks guys. I currently have my 802D's matched up with Cary CAD 211 AE (tube mono blocks) and get alot of bang for alot of bucks. I have a large room with lots of tall window's, (and 25' cellings), that would probably blow out if I would turn the volumn way up on my Cary SLP05. I need some way to surpress the brightnes and am open to suggestioms; However, my neighbor 2 doors down dosen't complain about the music being way up during the day because the clarity is so acarate. I am thinking of downsizing and going with the Mac 501's. To bad I can't get a dealer demo in San Diego with that combination. Any more input about that combination or room accustics that's not to expensive ( I lease) would be appreciated. Sargentfriday.
Sargentfriday I have the same pre and power amp as you :) But I am not using B&W's. There are two ways to suppress the brightness - one is by tube rolling, but the better way would be to cover up your windows with curtains.
If you are using the standard tubes that come with the SLP-05 and 211AE, these are very bright and glary. I replaced all the 6SN7's in the SLP-05 with RCA's - a bit less top end, fuller and sweeter midrange, but a little bit lacking in dynamics. I will shortly be replacing the 845's in the 211AE with Cetrons. Rolling the 300B in the 211AE does not make as much of a difference compared to rolling the input and output tubes. It is also the most expensive.
Thanks so much Amfibius. Will try that out.
On the B&W haters...
I question whether most who do not like the B&W sound are running proper amplification?
B&W's will sound unimpressive with inadequate amplification as will any speaker not matched properly.
Also, the Nautilus metal dome tweeter is not very kind to "hot" recordings IMO.
I chose the 803D over the 802D for reasons already mentioned in this thread and I do have a large listening area. I auditioned them with Classe 400 watt mono-blocks and the 500 watt McIntosh mono blocks and while both sounded very good, the Classe had the edge.
I had a Rotel RB-1090 at home and kept this until I decided what amp I wsa going to buy for them. The Rotel was ok at 380 watts/channel but didn't have near the sonics in all respects as the Classe or McIntosh amps previously mentioned.
Then I came across a Spectron Musician III SE review where the user had a pair of 802D. I investigated this amp and given the rave reviews from professional an user critics alike, I bought one and it arrived yesterday.
The Spectron is a highly refined Class D amplifier with a sonic signature of the best of McIntosh and Classe...sort of like a high end Plinius. While these amps are stressed tested for 200 hours before being shipped, the high quality of the capacitors demans a longer than ususal burn-in period of about 200 more hours to sound its best. Thus my comments to follow are based on an out of the box unit with about 10 hours on it.
With 600 watts/channel at 8 ohms and stable down to .1 ohms, this amp really impressed me. After 2 hours the soundstage and headroom really opened up and the midranged was very liquid with tremendous high end extention but was not bright at all. The bass was tight and what the B&W 803D needed. Overall, the Spectron added a finess and was clearer in a good way compared to the Classe and McIntosh.
In the interest of disclosure, I have access to B&W Group products such as Classe and Rotel and also McIntosh. Futher, I was so impressed with the amp, my business now is a dealer for Spectron amps.
I suggest you give Spectron a listen to if you are considering the aforementioned amps. The Spectron retails for less than mono blocks from either Classe or McIntosh and takes up far less space and only weighs 52 lbs.
Should anyone want anymore details, please feel free to conact me.