I remember HIFI News or HiFi Choice recommending the two and a half way speaker over the bigger one but can't remember the generation involved, I'll try to find it.
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I have the N803 and I doubt that the 804 is better, even in it's newer iteration. With usual caveats (setup, room, ancillaries) you will simply get better bass response from the N803 and you can tame what some claim is a sometimes bright treble with softer electronics (ie, amps like Sunfire, McIntosh). I am looking to possibly upgrade myself, and I know that even the newer 803S doesn't warrant the upgrade (the 803D slightly does). Just my two cents, and just my experience. I will add one more thought: that Denon will not sound good with any of the models you are considering. I had a Pioneer flagship recvr putting out 140wpc and it just didn't sound good. I stepped up to Sunfire separates (TGP5 and TGA5200) and the improvement was DRAMATIC. You can get a good sunfire amp cheap here on agon, and they put out 200 into 8ohms, and double down (400/4, 800/2), which is critical for B&W 800 series as they can dip to 3 ohms and need power/current. Good luck.
A tough choice indeed; I owned the N803's and heard the 804S's at a dealer and to me the newer design had a punchier bottom end; I have also owned the Signature 805's and I thought they had a "punchy" bass, which the 804S followed sonically.
There are a number of changes to the newer line. The N803's I had I sold to a friend and he didn't keep them real long. This friend also purchased 804S's, many years later, and he really enjoyed them. FWIW
I do not agree with Jeff above, especially on the 803D being a slight upgrade over the N803.
B&W is close to rolling out their new 800 series, where all will have the Diamond tweeter, amongst other changes. Here is the U.S. pricing...
800 Diamond: $24,000/pair
802 Diamond: $15,000/pair
803 Diamond: $10,000/ pair
804 Diamond: $7,500/pair
805 Diamond: $5,000/pair
FWIW, I own 804S and at the time of purchase I also auditioned 803S. The difference was just some more bass extension and didn't justify the price tag for my room. Note even the 803S isn't full-range either, so I'm running my 804S with a REL Storm sub and that covers the whole range.
I have not heard the N803, though.
You'll need a larger amp with the N803. My 804S are driven well with 75 Wpc tubed amp. Tubes and B&W aluminum tweeter work really well together, in my view.
Thanks for all the inputs. I did go with the 804S, used for a decent deal. They don't sound good with my Denon - nothing like they did when I demoed in a store. Very underwhelmed here. So am now looking for an amp.
Thinking of some ideas:
simaudio moon i3.3 integrated,
set of rotel separates,
musical fidelity m6i,
rogue audio perseus + some small powerful class d amp,
uset balanced audio technology integrated
I've demoed all but the last, but not with my exact speakers. Any other ideas? I've read it's best to go with high power and warmer sound on these speakers.
Try an Emotiva XPA-2 or even two of their monoblocks (XPA-1).
You can get them brand new for the price of the used amps mentioned above and they are very solidly built.
I currently have an XPA-2 pumping my 805S, probably a little overkill, but these would drive your 804S beautifully.
XPA-2 - two channel 300w @ 8ohm & 500w @ 4ohm
XPA-1 - monoblock 500w @ 8ohm & 1000w @ 4ohm
I'm still on a quest for an integrated that fits into my 16" deep space and will power my 804S speakers with clarity and full sound. I got a demo of Naim NAIT XS with the 804S today and was surprised the Naim could power these speakers.
I think I am down to the Naim NAIT XS or the Simaudio Moon i3.3 at this point. Could still do separates with Rogue Perseus and Rotel RB 1552 though it will be tight. Anyone use any of these with 804S?
Nichonoff, you might want to check out the Wyred 4 Sound integrated. I hooked up the N802's this weekend powered by the ST500 which is not broken in (19 hrs) and was very impressed by the results. Excellent bass control and not at all bright or agressive in the upper mids/lower treble. Soundstage and depth are excellent as well. The case work is nothing fancy but the sound is impressive especially for the price. All the other amps I own or have owned, have been considerably more expensive. Don't less the price fool you.