Waiting on 802D3 to arrive -- Will I need a sub?

It's a rainy gray Sunday afternoon here in Atlanta today. I probably have better things to do but I've spent hours reading and researching trying to ascertain if I will need a subwoofer(s) once my B&W 802D3 arrive here in another week or so.

I can't decide and so I've decided to try posting here and crowdsource an answer, ha ha!

My goal is to create a system that will allow me to listen to 2-channel music for hours on end without fatigue.  The room is my living room and is a quasi open floorplan. It is around 24 feet long by 18 feet wide.  There are 10ft ceilings with an open stairwell back behind the seating position and an opening to my dining room that adds another 400 square feet or so of floor space.

Previously I've had B&W 804D2 towers with two B&W ASWCM10 powered subs.  I've sold the towers and the subs and am waiting on 802D3 to arrive as mentioned above.  The 804D2 absolutely had to have the subs.  The bass just wasn't there without them unless I really cranked the volume up.

So as I sit here I'm wondering if I made a mistake in selling my subs already.  With the 802's will I miss them or will those guys have me covered for 2 channel listening?

If it's likely that I will still need a sub (or 2) what do you guys think would be a good match to the 802D3?

Here is the rest of my equipment in case its helpful in offering an opinion:


·     PS Audio BHK Signature Preamplifier


·     Qty. 2: PassLabs XA60.8 Monoblocks


·     PS Audio DirectStream Junior (DAC)

·     VPI Traveler 2

·     Audio Technica AT33EV Phonograph Cartridge

·     Apple TV 4K 


·     Qty. 2: PS Audio P5 Power Plant


·     Pro-Ject Tube Box S Phono PreAmplifier


·     Bowers-Wilkins 802D3

Hello Bryce,

From one Thomason to another, it depends, of course, on your room. In my case, my room is roughly 16" X 34", of which the greater part has cathedral ceilings (the living room/dining room area). The kitchen has a normal ceiling height, but the whole makes up one great room.

My 12" custom built Tannoy speakers work well with good bass, but I added two subwoofers, a 15" passive Tannoy driven by a Crown XTi 2002 bridged to mono, and a 12" DIY sub that is on the opposite side (kitty-corner) from the 15" sub. This has helped a great deal towards loading the room with what I consider the appropriate amount of bass. If I recall correctly, the 802D3 has two 12" woofers, so they may work well in your room without the subs.

Either way, you'll be in a winning situation, enjoy.

That article doesn't convince me in the least.
@Bryce, I think you should wait to see if you need them.
That being said, I would probably opt to add a pair of subs. A well integrated pair adds a subtle richness to the sound. And a pair of High Passed subs will allow your amp to work more efficiently.

Wait until you get your new speakers. You might not need a sub with them. Don't put the cart before the horse!
802D’s are like $22k why would you ever need to add a subwoofer. Dude if you do you truly bought the wrong speaker, have the wrong amplification and honestly did not do your homework. Just being honest 
What does price have to do with it? 
Any system can benefit from adding subwoofer(s). When you relieve the main amp of having to work with low frequencies, you will get much better sound up into the midrange and treble region not to mention better imaging and sound-staging. Adding the extra Hz. on the bottom is only a small portion of what subwoofers can actually achieve.

+ 1 for Yogi and Bluesy. Wait and see. You can spend your money on something else if you don't need subs. Give the speakers a chance first. Best of luck.

Dave Wilson from Wilson Audio believes all speakers benefit from a subwoofer. You should  be able to google his comments. In my experience it isn't about the bass, but how a properly integrated subwoofer adds to the overall musicality of the system.
Dave Wilson sells subs. I recently sold a pair of mint condition Witt series II. Now I have Legacy Whispers and never had a need for subs with either pair. When I ran Klipsch (Chorus, Forte and Quartets) and Lipinski L707's I used subs. I think Bryce should give his new speakers a chance first, then add them if needed.
The bottom octave is a bitch to reproduce, and very, VERY few speakers are up to the task. To require them to try compromises their ability to reproduce 40Hz and up cleanly (due to the distortion the woofer creates by trying to play below it's capabilities), and does the same to the power amp(s) driving them (low frequencies suck up a lot of power). Some music doesn’t suffer too badly when reproduced by a speaker extending down to only 40Hz before rapidly rolling off (many, if not most speakers, at least to live music SPL), as the lowest note of a "standard"-tuned 4-string bass (electric or acoustic)---the E string played open---is at 42Hz. Some rooms become boomy if pumped full of bass, so some people prefer to not try at all. But in a room allowing good bass reproduction, and subs well-positioned and adjusted, that bottom octave can be really fulfilling, and help make some reproduced music sound considerably more like live that if it is missing. I especially like how the acoustic of a large theater or church/cathedral becomes apparent by the bottom octave reproducing the very low frequency, very long wavelength soundwaves those spaces create. Your listening room sounds HUGE!
12 days ago you had $5K to invest/spend and now you say you just purchased $22K speakers???

