B&W vs. Sonus Faber


803 d3 vs Sonus Faber Olympica nova v. These are comparably priced, about $16k.

have heard both in separate rooms with diff equipment. Both sound quite good. Trying to decide.
Interested in any opinions, or other options.

emergingsoul
They sound completely different, no?

From what I heard, B&W neutral to somewhat forward, SF neutral to slightly on dark side. YMMV


Depends what you like and what electronics you have to pair with. But I think these are two with markedly different sounds so I’d listen again if you are unsure
Thanks,
I know SR is 4 ohms vs 8 for b&w.  I wasn’t listening with same setup.  So hard to compare sounds.  Have a Macintosh amp and a high end tube amp and hear Mac does better with b&w.  Have not heard much about sf and what I have heard is good but not as strong as b&w.  Maybe the ultra high end sf spkrs are really good but the lower end of their range is not very good.
I’d think they are comparable in terms of quality. Probably find just as many that prefer either one. 
With Mc I would definitely go BW not SF. Better pairing. 
+1 Kren0006
very different.  I have demo’d these both with the same equipment...
B/W forward and bright...Sonus Faber smooth to veiled. You sort of need to choose a camp...like tube vs SS electronics.
(I think) B/W pair well with McIntosh because it needs more ‘sparkle’.  Similarly Sonus Fabre can take the edge off of bright or harsher sounding SS gear.  I did say ‘I think’, right? :) Ken
Emerging Soul

I have run McIntosh C2600/MC302 through Sonus Fabers.

I personally auditioned the Sonus Fabers against B&W. It’s personal choice. And there’s a lot of good choices for speakers.

I am now biased towards Sonus Fabers...I have friends who prefer Maggies and appreciate personal preference.

Therefore, my recommendation would by the Olympica Nova V. And I’d listen to Davor Fidelity...I was impressed when I heard the gibbon Super Nine and perhaps ProAc

Enjoy the process, good luck and share your ultimate selection.
I own B&W D3 speakers, but I really like the sound of Sonus Faber when I have heard them.  McIntosh room at RMAF 2018 had some Sonus Faber bookshelves that sounded really special.  However, Sonus Faber with their soft dome tweeters is just a little laid back in the high frequencies.  Pairing with a laid-back McIntosh amp didn't give me a fast enough sound, but it still sounded very good.

In my opinion the B&W is likely going to be a better pairing with the McIntosh amp if you want a faster and more exciting type of sound, due to the diamond tweeters.  It depends on what kind of sound you're after.

Even though I can really appreciate the Sonus Faber, it's still just a little bit too laid back in the highs for my tastes, even with a high resolution amp.
I demoed SF top of range floor stander (£22k) and stand mounted top of the range. I own B&W 804d. SF floor stander was demoed with McKintosh amps. SF sounded absolutely fantastic with classical music, completely mesmerising, with great depth of sound and a real orchestral live feeling. But on pop/rock/electronic or most things amplified it sounded a bit dull, soft and uninteresting. .

B&W 8 series generally sound good with every amp I’ve heard them with.

So if you listen to just classical I would go SF. Otherwise B&W.
Or maybe used in the 16K range? You can a LOT of great stuff.
I'm a happy SF camper but for 16K maybe some Tanny's or Revels?

https://www.audiogon.com/listings?q=Sonus+Faber+

https://www.audiogon.com/listings/lisa42fd-tannoy-kensington-gr-prestige-full-range


Revel Reference Salon2
Have you figured out the preamp thing yet?  Obviously these speakers are quite different from one another, so it’s a little surprising you didn’t have a more definite preference for one over the other. An outstanding speaker in that price range that to my ears falls between the two are the Joseph Audio Perspective 2 if you can find a dealer.  Vandersteen, ProAc, and Usher are a few others well worth hearing.  It sounds like you’d benefit from listening to more speakers to better nail down what really appeals to you — even traveling a bit would be well worth the investment if necessary.  FWIW...
None of both. Much better, and “natural sound”: Ilumnia Magister, Harbeth , Estelon , Magico , Focal , Marten...
barry manilow is best listened to on bose 901's
Everyone hears differently. @lukaske above says magicos and harbeths are more natural sounding than B&W and SF. I would say completely the opposite. To my ears Harbeth have that British coloured warmth, whilst Magico have a clinical Hi-Fi sound. So to my ears your choice of SF and B&W are both more centrally placed on the ’natural’ sounding scale, depending on how you choose to define the word. Too much choice can clutter the mind and make decisions more difficult. You have chosen two supremely good speakers and you liked the sound of them both, so really there is no need to seek out more and more brands to listen to. Unless, of course, you enjoy that aspect of the hobby which admittedly many do. 

