Are Bowers and Wilkins speakers overpriced?


I see a lot of negative commentary on B&W. Why? Are they overpriced? Do they not sound as amazing as they look? Are they too “main stream”? - I love my 805 d3’s but curious why they get such a bad rep. 
paulgardner
Some people dont like the way they have been tuned. But those people have never heard them after theyve been retuned so their opinion is mistaken. 


Yes they are overpriced. All speakers are. 
In my mind they are quirky. Each generation / model has different target curves. Some of the bad rap may be that they may be designed to be listened on mid axis instead of tweeter axis. Some has to do with their voicing which is designed to stand out.

One positive thing I will say is they’ve taken to using higher end caps in their crossovers, which a lot of high end makers skimp on.

Before I get any flames, please, buy B&W if you like them, or any other brand, I don't care. Enjoy what you buy.
804D3 owner. These are the best speakers I've ever owned. They are to large scale music what IMAX is to cinema. The have phenomenal dynamic range, speed and impact. They are strong in the sense they remain composed no matter what chaos is happening in the music. They do need subwoofer support to be full range. To me, this is their only short coming. Very balanced and natural sound (with equally adept partnering electronics and cables). I think they're worth the cost.
Overpriced?
You're in the wrong hobby. Asking for a stamp of approval on something YOU like, isn't a good sign.

If you love your 805D3, then it shouldn’t matter what others think of the brand unless you are second guessing your purchase.

IMO, they are not overpriced. I’ve enjoyed B&W speakers for 15 plus years, they are wonderful sounding speakers, well designed and built.

Enjoy!
Never forget rule #1: Never listen to kenjit ....   🚫
One thing I will say, the 804 d3 is the most beautiful speaker I have seen. Overpriced? Only you can answer that, to me they are not.
some components seem to have more extreme responses than others...some love the B&W sound, some not at all...I think Magnepans and Vandersteens are similar in that regard...all great speakers if you like them...I don't particularly prefer B&W but don't think they are any more or less overpriced, or overall have a "bad" rep...
For the record, I’m not looking for a stamp of approval nor am I second guessing my purchase. Just interested in multiple views on the product/brand. 
Here’s what I mean by "quirky:"

https://www.stereophile.com/content/bowers-amp-wilkins-804-diamond-loudspeaker-measurements

Now keep in mind, I don’t care what speakers you actually buy, but if you want to know what makes B&W stand out, this is a great example.

Take a look at the frequency response in figure 4. The peak at 100 Hz and rolloff below is quite common, helps fit many rooms, but the dip at around 2.5 to 2.7 kHz. Accentuates imaging, but also reduces the overall smoothness of the response. Next, take a look at the peak at 10 kHz. Accentuates detail at the cost of neutrality.

Now, these may be the best speakers in the world for you, I don’t care. I am just going to use this FR to answer the OP’s question.

Now lets compare to another British speaker, the Monitor Audio Platinum:

https://www.stereophile.com/content/monitor-audio-platinum-pl300-ii-loudspeaker-measurements

Above the bass peak, this is a much smoother, and objectively more neutral speaker. It’s not perfect, there’s a strange dip around 15 kHz, but overall the response between the bass to treble is much more tightly controlled.

And yes, while I have a very strong preference for Monitor Audio, that doesn’t mean you should. Buy whichever you like, but don’t call them both neutral speakers. :)

Also, over time B&W has revised their curves, so it is another reason to call them quirky. They’ve often experimented with the market and the voicing. Nothing wrong with that, again, but they get too much credit in my mind for being neutral reference speakers, when that really varied over time. Of course, there are other features such as dispersion,  distortion, stored energy and compression which is not discussed here.

Having typed all of this, I make no statement about whether or not B&W is priced correctly. That’s for the market, credit should be given them their drivers and the quality of crossover components they have moved to.
Before one year ago when I bought my Spendor D7’s, my most recent previous speaker purchase (20 yrs ago) was B&W. Thru 90s had lusted after B&W sound and told myself when I get out of school and can afford B&W, that’s what I’m doing and that’s what I did.

Last year going into what turned into a many hundred hours of research and demoing over 20 speakers (heck probably over 30 come to think of it), I figured I’d probably still like BW best at the outset.

