Visited the Magnolia in Scottsdale, AZ yesterday to see and hear the new D3 line. I hadn't been to this particular store in probably 10 years, they really took it upscale (not surprising given the neighborhood and demographics) The listening room we were in was really nice, with full wall treatments, nice furniture, and very uncramped - the speakers were spread out nicely so they could be positioned easily and as far into the room as necessary They carry B&W, Sonus Faber, REL, Martin Logan, Rotel, Arcam, McIntosh and a few others.
Mainly went to hear the 805D3 next to the 805D2, which they still had in stock. For that session, gear was all Rotel. Can't speak to the cables. I'm a former B&W owner, had 704, 805, 805 Signature, PM1, but have since moved on to Wilson Benesch & BMC. But I think I know the B&W sound well enough.
In terms of the 805D2 vs D3, they do sound different. The rep put on some Beyonce song just to demonstrate the low-end, but really turned it up to volume levels that I couldn't handle for more than 30 seconds and which I would consider physical torture for the drivers. But at those levels, I could hear the difference easily - the D2 doesn't quite have the grunt or push of the D3. It wasn't enough of a difference to make me think the D2 was lacking, more of a "that's a noticeable improvement" sort of reaction. But that difference didn't make itself blatantly obvious until we hit volume levels that I found uncomfortable. But if a buyer is trying to fill a larger room with sound, and isn't adding a sub, I can see them choosing the D3 for that little extra weight down low.
To test vocals, we started with Melody Gardot, and my wife liked the D3, and both the Magnolia rep and I liked the D2 more but it was too close and I don't even know if I could describe why - if we did the same song over and over, back and forth, it may have been a coin flip over which we liked better. The new D3 only had about 100 hours on them, and the rep felt that with more break-in we'd change our minds and go with the D3. The D3 did sound a hair more open, with more presence, but there seemed to be a hint more grain that maybe I didn't pick up on with the D2. Chalk that up to break-in maybe.
We did try a few more discs that I'd brought from home, and I think my main takeaway wasn't about preference, D2 vs. D3, but more that there was a difference but it was not "night and day". As I was sitting listening, I kept having this same thought..."there are going to be buyers in this same seat, hearing what I'm hearing, and they're going to take advantage of the firesale pricing on the D2 and buy those and save a few thousand bucks". I'm sure the D3 are "better", and there were points where we heard things differently over the D2, but to my 48 year old ears I just can't call the differences huge, or earth-shattering, or industry-changing. The hard part that buyers are going to have is seeing the prices of pre-owned D2, or even dealer markdowns on D2, and then deciding if the big price gap up to the D3 is worth it. I'm not so sure it would be, and I'm not saying that from the standpoint of someone who's trying to save money. As always, the room and ancillary equipment make a difference, so someone else in a different room may find the D3 to be dramatically better than the D2, but in the room we were in on the Rotel equipment the differences weren't dramatic.
Just for fun, we also listened to the 802D3, on all McIntosh gear. With Melody Gardot, you didn't just hear her breathiness in the words, you could actually feel them. That sense of body and weight was really nice. Yet, we also played the first song from the "Titanic" soundtrack, which has some very heavy bass effects that hit like a rumble every so often throughout the song but they just weren't there. In our living room, with the BMC Purevox, those low-end effects will vibrate my wife's trinkets hanging in the nearby decorated alcove, so they aren't so low that you need a sub to hear them. But they just weren't there in the demo yesterday. And while the 802D3 did sound big and bold, there was no room-size soundstage, no wall-of-sound effect. Hard to describe - they sounded fine, but if I'd gone in to buy them I'm not sure I'd have come home with them. Maybe it was the room, or maybe they weren't broken-in enough (120 hours on them, if I recall).
One last note, which may not may not be helpful to those who are only shopping B&W. We listened to just one song, more Melody Gardot, on a pair of the Sonus Faber Olympica III in that same room, again with all McIntosh gear. For that midrange sweetness that you want with female vocals, the Olympica III sounded better than either of the B&W. They didn't have the fullness or low-end of the 802D3 - I listen to a lot of rock, so I don't know that I'd personally choose the Olympica III, but if that day comes when I only listen to classical/acoustic/vocalists I'd pick the Olympica over either of the B&W. It's a hard thing to describe, but the Olympica were like a can of warm soup on a cold day, just a beautiful, smooth, grain-free sound. I just don't know I'd want to crank "Comfortably Numb" on them.
As for the B&W, if you heard what I heard, and you are wanting to take advantage of the markdowns and buy some D2 but are hesitating out of fear that you're missing something or are crazy, you may not be crazy. Full disclosure - I don't have any D2 for sale!