B&W's objective opinions lean or accurate

I have a few posts and my system is evolving with the addition of a McCormack DNA225 for the fronts (which will be upgraded by Smc), McCormack HT5 for the center and surrounds, B&W N804 - scm's - and center, McCormack UDP1 Deluxe disc, Denon 3800 Blue Ray, etc. The system is evolving and can be changed as time progresses.

I have also read many threads on amps and B&W's. I understand there are very basic philosophical differences between tube system and ss system orientations and desires. But what I am struggling with is the B&W's and their signature sound. I am thinking of upgrading and do not want to regret making a narrow decision as my system evolves.

Assuming that the components powering them are acceptable, are the B&W's simply too lean and bright or are they accurate? As some have said, in a concert the sound is bright which is true. Also there is the fact that we personally listen to a wide variety of types of music so I think that we need a versitile speaker. I like the N804's but want more depth. I do like detail, soundstage, seperation of the instruments and vocals, and do not tend towards a dark sound or smooth if it means the loss of the individual instruments and seperation.

The limitations include this is a hobby with a budget and I can not hear all the brands. Even in S Cal there are limited comparison possibilities at showrooms who only want to push their favotites. I was already taken by that process and won't even mention the older stuff I bought. Here the stores push B&W, Sonus, Focal, etc. If you own anything over 3 years old, they want you to trade in. So I now buy used quality instead.

So, if you were in my position and in the cost range up to the pricepoint of a used B&W 802D, what would you reccomend as speakers in your opinion and why? In that price range there would seem to be many options.

I appreciate any feedback and understand this is very subjective and likely B&W's are overdiscussed in the threads. I really am still learning and enjoy getting the suggestions of different viewpoints and the knowledge of serious enthusiasts who have already gone through this.

Thanks again, sorry for being so wordy.

It appears that your price point is $8k-$9k. How big is your room? Can your speakers be out away from the walls? How far is your seated position from the speakers?

I had the B&W Silver Signatures for years and years and really, really liked them. Thinking about trading them in, I listened to the 802D at length. I wouldn't even consider buying them. Now, that's just my personal opinion and taste.

A pair of Magnepan 1.7's are $2K, two Martin Logan Depth i subs are $2k each. But they might not match your B&W center and surrounds. They also need space from the wall to breathe.

Thiel 2.4's are around $3.5k. You need to be sitting back around 10' for them to gel timewise.

You also need a good, strong and powerful amp with high current to push either of them properly.

There's isn't a Meadowlard Osprey or Nighthawk on Audiogon right now, those would also do you well.


This is one of my issues. The room is 13"w x 36 L, it starts as a family foom and goes into a kitchen. The speakers can only be about 12" - 16" away from the wall, the main listening area is 8' - 9' from the mains
Then I'd seriously consider the Thiel 2.4's and a Spectron Musician III Mk2 amp.

You need to hear the Thiels, supposedly people either love them completely or hate them completely. I really like them.

I'm in a 10' x 12.5' room so they wouldn't fit. If I was in a larger room, my favorite speakers are Magnepan, Thiel and Meadowlark.

The Nautilus 804 were a bit too bright for my taste. The newer 804S has a much smoother frequency response and much better driver integration. A much better speaker overall, IMO.
If you consider 802D why not give them a home audition? I have chosen my 802D in a direct home comparison to Thiel 3.7 and Focal Diva Be. It is all up to personal tastes, but I find 802D neither lean nor bright. Actually, to make them a bit leaner and tighter on bass I switched all cables to Shunyata.
What is an objective opinion? How does it differ from a subjective fact?
I am not going to directly address your question, thinking it better to comment about other issues raised by your thread.

If possible (and if I were you, I would try very hard to expand the meaning of "possible"), you should get your speakers farther off the wall than 12" to 18". Assuming that they will be closer to the wall than ideal, you should avoid any speaker that is rear ported.

You definitely do not want to use 804's in a room that large - they are for medium to small rooms unless the only thing you listen to is chamber music.

You did your homework (which is refreshing- most people don't) and know that much has been written about B&W speakers. My personal opinion of them is that they are of average sound quality, but can be made to sound good by experienced set-up people. Among high volume-production speakers, I believe that the build, parts and sound quality of, say, Focal, Dynaudio and Revel are better (but sound quality is of course somewhat subjective). That said, I could see myself putting together a rock 'n roll system around the 801N, which, assuming you have the big room it needs and can afford to bi-amp, impresses it its own way. My own strong preference is for specialty (i.e., not mass-market) manufacturers like Rockport, Verity, Evolution Acoustics, Magico, etc., but that doesn't help you because they don't offer much in your price range.

Worldwide, there are an enormous number of speaker manufacturers - many hundreds - and a huge selection of choices in what appears to be your price range. You will receive dozens of recommendations in response to your question, and good advice and bad. If I were you, I would call Steve McCormack to try to draw him out on what brands of speakers he likes with your amp, given the types of music you tend to listen to, your other equipment and your room (some manufacturers refuse to endorse brands due to commercial considerations, but most will).
With the McCormack electronics and your interest in a more honest and musical sound, I would look at a system built around the Vandersteen 3A.
I live in California too and know that B&Ws are a very popular and easy to locate brand here. Even three audio stores near me cary the brand and many in the SF Bay Area. I have never owned B&W, but have heard them allot over the years and was never impressed. I have listened in systems of all price levels from monster amps from Krell and Levenson to mid-fi Adcom. I have never heard one good audition. My exp. is that they were very bassy and had a weak thick untamed midrange. Not very musical. (I own SoundLab speakers for reference). Sorry I can't give a good review, but I am honest and feel that almost any other brand will be more enjoyable.
It seems to me that I need a lot more listening time with various brands. I still plan on buying used though. Raquel is correct and I actully am going to be speaking with Steve McCormack about speakers when my DNA 225 is upgraded.

