B&W 703 - How to tame the highs?

I traded up my Paradigms studio 100s this past summer for these B&W 703. I find the highs on the 703 to be a bit harsh / bright. How do I tame them? I currently have them toed in slightly towards the listener.
About six months ago I got some B & W Nautilus 800s through an Audiogon seller. The seller was using an old Mark Levinson 333.5. The highs were way too piercing for my taste. I contacted a local seller, who recommend a high-end Candian amplifier. Again the sound was too bright and harsh. After reviewing an article in the Ablsolute Sound, I decided to give the McIntoshes a whirl. The result: audio nirvana. I am now blessed with sound that continues to bring me great pleasure. From my own personal experience, I suspect your problem may be in your electronics. Perhaps you should be checking out other equipment.
I am using Cary/AES Six Pacs and Cary/AES DJH sig preamp and a Jolida cd player. Any other ideas?

Are these new speakers? If so they will require a certain
amount of time to break in. My Sig 805's were a bit
harsh at first too. Another thing to look at would be
your speaker cables and interconnects. Try swapping them
and see how that affects things.

Good luck
Some very nice equipment. Try room treatments and/or cables? IMHO, if that doesn't work you might look at different speakers. I find that pretty much all B&W speakers, except the Diamond series are bright. Not saying that to start a fight with B&W fans because I think B&W's do alot of things very good to excellent. Their strongest attribute in my opinion is the quality of their enclosures but, the weakest link is the metal dome tweeter. I too use to own Paradigm's (Studio 40's). They were my first taste of higher quality audio. After about 1.5 years with them I found my self listening less and less. So the hunt was on and after many trips to several audio shops I found that it was the brightness that was reducing the time listening. I now have Quad 12L's with Quad SS components. Good luck.
One word: TUBES!!!

abb@cs.com listed his/her equipment as Cary/AES Six Pacs, Cary/AES DJH sig preamp and a Jolida cd player. Last time I checked all those components were tube based.

What interconnects and speaker cables are you using?
I am using SignalCable wire all around. I had the same exact equipment, including the wires, when I had my Paradigm 100, v3. I did not experience the harsh highs with the Paradigms. I really like the B&W 703s, when I crank them is when I find too bright. Would a set of silver wire IC help tame the highs?
I agree with Beeper99 - try McIntosh. They love clear and open speakers since they have no grain or fake treble energy.
The Cary Six Pacs are nice amps for the money. Consider selling the B&W. There are far better choices for the money. Good luck.
I find that B&W's always require a dark sounding amp such as Roksan or Plinius. That way it tames the highs.
I'm dealing with a similar problem right now. I've never heard 703s but I own a pair of 602s that I believe use the same tweeter, and I don't know why, but I found that bringing the speaker forward about 3 feet from the wall actually tamed the highs a bit (at first they were only about a foot and a half or so away from the rear wall). They're still too bright for me, but I definitely noticed a difference. If your 703s are close to a wall try bringing them forward and seeing if you notice anything.
I was going to try tubes to tame the highs on these but your experience here is making me lose confidence in that plan!
I really thought it would hard to have harsh highs with tube equipment, but I do! This is the first set of speakers I have owned while using tubes that have harsh highs. It is not extreme enough for me to get to electronics, I guess it is something that I will have to tolerate, at least for the time being.
"I traded up my Paradigms studio 100s this past summer for these B&W 703."

Why did you do this?
Sorry. Didn't see the equipment listing. Silver wire I don't think would tame the highs. Maybe Conrad Johnson stuff? Hmmm, I've got B&W 602's in my bedroom hooked up to a Rogue integrated. That helped tame the brightness a lot in my system. You might try a different speaker, like a JM Cobalt, and see how it responds to your gear. That would help isolate whether you need new amps or new speakers.
No to the silver wire. Probably make the problem worse. I think Arafel has a great idea. Get a home audition of a different speaker like JM Lab, Quad, Vandersteen, or some such and see if that fixes the problem.

Good luck.
Easy, purchase new speakers without a metal dome tweeter. Problem solved. Your speakers are probably one of the most important components in your system. What keep something that is bright? Move on and upgrade.

Before you make too many changes to fix your "problem", make sure your 703s are fully broken in. IMHO, B&Ws need some serious time to really break in, and until they do, they sound a bit conjested (and may accentuate a perceived brightness). If you've only been casually using your 703s since acquisition, I'd bet they are nowhere near broken in. It took me 3 years of casual use of a HTM-2 to tonally match a set of N805s.

