Review: B & W Loudspeakers Nautilus 805 Monitor

Category: Speakers

My musical tastes run from classical to soft rock.
The most important aspects of sound for me are the ability
of any sound system to take me as close as possible to the musical event itself. The music must move me to feel what the composer of the song wants to convey in his or her music. The worst thing a system could do to turn me off is
to place a veil between myself and my music, so clarity is of most importance to me. I have had the B&W Nautilus 805's
in my music system for about 2 1/2 years now. The 805's replaced my Vandersteen 2ce's. The addition of the 805's to my system have brought me to a new emotional high, as now Celine Dion can raise the hairs on my back as never before.
The 805's strengths are the following: 1)clear silky smooth
highs.2)excellent rendition of vocals.3)Great soundstaging
ability and 4)surprising amount of defined low bass that they produce from such a small box. I have yet to determine any weakness from these speakers yet other than the ability
to go lower in the bass region. If money were no object I would still own these speakers as they give me great pleasure.

Associated gear
VPI HW19 Mk3 Turntable
Koetsu Rosewood Needle
SME V Tonearm
Levinson 38 Pre-Amp.
Levinson 334 Power Amp
Levinson 37 Compact disc transport

Similar products
JM Labs Mini Utopia
I've always liked the 805 for the money in all its iterations, but haven't heard the "N"-series, which should be the best yet. (However, the only thing Ms. Dion raises on me are my hackles...sorry! :-)
If you like the N805 then you will be blown away with the Signature version which has increased bass performance and smoother highs.
I too listened to these for some time but was not blown away by them. If you like these, give Revel M20's a shot. They do everything the 805's do, only better. The 805's color the mids slightly.
I also own the N 805s. Although the tweeter isn't as sweet as it might be, what I love about these speakers is that they reveal and respond to everything upstream. This has allowed me to build a great front end and eventually think about speaker upgrade. One other point, these speakers do a great disappearing act.
Try the N-805's with the SET Cary 805C's and you'll hear space and top end air unmatched by anything in the price range or way beyond. I also own $8K Aliante One Zeta's but the B&W kills them on treble definition and depth.
I read the reviews above and figured I better keep my opinions to myself concerning B & W speakers. Then I read the honest opinions concerning Bose 901's, a healthy discussion of why audiophiles (myself included) tend to trash them.

So I came back to this B & W thread, mainly to gain some understanding. I've never understood the rave reviews about this company. Almost every audio reviewer on this continent and Europe loves B & W loudspeakers. I audition every speaker I can find, and I find myself wanting to like B & W's, mainly so I can hear what everyone's so excited about. Yet every time I audition them (no matter what model) I leave disappointed. What am I missing here? Are my ears so much different from the majority of the audiophile world? I'm not trying to trash B & W; I feel the same after listening to Paradigm, Theil, PSB, Legacy, etc. I tend to lean towards; Wilson, Alon, Nestorovic, Aeriel, and VMPS.

Are tastes in speakers really so vastly different?
Are my ears just screwed up?
Is there a learning curve I need to catch up to?

