You heard it at the dealer. Unless you are very intimate with their gear, cables, their room placement, turntable alignment, etc, etc; don't be too quick to blame the speakers alone for what you hear. They could just as likely be accurately revealing a sonic problem elsewhere.
Both them and the Wilsons are good speakers..
Is your system at home the same as theirs?
If the rest of your system is pretty much complete at home, see if they will let you borrow their demo pair for a day at your house, before you dish out big bucks for anything.
Interesting experience. I find that midrange is the only strength that B&W speakers have aside from the other attributes you found.
I have not purchased anything based on a showroom audition since sometime in the 60s. I can remember listening with a friend at Meyer-Emco in DC to some 801s driven by some very expensive electronics, we broke out laughing when we got outside. I was a B&W dealer and couldn't have made them sound so bad if I had tried. When I bought my Duetta Signatures they sounded horrible at the dealer, they are hard to set up. The moral is , showroom evaluation is almost useless, try to hear them at home or in someone else's home that knows how to set them up. Stan
Try Focus FS-688's:
Or Merlin TSM's.
Try JMlsb micro utopia Be or Dynaudio S25. The micro may just be what you want. The sig 805s are good speakers and comparable to the above. It sounds very different just changing interconnects. Try in your own sys..
Maybe they need some more break-in time. I find one of the best attributes of the Nat. 805's to be their midrange. I do agree with the "metallic" sound of their tweeters...I hear in in all their models. I guess it is the "B&W" sound. My friend has Nat. 805's mated with a Rel and I find the sound very enjoyable indeed. Not the best I have ever heard...but damned good for the overall price point even with a Rel.
I swapped my N805 (non-signature version, though) with SF Cremona Auditors. I felt it was a significant improvement. A similar speaker (cabinet/drivers) is the System Audio SA2k. Both models are worth a demo.
Wilson Benesch Arc. Absolutely one of the least boxy sounding dynamic speaker other than other WB speakers. Tonally very accurate with a very natural midrange. The speakers is very flexible on placement and can be played very load (110 db) without being fatigueing. Medium efficiency at 88db but the load is easy at 6 ohms nominal. They come bolted to stands right from the box. They are some of the best speakers available small or large. Lastly, they look very nice.
thanks for the responses,
I'm going to try and arrange for an in-home audition for this weekend. I'm headed out to hear the JM Labs micro Utopias in a couple days. Dynaudio 1.3SEs I've heard, and I certainly did enjoy their sound very much - though I do understand that the Dynaudios need some space out from the back wall, which I really can't do.
I have heard the SF Cremona Auditors... I loved them for jazz/light classical, but in all honesty (from my audition), they sucked at rock.
While I agree that listening in the dealer's room is not the best way to compare, it is usually the only way.
I had a similar experience listening to the B&W's and Wilsons at the dealer. To my ears, there was no comparison. I wanted to keep listening to the Wilsons, and didn't want to hear the B&W's again.
In a showroom audition consisting of Cary v12, CDP and pre, sig 805 vs the new Dynaudio 1.4, I found myself drawn to the 1.4's. The 805's quickly became fatiguing to me. Audition music consisted of Jack Johnson (On and On -dealer's choice). Gidon Kremer (Tango Ballet - my choice) and Alicia de Larrocha (Albeniz: Obras para piano - again my choice). To my ears, on that particular day, I remember the Dyn's as being the more 'musical' speaker. The Jack Johnson simply boogied (I had never heard him before, but I ran out and bought that CD that evening!), though I did think the bass was slightly 'loose' (due to tube amp I suspect). With the Gidon Kremer, I listenned to almost the entire disc on the 1.4 without realizing I was supposed to be listenning to the 'equipment. On the other hand, the 805 only left with the lackluster impression, 'that's nice'. With the Albeniz piano music, I found the midrange to be a little forward or exagerated on the 805's, the highs on the 'tizzy' or metalic side. In comparison, the 1.4's seemed to have smoother tonal balance. my 2 cents!
My wife and I auditioned the B&W's and JM Labs before deciding on the Thiel CS2.4's. They are far superior to everything we auditioned in my opinion. They are, however, not forgiving of other components shortcomings, particularly source.
A friend replaced his Sig. N800's driven by two Krell FPB700cx's (with a Rel sub) with the Sig. N805's driven by one FPB700cx (with the Rel sub).
This man is "in the business" and told me the improvement was fantastic.
After reading so much about the B&W Nautilus speakers I decided I would not buy my speakers until I auditioned them.
I did not like them at all. From your post, I suspect you might like the new Kef Referance 207 speakers.
I eventually settled for the Kef 205s, although Tannoy was a real close second. But again, from your post I doubt you will like the Tannoy.
Check out the Kefs!
I concur on the Wilson Benesch speakers. Their strongest suite is the absolute lack of congestion. Every note finds it's way through where other speakers blur them all together. Definitely worth a look.
UncleJeff: Did you audition any Harbeth's prior to KEF purchase?
These both use polypropylene woofers.
I heard Harbeth's at CES and thought they were great.
Was wondering if poly is the way to go.
Also wondering how KEF tweeter competes with the excellent SEAS in the Harbeth 7.
No, I did not audition Harbeth's. I also can't comment on the quality of the Kef tweeter, except to say that i like it.
I would have bought the Kef 207s had I had the amp to power them, although the size of them would have made it harder to convince my wife to like them. What I was able to do was to bring her to the store and tell her how much I liked the 207s, and then allow her to 'compromise' me to the 205s.
There is no speaker for everyone; it is just that the Kefs sounded so much better than the B&Ws while still maintaining the big room presence.