B&W Speaker Score!


I have a pair of B&W 802 S2 that I like but have had the upgrade bug for a while.  A recent purchase of a pair of Thiel CS-5 fell through so I kept on looking for something interesting and a good deal.  I stumbled across a pair of B&W Nautilus 802 only a few hours away- the final purchase price is $2K.   The seller provided lots of detailed pics and they look great.  The only issues are one of the tweeters is dented (I just purchased a new one for $150) and there are no grilles, which isn't a deal breaker for me as I remove them anyways. 

I'm pretty excited to get them home and see how they sound with my Threshold S500/II and newly acquired Parasound P5.  I just wanted to share my find- the timing could not be better as it takes a bit of the sting out of tax day.

Cheers.
dastro
Sweet deal on the 802Ns, my favorite B&W speakers,  they should really be quite an upgrade. Enjoy your new purchase and the Sound Anchors stands really do move the performance of these speakers up a notch, just sayin.

Buy the other tweeter as well. Make sure you get a matched pair.
Got 'em home and don't like them at all.  In my opinion, at least with my room, and system, they sound sterile with highs that are extensively bright and unnatural, the bass is incredibly lean- their undeniable strengths are imaging and soundstage.  Overall they take music I know and turn it into something devoid of emotion.  In some ways I'm disappointed because overall they come highly recommended and I like the look, strange as they are, (it was also a massive undertaking to purchase and install them in my basement). 

This experiment has once again taught me that I deeply love my vintage 802 SII's!



Dastro - You undoubtedly got a great deal on those speakers but I'm really perplexed as to why they are sounding so bad for you.  I'm very familiar with the 802s so based on your assessment I immediately suspected that they were being underpowered so I looked up your amp (that I'm not familiar with) and it's a beast and should be completely up to the task.  One online review literally says "The S/500 simply dominates any speaker it drives." which is exactly what the larger nautilus speakers require.

Given the combo of that amp and the 802's, your pant legs should literally be flapping in the bass at high volumes.

So I wonder what's going on?  I would think that placement would have some tangible effect but not so dramatically that it would cause the problem that you're describing.

If possible, you should try to verify that the LF crossovers are OK.  I once drove my 800s so hard and for so long that the massive resisters on the LF crossover boards literally melted down and the whole units needed to be replaced (thankfully B&W stocks and offers these to the end consumer).

Sounds to me that there must be something wrong with the 802s.

Hopefully you can investigate and solve the problem- even if you need to invest a bit more in them, you're still ahead of the game if you can get them sorted out at the price you initially paid.

Greg

Dastro - You undoubtedly got a great deal on those speakers but I'm really perplexed as to why they are sounding so bad for you.  I'm very familiar with the 802s so based on your assessment I immediately suspected that they were being underpowered so I looked up your amp (that I'm not familiar with) and it's a beast and should be completely up to the task.  One online review literally says "The S/500 simply dominates any speaker it drives." which is exactly what the larger nautilus speakers require.

Given the combo of that amp and the 802's, your pant legs should literally be flapping in the bass at high volumes.

So I wonder what's going on?  I would think that placement would have some tangible effect but not so dramatically that it would cause the problem that you're describing.

If possible, you should try to verify that the LF crossovers are OK.  I once drove my 800s so hard and for so long that the massive resisters on the LF crossover boards literally melted down and the whole units needed to be replaced (thankfully B&W stocks and offers these to the end consumer).

Sounds to me that there must be something wrong with the 802s.

Hopefully you can investigate and solve the problem- even if you need to invest a bit more in them, you're still ahead of the game if you can get them sorted out at the price you initially paid.

Greg
Hi Greg,
Thanks for taking the time and your response.  Yea, I'm not sure what's going.  Bass wise, at least in the specs, the Matrix 802 SII with the Anodyne Bass Filter goes deeper at higher dbs- this may result in the bass sounding leaner.  My amp is definitely up to driving these as needed.  It's the treble that is ultimately unlistenable, at least to my ears.  The very top end seems shrill, piercing, and vastly exaggerated.  If it were more of a subtle extension, then one would think cabling or equipment changes would help, but there's no way cables or even a different amp would reduce the issue to a great enough extent.  The one tweeter is dented, but I really can't hear a difference from the other one. 

I auditioned them during purchase with Prima Luna tube amps and they sounded bright with them as well, but I thought  it was definitely the rooms terrible acoustics (concrete basement, exposed concrete floors, mostly bare block walls).  Based on the price, I knew I was buying them anyways as I would have no issue of selling them. 

Once I install the new tweeter I'll see if that helps, at least with that speaker.  If not, then I'll let someone else have fun with them.

Thanks again.
I was going to tell you how those speakers sound, but every time I do, I seem to start a war. I had the same speakers. Check to make sure all of the bass drivers are working because they blow very easily. Also check all of the screws. They have a tendency to work themselves loose.

My advice would be to make sure the speakers are in good working order and sell them. You can't fix them. Any money you put into them will be wasted. Its not you're amp. Pass is one of the better matches for those speakers.
I was going to tell you how those speakers sound, but every time I do, I seem to start a war. I had the same speakers. Check to make sure all of the bass drivers are working because they blow very easily. Also check all of the screws. They have a tendency to work themselves loose.