I'm feeling so alone!:-)
I feel your pain! I've never been impressed by B&Ws despite having many friends who swear that they "disappear" and are perfectly neutral, etc. etc. The sound I hear? Dry, I call it, and lifeless. Even metallic and edgy sounding. Not like the Thiels I've been so impressed with, Linns, or even the el-cheapo(el-cheapest more like it) Sound Dynamics RTS-3s I can't seem to find much wrong with. Must be my low-grade ears. Oh, the original DM-302 went the right direction, IMHO (even more evidence of my low-grade ears).
The not so positive views on b&w products are understandable. It only goes to show there are as many opinions and views out there of what good sound really is. I've listened to a lot of brands myself and i've settled with this brand because to my ears they have done a better job at balancing the virtues and sins that many others are less successful at. I agree it sounds dull at first, but kevlar cones are known to break-in longer. Once it's settled, it gives you honest and neutral delivery which is a good temper for a lot of bad recordings out there(especially on cd).It combines good rhythm, midrange clarity and expression a decent bass and imaging to create a believable soundstage. They are not party animals for sure but its handling of a wide range of material is an acceptable compromise. Also, selection of ancillary equipment is critical.
I was a B&W guy for about 15 years. I finally "upgraded" to the 805 Nautilus. Just some comments that relate to my preferences.
The metal dome tweeter is absolutley relentless. To borrow a cliche, you better wear sunglasses to protect you from the biting brightness.
There is virtually no bass.
The music is right on top of you all the time.
The speakers never sounded like an integrated pair. They always sounded like 2 individual speakers acting independently.
I tried various cables and cords and i-connects. Nothing tamed them, inclduing putting acoustic foam directly in front of the tweeters. (At the time, I had the Plinus integrated amp and a tube cd player. The Plinus produces the most powerful bass I have ever heard, and yet it could not extract an ounce from the B&W's.)
I did not get the imaging, or the transparency that reviewers hear. Maybe it is there, but I just could not get past that biting brightness. I simply could not even listen anymore.
I sold them after less than 6 months, and am no longer in the B&W family.
Before anyone drops the 2 grand plus for the B&W, listen to some other's. This is a very popular price point for speakers.
A sub would add to the overall cost, and I'm not sure
that a sub would solve the problems. If it's not right at the start, just adding more stuff is not going to correct it.
However, if your taste prefers a leaner, bright speaker, the 805's will be the right choice for you.
I am a B&W N801 owner. When I demoed them in the showrooms, I never really liked the sound. The sound was never convincing. At times the sound was dry and lifeless.
When I installed them in my listening room with a good combination of upstream components, the speakers became everything I dreamed of...after over a year of trial and error in speaker placement. If you hear dryness, I would try tubes for the mids and tweets, a tube preamp, and play around with different cables. The difference to my ears was amazing.
Amazing how two people with different ears can come up with the same opinions about B&W. Bravo Ttrulis! Yes, the B&W pairs will not and cannot be intergrated. May be, B&W should sell their speakers individually so consumers can pick and choose and maybe out of random, we can find a matching pairs. Also the marvelous Natilus tweeter makes Diana Krall voice metallic high. So sorry Diana but I still love your silky voice. I own GP from Sonus, Aerius I by M/L and none of these give me these symtoms. Some of these hi-end reviewers must sold their souls for a few extra dollars. But let's be fair, B&W is good for a second system while working or reading but not a system for serious listenning. I dare any one to do a/b comparison B&W with Logan and Sonus Faber. I did. Sorry, B&W my money goes some place else from now on.
I have found B&W's, expecially the current and recent models to be very revealing of any flaws upstream, which I think accounts for the diversity of opinions on them. I went thru 3 amplifiers and a cd transport before I found a combination that worked with mine, but once I got the right setup, they sound very good.
In regards to Flips response.I own b+w's myself but I must admit I have only every heard them properly setup once in a store.Everytime I heard them in a store I thought..There is nothing about this demonstration that would make me want to buy them.I have found this to be true for a number of speakers that have received rave reviews.I chalk it up to dealers that don't know what good sound is.So why did I buy my 801's....because I had a friend who had worked in the recording industry for years.He said the first time he heard them in the late 70's that he had been quit impressed.He doesn't impress easily,doesn't believe in wire or voodoo.So as you can see I really valued his opinion.I bought them and have always been happy with them..Do I think they are the best? speaker is but b+w do so many things very well...some speakers excel in areas .I find that b+w overall has the fewest weak points...
I too am a B&W 610i series owner and although I cannot disagree with the brightness in the upper frequencies, I must admit that coupled with a warmer sounding gear the results are breathtaking. Also, to get a hint of why reviewers are so enamored with the brand, check out the article in Sound on where independent tests for accuracy and other criteria were conducted on 'hifi' versus 'pro' studio monitors and results confirmed B&W was the most faithful to the original mic'd recordings. So faithful, in fact, that the reviewer (and studio recording engineer) agreed that B&W's could easily replace their existing studio monitors without causing any audtioning concerns at all.
(Ttrulis)"...There is virtually no bass" (refering to 805's)

