I listen to 803S's and demoed the 803d and a couple Martin Logan's although I could not tell you the model of the ML's. I did not see a big improvement over the 803S with the D - but, then again, it depends on your tastes - the biggest difference in my opinion was the extra base, not the diamond tweeter and I do not lean in the bass direction. The ML's were nice. I have an aversion to that technology but that is a personal bias - there is nothing inherantly wrong with the ML technlogy. The ML's were very nice when it comes to imaging. Well worth a listen. Did not listen to horns - my reasoning was more along the lines that the primary advantage to horns is high spl's without distortion and I did look at active pros which I felt were more suitable for that particular quality.
I have listened to the 803D, 802Ds a number of times for long auditions (was going to buy them a few months ago). I also own B&W 703s in my secondary bedroom system. Way back when I bought my 703s I did a direct A/B comparison of Klipsch RF-7 and B&W 703s (same room, electronics, music, dB).
703 vs RF-7:
The 703 has a more flushed out midrange. The voices in space (sound stage) were more natural. The midrange was also more detailed. The highs were equally detailed but the B&Ws had wider dispersion, in the highs (seemed to give them more scale). The bass seemed deeper on the 703s even though the Klipsch has duel 10 inch drivers. I blame this on the room though. I had the both speakers out pretty far from the wall (maybe four feet, rear port vs front port?).
Anyway my point is that even B&W's "cheap" speakers out play one of klipsch's best speakers at the time. The 803D and is a HUGE upgrade from the RF-7!
As for the 803D vs 802D.... It really comes down to price/return for you. Yes the 802D is better (more on this to fallow) but if you are pressing you budget already I would buy the 803D.
802D vs 803D
I am assuming you have only heard the 802D? I have done a direct A/B comparison of these two speakers. The 803Ds are very close in sound. The main difference is in the midrange. The mids on the 802D are more open (less "box" coloration). But and this is a big BUT, without the 802D in the same room for comparison you would never know. If you owned the 802D for awhile and went back to the 803D I am sure you could tell..... The bass is large on both speakers. It is a little more grand on the 802Ds but depending on your room it might cause problems.
My problem with the 803D and 802D is the midrange is a little recessed. Causing me to have to crank them way up to get them to open up. At 85 90 dB I really like them but I only listen at 75-80dB (I like my ears...). I do like the tone of the mids on B&W speakers. They have a very sweat sound that is very special on female vocals. I do how ever find the mids a little unnatural.
I have had a hard time putting my finger on what the unnaturalness is but the problem seems to be in the upper most part of the mids. I find a very very faint white noise like sound in the upper most mids. I don't know what causes it but I would assume cone breakup (maybe the experts could chime in?) At times it sounds like hyper detail in the upper mids. But all of this is very nit-picky. The mids as a whole are very good and MUCH better that the mids on the RF-7s
I forgot to mention the highs. They are great, never heard better highs on any speaker. They are not bright or soft. They have lots of detail and wide dispersion.
I never really gave them a chance but many people seem to love them. I listen to hard rock and lost of aggressive music. I am not really into Jazz, Vocal, or other "audiophile" styles of music.... and lean more toward dynamic designs.
My personal recommendation:
I am a Klipsch fan (a good friend has Klispschorns), a B&W fan, but at the end of the day I would buy a pair of Thiels. I have been making my rounds and have been blow away buy their 3.7s. I am not going to get into details because they are not part of your post and I have posted my opinion of them in a few other threads (I am turning in to a fan boy lol... and I am not the fay boy type) I would auditions a pair of 3.7. before you throw your money down on B&Ws. There are a couple of pair of 3.7s on audiogon right now for about $8,000.
PS the 803Ds are now $9,000 not $8,000.
Thanks for the feedback, I am sure that the 803ds would be a huge step up from the RF-7. I am really curious to hear any feedback on the new Klipsch line, i have read that the P-39F (20K) and the P-38F (12K) are awesome but have never heard them myself.
If buying new you need to listen to the new Klipsch Palladiums. I have not heard them but they are reported to be very dynamic if that is what you are looking for. You are probably used to dynamic speakers with your RF7's.
If you are considering used you can get a pair of Nautilus 800's for your budget amount, or N802's + monoblocks like Bryston 7B ST's. I prefer the Nautilus for a simple reason. Tweeter repalcement is $150 instead of $1200.
Tweeter repalcement is $150 instead of $1200.
I think the need to do so would be very rare.
I have heard that the 803d have a "boxiness" to the midrange. Any thoughts on this? I consider my RF-7 to be very open sounding in the midrange.
I do like the tone of the mids on B&W speakers. They have a very sweat sound that is very special on female vocals. I do how ever find the mids a little unnatural.
I have had a hard time putting my finger on what the unnaturalness is but the problem seems to be in the upper most part of the mids.
B&W's use their 6 inch Kevlar midrange up to around 4 Khz. A driver this size starts to beam at 1 Khz. This means there is a roll off in the off axis sound field from 1 Khz to the point where the tweeter kicks in. B&W do not appear to use a waveguide on the tweeter so the tweeter dispersion is very wide and even when it kicks in.
So what doses this design choice mean?
