B&W Matrix 801 Series II

There is a pair for sale in my area for $2000. Anyone have an opinion on these speakers? Are they good sounding speakers or just okay? I believe they are pretty old. My interest in them is because they are local so no shipping and I understand B&W makes some very good speakers. Thanks for the help.
Hi Wemfan

Are they good sounding speakers or just okay?

My experience is they will sound as good as the equipment in front of them; and when placed properly in a room, can be very good.

For these two reasons - if you can say what amplification you will you be using, and provide room dimensions, I can provide you with an opinion based on this info.

Also If you choose to go see them I can give you some advice on how to determine if any of their previous owners abused them.

First, realize that you will get some polarizing answers on this site, as there are some who dislike the B&W sound.

You should check out the review of this exact model at the Stereophile website : http://www.stereophile.com/floorloudspeakers/506/index.html. Note the follow up with the graphs. There is also another article, where they asked John Bowers (the B of B&W)how he tested his studio monitors for accuracy. He replied that he used panels of musicians, recorded cuts, then they listened to playbacks of the recordings on the speakers. They then tweaked the speakers based on feedback from the musicians.

IMHO,you would be hard pressed to find a full range brand new pair at this price & quality.

There are some who say that they do not image & soundstage realistically - not true. They will reproduce what is on the recording. If you know someone who has the Decca/London AIDA w/ Karajan (CD or LP), & if you look at the photos of recording session of Triumphal march session, you can clearly hear the precise placement of the various singers, choirs, stage band, etc. in both L-R and front to back positions. The vocals are precise in space, properly sized, not overly large in the soundstage.

Some say they cannot play rock or Jazz well. Nonsense. Listen to Coltrane's Crescent album or Tal Wilkenfeld's Transformation CD, or Zep's Achilles Last Stand (Presence). The bass lines go deep, are punchy, but you can still delineate the actual notes, plus the kick drums clearly punch through electric bass.

They are the monitors used by most classical labels (Universal Music Group, Pentatone), Abbey Road, Skywalker Sound. Epica (Dutch Symphonic Metal Band ) albums were monitored using I believe BW Nautilus 802's (They can be seen on one of the DVD documentaries that came w/ the album).

All this being said, there are several caveats.
They will not editorialize the sound. So many rock & pop recordings will sound as bad as they truly are (Van Halen albums come to mind). That's a personal decision. I want to hear what is there. On the MFSL CD reissue of Ronstadt's Prisoner in Disguise ,she is truly in the room w/ you/ but the speaker also reveals that the drums were recorded in a tiny control space (or miked to closely). Check out the SACD of Shelby Lynne's Just A Little Lovin' for a "you are there" experience.

They will reveal what is upstream, so if you use less than stellar front end equipment, they will show it. Don't even think about using a receiver to drive them. These babies are rather inefficient (87 db), and can take up to 600W. I'd recommend at least 150 : 200-250 would be better. You also want an amp that can comfortably drive speaker impedances of 4 Ohms. They also need to be properly placed w/in the room.

It's true that the weak link of this speaker is the crossover. I've upgraded mine. You also do need the bass alignment filter, which did not always come with the original purchase. Some people say it muddies the sound, but I prefer to use it. I've also upgraded this to an aftermarket product. That being said, I could happily live w/ the speaker stock.

You should check the surrounds on the drivers, especially the woofer units. If the owner took proper care, they should NOT be deteriorated. The drive units are no longer available from B&W. The speakers really need to be on dedicated stands to reach their potential (Sound Anchors). The speakers came with metal spikes that screwed into the bottom. You should also check that the bottom cover is not cracked. This is where the crossover is. The cover itself is rather flimsy.

I bought mine in 1989. When the Signature 800 came out in the early 2000's for the then outrageous amt. of $20K, I was seriously thinking about upgrading, but was talked out of it by a local dealer, who thought that the cost did not justify the increase in performance.

Hope this helps.
My brother who passed away last year had the 802's from that same era. I believe they were made in England.
I thought his sounded very good with a Bryston Amp driving them.
Although, one tweeter did not work. So make sure to check them out.
The room is about 29'x29'x11'. I am not sure what I will put in front of them since I am under the impression they need a lot of power. My best pieces are a Mac c2300 and MC275. However, I have those running a pair of Klipschorns. I also have some Cornwalls. I am guessing the B&W is going to sound quite a bit different than the horn cabinets. A local repair shop has them is why I am interested. I heard them under far less than ideal conditions. I am on the fence about them and need some opinions of what to expect if I drag em home. In my area there is really no place to hear good audio equipment. If I acquire them I would then look for a suitable amp.
The room is about 29'x29'x11'.
I am under the impression they need a lot of power.

that is one really nice sized room.
if you look at my virtual system at the 801 heading - you will see a pic of the s3 in a room that is a backwards 7 shape.
They are in the top part of the 7 which is a space about 17 - 25.
You will also see a pic of them in another room in nearfield.
Two different objectives.
So it depends on your objectives - how close u will sit - spl levels, type of music.