I would like to add that Ttrulis's exposse on the 805's is one of AN IMPROPER SET UP!....TYPICAL!!!!...AS USUAL.
The "no bass" is a problem with (ONE) your speaker placment, and (two) your seating position!...and the interaction bewteen the two.
This is unfair at best!
No, I'm not a big 805N fan, nore critic. But I have sold the speakers, as with many many others. You can get good bass out of em, if(like any speaker) you place them in the room properly!
I've heard the same kind of coments from people about the best bass speakers around! They say "I can't get no bass!..or these speaker's bass sucks!". 97% of the time, it's USER ERROR!..or in-operable room situations. GARANTEED!
I have become a B&W N805 owner in the last month. I must have listened to twelve different brands of speakers,including floorstanders and standmounts. My room being about 14'x15' does not need a lot to fill it up. My tastes range from jazz(the real stuff,not that smooth crap)to classical and old rock. I found no setup in any audio store that gave a true account of any speaker I auditioned. But I kept coming back to the 805N. What I heard was not brightness,but very sweet and controled highs. I didn't expect much bass cause it's a freekin bookshelf speaker. But the heart of the thing,the midrange is what won me over. Miles' horn was what I heard in a small club in Detroit some years ago. Herbie Hancock's piano had real weight and sounded like a piano. Vocals were really there. Now your upstream gear does make a difference and mine is currenly Lexicon and Rotel with some other stuff thrown in. But to all of the naysayer about B&W,I guess thats why God invented more the one speaker.
I have owned N805's since 10/03 it is 6/04 as of this writing. The B&W's replaced NHT super ones that I enjoyed for 6 yrs. I too read the reviews and actually had a very positive experience with an in store demo, 805's coupled with a velodyne sub. Last Oct I finally sprung for the system (805, and an HGS 15). These were integrated into a HT setup includeing NHT's, an ATI 5 channel amp and an Outlaw 950. I was shockingly unimpressed with the B&W Velo combo. I found myself preferring the NHT superone/sub combo. Flat sound, smeary mids, lack of dynamics mini soundstage and less bottom end weight than what I was used too!! There was alot of money spent to be disappointed!. I read about the long break - in and hoped for the best. My first step was to replace my too tall Lovans with Sound anchor stands (more money). I never expected stands to make a big difference but things did improve slightly. I continued to pay the Visa bill while we cranked DVD after DVD through the system, I had abandoned 2 channel listening. This past weekend I sat down with some discs and there it was SONIC NIRVANA!! I was confident in my setup after many SPL meter calibration sessions but until this past weekend nothing worked. I don't know when they broke in but it happened. The difference was not subtle. The soundstage is now so wide I checked the surrounds to see if they were active (they were not) The sound is cohesive and dynamic from top to bottom, true full range sound. From acoustic small group to Van Halen these things do it all. I haven't stopped listening. I've taken time off work just to enjoy listening!! The sound out of the box is not represenative of the broken in sound. Hang on to your 805's and just run em as often as you can. The sound is night and day from where it started. The highs are clear and open NOT harsh, the mid/s and bass are tight and punchy, and with a sub full range. It took a long time and now I couldn't be happier. The 805's IMO are worth every penny, but you have to BREAK THEM IN, you will be rewarded with truly great performance. All 2 CH evaluation has always been done in 2 channel "analog bypass" mode.
Personally I prefer gray patchy hair with beady eyes, garish makeup, flat bust and flabby body, with just a hint of BO not masked by bathing in cheap perfume. I'd hate to go on a date with your ideal "chic", but I won't pick on your woman 'cause my Bose cubes turn me on! (Don't tell my old lady, she'll divorce me and then I won't be able to afford such expensive tastes.)