But I didn’t any longer. Maybe in 20 yrs I changed, maybe BW did, maybe both. As to their cost, I do think they cost somewhat more than comparable quality speakers but that is sooo much a personal opinion and others will differ of course. One BW dealer even confided he thought they are “little” overpriced for what you get vs competition.

But everyone should always buy what they like and can afford no matter what others think. (But since you asked for opinions, there’s mine on the topic along with my relative experience with the brand ...)

for the record, my previous speakers were front stage of CDM1NT’s and center channel. Those i listened to extensively one year ago were 702s2, 804d3, 805d3, and too lesser extent 802d3. Electronics ranged fro Arcam S30 to Anthem separates to Elektoacoustic (forget exact name of that brand) up to hi$ Mc separates probably across 3 dealer settings/rooms. So at least 4 sets of electronics. Source usually some LUMIN streamer/ dac or cd from what I can recall.
@erik_squires

How is this article from 2013 relevant to latest iteration of B&W’s?

I expect better from you than peddling an article that has absolutely no relevance to 4th generation of B&W Diamond line or have no personal experience with the brand.
@OP  PaulGardner

Are Bowers and Wilkins speakers overpriced?

IMO.... You need to go back to the early 70's Paul - to find B&W speakers that cost more to make, than they sold for. Now under John Bowers term, as the years progressed the speakers matured they were still priced well compared, to how they performed. Look at the Matrix line as an example.  
It was not until John Bowers passing that the new management, brought in Nautilus, a different design (build and sounding), much more Eye Candy and the prices DOUBLED.

Eye Candy became such a big piece of the Audiophile selling package, and all gear and prices changed, not just B&W.

B&W speakers "are" popular, "are" marketed well and, "do" sell well.   Their customer service has always been excellent.

This B&W support database leads others .

http://bwgroupsupport.com/

*******************************************
@erik_squires 
Erik
Seriously enough with the theory.
Everyone knows that when you have a company like B&W that uses their own anechoic chamber to tune speakers.....

.....once those same speakers make it into the AVERAGE shared listening space, tuning of upstream components and the ROOM is needed. 
 
Please tell us what B&W speakers you have set up in your own space/s and the associated gear that was used.

Cheers

Do you judge and compare every speaker, component that has made improvements over 15 plus years old design? I expect better from you than peddling an article that has absolutely no relevance to 4th generation of Diamond line or have no personal experience with the brand.

@lalitk

You sound triggered, as I kind of expected. OK, so the 802 D3 from 2015:

https://www.stereophile.com/content/bowers-wilkins-802-d3-diamond-loudspeaker

Or the OP’s speaker reviewed in 2017:

https://www.stereophile.com/content/bowers-wilkins-805-d3-loudspeaker-measurements

And I make no claim to spend my life listening to all speakers, do you? I’ve listened to a few of them, over time, have you? Are you saying that I can’t state my opinions here unless I have researched every B&W speaker?

Did you miss the part where I say you should buy what you like?


Do you feel that B&W had problems in the past, but now are fixed??
Please tell us what B&W speakers you have set up in your own space/s and the associated gear that was used.


Why would I bring a speaker home I did not like?

Seriously enough with the theory.

NO. No, no. In this case because the theory perfectly matches what I've heard. I don't like how they sound. I don't find them neutral or speakers I can listen to for a long time. If you want to know why, there it is in the charts.

Again, I don’t care what you like. You can love B&W, but if you ask me why it’s different, there you go.
When you say tuning of upstream components, what are you referring to? Things like tube rolling? Adding an EQ? Room treatment? Thx
@erik_squires,

I am trying to understand your agenda as you came out with your stale opinion of ‘quirky’ and then tried to justify it with a 7 year old article.

Do you buy components based on stereophile articles or what sounds best to your ears?

Please enlighten us which audio brand is perfectly designed and executed.
All of you arguing with me need to know that you literally can't.

I've made my points, and they are not arguable:

1 - I don't like B&W that much.  You can't argue personal taste.

2 - They are not objectively neutral  - Proven in measurements

3 - B&W has changed their curves over time - Again, proven.

Those of you who love B&W, I suggest you want to stick to what you love about them, instead of trying to disprove facts.

Enjoy the bonfire I've left here for you, because this is silly and I'm done. :)

Erik
paulgardner - When you say tuning of upstream components, what are you referring to? Things like tube rolling? Adding an EQ? Room treatment? Thx

Paul - yes but it depends. let me explain, but its getting outside of your OP question. I break it down between big rocks and smaller rocks. Bigger versus smaller expected changes.

