B&W 805S.. Anyone listen yet?


I've had my pair for about a week now. That is after owning two pairs of Signature 805's, and one pair of Nautilus 805's. I have some initial impressions, but before I mention those, I'd love to hear from other members. As I understand it, both the 805S and the signatures have their strong points and weak points. That coming directly from technical support at B&W when asked what the differences were.

I've owned about 20 pairs of speakers in the past couple years. I was happy with the signatures, but finances forced the sale. When I was ready to get back into it, the new "S" was available. I'm not real interested in hearing suggestions for other speakers, only from those that have experience with these. Thanks,

Seth
s7horton
I don't own these new 805S's but have done some listening at a dealer on Rotel gear and do own some CDM1NT's. I had intended to purchase a pair in light cherry but decided to listen to other monitors first.

I thought the imaging and soundstage were great. The tweeter was excellent. But there was some coloration in male vocals (Johnny Cash baritone.) And, as set up in store, much less bass extension than local competition. (Revel M22, Paradigm S2 and S4.) I was a B&W guy walking in, but frankly I'd take any of the latter 3 over the 805S's. I still like them, and may get a pair down the road for my bedroom, but right now I'm after cluck for my buck and they ain't it.
What are the weak points for both speakers? I had a brief comparison with both spearkers. The new 805S is pretty much new out of the box so they are not broken in yet, I think. The Sig 805 appears to have better high-end extension and the 805S has better bass response. But after awhile, it appears that Sig 805 has too much top-end that makes everything else recessed. The 805S appears to be more balance. I ended up ordering the 805S. I know there might be better sounding speakers, but none looks better.
I owned the N805 and I've also had the 805 Signature on home audition.
I think it's fair to say I came to like B&W sound DESPITE what I would read on audio forums and hear from dealers (who didn't carry their speakers). There never seemed to be a shortage of people knocking B&W, claiming the speakers were "less communicative" than their competition, or that B&W was not an "audiophile" brand anymore, or that they had put looks before performance in a manner reminiscent of Bang & Olufsen.

Of course, there are plenty of positive things being said too, but where there is negativity aimed at B&W, it seems to be particularly animated. I must say that when I began seriously auditioning B&W against other speakers a couple of years ago, I had already formed a partially negative opinion without having heard a single product of theirs. I was pre-conditioned to expect relatively hard sounds, a hooty treble and plenty of detail at the expense of "musicality."

So I recall being surprised when, listening to a pair of N805 monitors and evaluating them against models from Dynaudio, Triangle, Tannoy, Sonus Faber and others (both at home and in showrooms, with recordings I knew very well), I actually liked the N805 very much.

Soon after, I bought a pair, with their custom B&W stands. After a while, I added a REL subwoofer. which I'd decided at the outset would need to be a part of the investment. Using Musical Fidelity eletronics and Nordost Red Dawn cables, I was very happy with the sound quality I was getting from my speakers. I thought I'd reached a level that suited my budget and would keep me musically satisfied for a few years. I'm not fanatical about upgrading and I don't think of each purchase as being a step along the road to some future audio-nirvana. To the contrary, I'd like nothing better than to stop buying more equipment. I listen exclusively to 2-channel, and I prefer to think of the future in terms of money spent on music, rather than on equipment.

Nevertheless, when I became aware of the 805 Signatures, I felt almost obliged to audition them. I was able to compare a nicely broken-in pair against my N805 setup in my own listening room and I remember wondering why such a fuss was being made over the new model. Certainly, there was a slightly tighter bass, but this only really seemed apparent to me with the subwoofer turned off. Used with the REL, the Signature's low end sounded so similar to the N805 as to be indistinguishable on 99% of CDs. Without the REL, the Signature low end was a very mild improvement (in tightness, not quantity), but as I considered the sub to be essential for both the Signature and the N805, the improvement was inconsequential to me.

At the top end, there was an apparent extension with the Signatures, though not necessarily an improvement to my ears. For example, sibilance actually seemed harsher on many discs featuring female vocals. I'd been told that this was an area of big improvement in the Signatures, so I was disappointed with what I heard.

