B&W matrix 801 s2 still a relavant speaker.

is B&W matrix 801 s2 still a relavant speaker in todays world and worth keeping.
What a strange question. If it sounds good to you, then it's worth keeping, unless you can afford something that you like more. I don't think what the rest of "today's world" thinks matters.
I am running 1972 JBL 4350A speakers and I think they are pretty relevant even today.....
I have a pair of B&W 801 Series 3's and they have caused me to stopped me chasing my tail, when it comes to speakers. They replaced newer Thiel CS6's and I have never look back. If your are happy with your system, just listen, that's what it all about.
They're definitely classics. I think it's the biggest selling high end speaker of all time? Whether they're relevant is entirely up to you.
Yes it is.
I just sold a pair for over $1500- and the guy drove over 200 miles to get them, so at least one other person finds them relevant.
One thing is certain, if you want to get the best out of them be prepared to run powerful amps into them and get them on good stands.
I own a pair of 1959 JBL C36s with the 030 speaker and cossover set in it. They belonged to my father and they will always be relevant. Even after the Japanese passion for them dies down and dissapears. I hope my son keeps them the way I have.
Don't confuse marketing with design competence. If it's good, it's always going to be just that no matter what it is.
@ Zenblaster: Wow, $1500, that's quite a bargain. That's a lot of speaker for the money. But yeah, an investment in big amps and what have you is necessary.
Yes. I tried to push mine with 200 wpc Levinsons and never really got them going. Perhaps they're the only dynamic speakers that should be plugged into a wall outlet! (Just kidding). BIG, SOLID STATE CURRENT PUMPS are a necessity and proper cabling (don't get anything too "soft") is my opinion.
I drove my pair with a levinson 23.5 amp (200w/ch) with wonderful sound.
the midrange driver (kevlar) is still very relevant, and the bass extension, esp.
with an alignment filter, is still difficult to top, although the bass driver lags a bit behind the other drivers (which are very fast reacting). Of course you can further modify them with better crossovers, and good stands are absolutely essential- i had sound anchors with tip-toes that worked VERY well.
Of course, when i upgraded to Eggleston Andra speakers, the superior integration of the drivers was instantly noticeable from the 1st note, but comparing $5K speakers to $14K speakers isn't fair. OTOH if you give up size for quality, you can get great sound for $4K-$5K, just without deep bass.
the 802's are also a great choice- quicker bass with the same level of quality, and less money.
I started out running a 250w Bryston in stereo eventually I purchased another 250w Bryston and then they were happy. Over the years I added Bass Alignment and Sound Anchor stands. I agree with Jeff the Kevlar mids are very nice and the bass drivers do have a hard time keeping up but the extra horsepower helps with that. Eventually it was the tweeter I could no longer live with.
I am currently building a system around a pair of Joseph Audio monitors. Incredible mids and tweeter and not so power hungry but not as dynamic as the 801's.
Perhaps they're the only dynamic speakers that should be plugged into a wall outlet! (Just kidding)

Yes – that is how my S3 are set up - not kidding.

The OTL’s are a constant waiting power source. Speakers can be connected and unconnected at any time. Unfazed by impedance changes 1 – to the 40-80 ohms which are required for good ESL Bass.

After 19 years ownership of my S3’s I found this statement from Stereophile to be right on the mark.


"Higher in frequency, the response trend (averaged across a 30 degrees lateral window on the tweeter axis) is basically flat, but with a slight excess of energy in the presence region and a corresponding lack of energy in the top octave. All things being equal, this will make the speaker both a little too revealing of recorded detail and somewhat fussy when it comes to the quality of source and amplification components, just as LL noted in his auditioning comments."

801 S2 versus S3.

S3 has no protection circuit - also.
There is another difference between the S3 and S2 that is not well known. Interaction between the large inductor in the midrange section interacting with the large inductor in the bass section. The fix is simple, move one of the inductors to eliminate the magnetic interaction. B&W used this technique in the S3. It is discussed here


I have also owned 801f and 802, 803 and 805 all matrix version the last I still have stored. 802 and 801 are two different beasts.
What do you make of the anniversary edition? Same as the 2's? Or 3's? Or better than both?
What do you make of the anniversary edition? Same as the 2's? Or 3's? Or better than both?