I would also suggest home demos are essential as some speakers interact poorly, or very well, with a particular room, and you never can completely predict what will happen until they are in your listening room.
+1  for The REVEL Salon 2's.  Require good amplification, but to me more articulate than the SF's but less bright than the B/W's.  Very full range.  Tall, so best to not sit real close.  Great for an open room layout such as combined family / breakfast room / kitchen open layouts.  Really 'fill the room'.  Can be had for a great deal used as lots made. I first had the Studio 2's.  Loved them, but traded up for the Salons's and great for the bigger room.  Studio 2's great for a smaller room.  Same 'sound'.
I agree with  kren0006 as you have to be very careful what you are pairing them with
I have compared B&W 802d3 and 800d3 (which I ended up buying) with £150k Wilsons and greatly prefer the B&W .. as did my esteemed listening mate. I would also take issue with the B&W pairing with McKintosh amps which I have also encountered. Disaster in my view - just to weak and insipid. I use Bryston 7b3s which kick the B&Ws into action far better
Mind you all my speakers (about 8 pairs)  are waiting to be replaced by Kenjit's new speakers. Untested, not measured, not available yet ... but he says they are the best ever... so I (we all) have something to look forward to
I love how people talk about individual components having a defined sound.  Systems have defined sonic attributes in various rooms, but all else is extremely variable.  So much goes into the final sound of a system that discussing individual components having particular characteristics is misleading. I favor resolution because I want to hear everything in the music, right down to the traffic passing outside a club during a live recording.  Atmosphere needs resolution.  How you balance that resolution is key.  I love B&W’s diamonds...I have the 802D3’s. Power Cords, interconnects, speaker cables , room acoustics and amplifier characteristics all must work together in harmony.  
Having experienced both with Yamaha M/C 5000 pre/amp which are simply fabulous, the Sonos Faber ( and subwoofer ) are sublime, creamy.

In defence of the B&W, these are spritely and quick. They have a good sound, however the balance of the drivers, to me, don’t quite have the crossover balance quite right.

As inferred, the S-F needs the accompanying subwoofer to bring out all the frequencies to an enjoyable listen, for hours.
🇦🇺
Of course individual components have a defined sound.  How could they not?  If one has listened to a particular component (say speakers) across a variety of systems (say with 3-4 different amps) and the sound tends to have similar characteristics, one can make some pretty meaningful conclusions about the component.

Otherwise, under the contrary assumption, one would be forced to purchase an entire system (and perhaps a room) each time something is changed.  Of course that is not realistic.
I upgraded my speakers last year and was also between B&W 803D and SF Serafino (they were at a big discount).

I auditioned both in the shop with a couple of audiophile friends. I really wanted to like the SF, because I heard another model before and the discount. Although very nice and smooth, we were not very excited about what we heard with the SF. This is in line with some previous comments.

The B&W had more resolution and was more what I was looking for.
I had the chance to check also the 802D3, as I was hoping to get more bass extension. Besides the more robust, extended and solid bass, I found that the midrange was, to my ears, much nicer that in the 803s.

The 802S felt like a much better choice, more money but worth it. I ended up buying this and love them. Using Ayre pre/amp.
If your room allows for a bigger speaker, I would recommend trying the 802s, you could get them used and have a better speaker.
802s are monsters but do like the larger bass driver size.  Leaning to the 803s probably black vs rose which I don’t think works with 803s (fine for 804s which I have). I have a 12 inch asw 2000 b&w sub. 

803s seem like a woman with a devilish outgoing flare vs a more refined sophisticated wine drinking type.


I have diverse musical interests, excluding rap and opera. 
I own a pair of B&W 804's and have had several pairs of Sonus Faber.  Currently run Lilliums.  Everything is powered by McIntosh.  There is a reason that Sonus Faber is now in the McIntosh family.  I would never describe Sonus Faber as "dark".  They have a sound that is very pleasant to an analog fanatic, like myself.  The B&Ws are in my office and it is all streaming in there.  They sound fine in the room. I think a lot has to do with the size of the room and the acoustics of it.  
+1 for sub w/ SF. + 1 for a sub(s) with most speakers/rooms. 
I've been a victim of buying speakers based on what appealed to me during a short 30-minute demo at the dealer. I have found that SF speakers, at least the ones I auditioned (Olympica line; old and Nova) are not that impressive during short auditions since nothing stands out. B&W on the other hand will grab your attention immediately. Once you take them home, YMMV.  SF has this intimate, delicate presentation that can only be enjoyed in your home while sipping a glass of whiskey. I disagree with the poster who said that SF are only good for classical music. They are extremely good for jazz, blues, vocals, classic/soft rock. Although, if you like to rock out, scratch SF off your list. They're not bad for serious rock or electronic music, but definitely not their forte.