Soundstaging? Ability of the speakers to "disappear"? With one particular piece of acoustic music, the Signatures created a stunning 3-D depth of sound that I simply could not reproduce with the N805. I knew that recording very well and had never heard it reproduced so well as with the Signatures. But that example was in total isolation. In everything else I played, I heard nothing to give the Signatures the edge over the N805. I was having to listen very hard for differences between these speakers. In a lab, no doubt the Signatures would measure better, but in the real world (my home), it simply didn't seem worth investing in an upgrade – unless it was simply to secure the extra-luxurious finish of the Signatures (which I personally didn't like as much as the natural cherry of the N805).

Which brings us to the 805s.

Taking these out of the box, the visual differences were a lot more subtle. The most significant visual change is at the top surface of the speaker. There is no longer a hollowed-out trough for the tweeter to sit in. Instead, the top surface is smooth right across, and the tweeter stands a little higher (no longer sunk down into the hollow). This minor change is a definite visual improvement, with the tweeter housing looking more streamlined and the cabinet less "fussy." The grille is slightly more curved at the edges than before and the speaker bi-wire jumpers are slightly different (and seemingly a little less easy to fit). But please, let's not get into a discussion here on bi-wiring. For the record, my speakers are single cable bi-wired, but I hear no difference whether they are bi-wired or not.

Apart from that, I saw nothing else to visually distinguish the 805s from the N805.

But when it came to listening, there were some surprises in store. Straight out of the box, the 805s speakers were a substantial improvement on the N805 in every respect I can think of. Bass was not only more controlled, but also seemed to extend further. With or without the subwoofer, the improved 805s bass is of an upgrade-worthy level. I always felt a sub was a priority with the N805, but I can honestly say that might not be the case with the 805s. I don't know what the measurements show, but my ears tell me the sound from the 805s is more expansive and has more of a "wholeness" about it. The midrange has the same positive qualities I enjoyed with the N805, particularly with male voice, but I think any perceived change for the better in the midrange is really down to the better bass control which seems to improve everything else about the speaker. At the top end, the sibilance I noticed with the Signatures has vanished, and what sibilance there was with the N805 has been smoothed further. Yet the highs are not at all diluted. Listening to flute and female voice, I heard at least as much detail and extension as with the N805, but also a smoother, absolutely non-fatiguing sound. For me, this was a genuine, valuable improvement – enough to make the upgrade essential.

And I am still talking about the 805s straight out of the box. Now, just a week later (with about 100 hours of burn-in), I don't detect any changes, but I can't say I really want to. I like what I am hearing right now.

Lastly, that 3-D depth of sound I mentioned earlier, that I coaxed out of the Signatures with one particular recording: the 805s has that quality too, but I'm hearing more of it, from more discs, and with even more depth than ever. People who believe B&W soundstaging is nothing special should listen to the 805s, urgently.

PS: I recall that when I auditioned the Signatures, I phoned B&W (USA distributor) to ask if there was something I was missing – perhaps a trick of placement or bi-wiring/non bi-wiring or suchlike – that would make it easier to perceive the benefits of the Signatures over the N805. I was surprised when he told me it was not worth upgrading to the Signature from the N805, but that someone buying their first B&W should look to the Signature. So I'd be interested to hear what technical support had to say to you on the attributes or otherwise of the 805s. In my opinion, upgrade to the 805s should be a priority for N805 owners.

As for Signature owners... I imagine they'd do better to wait until the diamond tweeter 805 comes out in a year or two. It's sure to happen.
Hmmm. I had completely different results. I have owned the N805, then the signature 805, twice, and then the 805S speaker. I heard significant differences between the sig 805 and the N805. In fact, I prefered the sound of the signature 805 in my room over the 805S. The sig in my eyes, is an incredible speaker. According to B&W, they will not put the diamond tweeter in the 805 as it would cost too much, and the general public does not appreciate two channel sound enough to make use of a diamond 805. I disagree, but that is straight from the manufacturere.
About the diamond tweeter... what they said to you might suggest they need to keep the 805 down at its current price level because they already have a new speaker planned (with diamond tweeter?) for the next rung of their price ladder. I wonder how far ahead they plan their new models? The lead times must be very substantial.

