B&W 801 questions

I just acquired a nice pair of B&W 801 F. Pre matrix and sealed bass box. They sound great. Powering them with a ARC VT100 which even though they can take more power and are not efficient, play more than loud enough for me as I listen mostly at night at low levels. Looking for advise on upgrades. Perhaps with the crossover, either replacing the caps or some sort of external (north creek) type.
Would be nice if these had Bi-Wire ability but I don't want to invest thousands.

Thank you
I use to sell these back in distant past. If I had a pair now I would look for some stands for them; when recording companies use them as monitors I always saw them on stands. Some companies use to make dedicated ones for them; may still.
Vdosc - I have owned 801f's. They are all pigs for power. I would not modify them at all, except as Stanwal said to get them high in the air. This will clean up the bass on these versions. In studios I have seen them placed 3-4 feet in the air and clear of all walls.
If you really want to hear what they can do borrow a really big quality amp that gives u lots of headroom - you will be surprised.
If possible give them a few feet of space on all sides the more the better. Too many people keep them close to the front wall.

I have ordered a pair of sound anchor stands, anxiously awaiting there arrival.

Ct017, I am curious if you can describe the differences in actual sound between the 801f and the 801 S3 that you have in your system.

I owned the 801f’s many years ago not at the same time as my 801 MS3. They were in a different house/room with different electronics so a direct comparison was not possible and the room is the most important IMO. My knowledge of the speakers back then as well was not what it is today. The early 801’ up to the 801 matrix S2 were hard core studio monitors designed for minimum downtime. They all had circuits to protect them. The 801 matrix S3 was the first 801 model to go naked without any protection. I liked the head environmental controls to tune the sound on the 801f’s. The 801 matrix requires this be done with cables and electronics now. Many times I have thought about buying the 801f’s again as a project when they come up for sale at ridiculous prices.

If I had them as a project I would modify them initially by:

Removing/bypassing the protection circuit.
Implement a bi-wire capability.
Connect a tube amp like your ARC to the midrange/tweeter.
Connect a big SS amp to the woofers

I am very happy with mine and would never consider replacing them because I have NOT YET found their limits.

My electronics are still the bottleneck not the speakers. Whenever I improve something (source, amp, cables) they end up sounding better.

When you get them hooked up on the stands before you place them in their final position please listen to them in near field at least 5-6 feet from the front wall. Would love to hear your impressions.
I also have a pair of 801s manufactured around 1999. I'm thinking of replacing the tweeters with the new diamond tweeter version as the original tweeters cracked and broke apart. Do you believe it is worth the investment? Can they be biwired as suggested for 1 amp to drive the bass and another amp to drive the mids and highs? these speakers are in a secondary system at a vacation house and I am not familiar with their design, but there are 4 posts for connecting at the bottom of the speakers, but I am assuming this does not make them biwire compatable. Any help would be appreciated.
They are biwire compatible but why bother?
Hi Micward

Your 801’s are the latest version matrix model if made in ‘99. They were designed to be bi-wired and / or bi-amped. Did just the tweeter housing part itself break off ?

Although it would be interesting to hear someone’s comments on the sound if they managed modify an older 801 with the diamond tweeter, according to the B&W support website, parts are still available for Matrix models.

B&W Parts & Prices - type 801 in model field
Too bad B&W discontinued the 801D. That's an excellent speaker. I rarely see it used here.
Thank you for the response. The face of the tweeter, the metal dome, fractured and fell apart. The plastic ring holding it together also is broken. It may be best for me to contact a dealer to ask about the replacement parts and the degree of difficulty for the task.
I am interested in biwiring these speakers as I believe a tube amp would soften the sound through the mid and the highs. The solid state amps I am using control the drivers very well, but produce a harsh, overall sound that is tiring and unpleasant.
Good advice about stands and distance from the walls.
Mikward - from what I have read it is not difficult to repair the tweeter, not sure if the leads are soldered so may require that skill. Easiest/cheapest way may be to just remove the midrange/tweeter head and just bring the unit into a shop with the new tweeter parts. Maybe someone that has done it can chime in here.

B&W Service manuals can be downloaded. The pdf files go into lots of illustrated detail on how the speakers come apart
Scroll down near bottom and click on the Matrix 801 S3

I have found the 801’s to be very tunable with different cables, amps/ preamps, placement. I have been playing 15 IPS master tape dubs on them. I put on the lp and or cd after and it either sounds ok or not great. Its easy to identify which lps/cds have been engineered well based on the tape.