Years ago when I trained at Sumiko on how to set up speakers, they had a pair of SF Stradivari (rated down to 22Hz) with a REL Studio 3 sub. They played solo violin recorded in a huge venue and all the space of that place along with the emotion of the musical selection was revealed. They then played the same piece of music with the sub disconnected, and the sound completely collapsed to where it just sounded like a nice hi fi. As REL says - It's not about the bass, it's about the space. Plus, no other subs in the industry can be fine tuned to seamlessly blend with main speakers like RELs can. If budget allows, considering your room size, get REL's 212SE, and get 2 if you can afford them. Stereo subs rock!
If anything you are going to have a challenge to tame the 60Hz resonance peak of +7dB in the bass. A sub may be the least of your problems.

@dekay --> yup. Thanks for asking. Best Buy Magnolia bought back the 804d2's I had purchased from them a couple of years back. Couple that with opening a credit line from them with 3 years no interest and a couple of other sweeteners and ... well, I pulled the trigger. So they will pick up the 804d2s when they deliver the 802d3s. To your comment specifically, I still had 5K cash set aside for the preamp which is what the other post was really about (As an update to that I've ordered the PS Audio BHK Signature Preamplifier which has yet to come in).

Thanks for everyone's posts today about the subwoofer topic. I did a lot of critical listening today with my DAC connected directly to the Pass Labs feeding my 804d2.  They sound a lot better than they did with the emotiva xpa-2 I recently sold. I would describe the sounds as more transparent and warmer. It felt less brassy to me. The low-range of the 804 sounded nice, but they definitely need a sub.  It will be interesting for me to see if the 802d3 circumvent that need.

I think the advice is solid that I need to just get the 802's setup before deciding if I will need to get new subs. I heard that advice loud and clear and that absolutely makes sense.  I'll be sure to report back!

Thanks again for the great comments and feedback. It's been truly valuable and most appreciated!
@shadorne Is that for the 802D3?  That scared me a bit, but when I went to the measurements on sterophile, I see a different graph that is a bit flatter.  


I have the same speakers 802d3, I also had the 800d3 in the same room.

the 800d3 absolutely did not need a sub.

the 802d3 “might” need a sub depending on size of room.
My mistake - the plot I linked is the original 802D. Your D3 measures much better. It doesn’t need a sub. Room gain should be enough to give you near flat response down to 30Hz.
A quality subwoofer can enhance just about any system...assuming your room can handle it.  I used a REL sub for years with various speakers and always found it blend well.  There are very few stand alone speakers than can reproduce the very low bass and room pressurization that a good sub(s) can.  Do you need it?  Only you can answer that. Once you experience it in a well balanced system/room it's hard to do without it. Once you get your speakers setup up buy one of the big RELs from Best Buy and try it out....then come back to the forum and tell us whether you need a sub or not.

Ok, you're not THAT crazy then.

Can't imagine you needing subs with decent speaker placement, considering that your listening room is of a similar size to mine.

But, time will tell.


I was just at the CES and don’t recall any 10k and above floor standing speakers with subs just saying! As a Magnepan owner someone is always recommending a sub before I even got them in my home. I bought my 20.7 and they provide great bass in MY listening room. If you buy a flagship speaker like an 802D that provides more than adequate bass why would you need a sub, at least let the speakers break in and settle in first. I know this is a hobby but can he try to listen and enjoy the music first? I’m not trying to be a d!ck but this is what drives me bananas in these forums. More subs, more power before we even listen to the music. The internet is full of this misguided information. He has an amazing speaker that will stand on its own. Just saying!