My advice would be to make sure the speakers are in good working order and sell them. You can't fix them. Any money you put into them will be wasted. Its not you're amp. Pass is one of the better matches for those speakers.
Hi sfall,
Wars are necessary from time to time :-).  Please tell me your opinion!  The fact you "had" them tells me you didn't love them.

I've checked everything, all ok.  Yea, my Threshold sounds perfect mated to the Matrix 802 S2.  I love all my electronics, I don't feel like swapping out everything to try to make a speaker work.  I know some do, but no thanks.

Are the speakers bi-wired or single wired?  If single wired what jumpers are you using?  N802's are less aggressive single wired to the bottom terminals and using the B&W supplied jumpers.

The speakers should be aimed such that the outside of each of your shoulders is the target.  Too much on axis will be bright.

Are the speakers bi-wired or single wired? If single wired what jumpers are you using? N802's are less aggressive single wired to the bottom terminals and using the B&W supplied jumpers.

The speakers should be aimed such that the outside of each of your shoulders is the target. Too much on axis will be bright.

Bi-wired.  Toe in, distance, all placement positions tried.  thanks.
Dastro - You obviously know what you're doing and you are totally correct that with bass filter that you're going to get more perceived extension out of your matrix speakers - which it's great to know that you love them so much.

Perhaps in the end the 802s aren't for you, but a couple more things to look at assuming that you've completely ruled out any obvious defects (and I agree that the dented tweeter will have little effect).

Have you checked that the transit lock screw is off and that the midrange drawbar tension is OK?

Are the midrange center plugs tightened appropriately?

Are the bass port plugs in?

Finally - are you sure that they're adequately broken in (perhaps the original owner never used them)?

In the end, even if you prefer your s2's, you might consider keeping the N802s considering what you paid and went through to acquire them.  Either way, it's a bummer that they're not "singing" to you.

Greg
Greg- all components have been checked and rechecked.  They're definitely broken in- the previous owner used them frequently.

I don't think there are any technical issues with them- the previous owner is a veteran of this hobby and had quite an extensive collection of various, high end gear.

It's interesting to me that their sound puts me off so much.  They just sound superficial.  Even my wife, who doesn't care about audio whatsoever, commented without solicitation that they didn't sound right.

Oh well, the journey continues...


You hear what you hear. No way around it. Someone else may love them. Smart to not change system for speakers. My humble opinion is that great musical speakers show their merits even when not perfectly set up. If you have to tweek a bunch and try other gear for mating they aren't great speakers. Also think great audio gear will show its merits out of the box then get better. Moral to story in my opinion is that you shouldn't have to work hard or at all to determine if a product sounds good or not. 
You'll have to sell them as you'll never be happy with them but the next guy might. Best wishes.
@dastro My first reaction was that that was a heck of a good price for Nautilus 802s.  That said, I wonder if the reason the price was so good is that they didn't sound right to the original owner either.  I'm with the other posters who say check to make sure everything is working correctly.  I've seen reviews where something didn't sound right and it was found that something was wired out of phase inside the speaker.  You could easily check that by reversing ONE set of speaker wires to see if the bass gets better.
@dastro My first reaction was that that was a heck of a good price for Nautilus 802s. That said, I wonder if the reason the price was so good is that they didn't sound right to the original owner either. I'm with the other posters who say check to make sure everything is working correctly. I've seen reviews where something didn't sound right and it was found that something was wired out of phase inside the speaker. You could easily check that by reversing ONE set of speaker wires to see if the bass gets better.
Good idea, I'll check it.  But I doubt anything is wrong, the previous owner had them for years and was reluctant to sell. 

I should also mention that upon further listening I  hear what seems like a graininess in the ultra high frequencies, almost like a background hiss that stops in between songs.(only present when material is playing).  It is definitely noticeable, more so now that I picked it up.

At this point my thinking is either this model's sound just isn't for me, it's not playing well with my room's acoustics, or maybe there are crossover issues. 

The bass leaness could also be a matter of perception since I find the highs so exaggerated. 

Suggestions: See how the bass sounds with the speaker cables attached to only the lower bass terminals taking the highs out of the equation.  Can you use your bi wire cables both connected to the lower terminals and then use a banana terminated jumper to the uppers and check if that improves the balance.  This should help in determining if the bass section of the speaker is functioning correctly.
UPDATE-  Well, this is funny, after trying about 6 different positions, I pulled them out almost 2.5' from where I usually have my Matrix 802's and boom, things changed dramatically.

Apparently, my 80" TV in between the Nautilus' is a huge factor where they aren't really a factor at all with the Matrix.  I also put them on some moving dollys that raised them about 4" which I think also had a significant effect. The highs calmed down so dramatically I'm still somewhat shocked. 

The bass is still leaner and more polite than the Matrix, which will be a deciding factor.  Also, living with them pulled out so far just isn't an option in the home theater/music room with young kids.  So, I'll probably end up keeping them, at least for a while. At that price, I'd hate to let them go.

Also, can anyone recommend good banana plugs?  The one's I have don't fit the terminals as tightly as I'd like.  The Nautilus' seem to be ever so slightly larger than other typical terminals.  Spades are an option but for convenience I like plugs.

Thanks.