This thread got me curious so I did a search here at audiogon. Came across this ad. I am not connected to it in anyway – Just thought it was interesting. Check out the mods on this 801.

Studio Monitors

A question to all 801 owners - how critical is the small distance (I dunno 15 cm) from one loudspeaker's side to the window pane with the metal radiator? Sure the window pane will be covered by nice fat curtains but still it's very close. It wasn't a serious issue with my 802Ds but they are much slimmer so I could give them at least 30 cm distance.
15 cm from a side wall is going to be a problem, You will need absorbtion pannels and Bass traps

I had them in a 15 x 24 deep room and had to control bass
Just a follow up to my last post - I did some recent experimenting with my 801s and here is what I found and the result. I am really glad I attempted this.

Experiment One

Substituted my 805 matrixs in with sub. I was able to make them disappear with a great result.
If I did not have the 801’s would be very happy with the sound. When I switched the 801’s back in -things were just more coherent/blending in better. Bass was “wholesome”. Maybe if I spent more time blending the 805’s/sub – IDK.
I also admit after all these years I am “addicted” to the prodigious bass the 801’s produce. Keeping things as is. For those that think I am a bass hound – I also truly enjoy my WP Quad 57s as well, and they are missing the bottom octave.

Experiment Two

Straight MR RM(tube amp (27 or 32 db gain) on tweeters/midrange with the Classe CA300 29.02 db. on the woofers. A 2-3 db difference either way. Some aspects were great others not. Bottomline - Phasing / Soundstage was off - my ears are sensitive to it. This did not work for me. Your tube amp IMO based on what I heard needs to be less than a 2db difference with the SS amp.

Experiment Three

Substituted my Music Reference RM9 tube amp in on its own. Using the amp’s 8 ohm connector setting and high db setting. Sound - The 801 mid and tweeter were much smoother (like my ESL’s). Like in two above. The bass was tight and short – too short compared to the Classe ca300 amp. Have read that the 801’s go down to 4ohms a lot so changed the amp connectors to the 4 ohm tap. What a difference. The tube amp giives me 9/10’s of the bass produced by the classe ca-300 but the midrange and tweeters are really smooth. Keeping it this way for the next while.


My Acoustats Model 3’s and ET LFT8 speakers are around 84 db sensitivity – a heavy load.

The 801 matrix 3’s are 87db. Much easier. So this tube amp working well with them should not be a surprise really.

The 801f’s are 85db I believe. A much heavier load again than the 801 Matrix3. So … Vdosc - let us know how it works out. I am very happy with this tube amp right now.

Antonkk - I agree with Fin1bxn you will have problems based on my experience with matrix and earlier models. If I had 801's that needed to be positioned near a wall I would not be able to keep them because of controlling the bass. Soundstage will also be affected. Also if you listen to higher spl’s - you will be repairing the walls from popped drywall screws.

Bottomline for me - my 801's are not for sale. What you put into them - they will put out.

Get them up high - really high - try 4 feet like studios used to do - and give them tons of space all around.

Ct0517, I enjoyed reading your Experiments. I wanted to ad from my experience as a live sound engineer and system designer (which has been my career for 20 years now) We have found that with concert sound systems, we use the same type and model amp for powering the high, mids, and lows. It used to be considered ok to use a smaller amp on the highs lets say than on the mids or lows (in a 3-way system) but when using the same amp for all bands, they all work at the same pace. ie the same voltage gain, same slew rate, same damping factor, etc..
A few years ago I tried just for fun with my Martin Logans putting a VTL tube anp on the panels and a Mac amp on the woofers, and then vise versa. It was terrible. More like a bad combination of bookshelf and subs. Again both amps were good, but they responded much different than the other. So if one were to consider Bi-Amping, especially passive ( full range amps drive the low and hi inputs on the speaker crossovers) as opposed to active with and external electronic crossover, I would try it with matched amps.
Update, My upgrade fever has now turned to my room, I am re modeling my listening room. So currently my system is packed up while the work proceeds. I will post pictures and comments when its all done (if it ever is all done)
Hi Vdosc – yes, the ears don't lie. With your professional sound engineering/design background, I look forward to your impressions of the 801f's once u get them set up and have a listen.

Up high and away from walls :^)