B&W 801 S2 Fatigue VS. 802 S2 No Fatigue?

I recently purchased a pair of beautiful 801M (series 2) that are in near-mint condition. For the past 6 years I've been enjoying a pair of 802 S2. I always wanted the 801's and a pair became available at an incredible price- so I jumped on them. I wanted deeper bass extension in addition to the wonderful soundstage, dynamics, attack, and imaging that I loved about the 802's.

Upon setting them up and listening for a few hours, I was very impressed. Besides the bass extension (although sometimes flabby, depending on the recording), they have a larger soundstage than the 802s. They are also more revealing, which I find interesting because I believe they share the same midrange and tweeter units.

But the more I listen to them, the more shrill they sound. The midrange and treble sound as if an EQ is bumping them by 5-7 dB or so. The resulting glare turns me off after about 10 minutes. I find myself turning the volume down time and time again. This is the opposite of my experience with the 802's. With them, I found myself turning them up without any hint of fatigue, even after hours of listening.

I'm using the same setup with both of them. I have a Threshold S500/II being fed by a Yamaha Aventage HTR (not the best preamp for the system but it sounds very good, at least with the 802's).

Does anyone have any explanation or advice?

I'll be installing a newly purchased Anodyne bass alignment filter tomorrow. The speakers are currently sitting on their factory casters until I can find a used pair of Sound Anchors.I thought about swapping the heads between the 2 models but then thought it may not change anything.

I've done lots of reading here and on other forums and haven't found anyone else that experienced listener fatigue with the 801 S2.

Assuming the tweeters ferrofluid has NOT dried out and you are experiencing tweeter distortion/glare!

If you are a purist you need time to get used to the much better and more accurate superior sound of the 801. If you like a more coloured sound then you made a mistake moving to such a legendary accurate speaker as the 801 - pretty much nothing B&W has done since surpasses it.

The 802 is an HT style speaker with a big smiley EQ ( big bass and big treble but a suckout in the upper mid range from 2 to 4 KHz)

Technically B&W simply used too large a mid range woofer on the 802 (6 inch vs 5 inch)and crossed over very high at 4KHz (vs 3 KHz on the 801). The midrange beams and you lose 5-7 db in the 1 to 4 KHz range because the off axis energy is totally gone. No wonder the more truthful 801 sounds harsh to ears long educated on the sound of the 802!

B&W probably knew what they were doing - the big bass and big treble sounds like high fidelity to the unsuspecting while the 801 was so ruthlessly accurate that it garnered huge praise with pros and experts back in the day well before HT and boom boxes (what most people want today). B&W knew the design of the 801 would remain restricted to more discerning listeners and therefore a limited market so why not make a speaker with more mass market appeal.

On a sales floor untrained ears will pick the bass and treble boosted 802 over the 801 every time. Only discerning listeners and those who have a preference for jazz and classical will likely choose the old but legendary 801!

Shadorne, thanks for response.  After just hooking up the 802's again, you are completely right.  The lower treble and midrange are so much more attenuated.  They most certainly do not sound as open and complete.

I'll give my ears some time to take it all in.

Thanks again.
Shadorne is correct. I would like to add, however, that your Yamaha, and Threshold, are on the bright and analytical side. The 801s will reveal that more. I would change out the Yamaha for something warmer, and see how it goes. I do not think "time" will get you away from this artifact. Just my opinion. MrD. Thank you
mrdecibel, this makes sense.  I've thought about somehow trying to incorporate a nice preamp into the system for music only listening.  I'd probably incorporate a high quality, passive RCA switch.

I should and probably will post this under "amps preamps" but does anyone have any suggestions for a warm sounding, used preamp, $750 or less?

I would go with a tube preamp.  However, I have been in your shoes although not with the B&W.  I bought a pair of very highly regarded speakers and the sound was quite shrill.  I ended up replacing the entire system, from amp and pre to all new source equipment, cables and power conditioning.  At the end of the day, the speakers were still shrill sounding and I found I wasn't listening to my system very often.  I finally admitted to myself that the speakers were the culprit and eventually I changed them.

The moral of the story was that after spending many thousands of dollars on newer equipment, it was money wasted because I still eventually changed the speakers.  If its bright now it will always be bright and your ears will not get used to them.

Stereo5, the B&W 801s are not bright, but very revealing, unless the crossovers are aged. I do not think it is the room, because the 802s would have, also, sounded bright.

All, thanks for the feedback and advice. I have some good news.

The Anodyne BAF arrived yesterday. It has made an enormous difference. The bass is now incredibly deep and articulate, faster, and more dynamic. The bass can now be felt, not just heard. This change has really rounded out the overall spectral response, which has mostly eliminated the mid/low treble glare I was getting. I once again found myself turning the volume up, not down, and enjoyed about 2 hours of pure listening pleasure after installing the BAF. For those that have 801s or 802s without one, I highly recommend trying one. I've read the Anodyne unit is second best, only bettered by the Krell BAF.

I still feel there is a small amount of increased mids and low highs and feel this can be dealt with easily by making a couple of changes. First, they definitely need to be properly elevated and floor coupled. I think this alone should be enough. But, I also think the Yamaha HTR probably has a fairly bright sound so I'm thinking about getting a warm preamp. My thinking is to either purchase one that has a high-quality home theater bypass, like the Parasound P5, or adding a preamp that receives my 2 channel sources and connect it and the Yamaha HTR to a high-quality, passive RCA switch.


Good to read- dastro

Happy Listening!
The reason is likely because the crossover point between the tweeter and the midrange drivers was shifted.  If you look at the service manuals for the two speakers, you'll see the crossover design in the same, but the specify slightly different values.  I've always wondered why this was done. Maybe the crisper presentation of the 801 sold more speakers during short-term demos.
B&W is well known for its peaky treble and somewhat shouty top end, just look at measurement graphs. It's designed that way to sound "hifi" in Best Buy showrooms. I think that character was just more accentuated in the 801 that you're noticing