Difference in B&W sound

Greetings, I have a set of 804n & 803 Matrix2. I'm running a Pioneer Elite 74 Txvi with a parasound 2003 MOD & a Parasound 5250v2. the 804 have a sensitivity of 90db. & the 803s have 89db. The Matrix sound so much better, so why would this be for an older model? Could the 1db. be that much of a difference? I'm confused.
If you can find any measurements say on a Steroephile review to compare, teh impedance and frequency response curves would probably tell one the most about how the two sound different.

What sounds "Better" to an individual is purely subjective. No specs alone will tell you that.

1db difference in sensitivity spec only means that one will be slightly louder louder than teh other all else being equal so not much to bank on alone there.
"What sounds "Better" to an individual is purely subjective. No specs alone will tell you that."

I can't think of a better way to put it.

We all have different tastes. I had the 802 S3's and didn't like them at all. That said, there's always the possibility that something is wrong. What is it that you like better about your 803's than your 804's?
Their more open, I have the trim down to -10 opposed to -4 on the 804, via MACC set up. I tried switching my cables, which are MIT 23 for the 804 up front & MIT Matrix 6 for 803 @ the rears.

the newer B&W speakers uses a Kevlar design in their drivers. Also, a diamond tweeter is used in several models- many exclaim that there is more "brightness" and harsh edges to the sound.

Conversely, the older models of B&W do not use the Kevlar impregnated drivers, nor the diamond tweet(s). I have listened to both overall designs in the past, and each sounds fine to my ears. Happy Listening!
More open could mean many things. It would be a better comparison if you were to listen to both speakers without any processing. That way, you are hearing more of what the speakers can so.
The Matrix series, as well as all 800 series since 1974, use the Kevlar mid.
Speculating here, but having owned both Matrix 802s, 804s and Diamond 804s, to include both at the same time (804s), this may be very simply a matter of synergy with your electronics. As a rule B&Ws need power to open up, and (this is the speculating part, as opinion doesn't count on science) I think the newer models may even be more power dependent. If it were possible, I would do the same listening test with a very good high powered amplifier and see what happens. I suspect the N804s would surprise you with the sound quality. Also, the matrix series sound great - just because they are older doesn't mean they are bad. In the right room with the right electronics and music they still produce nice music, which some might prefer. The newer models might have tighter bass or better treble, but in the end these things can be a matter of preference and system synergy.
The Parasound 2003 is a high current amp = Continuous Power Output
> 200 watts RMS x 3, 20 Hz - 20 kHz, 8 W, all channels driven
> 300 watts RMS x 3, 20 Hz - 20 kHz, 4 W, all channels driven
Current Capacity
60 amperes peak, per channel
Slew Rate
> 130 V/μsecond
Frequency Response
20 Hz - 20 kHz, +/- 0 dB
Power Bandwidth
2 Hz - 150 kHz
Total Harmonic Distortion
< 0.05% at full power
< 0.006% typical levels
IM Distortion
< 0.03%
Dynamic Headroom
> 2 dB
Interchannel Crosstalk
> 88 dB at 1 kHz
> 74 dB at 20 kHz
Input Impedance
50 kW per channel
Input Sensitivity
1 V for 28.28 V Output, THX Reference Level; 1.5 V for full output
S/N Ratio
> 98 dB, input shorted, IHF A-weighted
Damping Factor
> 800 at 20 Hz

The 5250 = Continuous RMS Power Output
20 Hz – 20 kHz, Five Channels Driven
250 watts x 5, 8 Ω
385 watts x 5, 4 Ω
Current Capacity
45 amps peak per channel
Frequency Response
20 Hz – 50 kHz, +0/-3 dB, 1 watt
Dynamic Headroom
1.6 dB
Total Harmonic Distortion
0.025% at full rated output
0.02% at average listening levels
IM Distortion
0.05 %
Transient IM Distortion
Not measurable
S/N Ratio
114 dB at rated output, IHF A-weighted
106 dB at rated output, unweighted
93 dB at 2.828 V output, IHF A-weighted
84 dB at 2.828 V output, unweighted
Input Impedance
33 k Ω
Input Sensitivity
1 V in for 28.28 V out, THX standard
1.6 V for full rated output
Inter-Channel Crosstalk
85 dB, 1 kHz
73 dB, 10 kHz
67 dB, 20 kHz
Damping Factor
Over 150 at 20 Hz
"01-17-15: Jimmy2615
Speculating here, but having owned both Matrix 802s, 804s and Diamond 804s, to include both at the same time (804s), this may be very simply a matter of synergy with your electronics."

He's right. The 804's may be revealing more details than the 803's, and are just bringing out the flaws in the other components. I would demo a different amp, if you can. The Parasound you have is OK, but you can do a lot better.