Some of you guys are missing the point. Ok, fine, I get it. If you don't feel your main speakers need subs by all means forget about it. There is more to using subs than just bigger louder extended bass. If I have to say it again, I will. You can VASTLY improve overall SQ of your system by using them. Just listen to the improved mids and highs along with superb soundstaging with a pair of subs. The caveat is proper setup. ANY system regardless of what or whose speakers you use will benefit. All I can say is try it. You have absolutely have nothing to lose and a lot to gain when properly implemented. IMO.
There are no absolutes in audio, only preferences. I have decent speakers with very good bass that stand on their own. In my room and in my system adding a sub has added to the overall musicality of my system. As a matter of fact, every super expensive system that I’ve heard had a subwoofer or dual subs. I’m not misguided, I’m expressing an opinion based on listening. If your listening experiences suggest no sub, I respect your opinion. 
A lot depends on the room and listening position.  In my estimation, no sub would be needed.
You can read other people’s theories on the 802d3 or listen to one mans actual in-depth experience.

if you are questioning the need for a sub with the 802d3, get the 800d3.

the price delta is similar to 2 good subs.  And you won’t have to worry about integration.

plus you get a cleaner midrange with less distortion.


I really respect where you are coming from but I think we music lovers tend to be obsessed with the journey and forget why we love music. IMHO it makes no sense to purchase a speaker with the performance and the pedigree of a B&W 802D and before hearing it in your listening environment you buy or be thinking about adding a sub. It's totally my own mental block with that logic I'm certain it makes sense to others. I think my passion on this topic comes from being misguided by others in the past and having to live with the misinformation and those poor decisions. But to each his own.


I submit we live and learn! The most important thing I’ve learned is to respect different opinions, but to use my own ears to decide on what component to purchase. Your comments suggest that you love the B&W 802D speakers ("performance and the pedigree of a B&W 802D"). I’ve heard the big Rockport’s with dual subs, Martin Logans, Wilsons, and several others with subs. I'm assuming most people think the big Rockports, Martin Logans, and Wilsons have the performance and pedigree of very good speakers? The OP asked the question, " Will I need a sub?" The only way for the OP to know is to try one in his room and let his ears decide. In the mean time, several people have posted reasons why they think adding a sub may be a good choice.
+1 ricred1. 
You understand.....
From the same Stereophile article:

Frequency response 14Hz-35KHz, +/- 3dB
If a speaker with this sort of spec and four feet high and two feet deep, weighing almost 210 lbs. each, requires a subwoofer, then I either question the measurements or the wisdom of the experts suggesting that a subwoofer is needed. Cost notwithstanding.
Hello Bryce ~

First of all... Congrats on your choice of the Bowers & Wilkins 802D3.
Spectacular speaker!

As a long time fan and dealer (25 years and counting...) for B&W here in Tallahassee, Fl.,
I can attest to the benefits of a well calibrated sub, preferably subs in almost any room.
Even with the remarkable low end capabilities of the 802D3, nothing will 'pressurize' the space you describe like a great sub or multiple subs. 
Since most 2-channel set-ups lack any 'bass management', I assume you will run the 802D3 full-range?

I owned the 8th pair made of the original Nautilus' for almost 20 years (one of the most iconic and amazing speakers I will ever own) and now have the 8th pair made of the
50th Anniversary 800D3 and I can tell you that even the 800D3 benefits from a great sub. 

Notice that I said "great".
The last thing you want to do is put an average subwoofer into a system with a pair of 802D3s!

I know it's hard to get your head around the fact that a $22,500.00/pair of speakers
(or in the case of the 800D3, a $30,000/pair) you would need to address the low end with a sub or subs, the fact remains, they will make all the difference in the world.

The Bowers & Wilkins DB-1D (which I'm using with my 800D3) along with two of the original Revel Ultima 15s in my room makes an amazing contribution to the entire experience.
There is an ongoing debate about whether one should use a really great single sub or multiple
'smaller' subs and I suppose it depends on a number of factors. I subscribe to the multiple
sub theory and have for quite some time.

Floyd Toole, the brains behind much of the speaker work at Harmon and a champion of the multiple sub theory has written extensively on the subject and you should be able to find his 'white papers' going back decades... he was one of our true pioneers in the field of acoustics.

I used to think I had great bass in my room almost 40 years ago when I was using the remarkable Yamaha NS-2000 speakers; then I added the Velodyne ULD-15 and Wow! 
Then years later, when I stepped up to the B&W ASW4000...Wow again.
Then a series of great subs, including the Revel B-15 and the Ultima 15 with its outboard amplifier. This was quite satisfying until recently, when I added the new B&W DB-1D.
Wow and wow... 

You really can't believe how much bass you are missing until you have multiple subs properly installed and calibrated in your space and I'm talking about 2-channel or 7-channel listening and everything in between.

I suppose the type of music you listen to most often is also relevant, but great bass is great bass and it's either there in the content or it's not, but you will be surprised how much is in the music you already know and love and are not hearing...you are in for a real treat.