About the sound... there are so many variables involved in auditioning at our own homes and with our own systems, I'm never surprised that people disagree on the merits of one piece of equipment over another. I suppose the only way to really know if we are judging like-for-like is to listen to the same complete system, at exactly the same time and at the same place. But even then, everyone has a different listening "history" which will influence their opinions about whether the exact same sound is good or not-so-good.

What was it about the Signatures that you felt gave it the edge over the 805s?
They both are excellent speakers. But I felt the Sig 805 was a fuller sound, and seemed to appear "larger" than the 805S. I agree that rooms, and electronics could be the difference. The midrange of the sig 805 is so smooth. I honestly believe that it comes down to personal prefernce when comparing the sig 805 and the 805S. A tech personnel from B&W said that the 805S and the sig 805 each have their own strengths and weaknesses.

Also, I don't think that I'm that used to hearing a 1st order, very simple crossover that the 805S has. If B&W follows suit, about two years after the release of the line, they bring out a signature speaker. When talking with people, they felt that the diamond tweeter was just too expensive for a possible signature 805. My personal feeling: they will put it in. They are going to give the public what they want. But, I wouldn't be surprised if we saw a price tag of 4500-5000 dollars.
I used to own N805 & am using Signature 805. I experienced the problem Wrightstuff mentioned about sibilance on female vocal with B&W FS805 stands. Then, the problem disappeared after I used replaced B&W stands with Sound Anchor stands. In my experience, Signature 805 is definitely better than N805, better shadow, easier to drive, and taking less time to break in.
I couldn't agree with what is quoted below more in regards to the 805s. In fact I agree spot on with most of Wrightstuff's review here. This is someone who listened and took their time evaluating. Well done!

"But when it came to listening, there were some surprises in store. Straight out of the box, the 805s speakers were a substantial improvement on the N805 in every respect I can think of. Bass was not only more controlled, but also seemed to extend further. With or without the subwoofer, the improved 805s bass is of an upgrade-worthy level. I always felt a sub was a priority with the N805, but I can honestly say that might not be the case with the 805s. I don't know what the measurements show, but my ears tell me the sound from the 805s is more expansive and has more of a "wholeness" about it. The midrange has the same positive qualities I enjoyed with the N805, particularly with male voice, but I think any perceived change for the better in the midrange is really down to the better bass control which seems to improve everything else about the speaker. At the top end, the sibilance I noticed with the Signatures has vanished, and what sibilance there was with the N805 has been smoothed further. Yet the highs are not at all diluted. Listening to flute and female voice, I heard at least as much detail and extension as with the N805, but also a smoother, absolutely non-fatiguing sound. For me, this was a genuine, valuable improvement – enough to make the upgrade essential."
No one is contesting the difference between the Nautilus 805 and the 805S that you have quoted above. It's clear the 805S is better.

Where the fog lies is the difference between the Signature 805 and the 805S.
I listened to the Sig 805 as well, not necessarily side by side. Other than sex appeal I like the 805s sound better, certainly doesn't mean it IS better. Whereby with the 805N the 805s IS definitely better. The two (sig & 805s) are different speakers by a fairly large margin though, particularly in the driver implementation between the two. The tweeter is also different and I am pretty sure they weren't using the Mundorfs in the Sig.

I thought there was a wee-bit more inner detail with the Sig, where the 805s was smoother and more balanced in its presentation. I also thought the 805s sounded considerably larger. To the 805s represents a better overall value than the signature.
The differences between the sig 805 and the 805S are large, yet the sound difference is not that large.

805S uses a different woofer, tweeter, cabinet, wiring, and crossover than the sig 805.

The above could also be said about the difference between the N805 and the sig 805.

I firmly believe that the sound of the sig 805 vs. the 805S is strictly a preference, they are that close. I love the finish of sig, and prefer it slightly to the 805S in terms of sound quality. Having said that, the 805S is obviously the better value at $1000 less retail than the sig.

I also believe that the sig 805 really needs to be heard in your own listening room to appreciate them. Same with any speaker, really.
But the real dream lie in an 805d...If it were $6k more I would find a way to get one! Fingers crossed. : )
I think the closest you are going to get is to buy their new 40th anniv (?) model. The white one with the marble tweeter housing. It's a two way with diamond tweeter, but not a monitor. It's a full floor stander.

Don't think you'll see anything else besides that in a two way diamond from B&W.
Too rich for my blood. : )