Just to be clear, I'm not suggesting that one is better than the other, just that auditions, while better than none, can sometimes be misleading.
As others have said, let your ears guide you. I know it's hard because you're listening to SF and BW in different systems. I own 803 D3s but am not intimately familiar with SF so I won't try to compare them. I used to run my 803s on a McIntosh but now on a Pass Labs power amp. I love the 803s. I've not heard the 802s (someone said they have a better mid range). The 803s are not too bright for me as a rule. I find that production values vary so widely from one recording to another that it's sometimes hard to generalize about a speaker when the production values are so different. I can say the 803s have plenty of bass and exceptional detail.  Depending on the amp, the speakers can disappear in the room, fill it entirely, and create a very rich sound that is almost liquidy. I'm sure SF owners will trumpet their speakers as they should. This is a +1 for B&W.  It's common to see used 803 D3's go for around $10,800.
Not sure buying used spkrs is a good idea.  No idea if they were abused and you’ll never have full confidence about what you have.  
Used cars ok, but speakers a lot tougher.
I’d much rather buy old speakers instead of used cars. As long as the speakers are less than 5-7 years old, there are fewer things that can go wrong. I’ve bought almost 7 pairs of speakers in the last 15 years, all used, zero issues. Knock on wood!
I agree. I don't see many people spending say 6 or 8 thousand dollars, if not more on high end speakers abusing them. Or any piece of high end audio equipment for that matter. I think most tend toward being obsessive about their gear. I know I am. 

 I would be far worried about  buying a used car.
B&W on the other hand will grab your attention immediately. Once you take them home, YMMV.
B&W D3 are a very revealing speaker and can be picky with components.  The amp/preamp can make or break this speaker as I have heard D3 sound like crap or sound boring but also sound totally amazing.

The Sonus Faber are going to be more forgiving on bad or flawed components, so they will likely sound more "pleasing" in a higher number of systems.  But they are not going to be as transparent or accurate in the high frequencies as the B&W diamond tweeters.
I recently purchased the SF NOVA 5 after comparing them with several speakers including the BW 803 d3.  They were both excellent sounding, however the Nova 5 sound more natural to me with smooth high and mids,  and a well-definded base.   The B&W has more of a British like KEF.   I mostly listen to Jazz, smooth rock, and classical if that is any help. 
Seems if you have a Mac amp b&w speakers would work.  Did notice that 803s are rated up to 500 watts.  Quite an appetite vs 804s being rated up to 200 watts.  

I have the 802D3’s and they can put you right into the studio or venue where the music was made...startlingly clear, dynamic and full of presence!!  Image placement and solidity are uncannily realistic.  Of course my REV MIT Cables from Joe Abrams are a huge part of it...2C3D technology is mind blowing if you want a huge realistic soundstage filled with detail and energy.
My current speakers are Sonus Faber Guarneri's driven by McIntosh MC601's.

Listening to that system late at night (relaxing) it sounds like you are right there with the artist.  Although I always wanted a little more bottom end and continued looking at other speakers.  Specifically the 802's or 800's.

When it would come time to pull the trigger, I would regress back to just really liking the sound of the SF's.  And when you factor in the esthetics, the SF's blow the B&W's away.  Of course, like the sound of the speaker, the looks are subjective.

I ended up adding a Rythmik G25HP sub and my search for speakers has ended.

Good luck whichever way you go, they are both fine choices.

 
Are the B&W 803 ’s speakers you are referencing made by hand? I have a pair of SF III and the craftsmanship is fantastic they fit into my living space like fine furniture. 
@andrewmr  +1
The SF G's are an incredible speaker that I think have few if any peers. Certainly I can think of no stand mount that betters them. Adding a sub (or two) is the way to go, but it needs to be a fast and agile sub. 
B&W's tempt me on occasion as well, but all i have to do is go for an extensive listening session, and I come away with exactly the same impression as you do. The G's are going nowhere.
ok , let your ears be the judge 
However +1 to @arafiq #arafiq who could not be more spot on :

"I've been a victim of buying speakers based on what appealed to me during a short 30-minute demo at the dealer. I have found that SF speakers, at least the ones I auditioned (Olympica line; old and Nova) are not that impressive during short auditions since nothing stands out. B&W on the other hand will grab your attention immediately. Once you take them home, YMMV. SF has this intimate, delicate presentation that can only be enjoyed in your home while sipping a glass of whiskey. I disagree with the poster who said that SF are only good for classical music. They are extremely good for jazz, blues, vocals, classic/soft rock. Although, if you like to rock out, scratch SF off your list. They're not bad for serious rock or electronic music, but definitely not their forte."