In my experience they need "quality" power at just above 4 ohms for the amp to be able to control the woofers and still have what it takes for the mid/highs. if the amp gets taxed out on the low end you will experience brighter/harsher sounds. I base this is on my listening.
They are not forgiving in this regard at all .
this is the reason for needing the better quality gear in front - the better gear the better they will sound.
there are no shortcuts here.
They are not plug and play audiophile speakers.
They are like trying to tame a wild horse.
If you are willing to make a commitment and work with them they will reward you.
You will also need to get them off their castors and up in the air.

My best pieces are a Mac c2300 and MC275.

for your room this will depend on how close you will be sitting to the 801's.
25 feet or 10-15 feet ?

I get excellent results with both SS and Tube.
My tube amp Music Reference RM9 set at 4 ohms.
It is conservatively rated for 100 wpc but it is imo more - I think I have read 125 wpc soomewhere but not sure - and with KT88 tubes.

If this is more of a room where you want to fill the whole space I would go with SS and as much quality wattage as possible.
Doubling down from 8 ohms to 4 ohms.

A local repair shop has them is why I am interested.

this is actually a good thing imo.
Have a look at the woofers screws - have they been pulled before?

Have the shop take the woofers out - rest them on a table with the magnets down.
they have rubber surrounds so there will be no rot like other speakers that use foam or other material.
Manually extend the cones slowly and gently - fully with both hands upwards and then push them down gently.
this should be very smooth with no scratchy sounds at all.

The wires surrounding the voice coils are covered with a clear lacquer.
If the 801's have been abused - mostly meaning under powered,
the amplifier would have been clipping and sending heat to the coils.
this warps and actually melts the lacquer covering the coil wires which is needed for smooth travel.
if you hear a scratchy noise when moving the cones the coils need to be replaced -
Easily done at a speaker coning place.
But the price needs to be factored in.

Also have a look at the spiders. how taut are they.
If they are really loose and flabby it indicates previous owners caused alot of excessive woofer movement. there will be some movement but they shouldn't feel flabby loose.
this happens alot with vinyl guys that didn't use the bass alignment filter they came with. LOL.
they were designed by John Bowers to use a BAF to be able to achieve 20 hz. with their size cabinet, and also control subsonic frequencies which cause cone excursions and intermodulation distortion.

The woofers can be re-spider-ed with same compliant spiders and brand new voice coils put in for about $150.00 each.
this $300 needs to be factored in.

Sorry for the excessive brain dump and detail - hope this helps?

Do they come with the factory bass alignment filters or stands ?
Wow! You have some serious gear! Great looking room. Your 801s look better than the ones I am looking at which are an Oak finish I would guess. They kind of look like Early American furniture, really dated.

The room is a nice size because it is a studio connected to the house by a walkway but otherwise separate. (I am a musician so I have to have a studio to play in.) I live on 10 acres with my nearest neighbor being about 300 yards from me so I get quite loud, a lot. I have had a full PA system set up in there but it really wasn't clean enough so now my main system is the Mac stuff through the Khorns. I listen to a lot of acoustic Americana type stuff along with classic rock and blues. I try to keep one system loud enough so I can play a guitar through an amp and play along with the music. I do this a lot because that is how i figure out music to play it. I do also listen for extended periods at reasonable volumes, too.

I sit at least 15' from the speakers. I like to have two stereo set ups in the studio, one loud and the other doesn't matter as long as it sounds good. I like my main system but I feel the Khorns probably need to be rebuilt and there are probably better choices in speakers for me, although I don't currently know what they are. I have some Cornwalls I may try and rebuild if that is a better option than the 801s. I have always concentrated on my music gear so now, for a time, I want to get my stereo gear up to par and it is a field I am not that versed in nor do I have much opportunity to hear good equipment.

I have been planning to go SS in second system. I don't want it to be like the first. I will have the guy that is selling the speakers check them out for me if I decide I may want them. He is selling them on consignment and isn't too impressed with them but I know him well so he will help me all he can.

The speakers don't have the BAF.

Nothing excessive in your post. You would be surprised at what I learned reading it. Actually, I reread it several times. I am trying to learn and make some good decisions and it is hard when you don't know what you're doing. I appreciate all of the good information. Keep it coming>

Wemfan, you can find a lot of information about the speakers here, listed as "Matrix 801 S2"


After reading your post about playing "quite loud", I think it is necessary to consider speaker sensitivity, 801s (87db), Cornwalls (102db), Khorns (105db). A decrease of 3db in speaker sensitivity means that double the power is needed to maintain the same system capability. As an example, should it require just 5 watts for a dynamic peak on the Khorn, then that same dynamic peak would require 320 watts on the 801. Here is a good online calculator you can use for different senarios,


IMHO, the large room with distance from the speaker and playing "quite loud" 801's just might not be a good choice for this application. Playing loud on any speaker that is underpowered can easily result in blown tweeters.

