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Sticking to my budget, I only auditioned the B&W 804 D3 speaker and in comparison to a friend's B&W 804s, I found that the D3 did everything better. The D3 sounded more coherent and had better driver integration than its S counterpart. I also found that the new "gray" midrange driver looked better than the old "yellow" Kevlar" midrange driver and I also found the fit & finish nicer on the D3. I have no experience with the N series.
When the 800D series first came out, it had somewhat mixed reviews. Some didn't like it as well. The 2nd generation diamonds, such as 802D2 (branded as 802 Diamond), had significant improvements in the tweeter crossover as well as the tweeter motor. I know this turned out a lot better than the original "D" series. I wonder if you listened to those.
I have the 2nd generation 805 Diamond D and HTM2 Diamond center channel. These are just excellent sounding speakers to me.
Just another opinion. I have not heard the D3 series.
Michaelkingdom, I always found your posts helpful as I went on my own speaker journey. I share your appreciation for the original B&W 805 - I had a pair in the Natural Cherry and then upgraded to the 805 Signature. I sold those to fund a new business venture, but always regretted letting them go. I LOVED those speakers, and still think the 805 Sigs are some of the most beautiful ever.
I did a write-up earlier this year after spending time listening to the D2 vs. D3 in the same showroom, on the same equipment, in the same position. From what my ears heard, the smart play was to grab the D2 on closeout. Of the three of us in the room, my wife preferred the D3 but the sales rep and I both liked the D2.
I've also heard the 805D, but in a comparison against the WB Arcs, and I ended up with the Arcs (much smoother, sweeter, and more open). Problem is, though I've heard them all, including 804 and 802, I've never heard the D3 in the same room and same time as an original N or S series. So that specific comparison is one I can only offer from putting together listening impressions at different times in different places.
I know some people speak of the D3 as a dramatically upgraded speaker, but I just didn't hear that. Different yes, earth-shattering no, but listening impressions are so personal. If you said you had $7K burning a hole in your pocket, I wouldn't dissuade you from getting some new D3 - I think they're super-sexy in white. But given how much you love the original, and I share that, it's a large cost difference between the two. By my math, new D3 will run you a good $4500 more than a nice-condition pre-owned set of 805S. You could also go the Wilson Benesch route (which from my online research is a path many 805 owners have taken), but that's a discussion for a different day if you're so inclined.
Given how much you like the original but disliked the 805D, I'd say that if you can't compare the N/S vs. D3 in your space, at the same time, on the same equipment, I think it's a dicey upgrade for you.
Using the B&W 805 Signature (Tiger Eye Finish) as rear speakers in 5.1 system driven by Bryston 6B SST. Had some time recently and repositioned them removing Avalon Indra's as front R/L driven by a Rowland M312 (way more power than they need) with the addition of a Kharma CeSb 1.0 Sub. Was amazed at how well they held their own. Nothing can replace the coherence and imaging if the Indra's, but; the dynamics & detail was all there with B&W 805S's. Totally underutilized in my system for sure.
The 805 Signature has held their value amazingly well. I believe they retailed for $3500 new, and they still command 75-80% of that on the secondary market for a nicely-preserved pair. And really, even the N805, 805S and 804S still sell for a healthy percentage of original retail. In fact, we could name quite a few well-known, highly-reviewed, semi-mainstream audiophile brands that wish their products held the same percentage of retail. What did the N805 cost new at retail, $2500? And today, they still sell regularly for $1500+, correct? That's 60% of original retail for a speaker introduced to market 15 or so years ago...not too shabby. Correct me if my math is wrong about those original retail numbers...
I have 804S and 803D and find the smaller 804S almost as engaging. I think if both had the same crossover components, the differences might be even smaller. The 804S uses lower grade polypropylene couping caps to the midrange and tweeter, while the 803D uses Mundorf silver/Oil. I recently modded my 803Ds to Silver/gold/oil for both mid-range and tweeter and it makes quite a bit of difference. So I wonder what the 804S would sound like with those Mundorf silver/gold/oils and the upgraded resistors. Note also, that B&W used different series resistors on the tweeters to adjust the high frequency levels and this may impact how you hear them.
The limitation of B&W are still their crossovers and the fact that it only can create 1 metre of stage depth.
I owned the 800S and wanted to buy the 800D1 in 2006. But in a few shootouts the stage depth was still 1 metre.
Recently I auditioned the 800D3 with the most expensive Esoteric amps,pre amp and sources. This set can create a lot of stage depth. But again it was still 1 metre of stage depth. This is a hifi stereo parameter. This is 100% a fact and cannot be changed.
B&W need new people to create better speakers, better crossovers and speakers who are capable of creating a very deep stage. This is an essential part in highend and is not allowed to be missed.