Also, one of the most ignored component of systems (IMHO) is the room itself. Toe in is but one consideration. Check your speaker distances from room boundaries. What's on your walls / floors? What type (and how much) furniture is in your room? Unless you look at your room with a critical eye (and ear), you may be playing the hardware hokey-pokey to no avail and no matter how much you "upgrade" you may never be happy (unless you find that magic combination that compensates for your room).

If I was going to begin to swap hardware, I'd recommend re-evaluating the cables you're using (and silver cable is probably not the way to go). I really like the older PS Audio X-stream interconnects (and have them cryo'ed if possible). I don't find they roll off the highs, but they have a full, robust sound that compliments B&Ws articulate nature. I've built my own speaker cables, so I don't have any recommendations there.

Finally, tube rolling may be a (much) cheaper alternative than speaker / amp / cable rolling. Rolling the 12BZ7s in the Sixpacs or the 6SN7s in the AE-3 DJH may be the way to go.
>>I really thought it would hard to have harsh highs with tube equipment, but I do<<

All you need is a low quality speaker like the 703. You learned the hard way. Don't give up. Sell 'em and move up the audio food chain.
Take what Nrenter says with a grain (or maybe a tablespoon full) of salt. Anyone that spends the amount of time on building their own cables as Nick does, is not right in the head. All kidding aside. I have been to Nick's house and listened to his system, it's very nice. You might shoot him an email about tube rolling, speaker placement, cables and so on to tame the brightness.
Dude, sell the frickin speakers. Yea, I have this stereo system that I tolerate.. Not good.

You will spend more time and money trying to make them sound good which will end up costing you more than upgrading them now.


I am really begining to enjoy your outlook and your posts. Let's hope that solid advice does not fall on deaf ears.. Or would that be tin ears?

I agree with the other posts. It's time to sell the speakers and move on. It's tough to admit that you made a mistake, but we have all done it. I bought a pair of speakers once that just did not match the equipment that I already had. The highs were bright with too much sibilance. The speakers sounded great when I auditioned them, but just didn't work with my room, equipment, etc. I ultimately sold them, and bought other speakers. That was far easier than going to work on all my other equipment.

I have a speaker trade up situation with my dealer (Listening Room, Saginaw, MI). I can trade them up every year, recieved 100% of my money towards a more expensive pair. The 703 were the most logical upgrade (financially) this year. Next year, I can get into the B&W 800 series, or the Paradigm Signature line. I have found that in the past month or so, the highs are taming some on thier own, so it may be just a long break-in period.
Has anyone suggested this yet? Sell the speakers. If you don't like their inherent sound, no amount of tweaking and cabling changes will make you a happier listener.
Speakers is the component that will affect the sound of your system to a largest degree ( next to your room?). No cables change will ever affect the way your system sounds to the same degree as a new speakers.
To sell or not.

Being a devout B&W fan I would suggest you keep the speakers. But that is just my opinion. Work with room treatments as were already suggested. I found that going with synergystic research kalidiscope phase I interconnects and signature 10 speaker cables in my system helped imensley.

If you can trade up, I would do so. The speakers might be taming down or your hearing is getting used to the glory of a metal dome tweeter. Whatever you get, I would get a Soft Dome or Ring tweeter. Not a metal one.

Very simple. Get rid of them!
I will be trading up in July, 2006. Most likely to the B&W 800 series. I was simply trying to solve a minor problem in the mean time. I really like these speakers, they are a definate upgrade from the paradigm 100s I had.
I would definitely get a in home audition on the 800's before you put down the extra cash on them. You may have the same problem. If you can swing some more cash you might look at the Diamond series by B&W if you are set on staying with B&W's. Try room treatments for now.
>>I will be trading up in July, 2006. Most likely to the B&W 800 series<<

Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Furthermore, you'll need monster amplification for a similiar sonic signature. There are so many far far better choices. Good luck.
I had B&W speakers in the CDM series which preceded the 703. The metal-domed tweeter was similar to that in the 703. The harsh and prominent highs did diminish with time over 3 years but never disappeared. The best single remedy that worked was to cut some thick felt pads and to fit them around and under the tweeter assembly using double0sided sticky tape. The felt must cover the angular edge below the tweeter to minimise diffraction effects.