"Just to be clear, I'm not suggesting that one is better than the other, just that auditions, while better than none, can sometimes be misleading. "


As an avid music listener for 50 years - I just purchased my first 5 Classical Albums - and had never listened to SF playing through  SF Speakers before . 

Now 
AS  an  owner  of both brands I must QUESTION  what is it that you are looking for ?  I personally lean to SF as I prefer a smoother all day listening opportunity .   

I recently acquired 30 YO ProAC 3.5 speakers which I believe somehow is giving me the best of both worlds > strange to me but it is working extremely well. I would have preferred purchasing  Devore Nines - and John advised if I loved SF that his would  be more than pleasing  to my ears. HOWEVER,  being the previously owned  buyer that I am the PROAC's were available and I said yes! 

NEITHER Speaker  IS A BAD CHOICE - unless you don't like them 
@jjss49 first time in a long time I am confused with your post 
re: BOSE 

I always "hang on" in a good way  to your comments  as they are straight forward and insightful.


@firberger 

sorry about that - that comment was directed at the op only

it refers to my getting on him in one of the numerous inane threads he had started a few days ago ... he said i hurt his feelings and he was going to cheer himself up by playing some barry manilow lol

🙄


If you drink while judging spkrs, you’ll like anything including Bose
It may sound odd, but have you considered hauling your gear to the hi-fi store that owns the B&W and SF speakers?

Run it by the shop owner, and if he’s hip here’s what I suggest.

Take your equipment there a day before your audition, plug it in and leave it on over night.

Come back the following day with 2 extra large coffees, 1 for him 1 for you, a hand full of your favourate tunes and spend the day listening to your music.

Go home, sleep on it - then - make a decision.
I prefer the relatively brightness of b&W's over Sonus Faber's apparent roll off in the upper extreme.  If your electronics are not truly excellent, the Sonus Faber might sound better to you.  In less esoteric systems, Yamaha calls this the Sweet Yamaha sound, if I remember correctly.  A Sequerra tuner reminds me of this, from when I had a Phase Linear amp that was a bit harsh in the upper ranges, compared to later, not too much more expensive amps.
Thank you for the clarification @jjss49  :)
Thing is, SF sound signature is changing. Going from Olympica in 2013  to Nova Olympica 2019 gives some changes in tonal balance in the highs especially. Its more forward now, more energy from 8 khz and upwards without compromize spatial sound.
Having said that, I have never got "foot" playing on Bowers and Wilkins. Maybe tonal is good ,but they have never played music like my Nova 3 does..
So hard to chose.  Maybe do a blend.  Buy SF for left side and BW for right side.  Best of both worlds.  
 I feel firberger has it spot on with the auditioning "show-off' nature of some speaker sound, and know I'd eventually walk away from the B&W revealing tweeter sound. Sonus Faber can be a bit less 'sparkly' but you may not get an ear-ache either.  :-) 

Which one will make you sit down and not want to get back up in two hours?  I want a speaker with detail as well but if it must stray a bit, better warm and listen longer than cool and leave the room room of fatigue. (Kudos to ears that can listen to diamonds.)

That said, I do still own and like my old DM-302s from 25 years ago although they're not set up.
Another vote for Revel Salon 2. Wide dispersion, excellent FR text book speaker. 
Dispersion is a trait not given much attention.  Seems really important for a smaller room.  A pain if sweet spot restricts where you sit. Hate that.  Need a wide open stage.

B&w being bright seems to reflect a more accurate portrayal of live performances which tend to be bright.  For heavily mixed studio recordings as most tend to be b&w may offer a too bright reveal.  So you need two sets of main speakers to coexist. 
B&W D3 can be bright if you have poor electronics or electronics with a specific voice. They can really shine with proper matching of components. (i.e. avoid putting silver or silver-plated cables in a B&W system).
I have the 802D3’s which are revealing, but in the most glorious way.  They display so much complex harmonic information and tonal shadings that are simply not conveyed by most speakers.  My Krell delivers wonderful Class A Sonics and does so with tremendous dynamics and tonal accuracy through my MIT REV Cables.  Spooky holographic soundstaging with lifelike scale and density.  Room placement takes time...every little adjustment can make huge differences in your results.

MIT rev spkr cables, very very pricey.  Why do you like them?
Dave__b love your comments. Love to see update of your system.  2015 details of your system no doubt have changed abit.