These forum discussions are really helpful as common characteristics of a brand come up giving hints on what to listen for and how the synergy works throughout the system and components. Ultimately it is preference, but it is really valuable to get input from those with more experience.

One additional limitation is the room having couches and cabinets so speaker placement is a little difficult and there are size limitations.
If size and placement is an issue, you might want to look at PSB Imagine or Synchrony lines as an alternative to B&W for combined music and HT duty. Vandersteen 3As are not ideal given your circumstances as they are relatively big and need room to breath.
That is too bad on the Vandersteens, they sounded interesting. I have to carefully review my placement options with the fireplace and built in cabinets on each side. Maybe I can figure out something.
Oh, you are damn right in saying that B&W speakers have been much discussed & bashed on Audiogon. I cannot think of another brand that has evoked such strong opinions from so many people & sustained each time the word "B&W" comes up in a thread. Quite amazing. Maybe B&W is secretly very happy 'cuz they get so much free advertising from our heated discussions of their speakers?? ;-)

Assuming that the components powering them are acceptable, are the B&W's simply too lean and bright or are they accurate?
If you know what you are doing (& this is a loaded statement) then B&W speakers are actually very musical - they are neither lean & bright nor are they accurate in a negative way.
I've heard many B&W setups in dealer showrooms & audio shows where the sound was horrendously crappy - lean, bright, bloated bass, screechy highs.
I've been a B&W owner myself of a modestly priced B&W & I enjoyed a very musical setup with it. I got a lot of flak on Audioasylum for saying this but I maintained & still maintain my stand. I've heard my friend's setup which has 802Ds & it's also a very musical setup.
Of course, IMO. YMMV as always.
Interesting discussions

Over time and with equipment changes, with ARC (Anthem D2 room correction), tweeks, speaker position changes, cables, etc. I have improved the sound greatly. Sometimes I am happy with it and other times not as much.

But to go to the next level, I want to make better informed decisions. I have yet to find a friendly high end shop in The Beach communities south of LA yet, but maybe it doesn't matter as I want to buy used anyway. I did have a dealer but it went to HT and fired everyone. I then went to another very high end shop who insisted I needed the new Anthem D2V right away and to get rid of the D2 for only a mere $5,000 additional (if they could sell the old one). When asked why the D2V is a critical upgrade he then decided it may not be necessary. I went there to go over speakers but he felt anything other than JM Labs (Focal) is a mistake.

So I like this forum to gather information from people who love their systems and equipment and who want to share their reasons.

Thanks for the feedback it has given a lot to consider. Hopefully there will be more.
I have two pairs of B&W speakers and I find them to display an even frequency balance. One pair are the original matrix construction, non ported, infinite baffle and they still sound great. The N802's are ported as are most speakers, but I find the balance is dependent on the electronics and the room. If you look at the anechoic response graph, you will see they were designed to be accurate.
If you can swing the cost differential, the Vandersteen Quatro Wood has a slightly different profile, but similar delivery to the 3A. The 2ce Signature is also very good and slightly smaller than the 3A.
There are also the Vandersteen 5 and the 5s. Would those also work and what is the difference?
I have listened to the 1c, 2ce Sig. and the 7's more carefully, the 3A Sig., quatro and 5's briefly. I have liked every pair I have listened to in various systems and listening spaces, and have to say the 7's are a "Statement Audio Product". People on here swear by the Vandersteen 5's. I would do a search on the Agon Forum on "Vandersteen 5" - there are at least 78 threads, and plenty opinions provided. Hard to beat any of their line for sound quality at the price asked IMHO.
looks like your budget is in the range of $8600 - $9200 (I see several 802Ds for sale here on Audiogon in this range). Besides considering Vandersteens (which Knownothing is pushing) also consider Green Mountain Audio speakers. These speakers are manuf in Colorado Springs. These speakers are time-aligned & phase coherent & 1st-order cross-over. These speakers come up for sale quite often on Audiogon & you can get them for a very good price. You might also want to directly contact the owner/deisgner of Green Mountain Audio - Roy Johnson - and ask him if he knows any of the owners wanting to sell. Roy has a very good relationship w/ his customers so he'd be in the know. Roy also provides excellent after-sales service & he is very knowledgeable about room setup. In fact, his speaker's manuals have quite a bit of room setup info in them to assist the user. Call up Roy & have a chat with him re. your room situation, your particular likes & dislikes with your current B&W speakers & your particular likes/dislikes re. how the reproduced music should sound in your room. Tell him that I sent you.

The website is http://www.greenmountainaudio.com.

Disclaimer: I am NOT affiliated w/ Green Mountain Audio in any way, shape or form. I am a previous owner of Green Mountain Audio speakers (which I sold off in Oct 2009).