Depending on the age of the Klipsch speakers, many people think the older original drivers were better than some of the newer ones, although crossovers may need attention. I have a friend that is a Klipsch fanatic. Do a google search for, KLIPSCH HERITAGE REFERENCE DATA - (V.2 - 9 May 2008) and download the pdf. This is complete data by serial number on all the Heritage series.
Here is a good source for rebuild/mod to your Klipsch speakers,


Also, I think Zu Audio speakers would work well for your application. A few years ago while working at an A/V retailer, a fellow employee told me that SRV's guitar sounded more realistic on his Zu Audio speakers than on the B&W 802D/Mcintosh MC402 at the store.

They've certainly have stood the test of time, and they're the most well known high end speaker from the 80s. But, as others said, you need a lot of power, highest quality cables (bi wire,) high quality preamp and sources, bass alignment filter, and good stands. However, if you have carpet on concrete floor, listening to them with just the castors is not bad at all, imo.

Elee, I do agree with the comments in your post as I have listened to 801’s many times , and owned a pair of Matrix 802’s some years ago.

My post is based on an experience I had while working at a B&W dealer. Sold a customer some B&W’s, not 801’s, but a lesser model that had a sensitivity of 88-90db, with quality electronics. Then he started having trouble with blown tweeters, so we repaired, increased power to maximum for the speaker, and he still had problems. So I went to his home and discovered he was doing exactly what Wemfan described, playing his guitar as he played the system. I then swapped the B&W speakers for some Klipsch towers with a much higher sensitivity. He was happy with the change because the system did what he wanted it to do, and never had another problem.

I’m not saying anything bad about the 801’s, I just think they are the wrong speaker for how Wemfan would try to use them.
After reading all of the posts I am leaning toward seeing if I can borrow them for a test drive depending on what shape the speakers are in (thanks CT0517). I do have a Parasound A31 3 channel amp that is 250 watts @8ohm. I just got it and haven't heard it yet. Should that amp be a good match for the B&Ws? I bought the Parasound for a theater bedroom system i am working on. I don't need this system to be loud. I guess I am looking for a smoother sound compared to the Khorn system. Something clear and musical. Really, I don't know how to describe it but something in a different direction from the MAC/Khorn system.

Also, you guys mentioned getting them up high. How high? The floor is hardwood. Elee you mentioned you upgraded the crossover. How do you go about that and what are the symptoms that a crossover needs upgrading? can I still acquire a Bass Alignment Filter or are they hard to come by?

All of the opinions are very helpful. Thanks...
Hi Wemfan

another long post - sorry - as I have my coffee and the caffeine kicks in. :^(

I am leaning toward seeing if I can borrow them for a test drive

Right on - there is no better way - in your own room with your own equipment.

I do have a Parasound A31 3 channel amp that is 250 watts @8ohm.

It will work to try out the speakers. I have not heard that amp.
But remember you are asking this question on the speaker forum
You will get audiophile 2 channel nut jobs -myself included - answering.
If you ask this question on the Home Theater forum you would probably get a different response

So take this with a grain of salt.

The A31, like all Halo-branded amplifiers, is a high-bias Class A-AB amplifier, meaning the first few watts - in this case seven - are delivered in pure Class A fashion before switching over to AB status.

taken from here.


In comparison my old Classe CA300 two channel amp stayed in class A for 30 watts.
So this Parasound was designed for Home Theater - again my opinion.
The 801's are revealing and will let you know when the amp is in A/B.

I am looking for a smoother sound compared to the Khorn system. Something clear and musical

Are you looking for an addictive midrange combined with liquid and shimmering highs ?

If SS you need to stay with Class A as long as possible. The 801's are just too revealing.

Definitely try your McIntosh set at 4 ohms sitting closer.

Also not to get ahead of ourselves but your parasound has gain controls.

I would try hooking it up to the woofers and hooking your McIntosh on the mids and tweeters.
Adjusting the parasound gain to where you have your preferred tonal balance. bass/mid/highs.
But this "IS" getting ahead of ourselves.......

Also, you guys mentioned getting them up high. How high?

I would listen to them on their castors/spikes first - then try them higher later.
The Sound Anchor stands are very expensive.

Some more facts you should be aware of :
Two matrix versions of 801's were made s2 and s3.
There are differences.

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)

imo - the S2 is great candidate for a crossover upgrade.
I have a couple of friends that have done this. Thread poster Elee has also done this with his S2.
The S3 is not as great a candidate for the reasons above. This is a personal call.
I came real close to doing the upgrade with Northcreek.
I had a number of direct discussions with B&W senior people - they convinced me not to do it with the S3.
this included identifying the listed differences between them. Its a $2500 cost to do if I recall.

