B&W 800 N & D Series - General Advice Needed

I few years ago, I bought a very well broken in set of 805N. I love them and since then I've tried out many other brands: Harbeth, Dynaudio, Selah, Merlin, Usher, PSB, Focal, Magnepan, Sonus Faber as well as some others. The speakers I come back to again and again are the 805N. The midrange is amazing to me.

So, I took the plunge on some 805D2 new. I was awaiting the same great sound of the 805N but with a more refined tweeter. Initially they were pretty dry sounding. They soundstage did not have the same palpable body of the old 805N. I played the 805D2 day and night for a few months, racking up about 300 hours. I kept waiting for the AHA! moment but it never came. They remained uninvolving and sterile to my ears. Putting the 805N back on the stands was a total relief. it all sounded the way it should again. A warm, full sound with crisp detail and solid imaging.

Now, a set of 802N came up for sale close to me and I jumped on them expecting the same qualities as the 805N but with more information below 60hZ. . The owner told me that despite their age, they have very low hours - about 30-40 he guessed. So, I set them up, got them positioned, stabilized the image. What do I hear...? The same DRY midrange as the 805D2. No sweetness initially. If I turn them up to strong listening levels then they do really come alive but at normal, easy listening levels they are dry like the 805D2 - just not as much. I find myself able to listen to the 802N for extended periods of time because the tweeter seems to be less harsh. The downside to this is that I find film dialogue to be fuzzy - I find myself working to understand the words whereas with the 805N dialogue is self evident.

So, friends, my questions are:

Does B&W really have a very extensive break in, to the point that the "life" that I seek from them really only comes into being after many 100s of hours?

Is the 802N an 805N with more bass or is it voiced differently so that it has a recessed midrange?

Associated equipment:
MAC6700 Integrated 200wpc @ 8ohm
Arcam AVR600
Ayre AX7e
Computer FLAC
Do you prefer the MAC or the Ayre? Also, what is it that you like about one over the other?
The Ayre has a bit of a more refined top end but the Mac is just generally more lifelike to me. The sound is grander. I find myself turning the Mac up, sometime too loud, because I want to hear more. On the other hand, the Ayre has a more refined cleanness to it. If I had to choose, I'd go Mac.

Functionally, the MAC6700 is a Swiss army knife. USB, toslink, MM, MC, analog in, tone controls, digital am/fm tuners, hd radio, headphone. This is not a minimalist piece. I must say it is nearly flawlessly executed.

The Ayre is also great (soundwise) but very basic in design. Nothing wrong with simple done perfectly.
If you read many of the B&W threads they take on the same trajectory as yours, people upgrading up the line chasing a performance level that they find hard to achieve. Before upgrading to anymore B&Ws I would recommend listening to many other hi-end speakers to see if any of those offer what you are seeking.
That may be more the nature of this hobby, rather than a brand attribute. After having listened to 40-50 speakers in my budget range, I actually do really like the B&W sound. My question is more regarding midrange break-in as the 805N is dramatically more descriptive than the other models I have heard.
Ok...good thread for me:-)
I've owned the 802ns and the 800ns. I directly compared the 800s to the 800Ds with the same equipment & room. I have NOT heard the 805s but they are the best selling & highest resale B&W out there and I will safely assume it is because of your impressions.

The Nautilus 800 & 802 are significantly better than the Ds IMHO. Mainly in the bass arena and my ears cannot hear the "rave reviews on the Diamond Tweeter."

All this said, as Truemaineiac stated...try listening to some different high-end speakers to get out from under the "B&W spell" as it took me 8 years and some serious $ to do.

May I HIGHLY RECOMMEND the JM Labs / Focal speakers. I got a pair of Profile 918s for $850 ($3k retail) and they sound just as good as the 802ns to my ears. Then I auditioned a pair of Utopias which simply BLEW AWAY the 800ns!

But, as they say...it really is your ears that count and retail cost is a HUGE ISSUE as Emotiva and Oppo have proved over the past 4 or so years.
There are a couple of things you need to try before you do anything costly or very time consuming. The first thing is to get a screwdriver and check every single screw on all 3 pairs of speakers. They tend to loosen up over time. Its a real problem that effects more speakers than you might think. After that, try different placement options for the 2 pairs that are giving you problems. If you have limited placement options, still move them around, even if you know you can't leave them there permanently. The goal here is to find the cause of the problem. One last thing to look at is your speaker cables. Its very easy to wire them out of phase, especially when you are bi wiring.

I would do that first and see what happens.
All speakers require careful matching with power amps or receivers in order to achieve positive results. I have used B&W 800N series for years with 150 watt tube amps, and have absolutely no problems driving them with these tube amps.

The Kevlar cone in the 802 and 800 N series are really organic sounding when matched correctly with the right components. I thought the differences between the D series and N series were minor except for the same issue you raised regarding the D series not sounding as organic. So, I forgo the opportunity to upgrade to the D series.