Hi Dave
My own understanding is it was a special model (B&W marketing) – Pre S3 - to celebrate the 25 years. The only one I saw was all white in the tradition of the B&W Electrostatic Speaker DM70 Continental – remember Clockwork Orange.

It included some or all ? of the updates that ended up in the s3 version. B&W parts show only s2 – s3 so there are no unique Anniversary parts. B&W support can confirm this for you.

Some 801 S3 versus S2 changes.

S3 used a different crossover than s2 - less component count.
Better isolated mid and hf boards.
Bass inductors with an iron dust core .
Rotating midrange – tweeter head assembly was permanently connected. (from 3 to 4 pin delivering separate ground signals to midrange and tweeter)
Magnetic fluid cooling of the tweeter (like the 800 matrix) - the reason the apoc protection eliminated (circuits needed for this were also removed)

B&W marketing discusses the sound from these changes as cleaner, detailed and warmer.

All this information is available in the manuals

here for each version.

The guys at b&w support are really nice. They can explain the differences better. They are the ones that sent me the impedance and frequency response graphs in my virtual page that i show.
They are also the ones that talked me out of changing the crossover on my s3's when I was thinking about it; explaining how the engineers refined the S3 over the S2. At $5500 back then the s3 was known to be well under priced based on the market. How much is $5500 in todays dollars ?

Also as this is a business like all businesses - imo - we need to remember that up to Matrix is all John Bowers’ vision. What followed after his passing was a new B&W direction and vision with Morten Warren

The price doubled with the next version.

07-18-13: Zenblaster
I just sold a pair for over $1500- and the guy drove over 200 miles to get them, so at least one other person finds them relevant.

Zenblaster – I agree with Dave, you gave that guy quite a deal.

I drove 10 hours one way and back within 30 hours to pick up my 801 s3 in 1994. I hooked them up the next day in our living room which had an 800 series matrix HT system setup at the time; on the main raised floor (wood beams) of our house. Put on the first couple tunes. The house started shaking. I remember thinking “holy Jesus” My wife came in and wanted to know what was going on. She looked at the speakers, figured it out and told me – “they have to go”. Our fraternal twins were 1 year old at the time. I pleaded and pleaded and agreed to isolate them. My dedicated room build started later that week in our basement.

They will shake a foundation if the bass units are not properly controlled. They are some big ass bass drivers that will move some air, that's for sure.

Are the twins becoming good little audio kids?
Ct0517, thank you for the detailed explanation! If I didn't already get the JBL S4700s late last year (with 15" woofers,) I would have bought the 801s, and it sounds like the Series 3 are the way to go. Again, hell of a deal on the used market!
Are the twins becoming good little audio kids?

Hi Zenblaster - like other soon to be 19 year olds; they love their music but its delivered through plugs in the ears and a source that follows them around. This source device also enables them to make phone calls, gps the closest pizza place and take pictures and videos. :^)
They and the friends that have seen the 801’s think they are a couple of really big subs on stands with two funny looking smaller speakers on top.

btw - r u in the blasting industry ? based on your moniker.

Cheers Chris

The moniker is a nickname that guys used for me in the 80's when we were installing state of the art (re:loud) audio/video in nightclubs around Boston-NYC. The Zen comes from my education where I wasted my parents money on studying comparative (eastern) religion.
Both occupations - blasting and setting up audio/video in nightclubs require ear protection. :^)

Unfortunately my hearing was unprotected in 100+ db music for hours on end, for years and years and I am paying the price now. These systems could literally knock the wind out of you with a bass note (dozens of JBL 12-15" drivers driven by gobs of current). All us guys from the 80's crew are dealing with hearing problems. That's why I like the 801's with diesel powered amps, it's the only thing I can hear.
I don't usually respond to old threads, but if you want the speaker to be more current, a pair of Northcreek Xovers will get you there.