But in the end I sold them to someone who thought that what emerged from them was exciting hi-fi sound.
Judy426 - why so harsh in your comments? What exaxcty is "similiar sonic signature"? What are your suggestions for better choices?
Harsh and accurate are two different concepts. You have inferred from my accurate comments that they are harsh. Not so. First, the overall sonic signature of the B&W line is one of lacking musicality. Advocates call them precise and detailed. Truthfully speaking they are dry, lifeless, and fatiguing. As I mentioned prior, you will need gobs of power to adequately drive them. This effectively eliminates most high quality tube amps in favor of the ultra high powered solid state amps such as Krell and Bryston which will drive B&W however 2 wrongs don't make a right.
There are many many others to choose from. The list includes but is not limited to (in no particular order) Green Mountain, Zu, Pro Ac, Paradigm, Coincident, Von Schweikert, Vandersteen, Silverline, Hyperion, Merlin, Quad, Usher.
Don't buy on name. It that were the case everybody would own B&W. It's a great company. Good distribution, dealers, and customer service. Bad sound. Look at the number of B&W speakers on Audiogon (over 100 pair) as we speak. There's a reason for this. Take some time and listen as opposed to reading. Get more for your hard earned money. Good luck.
abb@cs.com - Judy is not being harsh, she is being honest. Sorry to offend, but B&W is "the bose of high-end." Heavily marketed, very bright and tipped up in the treble, meant to suck people in with over-emphasized bass and treble just like Bose. B&W represents the definition of what people mean when they say something is "hi-fi" sounding as oposed to "musical" sounding. The B&W 800 series are better than the 700 series, but you need very high current/wattage to make them sound halfway decent, and they will still have the problems of the 700 series, ie. tipped up treble on a harsh metal tweeter, colored midrange from that kevlar driver, just a non-coherent non-musical sound.

I personally would much rather listen to a paradigm, but does your dealer have any other lines than B&W or paradigm?
My dealer is limited in his speaker line. B&W, Paradigm and Martin Logan. I went through the Paradigm, having really liked them. If the highs on the B&W do not tame more, I will go back to the Paradigm line.
Wow...a lot of generalities being thrown around here and more myth than fact. Let's start at the top...

B&W produces and offers so many speakers that it is impossible to take Judy's (or anyone's) sweeping statements seriously. I have not listened to each and every B&W speaker - I have seriously auditioned each speaker in the Nautilus 800 line and have concluded the N805 is the best of the lot (IMHO) especially when mated with a sub like the REL Strata III. Some of the qualites I didn't like are mentioned in this thread, but those qualites were not present in each speaker / system I auditioned. So I can't say the exact cause of the issue. But, given the transportabiliy of the N805, I can say that this speaker performed well enough for me in each application I tried to own it for over 5 years.

Referencing this one example of the B&W line, I can tell you that you do not need "gobs of power to adequately drive them." Actually, my 50 Watt Sixpacs drive them quite nicely (but, some would argue, 50 Watts is "gobs" of tube power). Better than many of the larger power amps I've owned / auditioned.

B&Ws do a lot of things well, and some things not so well. Will they work for you? How the hell will anyone here know? There are many other speakers in the 703's price range to choose from, and yes, you really need to audition what you're buying before wasting your time and money. I will agree with one thing Judy posted - don't buy on name. There is a good chance that if you blindly pick one of the brands menioned in the above post, you may be just (if not more) dissatisfied. Contrary to what some believe, synergy and context is everything.

Judy's theory about why there are so many B&W speakers for sale on Audiogon is incorrect as well (and is frequently cited by B&W bashers). B&W sells a lot of speakers, which creates a sizeable secondary market for those speakers. If the product was as awful as represented, the ask / sell price would be significantly less than what is typical (particularly here at a 'audiophile' marketplace) as the demand would be less by those with 'better' knowledge about the product. The market would be flooded by "the Bose of Hifi" and all secondary B&W sales would take place on eBay (to those ignorant about the virues of other 'better' brands).

Now, I'm not a B&W zealot. I just don't think one can characterize a speaker (nevertheless an entire line of speakers) so broadly - especially on a forum that debates the virtue of power cords, hardware "break in", and stranded vs. solid core cabling - and expect to be taken seriously. You may think Paradigm is wonderful. I may not. I like tubes. You may not. However, everyone is entitled to their opinion, and like I say around my house, "It's ok for you to be wrong."