So botomline all this makes the stock factory 801 S3 more desirable than the Stock factory 801 S2.
prices reflect this.

fwiw -
I drove 10 hours one way to pick up my S3 in '94. And returned same day.
The 801's always seem to become available locally when you are not looking for them.
Funny how this works.
So local 801's you can pick up are rare.

Either way 801 S2 or 801 S3 stock - you can buy and try and sell for same or more money if it doesn't work out.
What other speaker can claim this - I'd like to know brand/model names.
Its a win -win situation for everything except your back to carry the damn things.

I see alot of value $$$ just in the matrix cabinetry on its own - without considering the electronics and drivers.
I also own B&W DM70's - Electrostat hybrids from the 70's.
Their cabinet construction still to today hasn't degraded. I appreciate quality like this.

Wemfan - the B&W filter/equalizer comes up occasionally here and on Ebay, or kijiji, etc...
Usually around $150 - 250 from what I have seen. I own Krell, Maughan and B&W versions.

You can read more about them here.


My post is based on an experience I had while working at a B&W dealer. Sold a customer some B&W’s, not 801’s, but a lesser model that had a sensitivity of 88-90db, with quality electronics. Then he started having trouble with blown tweeters, so we repaired, increased power to maximum for the speaker, and he still had problems.

Hi Tls49 - am curious. Which speakers with which amps ?

No offense meant. In fact, I too used to practice my electric guitar to the stereo. I found that I had to either turn the guitar amp (Fender ChampII 70W) way down or away from me, or crank up the stereo to be able to hear both. In my room of 9X15X30, I sit about 10' from the speakers. At normal listening levels, I get about 80-85 db at the sweet spot. To get 90db+, I need to increase the volume to past 2/3, which I don't like to do.


Speakers are about 9-9.5" off the floor. B&W made purpose built stands, of course no longer available. Arcic made a sand-filled box, which you could probably do yourself. I bought my Sond Anchors used ( still available direct, bu pricey).

See the following thread RE: the crossovers - http://www.audioasylum.com/cgi/t.mpl?f=speakers&m=274098.
The upgrade is available from here - http://www.northcreekmusic.com/801web.html
Realize, I had these speakers 22 years before upgrading. The increase in sound quality is not night & day (IMO), but for me, worth it. the bass goes deeper, is more punchy & tight, & there is a sense of unrestrained openness.

RE the BAF-
1) B&W made one as an option. They are available frequently on ebay (look for either the model for the 801 matrix or the variable model for the 800 matrix). I wouldn't pay more than $150-175.
2) Hifi dealer in Colo. Listen Up made the Maughanbox. I paid $400 on ebay for mine.
3) JPS labs made aftermarket filters. IMHO, not worth what people are asking for them used ($900+)
4) Krell made an after market unit that was adjustable for the 800 Matrix line. Probably the best of the bunch, but going for around $1500+ when you can find them. (Dan D'Agostino [started Krell amps] made these for his personal B&W speakers at the time. B&W heard about it and suggested to Dan to sell them to B&W owners).

If you do audition the speakers, IMO I would place a throw rug between the speakers & your listening spot, otherwise you may find the speakers too bright.

Regarding the amp, the Parasound is probably acceptable. I'm currently using a Krell KAV-250, which is probably about the same. I'm convinced that I have not even come close to the potential of the speakers.
Hi Tls49 - am curious. Which speakers with which amps ?
Ct0517, As well as I remember, the speakers were DM604, or maybe DM605, and the last amp used was a 200w Forte 6.

I do agree that if Wemfan wants to try the MC275, he should use the 4 ohm tap since the speakers' impedance drops to 4 even though it is 8 ohm nominal, however I disagree with your bi-amping suggestion, as this will create a coherence problem. When bi-amping, you should always use identical amps in a vertical configuration. Read this post by a well respected amplifier designer, especially the last paragraph,


Also, while working at that Audio dealer, was able to attend a CES show, and fortunate to meet Nelson Pass and his staff since we were a Threshold/Forte dealer. They also said that bi-amping should be done with identical amps, however their amps at that time did offer a slight twist to this. The Forte 6 and Forte 4 are identical, however the 6 is biased for A/AB at 200 watts, and the 4 is biased for pure class A at 50 watts, so use the 6 on the bottom and the 4 on the top.