For example you mention tube rolling.
I consider tube rolling a smaller rock. It’s a refinement, of what you already like. You're on the same road.
Now going from Solid State to Tubes, and Vice Versa - that is a bigger rock. That is a change in the road. Now IMO, one can (and I have and do) run B&W 800 series with Tubes and SS, it just depends on the size of the room and your listening style.

make sense?

Yep. Makes perfect sense. I’ll admit the 805 d3 did sound a bit bright initially but since changing over to a tube power amp and tube phono stage, I’m very happy with the results. I recently picked up a Herron VPTH-2A. I truly love it. I’ve only had it a month or so and cannot find a single fault. 
@Nigel squires


1 - I don't like B&W that much. You can't argue personal taste.
2 - They are not objectively neutral - Proven in measurements
3 - B&W has changed their curves over time - Again, proven.

1. You havent heard them in every room or with every cable or with every amp so how can you say you dont like them based on a quick demo? have you heard them after their crossover have been modified? I'm assuming you havent?

2. there is no such thing as neutral. No matter how you tune a speaker, the recording will also affect what you hear so there is no inherently neutral speaker.

3. You are arguing that the curves are deliberately designed that way. There is no evidence of this. You are also using stereophile to support your claim about the curves. Response can vary depending on how you do measurements. One reviewers measurements do not mean its conclusive. You havent even mentioned off axis response. You are wrong erik. 
I have owned 8 pairs of speakers over the past 15-17 years. I have also heard over a hundred of speakers at dealers, friends’, and audio shows. Currently own 803 D3 and could not be happier with them. I kept going back the 800 series Diamonds, until I finally took the plunge I don’t regret.

Having said this, two important observations:

1) Speakers are highly personal. Get those YOU like. There are no one-size-fits-all speakers.

2) Components, and most importantly components matching, matter. A lot. They can make or break a speaker.
“1) Speakers are highly personal. Get those YOU like. There are no one-size-fits-all speakers.

2) Components, and most importantly components matching, matter. A lot. They can make or break a speaker.”

Well said, @thyname. 
@thyname -

"1) Speakers are highly personal. Get those YOU like. There are no one-size-fits-all speakers."
EXACTLY correct!
Are B&W overpriced?  A completely subjective opinion . . .
i know this is lower end but i bought a pr of 703s2’s for a second system and find them much more musical with the new continuum midrange driver vs the older kevlar driver. They were $3500(now 4k) and I think of them as sort of a value. It’s a well designed attractive speaker that’s a floor stand model. A prudent shopper can make a very nice system using them plus a b&w subwoofer. Very much worth a listen in this price range. I didn’t care too much for the previous versions. 
Overpriced is a personal determination -- would you rather have the product or the money in your pocket?
At this point, I’d rather have the product. They make me pretty happy.
and overpriced or not, enough people love 'em that they hold their value on the used market very well...
805d3 bad rap?  Are you joking?

not all speakers appeal to everybody, who cares what people think.

they are not overpriced.  You get a lot of research and tech for the money, scales of production is in your favor.

I have the 802d3 and have enjoyed them since release.
You better have a warm sounding amp/preamp. There is a reason why they formed a relationship with Classe.
Pair any of their speakers with either Luxman or Macintosh integrated and you will hear the human voice and variety of instruments that will show you true refinement of sound.  I have owned various models over the past thirty years and have enjoyed each of them.  It's as if you were there live with the artists.  
But james, Macintosh doesn't make amps, McIntosh does.
How do you like them apples ....  😀
I don't know about overpriced but that diamond tweeter is unlistenable, makes my ears want to bleed. Reminds me of a rabid cat chasing a mouse wearing ice skates on a blackboard.
All speakers are overpriced - way overpriced!

The trick is to find the discounts.

I just bought a pair of the best sounding speakers made at a $10,000 discount - about 50%.

Can’t share the type or source - must maintain the confidence - so, I can preserve the relationship.