Since you already have the equipment, here's something else you can try. Take your Parasound 5250v2 and use 4 channels to power the speakers instead of 2. Sometimes it makes a nice diffrence, but not always. You just have to try it. Make sure you remove the jumpers from the binding posts on the speakers, if you're using them.
Every speaker I have heard with kevlar drivers has sounded too forward and unnatural to me. Some carbon fiber drivers can sound this way to me also.
Hi Danmar123

Interesting thread subject and based on two speakers that represent a clear change in direction and sound for the company.
I have always owned a set of B&W's since the 70's and various 800 series from the 80's onward.
Some comments you can consider. A bit of fun first, facts, some history and opinion.

The fun part first.

Over there are two birds that look like two ducks.
Upon moving closer differences are revealed.
They do share genetics, as when you look under the feathers, they both show the same tag.
But when they quack they sound different. So what gives?
You are not imagining things.

Some facts direct from from B&W based on your speakers.

45Hz – 20kHz ± 2dB on reference
8 ohms - 3 ohm minimum.

803 Matrix s2
26 hz - 20khz
sixth order butterworth with 25 hz cutoff with bass alignment filter.
8 ohms 3.7 ohms minimum.

The above tells me that your 803 are closer to full range. They will have a fuller sweeter sound and will go easier on your amplifier.
If, I had no idea who and what B&W was I would think that the 803 are a higher pecking order based on specs over the 804. Indeed this is the case.
So you are not comparing apples to apples here, no matter what equipment ends up in front of these speakers.
In fact two different design speakers under the same brand - more on this in a bit.

I owned the 803 s2 for a time back around '94 ? They were very nice, elegant speakers. Here is also a review from

Doug Schneider I still remember reading it and it influenced me in getting them.

I have also had both model nautilus and matrix series, for a period of time, same room/gear. In this case the 805 model.

These graphs

805 Matrix versus 805 Nautilus Stereophile Cabinet Resonances

Were lifted from Stereophile and show the results of cabinet resonances (Matrix 805 versus Nautilus 805).
A cumulative spectral-decay plot calculated from the output of an accelerometer fastened to the cabinet's side panel.

What can be seen is that even though the Nautilus 805 series claimed a Matrix construction, clearly the 805 Matrix and 805 Nautilus are not the same bodied duck.

Speaker makers make changes from one declared speaker version to the next version - just like car makers.

One needs to realize that the timing for the Matrix to Nautilus also happened when an extra big B&W company change was occurring. The 800 series Matrix line was the last line under the leadership of John Bowers. What followed for B&W was a change of leadership.

You can read more about the company changes

Like all businesses with new leaders / management, the (New Guy/Gal) is always anxious to institute immediate changes. They did just that. This resulted in new direction, objectives, and since this business is about speakers - a change in sound.

The opinion part.

These public chat forums are about opinions and sharing info. IMO - The new leadership took what was a smart "active speaker design" during a time of two channel audio focus, and changed the design to fit in more with the emerging multi channel Home Theater market. More bean counters were introduced. A very smart business move indeed. All B&W owners regardless of what kind of B&W they own should be happy with having such a strong company backing their speakers.

32Hz - 28kHz ±3dB on reference axis

This is the frequency response for the flagship 800d as published on the B&W info sheet. The 800 model namesake is no longer a full range speaker on its own. I have seen/heard two rooms with 800d in the past. In both cases a subwoofer/s was used.
One was a two channel audio setup. The other was a Home Theater setup.
If your thread was in the Home Theater section I would not have included this last bit of info here. As speakers with subs is the norm in HT. But this being an audiophile forum, and this post being in the speaker section, I thought it was relevant to show where the company focus went. Again IMO.

So imo assuming both of your speakers are functioning properly you are not imagining things. I also heard big differences in presentation of 2 channel music in my room between nautilus 805 and matrix 805 w/bass alignment filter as designed to be run by John Bowers.

Thanks for letting me ramble here. And don't let the gear get in the way of the music.

Cheers and good listening.
Thanks Zd & Ct, I first switched the 803 & the 804 to each others locations. without doing a new MACC I played from classical to rock & everything in between. Then I switched to #6 MACC setting, which is completely flat in all respects.I couldn't hear any difference there.
For the most part #s 3, 4 & 5 sounded better on the 803 (to me), Then I asked my Twins to come & take a listen. Played different music in all of the said above sequences, they said the 804 sounded better.
I had to run some errands & when I came back, I switched out the right channel from the both amps, then called in my Son & for the most part with all music He said the 2003 (MOD) which was the left channel sounded better even in #6 which is at FLAT response. That was a relief for me because of the monies for the amp & the MOD, I would have been SICK! I guess it comes w/age, Growing up in the 70s with my love for (rock concerts, Discos) & being a Carpenter. I'll take it all into consideration. Or like Jimmy said: but in the end these things can be a matter of preference and system synergy. Final note; I'm going to leave things as they are for now. I'm in the market for a new Pre. Just waiting for the NEW products to get their upgrades & quirks corrected. AMB Danmar
Sbbrownnw, You must be an audio genius, I think exactly the same as you on Kevlar.But not being as smart as you cost me lots of cash trying to fix the problem before it dawned on me .
Danmar123 -Then I asked my Twins to come & take a listen.