Elee, absolutely nothing offensive in your posts. My son plays guitar, and he is definitely a Fender guy. He has a vintage black face Princeton that is in very nice condition, however another amp he really likes is one we found at a pawn shop for $20 many years ago. It is a small tweed Gretsch that is an exact copy of the original Fender Champ.
I would also check out new offerings in the 2K range...awful lot of great speakers in this range...at least for a reference point.
Sounds like 3k or more with options/upgrades...tighty sum for a 25 year old product.Factor in sound, performance, value, resell, warranty, and convenience going new becomes more aytractive.
Hi Elee - regarding the different 800 series BAF's/Equalizers.
Comparing the Maughan box and Krell
the Maughan box alters B&W parameters and provides a 6 db punch in the low end.
In my room this provides for a warmer sound - less resolution as more bass emphasis obscures some midrange/hf detail in the room.
The Krell follows the B&W parameters. There is more resolution detail, the bass is punchier. Better tonal balance - bass/mids/highs overall - imo.
But this also exposes bad recordings more.
The preamp I use has variable gain. Turning the gain down on those recordings makes the recordings at least listenable so I can enjoy the music.
Although the Krell is the most expensive it is worth it imo both from a sonics and build perspective.
However - If placing any 800 matrix series speaker in a livelier room; the Maughan will tame the highs better if room treatment is not an option.

Phasecorrect -
Factor in sound, performance, value, resell, warranty, and convenience going new becomes more aytractive.

Provide brand & model of just ONE example of a new speaker that is:

1) Full range
2) Within the price ranges being discussed
3) that doesn't lose big time depreciation as soon as you walk out the door with them.

I'd like to know what it is.
Not a fan of the house sound, though on one occasion in a rather unusual room, I heard the model one down from them sound quite wonderful.
I can't help but wonder if the cost of shipping them from England compromises the value?
FWIW, I'd spend the money on other offerings.
Magnepan 1.7 or Vandersteen 3...just informing OP of other options...
Depends what factors are important to the OP.
Magnepan 1.7- freq response 40hz-24khz- not quite full range
Sensitivity-86db at 4 ohms retail $2K. Would definitely need wattage.

Vandersteen 3a -freq response 30hz - 22khz - still not quite full range
Sensitivity-87 db at 6 ohms. No better efficiency

Hi Tls49
I disagree with your bi-amping suggestion, as this will create a coherence problem.

Here's my take on it.
for myself my Quad 57's with the RM10 amp are very coherent and are a mid frequency reference for me. They help keep me honest to myself and in check when I play in this hobby.
I have always needed to hear things for myself.
So, if I already own the gear needed; and what I am thinking of doing will NOT:
1) blow up my speakers
2) make my amp/s self destruct
3) cause other harm; like make my dog run in circles

then I say - go for it and give it try - as you will learn first hand what this sounds like yourself.
Quite a time ago I tried biamping with two different amps.
It sounded ok not perfect, but it did give me a glimpse of what having SS on woofers and Tubes on mids and tweeters can sound like.
If I wanted to go further with this it would have required an expensive active crossover. I didn't pursue it further.

Hi Wemfan - look forward to hearing how you make out; whichever speaker direction u choose. Cheers

Ct0517, I absolutely agree to try different things, as that does allow someone to learn more about this crazy hobby, and I have done my share over the years. However, some things can be like trying to climb a greased pole, and I refer to this comment in the link I posted,

"This is not to say that it can't be done, but having it turn-out well and actually conferring an advantage is difficult and unlikely in the extreme."

In your bi-amping experience, I do agree an active crossover would have helped, but IMHO, the different rise times and slew rates of the amplifiers would still compromise the coherency.

Wemfan could try it, and as long as everything is connected correctly, I can't see harming anything. He did say he was looking for something clear and musical. I doubt very seriously that clarity would be a characteristic of this set up.
Fwiw...Maggie 1.7 replaced a speaker that was Class A rated for over a decade...the 1.6.
True...but most people who spend 2k or more have or plan on acquiring a 4 ohm stable amp...Could go with Vandy 2 sig to meet price point....
I have been busy but plan to get down to hear the speakers late in the week and see what I think with fresh eyes and ears. I have read and reread every post which has me more interested in the speakers and I am a sucker for a massively built cabinet. How about the price? Does $2k seem about right for these speakers?

Phasecorrect: I am not trying to stick with a price point. I am considering these speakers because they are local and of course in the realm of quality I am interested in. I wouldn't seek out and ship another pair if this deal doesn't happen. I would pay more for another set of appropriate speakers if I am getting value for my money.

There is a good chance I will bring them home and see what they sound like in my studio. I will first see if they are in good shape internally. I will post back here after i go and experience the speakers again.
No worries mate...good luck...still a fair sum...

How about the price? Does $2k seem about right for these speakers?

Wemfan - There are three - Series 2 and one Series 3 available on Audiogon right now.

801 Matrix for sale on Audiogon

Based on the sellers pics only - imo just one of these sellers shows any real knowledge for proper setup of these speakers.
They need room to breathe. If you were planning on putting them into a shared living space I would not recommend them at all as they will cause problems with your spouse and neighbors. Since they are being considered for a dedicated space/studio I look forward to your impressions, if you decide to bring them home.