That doesn't go over well at home, either.
Your dealer has Logan's and you're thinking of replacing your B&W's that can ear damaging tweeters with more B&W's? Am I'm missing something here?

Doesn't he set the Logan's up? Have you heard them? And you're thinking about more B&W's? Huh?

See if he's got a deal on some discontinued Ascent i's, or anything from the Logan line - that will be a total and complete upgrade.
Nrenter - I like you train of thought! Very well put.
Snofun3 is spot on with the Martin Logan suggestion. However, you may need to replace the Six Pacs to take full advantage of the ML's. In any case, the ML is a BIG upgrade over the 703 and will need a lot less power than the 800 series which are unlistenable even with gobs of juice.
Just something I notice from time to time - indisputably there are lots of B&W's listed for sale, and also indisputably they sell a lot of them. PSB and Paradigm also sell lots of low priced speakers, but there aren't many listed - try to find some PSB Stratus Mini's (I am) rarely available.
So I don't know that the fact that B&W sells so many accounts for the number for sale here. Seems out of proportion to me.
First of all B&W is the 2nd largest speaker manufacture in the world only behind Bose. Could that account for the # of speakers for sale on the used market. More than likely. Being to lazy to check which series are for sale and not knowing whether those selling are upgrading to other B&W speakers I will not judge. One must build a system and judge what works best in their system.

Bashing ones system without having heard it is pointless and petty.

>>Bashing ones system without having heard it is pointless and petty<<

Big mistake my little friend. Nobody bashed anybody's system. I'm taking issue with the manufacturer's product. Let's understand that first. Secondly, I reiterate, B&W is a great company, with great distribution, and great retailers. The product, however, stinks.
Judy426 is entitled to his/her opinion. But I respectfully disagree. B & W produces some magnificent speakers. I've been very, very impressed with the Nautilus and Signature lines (a bit less so with the new diamonds). I have heard a lot of speakers that I would never choose over B & W, including the Paradigms, Vienna Acoustics, and even ProAc. And I also quite liked the Krell gear that I've heard with the B & W's. My ultimate preference is tubed electronics, but when you listen to EAI and noise, these so-called "non-musical" components do quite nicely. I prefer JM Lab to B & W, but I still appreciate B & W. I think their products are well-crafted and sound superb.
Seriously. Give the Martin Logans a try.
I like the vein of this thread...many intelligent responses. Though it has got somewhat off topic, I like where posters like nrenter are going with this. Thoughts...
A softer warmer amp will help if you already have an amp that is slightly bright like a Rotel. The Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista would be a wonderful alternative that would soften the highs a little but still sound incredible. If on a lesser budget, go with a NAD amp or even a cheaper yet Harman Kardon 2 channel which has a warm sound. Of course, if you don't like bright highs but still want detail, get some Dalis or even smoother yet Dynaudio speakers instead.
I also have 703's and I'm experiencing the same problem as the original poster.

For certain types of music that don't involve too much high frequency information these speakers play wonderfully. A good example would be Eva Cassidy's Live a Blues Alley. For other recordings such as any Rock album that involves wailing guitars the music just starts to hurt the ears after couple of songs.

When it comes to using these speakers for HT purposes, I honestly can't find any fault - even if I try. It makes me wonder if designing speakers to reproduce movies and music requires a compromise in one to benefit the other.

But getting back to the original topic, I'm thinking of giving a pair of 805's a listen to see if their top end is smoother. I think the 703's are clinically revealing as opposed to musically revealing, that's how I justify the day&night difference the present on movies vs music.
I had 603S3 and had the same problem regardless of what kind of equipment I tried, so I got rid of them. Some people say you need to break-in for about 3 years. If someone has the patience to do that, it may be worth it. Unfortunately I didn't have that kind of patience.
When it comes to using these speakers for HT purposes, I honestly can't find any fault - even if I try. It makes me wonder if designing speakers to reproduce movies and music requires a compromise in one to benefit the other.

What you are discovering is Audio Compression...certain forms of music are highly compressed. Eva cassidy is not. Movies are not. This is why they sound good on your system.

Hyper compressed rock, pop and alternative is common these days and it will sound fatiguing. Switching to a less accurate speaker with laid back midrange and smooth warm sound may help...but it is a "band aid" not a cure...besides do you want to put a band-aid over the beautiful sounding Live at Blues Alley - just so you can play Metallica without having to cover your ears - the choice is yours...

See this Turn Me Up for more information.