Aha..I knew I had a gut sense of a common element here.
You have two channel in your blood. :^)
You have been listening to the best natural stereo, but also the most challenging to setup, no ?
Our fraternal twins have been chiseling away at us for 20 years. My music panic room was built out shortly after they were born. Hearing those cries in stereo..I can still hear them. 8^0
Ours are just now starting to ask questions and getting curious about what is downstairs. I am starting to fear for my turntable, preamp, and records. Everything else is easily replaced.

Am holding onto the white B&W Electrostatic Speakers for my daughter. The bad boy 801's for my son.

Ct, I always admired the B&W Electrostatic Speakers, ever since I bought my Heresy Back in the 70s. Have you looked @ the new Emotive XMC-1? I'm looking to upgrade my Pioneer, just waiting for Emo to get everything in order. Anyone else have any suggestions? AMB
@Schubert, I don't know what to say? They just don't sound right to me. I grew up listening to my dad's tube pilot gear with large warfdale speakers and like the warm sound with punchy but not forward midrange.
Ct - ......Have you looked @ the new Emotive XMC-1

AMB - I am strictly two channel in my two rooms. I had an elaborate HT setup many years ago. My wife upon hearing the first helicopter land and shake the house main floor said, "that's enough of that"

So my fate was sealed. The Denon AVR 4800 from those days is still in the house, somewhere.

Some action here for the XMC-1 at AudioGon if you do a search. A quick google search shows many dedicated forums for the brand. So I see its very popular with quite the following. Let us know how you make out.

"Anyone else have any suggestions?"

Actually, I forgot to mention in my first post that B&W speakers are known for the screws to loosen up over time. It would probably be a good idea to over all of your speakers and make sure everything is tight.
I had a top of the line model (don't remember what). I got them on a wim when first wife passed...anyway, they were very disappointing...changed to top of Vandersteen line. Smiles.
"01-21-15: Stringreen
I had a top of the line model (don't remember what). I got them on a wim when first wife passed...anyway, they were very disappointing...changed to top of Vandersteen line. Smiles."

I had top of the line B&W's too, but I downgraded to the entry level Vandersteen's. Smiles.
even largest ones have very poor bass no matter how much power you give'm pointless.
midrange and trebble are very clean, but no need to go for the higher-end ones. the cm series probably best choice on price per performance. i also agree that matrix series sound substantilly better than n8xx
B& W , rich mans Bose.
Since B&W has poor bass, is it a better idea to go with their bookshelf models and just add a subwoofer? Seems like you'd get their best virtues -- good mids and clean treble -- and just substitute their weakness with a dedicated sub. Just throwing that out there.
"01-22-15: Mkash3
Since B&W has poor bass, is it a better idea to go with their bookshelf models and just add a subwoofer? Seems like you'd get their best virtues -- good mids and clean treble -- and just substitute their weakness with a dedicated sub. Just throwing that out there."

I don't see how a setup like that would be an improvement. To start off with, the OP already has 2 pairs of B&W's. If you are trying to achieve better bass, it would make more sense to match a sub to a pair of the floor standers that he already has. Its much easier to integrate a sub into a system that has full range speakers to begin with. If you were to change over to something like an 805, there would be a huge gap between the low frequencies on the 805's and the highs on the sub. The best way I can describe the results, would be that it sounds like there's a hole in the music. Part of it is missing.

Regarding poor bass.

My personal experiences have been that poor bass is the result of user set up error. Most of the time either the room/speaker relationship and/or the speaker/amp relationship. Poor bass can happen with all speaker brands not just B&W. If you hear poor bass at an audio show (very common) it is usually due to the room/speaker relationship, because the manufacturers and dealers usually bring compatible gear that has worked for them in their personal set ups. (process of elimination)

Specific to B&W - my experiences are to do good bass with them needs amps/s with "balls", as they have stubborn British woofers and unrelenting tweeters that tell all. There is no cover up happening here. Whether with the gear or the source material. You need amps that will take full control of the woofers. If this is not done your sound will not be balanced. You will know when your setup is off because bass will have little definition between bass notes, will be mediocre, and not dynamic. This in turn leads to an over emphasis on the highs - making them tizzy and harsh; all because of the amps inability to control the bottom end. The speakers will sound mechanical. You will not hear the music.