They cost $500 to ship. So in a case like this the original boxes are worth $200 to me. A full ten percent. Which is why I made the previous comment about local ones.

the current going rate IMO is around $2500 for clean, fully functional versions. Give or take a couple hundred either way based on owner history and condition.

This is half what they cost new and anyone who knows what these speakers are about; knows they were well under priced for the "audiophile" market when new, based on what they were and still are capable of when set up right.
B&W finally realized the business error of their ways after John Bowers passing (RIP), and came out with new versions at double the price after the S3.

With that this is a serious buyers market as we all know and I have tremendous respect for those that are trying to make a living in this audio business.

the current going rate IMO is around $2500 for clean, fully functional versions. Give or take a couple hundred either way based on owner history and condition.

just to add proper stands add value for me. The Sound Anchors stands if I recall are $600 to buy new today.


I would therefore see an extra $250 value if anyone was selling 801 matrix that came with them. Of those for sale in the previous link two come with proper stands. I prefer the SA to the Arcici.
I own a pair of 801 S3. Had lots of speakers, picked mine up 2 years ago because I wanted to know if they were so great. The last time I heard a pair prior was in the 80's. So I needed to know.
I loved em. I think better than most speakers I heard before. In fact, I loved em so much I shelled out for the northcreeks 3 months ago. They are were worth every penny I spent on them. I was worried about wasting the bucks. I felt the improvement worth it. I drove em first with pass xa60.5 and then Cary slm200. Great on both. Currently running on my final amps before I retire arc ref250's. Traded the pass. The pass was something special but the ref 250 tubes are more real and satisfying to my ears. These are special amps and I enjoy the combination. I could have lived with either combination. Each is great in their own way. The pass was plenty of power, the needles never moved out of class a. Based on my observation of the power needles on my 250 and my experience with the Cary's in triode, I don't think less tube watts would have worked so well.
I don't think you will regret. They really are sound microscopes. I run em at 8 ohms, haven't tried 4 yet. Great sound.
So which is he better version? Series II or III? I don't believe there's a definite consensus. From what I remember, I believe there's more in favor of Series II. I'm not sure why, though.
I went to hear the speakers again today. They don't have stands or the bass alignment filter. My friend, who owns the shop, played a sample drum cd through them and it sounded like a drummer was playing in the room. I didn't have time to take them with me or have a a really good listen. What I heard I did like.

Linnlp12: Tell me why the new crossovers are so much better? Do the old ones drift or cross at different places? Why would I need new crossovers?

I have several amps but none large enough to properly power the speakers....another consideration. My friend at the stereo shop suggests at least 350 watts per side.

W/out going into to much detail, in order to make the speakers more mobile, the crossovers where cramed to fit into bottom of the speakers. Because of this resulted in compromises in parts quality, inductor crosstalk, and rather small iron core coils that saturated too quickly, resulting in decreases in dynamics & bass quality.

The NC crossovers simply replicated B&W's specs, but w/ high grade parts, a more spacious layout, and a huge copper air coil. It also bypasses the overload circuit, which also compromised sound quality.

As I said before, I could live happily w/ the speakers as stock. The NC crossovers, and other mentioned tweaks make a great speaker that much better. As an aside, I powered these with a 150W amp for years before upgrading. The great thing w/ 1st class speakers is that as you upgrade whats in front of the chain, everything just sounds better.

Dave 72- I believe the S3 crossover simplified the topology, used better crossover coils, eliminated the Zobel network across the woofer, & eliminated the APOC protection. Also, I think the S3 tweeter was ferro-fluid filled, whereas the S2 tweeter was not. Am unsure whater the firbercrete mid-tweet unit remained removable or not.


The northcreek crossovers are $2100 a pair. That was a surprise. There is a lesser way to go but it is still $799. That is a pretty sizable investment in a pair of $2000 speakers. How much did the crossovers improve your speakers? I am thinking of making an offer on them early next week.
All I can say is that after I got the crossovers, I was satisfied. Was the difference night & day, no, more like dusk & day. If I'm not mistaken, isn't there a return option on the Northcreeks if you are not satisfied? It was like removing an semi-translucent veil.

Like I said, I would be happy w/ the stock speakers. If you haven't already, do yourself a favor & read the Stereophile review, including the follow up, which states that even years after the original, the speakers were equivalent to speakers costing up to $13,000. That was in the mid-90s. I'd venture you would have to spend more than that now to get something equivalent. The JBL L300 from only a few years before the 801 S2, is currently selling for MORE than what they cost back then. Even at a cost of around 4K(including the NC's), I think you would be hard pressed,to find something new that is equally transparent and is truly full range ( ie reaches down to 20Hz).