In an anechoic space you hear only primary sound so it won't matter but in an average room you hear a combination of primary and reflected/reverberant sound (70% to 30% or as much as 30% to 70% depending on your setup/room size) - so it will matter. The discontinuity between the midrange and tweeter will place undue emphasis on the tweeter and a "scoop" in the midrange (lack of emphasis). There is also a school of thought that says the ears/brain are somehow able to tell when off axis reflected engery does not match on axis response...the effect is that the sound loses some of its "naturalness" but in return you get a "hi-fi" sound that is more detailed/precise with super tight imaging - you can observe this especially on acoustic guitar where string plucks which can seem over emphasized... and on male vocals which may seem too recessed compared to the bass and treble (whilst female vocalists may jump out at you).
Clearly, the benefits well outweigh the drawbacks for the many B&W fans around the world. The design is clealry a success and it certainly differentiates B&W sound from others.
I hope this helps...
and on male vocals which may seem too recessed compared to the bass and treble (whilst female vocalists may jump out at you)
These were my precise observations with all of my B&W speakers (803D, 804S and N804).
That concerns me as I do not feel like male vocals are recessed on my current RF-7s
The RF-7 is crossed over at 2200 Hz. So it is much like many two ways - except the horn will probably play way louder and cleanly. The 10 inch woofers will still beam however the tractix horn will cause the tweeter to beam also. I suspect Klipsch will have matched the two at 2200 Hz and hence you will have a very smooth off axis response throughout the midrange (they claim "smooth response and consistent coverage" but I have not seen a plot...so this is speculation).
Here is a table of woofer size and beaming
Woofer Beaming begins to occur at (Conservative limit)
18" 576 Hz
15" 720 Hz
12" 863 Hz
10" 1079 Hz
8" 1.23 KHz
6" 1.73 KHz
5" 2.16 KHz
4" 2.58 KHz
3" 3.45 KHz
2" 5.18 KHz
1" 10.36 KHz
In practice, you will begin to notice a significant difference in off axis versus on axis sound as you step to the side of any speaker which flouts these upper limits by more than 50%.
You may have noticed that large single driver speakers often have a "whizzer cone" (think Fostex): this is to try to overcome the beaming problems of a large driver. Other designs may include an acoustically reflective "phase plug" which helps reduce the detrimental effect of beaming (think Seas Excel woofers). Another trick is to let the cone itself flex...remember all those concentric rings on TAD woofers...at higher frequencies the cone flexes and the inside moves more than the outer edge (reducing beaming)
It begs the question: Why in the world would designers ever use woofers at frequencies where they beam? Well the challenge is that drivers need to move a hell of a lot of air as you go to lower frequencies. For example, tweeters do NOT like to be driven at lower frequencies (they just don't work well - either they distort at low SPL's or users fry them too easily). A horn is one option to get a tweeter (a small compression driver actually) to play lower but then it beams by its very nature - so not much of a cure. Another option is to use more drivers (three way) or build robust drivers (big motors and expensive) that are small but still capable of playing low frequencies at high SPL's.
Hope this helps...
So would everyone agree that 803d would have superior midrange to the RF-7? I don't like the ideo of a recessed midrange.
Macallan7 - Well it kind of depends on what you consider superior. The descriptions above are pretty accurate as to what B&W speakers sound like. I maintain that your choice of music has a lot to do with what sound you will like. I know there is the school of thought that a good speaker will sound good with all music - I simply disagree with that school of thought.
I listen to mostly classical with some jazz and a smattering of rock. Classical typically has little energy above 4k - the fundamentals are almost all below 4k and the harmonics above 4k add some body but are pretty attenuated. So you are really not getting much out of the tweeter on a B&W 3 way speaker anyway. Jazz - lot of snares etc gets you in the audible tweeter range - and I find the B&W's fine for that.
Haven't really analyzed why - but B&W's are not the speaker of choice in my opinion for rock or most vocals. (The large classic Spendors were the best speaker I have heard for vocals) This is the reason that for my tastes I heard no advantage from the B&W models with the diamond tweeters. The 802 has a larger set of woofers which doesn't sound bad but I found the 803D woofer setup to be a step down from the 803S. But, I am not all that thrilled with bass heavy sound.
One other point - getting the B&W's to sound to one's liking takes a little work with room acoustics and listening position, but once you have it set it's great. Now, I listen to music alone and with an analytical ear - which makes acoustics and positioning not a problem. If I listened primarily to rock and roll with groups of people (as in my youth) I would not choose B&W speakers. For my tastes in music, I did not hear anything else that I preferred.
Vocals are the most important thing to me, I listen to some classic rock, Zepplin and Floyd but lots of singer songwriter, and Folk/Bluegrass, Damien Rice, Avett Brothers, David Gray, etc. I know that Logans excell at Vocals but have heard they are not ideal for Zeppelin. I like the RF-7s overall but have read that they are somewhat hollow in the midrange. I don't find that to be true but maybe I don't know what i am missing.
Take your favourite CD's like Dark Side, The Wall, Ummagumma to a dealer and listen to them on the 803D and 802D and pay attention to the bass performance, than you choice will be very obvious.
DSOTM pay attention to what the voices are saying and singing on track on, you should be able to clearly understand what they are saying (no mumbling). Pay attention how deep the bass can go and how does it sound (dry, wet) which is the sound you prefer.
Track two with the clocks , pay attention to the chimes and the wooden clocks, do they sound as clocks or like clocks
The Wall listen to that airplane!!
Listen to these two CD's at loud volumes, lesser loudspeakers will very quickly show their weaknesses
Led Zep, my personal preference goes to their live slow blues,
Good luck with your quest and apart from the sound, take also the customer-orientation of the shop into consideration.