But, it serves to make the point.
That’s a bummer you can’t appreciate the diamond tweeter. It’s pretty stunning when toned down a bit with tubes. I can’t get enough!
I don't think it's inappropriate to ask if speakers are overpriced, if you answer in relative, rather than absolute terms.
For instance, most new B&W's seem overpriced compared to several different models of used / vintage speakers.   I recently purchased a used pair of ADS 1290's that sound just as good (and perhaps better:  not as bright) as a pair of B&W 804's, at a fraction of the price.  
I liked my 803's.  Very natural sound. They had very good resale value too.
Yes they are overpriced. All speakers are.
Disagree.  I bought a pair of used 1984 Klipschorns in 2001 from audioclassics.com for $3,000.  Fair price...good deal. 

I could never had made a pair of speakers that good for the same price in research, materials, time, and effort.

Then, in 2019, I bought the Volti Audio upgrade package for the Khorns for $4,800.  I have yet to install the upgrade, but I have a feeling that it will be difficult to achieve a better sound for any price once they're dialed in.

All speakers are not overpriced.
paulgardner

Another + vote for the 805 model. I owned a pair from the generation prior to Diamond Tweeter series.

Happy Listening!
Lots of speakers are over priced.

then again, to those whom are blessed with a great job, and an amazing income, it is a non issue.
regular blue collar who make 38-50K a year, it’s an issue.

im in the blue collar range, just an average American hardworking patriot.  I search for deals, ......

if you. Have the scratch, hell yes I would enjoy some nice Dynaudio C4’s, probably not in this life.   Maybe after retirement I can start saving and work a week here and there to save for a wicked pair of speakers.   

Im VERY happy with what I have now.
ive never been happier than the two stereo systems I use nowadays.
I don't know that ALL are overpriced.
I'm pretty sure I got a fair shake when I bought my ESLs from 2 different brick & mortar dealers. The 10" 2 ways for $240, the 6' 3 ways for $900.
You'd have to pay ME to replace them with B & W's.
If THAT is too much then just do without and quit baby ballin'.
To the Bolsheviks on this forum, consider the mouths that are fed on the retail dollar. Markups at every level support the workers in the field of Hi-Fi!  The design engineers at their CAD workstations, the woodworkers, the machinists, the Packaging company, the warehouse men, the shipping people, the importers, the schleps at your local dealer, the sales people and the owners that pay them to demo for you and handle your business,...all make their living on the retail price of whatever speaker you’re buying. So if you look at the parts cost of the drivers, crossovers, and guess at what the cabinet is worth and come up well South of retail, well...don’t be surprised. 
If you want professionally designed, beautifully built, well supported products, you have to pay for all that is required to create them. All this, by the way, is why I built my own!
I am a Bolshevik too. 
if you want to talk about egregious pricing take a shot at cables. in terms of cost of product vs retail price i think cables win the prize. One example i can easily think of is I have a pair of Wilson Yvettes(25k). A single 2.5m Odin 2 power cord lists for 24k. I strongly doubt that the power cord has the inherent manufacturing cost that the wilson speakers have. of course there are a million examples. i spend way too much on cables often thinking how mindless it is when i look at the cost of the things in my house. in one hand i have a cable and in the other a high end tv which cost less than the cable. mind boggling if you think about it. i think people like me are the root of the problem bc we still buy the uber expensive cables knowing that they are grossly overpriced. Consider that 1000 american dollars for a pair of cables is no longer considered anywhere near the top. no one to blame but myself... but i do love great cables. that’s the problem.
The very notion that anything is "overpriced" is a moot discussion. There is one rule. What will the market bear? It's a simply reality and 4425 hit the nail on the head. If people are buying quantity enough to keep the market viable... then nothing is overpriced.
You can have better speaker in that price or even lower.
IMHO all audio devices are overpriced. The industry make from HiEnd the luxury commodity. Well... since I have no respect for money then I give a crap. After all my life span is very short.
a few thoughts.

either you like them or you don't. looks and/or sound. If you like them, realize, you are buying years of engineering and production development, as well as the resulting fabricated pair.

if you don't like them, then, they are very overpriced, their engineering/publicity .. is all BS, their looks are designed for marketing ... and you might need to say bad things about them to justify not buying them rather than feel someone might think you cannot afford them.

IOW, you always have to consider the source of both good and bad comments.

I'm 70, set in my ways now, however I was very active when the 801's were announced, oh my, the big deal in the magazines, before they hit the stores. I couldn't afford them, just wanted to be amazed by their sound. They hit Harvey's, audio shows, .... I went away without great enthusiasm, never could explain why, I certainly would not say negative things about them.