If you get these and are ultimately not happy, you could probably turn around & sell them for not much loss. I can say that I thought long & hard before getting the NC crossovers. I scoured the net & read up on all the discussions I could find. I did not find anyone that had aquired the NC's that were dis-satisfied. It was also my impression that there are an equal number of people who acquired the 801s used who did not bother to get the crossovers & were perfectly happy.
Hi Elee,

Thanks for the info. Would you say then that the S3 is the better speaker?
As stock, probably. I have not heard them in person, so cannot comment. Again, via net scuttlebutt, some people prefer the sound of the S2 tweeter, supposedly less harsh, & some infer that the S2 w/ the NC crossover is as good, if not better than the S3.

Maybe CT0517 could chime in - Frankly, if I had the $$$, I would upgrade to the matrix 800, but that would need some serious amp power, & possibly more room than I have now.

Elee and Linnlp12 thanks for sharing impressions. that was interesting reading.

I think the S3 tweeter was ferro-fluid filled

Yes - and it was technology brought in from success with the matrix 800 - It is the main reason the protection circuits were no longer needed and removed from the S2.

Linnlp12 - congrats on those ARC amps. I would be very interested in your impressions on using the 4 ohm taps.

I have several amps but none large enough to properly power the speakers....another consideration. My friend at the stereo shop suggests at least 350 watts per side.

The speakers are rated 50 - 600 wpc at 8 ohms. From my experiences what actual wattages are needed from a capable amp will be based on size of space, how close you will be sitting to them, the kind of music genre you will be playing, and how loud.

Wemfan - can you tell us what kind of music, and how loud it will be from your sitting distance ?

Here is the speaker impedance graph for the 801 matrix from B&W.

801 Matrix Impedance graph

If anyone contacts them at support@bowers-wilkins.com, they will send you this same graph.

Note the 4 ohm symbol on the left and frequencies on the bottom.

You can see the lowest they dip is just around 5 ohms and they do this at these frequencies.

HZ - 20, 60-100, 500, 10k and above.

So they need an amp that is 4 ohm capable (stable and powerful) in the low frequencies and high frequencies.

My experiences using maybe 8 or 9 amps ? over the last 20 years are they are a fairly easy load as long as the amp can do 4 ohms SS or Tube. You will get sound and they will go loud. But how good it will sound (smooth and musical) in the high frequencies is where the quality of the power comes especially with SS.

(i.e.) I ran with Brystons 4nrbs years ago. Great bass but the HF had me running out the door. I would have liked for the Brystons to work out as I live 40 mins from the factory.

The Classe amps (another Canadian) - very tubey sounding for SS. But lighter in the bass. Big improvement over the Bryston in the midrange and HF but not the bass.

I find when we read specs on amps they always list the 8 ohm nominal figure. Some do not list 4 ohms or 2 ohms. Ensure the wattage doubles down from 8 ohms for a SS amp and ensure the tube amp/s have a 4 ohm tap or are capable at 4 ohms - ask the manufacturer - if considering for these speakers.

Happy listening

I made a boo boo typo
It is the main reason the protection circuits were no longer needed and removed from the S2.

should read S3.
I will be able to place the speakers where they sound best from my listening couch. They will go in the studio where I have lots of room. I don't know how to tell you how loud but I listen to music fairly loud at times, mostly classic rock type to acoustic type stuff. I plan to drop by the store tomorrow and based on my conversation with the owner I will probably make an offer. If I acquire the speakers then I will need some help selecting an amplifier. It is a consignment so no telling how it will go.

thanks for the crossover and amp info. Very helpful.

The drawbacks are...

1. 87db so I am going to need a more powerful amp than I have.
2. No bass alignment filter
3. no stands
4. crossovers need updating
5. These amps show their age. Not terrible but not good looking, either.

The pluses..

1. I was impressed with their sound in the store. They sounded very good on music and the drum track was really impressive.
2. They are big heavy cabinets and they are local so I can load them in the truck and have them home quickly without shipping and all of the problems that go with shipping heavy cabinets.
3. I think I will be really happy with them and in my area big old heavy good sounding speakers don't appear too often.
4. It seems like a lot of good sound quality for the buck.

I should know one way or the other, this week.
Hi Elee,

Ok, no problem. Yes, I have read that too. Definitely the Matrix 800. Looking back, it was a bargain at the price (I believe $15k USD) and will probably blow away the current 800 series, or at least be very comparable. Yeah, you really need to invest money in amps and cables as the 800s are quad wired.

If I acquire the speakers then I will need some help selecting an amplifier.

Wemfan - Good luck with them. We're here to help.
Its always a lot of fun spending others peoples money picking out gear. :^)
If you do get them let us know what the budget is for amp/s and how they sound with your existing amps first.
I am really curious to hear how the Mc tube amp set at 4 ohms, sounds in nearfield with music focusing on strings and vocals.