Being able to pressurize a room is important in getting good bass. A rule of thumb; any solid state amp must have the capability to double down. If 200 wpc at 8 ohms - they will do 400 at 4 ohms. From the tube amp side a robust amp that can be tapped on 4 ohms to control the B&W woofers. How many wpc is depending on room volume, listening habits, and woofer cabinet size(physics) unless you are using equalizers of some sort. Every body's room is different. If your struggling with poor bass listing out your equipment is not enough. You should post a picture.

You can have a full range 20hz - 20khz speaker set up wrong - you will get poor bass. You can also have a bookshelf speaker like an 805 that is good to 35-40 hz and if set up right will sound lovely. On its own depending on the music or with a sub. How good it will sound based on user setup.

805 Matrix S.Phile Review

As another example my Wayne Picquet Quad 57's have bass down to 40 hz. You can hear the notes. But their db level on the bass notes compared to the midrange and up is way down. Still for certain music like a Jazz trio/singer they are excellent even without subs.

The base (GRANTED), isn't going to perform from a 6"driver x2 as it would from a 12". Weather I'm using them as my audio (music) or in my (video) 5.1 right now, but I do get my house rockin. I do have a pair of 805 packed away, eventually will set up a 7.1 or 9.2 etc.. I have a MK mx 125.2 push/pull for my sub which is set up behind the couch, really adds to the madness. I would move the 803s up front but as in my HTM1 (CENTER), I feel isn't going to be a good match for them.I live in NYC, so I'm not limited to high end audio shops.I know whats out there & I probably can do better but, this set up works for me. Evan with the Elite 74, I do impress some fellow audiophiles that I'm friends with.Can I do better? Always. Thats why I'm itchy for the new EMO.
"01-23-15: Danmar123
The base (GRANTED), isn't going to perform from a 6"driver x2 as it would from a 12"."

I know why you may think that, but its really not true. When it comes to bass, all other things being equal, the only difference when it comes to making bass is that you can move a big driver relatively slow or a small one faster, to achieve the same note. It doesn't really matter what the size of the drivers as long as they have the ability to perform like you need them to, with proper setup and equipment.

You also mention that you live in NY. If you haven't been there yet, check out Audio Connection in Verona NY (He's very close. Its kind of like going to Newark airport.). They sell B&W but makes stores like Lyric, Stereo Exchange, Park, all look like amateurs. Best audio store I've ever been to by far.

"I would move the 803s up front but as in my HTM1 (CENTER), I feel isn't going to be a good match for them."

You don't have to do anything you don't want to, but audio is very hands on. Never assume something will or won't work, especially when you already have the equipment sitting in your house. Always try things for yourself, if you can. Its very likely that you can end up saving thousands of dollars that could be put to better use, like paying parking tickets.
Z, Verona is a 4 hr. drive from where I live. Once the weather brakes I'll take a ride up there for the weekend via(HARLEY). If you live in the area, I'll meet you for lunch.
I know I'm talking apple to apples. When I hook up my Klipsch Heresy's, there's a much improvement in music, but we're talking horns now.Please, lets not go there. I did have the 803 first & I'm very happy with them.When opportunity knocks as in the 804s. I picked them up for a song (pun), under a grand for the set. THANK YOU.For some reason I can't post my photo's. If you like, go to my page & look @ my set up.Nothing great, buts that was in my budget @ the time. I did do my homework with Parasound & B&W, they do match well.I play most of my music thru my comp.with a high end sound card via Pandora. the sound card does have all the bells & whistle anyone would need. So as of tweeking my music,it's not a problem.
Sorry, I must have missed something. I thought you said that you live in NYC. I wasn't aware of your Klipsch speakers either.
I do live in the 5 bouroghs. The Klipsch aren't hooked up. No room for them now. "SOON" My stereo system thats packed away Might blow up the B&Ws. But I'm happy for what I have at the moment.
"Z, Verona is a 4 hr. drive from where I live."

Maybe if you leave for Audio Connection at around 4pm. lol. Going by distance, though, I don't think its any more than 20 miles from Manhattan.
Mr Z, ar you talking, Verona NJ 07044?
Danmar123 - I have a MK mx 125.2 push/pull for my sub which is set up behind the couch, really adds to the madness.


I have found behind the couch or other room boundary near to the listening position, is an excellent location for a sub especially when matching up with ESL speakers. Sometimes, not the most aesthetic depending on the room layout. If this is a problem it can be hidden / disguised when not in use by covering it with one of your wife's favorite knitted quilts, and her favorite wedding or family portrait on top.
615 Bloomfield Ave. ~ Verona, New Jersey 07044

Phone: 1.973.239.1799 ~ [email protected]

That's the address and phone number. If you go to his web site, he has a map to show you exactly where it is.
I've tried to post photo's of my set up to this dicussion, but I can't get them to stick. If anyone is intersted go to my profile. Without going back into the dicussion, someone asked to see my layout. The room is 14x18. I should be moving soon to a new home & then start the madness all over again via no WIFE. :)