Your description of the sound levels of the B&W 800 series is characteristic of what many experience when these speakers are not matched properly with the power amps and are not positioned correctly in your listening environment. The 802 is larger than the 805 and might require a different speaker placement due to the wide dispersion characteristics of the nautilus tweeter and Kevlar cone Mylar enclosed midrange section.

Finally, how are you connecting the speakers to the amps? I see that the 6900 offers various ohm taps for speaker connections. Have you experimented with using different taps? How about bi-wiring? Are you using regular pairs of speaker wires from the amps and then connecting to the speakers and crossing the mid/high and low/low with speaker crossover cable or B&W factory supplied blade on the 802's?
I am using the 4 ohm taps for the mid/highs and the 8 ohm taps for the low/bass sections on my 800's. The amps I am using are the MC2301's, 300 watt Mcintosh tube amps. Some experimentation is required to configure almost any system to get optimum results, no matter the brand. I love the looks of the Nautilus series and so does my spouse, as we do the sound as well, so, replacing speakers was not an option, replacing amps were the reasonable option for us. The last solid state amp I owned, the Bryston 4BSST's, had a pair of them driving these speakers in bi-amp configuration, gave the best bass I ever heard from a speaker. Movies were just amazing and dialogue was great; however, for music, the Bryston's seemed a little dry compared to the organic sound of tube amps from the likes of Einstein and Octave.
Good luck,
Zd542 - The bass units (4) are all tight - inner and outer rings. The midrange does have a large factory set screw protruding from the back of the marlon head which I have been warned never to touch. The tweeters are firmly set. I opened the bottom xover door and all internal wiring is fresh/undisturbed. They are in phase. I have listened to many speakers in this room and my internal "out of phase" sensor goes off instantly. Thank you for the tips.
Audioquest4life - Regarding tube amps, that sounds like a great idea. I had a Cary SLI80 Signature up until recently that I bet would have been a good match. Perhaps I will look to tubes rather than SS or monoblock SS.

It is interesting that your observations of the D series parallel mine. I am so impressed with the 805N that I could not imaging the successor would not be equivalent or greater but that was my observation.

I have been using the B&W jumpers and the 8 ohm taps. The 4 ohm taps seem to dampen the high frequency energy of the sound - not so much that it is not enjoyable but putting them back on 8 ohm is instant gratification. I am using a standard set of Dayton 8ft. cables. Speaker cables is not an area that I have explored yet. Recommendations are very appreciated.

I have quite a few options to play with regarding amplification. I could use the Ayre for the HF and the Mac for the LF or viceversa. I also have a beast of an SS amp - a Behringer EP4000 which despite its lowly status in the audiophile community makes my Magnepans sing better than anything else I have used. It puts out 670w at 8 ohms continuously.

I had a Bryston 4b for a while and I was not drawn to the hardness. However, the details certainly came through well on the 805N.

So, rather than this being a question of Kevlar break-in, you are suggesting it is amplification matching, correct?
I listened to B&W 800's at a dealer.
I was surprised how easily I noticed they were being
fed with dirty ac, even though the setup was Classe.
At high volumes and well back in a nice large room the sound was very good, natural sounding. However when I went up closer to listen at my normal levels, moderate, and distance about 18/19 feet I identified deficits due to poor power. I asked what power conditioning was used and they said none-so the system was playing as real in a home. I didn't make any comment but in fact I felt they were doing a disservice to B&W by not allowing the speakers to sound as they could. Your newer speaker are undoubtably more refined than your old. B&W are a big player with refined sound used by professionals who are detail and musically oriented. I highly recommend it is now time for your to try some isolation for your digital and conditioning for your amp. Sweetness of sound is the 1st thing people comment on when exposed to this set up.
Get some loaners and try it out. Don't worry about your speakers-they will probably sound very good.
Djones1915 - I am definitely polygamous when it comes to speakers and I do own quite a few right now. With the excellent resale value, I have found it as good as any place to keep money, certainly better than the stock market!

So, yes, I have a set of Focal Micro Utopia BE. The beryllium tweeter is a solid work of art. I did a comparison between the Harbeth SHL5, Focal Utopia Micro BE and the Dynaudio C1 MK2 Signatures. While categorically the Dynaudios came out the general winner, I LIKED the Harbeth and Focals more and still have them today.


The Micros are perfect, neutral, non fatiguing, a few notches more intelligible than the Nautilus tweeter but they just don't make me want to listen to song after song. They don't excite me about listening to music on a regular basis like B&W.

I don't know WHY, I just like the B&W sound. I like other speakers too but why does one have to stop liking the "old speakers" as you move up some invisible empirical ladder? Well, I guess I'm guilty of that too but B&W sounds great to me.