Hi Elee
I would upgrade to the matrix 800, but that would need some serious amp power, possibly more room than I have now.

Despite their menacing appearance the matrix 800's are the most room friendly speakers I have ever owned.
The double woofers top and bottom each excite a different set of waves.
result is the waves cancel each other out. the response is very smooth.
The cabinet for the upper woofer is even heavier than the bottom one as it doesn't have the floor to help dampen it.
the owners manual confirms how different placements worked well during B&W testing.
This includes widely spaced and angled in; as well as in a narrow room shooting straight down.

Another example of how room friendly they are can also be seen from the actual Stereophile review by musician Lewis Lipnick with his 800's

His room was on the small side with low ceilings.

I studied them for a number of years thinking about buying them.
The only time they come up for sale it seems is if the music lover/audiophile is retiring into a small condo and needs to part with them or Divorce. A retiree is how I happened on mine.

I called down to the store a little while ago and made the deal. I will pick the speakers up tomorrow but it may be the weekend before I have the time to get them hooked up and play with them. Anyway, they are mine. Now, to just get these huge boxes home!!!
Congrats Wemfan ... 801 adventure about to begin..
Yeah, congrats Wemfan! How do they sound?
Thanks guys. I have them home but I haven't had a chance to hook them up yet. I do plan on listening to them this weekend though. I will report back as soon as I listen to them.
I had a pair that took me a couple of years to get the best out of them. I initially powered them with a 250w Bryston amp but it was not until I added another 250w Bryston that they really bloomed. I had the original stands but I found that they were much better when they are 18" - 24" off the floor. This is how a few studios that I know use them. I also used Acarian Black Orpheus bi wires that are excellent with these speakers. Now they will truly rock and you can close your eyes and it's as though the band is in front of you. They were never very good at low volumes (although not too bad with $5k worth of bryston amps) but the closer you get to concert levels the more impressive and realistic the sound.
Btw- there is a pair of Blk Orpheus cables for sale here on agon at a very reasonable price - these are tough to find (I have no idea who the seller is)
Wemfan - good that u got them home safe.

With your amazing 29 x 29 x 11 room and no one to tell you how the stuff in the room needs to be arranged;
you are seriously this audio hobby's version of a kid in a candy store. can u see us drooling ?

If I woke up from dream and was placed in this situation; this is what I would do based on the info you have provided.

Initial placement.
Place speakers 10 feet out from the front wall and separated by 10 feet.
Put your listening chair 10 feet away from them making an equilateral triangle.

Try to get your existing amps that you will experiment with as close to the speakers as possible.
This will allow for the shortest speakers runs (this is important).
Use double runs bi-wire coming from the amps to the speakers.
All 800 series I have owned personally - 800(quad wired) , 801, 802, 803, 805 (bi-wired) - benefited
801-805's Matrix series were designed to be biwired and is the reason they have separate bass and mid/tweeter terminals from the factory. The better the amps the more the differences can be heard.

1) Hook up the parasound - listen to the music you like.
2) Repeat with the McIntosh - tapped on its 4 ohm terminals.
Note the difference between SS and Tube presentations.

3) If your preamp has two outputs - do the dirty and hook the parasound to the bass terminals and the Mc to the Mid/Tweeters. Listen again. Set preamp at 0 gain. Slowly increase with full range music. Adjust the parasound gain controls for tonal balance.

All 3 experiments allow you to hear the speakers without the room coming into play too much.

Room test
Start moving the 801's closer to the room boundaries. You will start to hear the rebounded bass waves come into play.
The closer you get to the boundaries the sound will eventually get muddy - too much bass.
These are serious monitors with prodigious bass. So you will know in your room when this happens fairly quickly.

Amp Test
Leave the speakers as be - and move your listening position back in increments.
This will put more load on the amps and speakers as you will require more power for the same levels.
I expect the McIntosh to cough up its ghost first when used separately.
This experiment will give you a good feel for how good your current amps will be for you.

Look forward to your impressions as you play !
As my fellow CT resident Ct0517 has described his experience with this speaker I realized how good they really are.
With the room dimensions mentioned you should be able to let the 801's bloom with authority providing you are willing to put the horsepower to them. It gets a little tricky with the Kevlar mids which, in my experience also came to life with plenty of class a power. It was the tweeters that were the bugaboo for me.
Big as they are they are still monitors and they can become holographic if put on good sound anchor stands 18"-24" off your floor. Abbey Road Studios used them in this manor as well as many other studios.
I've gone to CES for the past 10 years and have heard the best of the best and the 801's will never be mistaken for MBL's but for $2k and proper power and set-up you will be in the conversation with 75% of speakers out there. I was forced to downsize to smaller Joseph Audio monitors which are really nice but I miss the big sound of the 801's.