Having said all that, I would slip into your local B&W dealer and listen to the DB-1D or if that's too much of a "pill to swallow"  on the heels of the 802D3 purchase, then listen to the brand new DB-2D and DB-3D. They are also amazing, especially in multiples!

I'm sure your local dealer will allow you to 'demo' the sub(s) in your room (we do) once you have the 802D3 broken in and then you can hear for yourself what all the 'fuss' is about!

Again, congrats on your 802D3 purchase... that can be a lifetime ownership speaker.

The 802 in all its incarnations was one of my favorite all-time speakers and I have owned all the incarnations until now. I still use and love the 802D2 as my surrounds (when I go to multi-channel listening or movies) They are simply amazing in their detail and presentation and it's understandable why they became the best selling high-end speaker of all time...displacing the wonderful Wilson Audio Watt/Puppy combination.

The 802D3 just moves the needle further along and is quite simply one of the best if not the best speaker for anywhere near the money available today.
Kudos for that decision...

Stay well; best wishes,
Jim Gray
Jim Gray Designs

B&W .... never have deep , tight and great bass !!!! 
Try Dynaudio C4 Platinum you will love it and never need sub ! Pair it with Plinius SA103 monoblock .... 
I also live in Atlanta.  Contact me if your would like a demo of what an added sub can do for a stereo setup.  I have JBL M2s supplemented with a JBL Sub18 which is driven by a bridged Crown ITech5000HD. (5000 watts into 4 ohms).  I have 4 B&W 801s in my multi-channel system for comparison.

[email protected]
  Waiting on 802D3 to arrive -- Will I need a sub?
Not if you have an amp that can really push some high current into the bass, which has that demanding impedance/phase curve between 70hz to 1khz, especially at 70hz with 4ohm and 64 degrees of - phase angle which will seem like a 2ohm load to the amp.

John Atkinson
" However, it is a relatively demanding load for an amplifier to drive. Fig.1 shows the B&W's electrical impedance (solid trace) and phase (dotted trace). The magnitude drops to 3 ohms between 100 and 130Hz, and again between 670 and 770Hz; and while the electrical phase angle is low in the lower region, it becomes increasingly inductive above 600Hz, reaching +46° at 1kHz, where the magnitude is 4 ohms. There is also a combination of 4 ohms and –64° at 69Hz, implying that this speaker does require an amplifier that is not upset by a low effective impedance.
Read more at https://www.stereophile.com/content/bowers-wilkins-802-d3-diamond-loudspeaker-measurements#p1WfY2vha...

Cheers George

I want to just thank everyone for all the input and advice.  I've thoroughly enjoyed hearing folks from both camps. You all are certainly experts with well thought out opinions.  The one thing that is truly clear is that at the end of the days it will be left in the 'ears' of the beholder.  The 802d3s arrive on Tuesday of next week, so I'll know what suits my ears soon enough. 

The deal to sell my two B&W ASWCM10 (not the cm2 mind you) subs fell through, so I actually still have them.  I'll just hold on to them so I can do some a/b testing with them.  I don't know if they will do justice to the towers the way a b&W flagship sub like a DB-1D would but at least I'll have them to make that call here shortly for myself.

Again, I've enjoyed the hell out of this conversation and send a heartfelt thanks out for some seriously great engagement on the topic from this community.  Thanks for the help!
bdp24: "The bottom octave is a bitch to reproduce, and very, VERY few speakers are up to the task."

I would amend that sentence: "The bottom octave is a bitch to reproduce, and very, very few ROOMS are up to the task."

There is that too, dualmarantz! To find the locations of the resonant modes in your room (via the calculators on the net; modes are generally along all the wall/floor/ceiling intersections, and at the 1/2, 1/3, 1/4 divisions of the length, width, and height of the room), and avoid those locations for your equipment rack, speakers, subs, and listening chair, is a good start. If you can afford them, install "true" bass traps (not those flat pieces of Owens Corning 703 wrapped in cloth that some companies market as bass traps) in those mode locations, to soak up the standing waves. OB subs are a way to excite fewer of those modes to begin with, but most people don’t want to go there.
The answer to your question, in my opinion, is not always do I hear enough bass to satisfy myself? Bass frequencies suck up a lot of amp power which means that amp power isn’t there for the higher frequencies if it is need. Drawing great amounts of amp power also strains the amplifier. Typically amps. put out considerably less that they are capable of and that is desirable so as to preserve amp reserves when the program material demands it (head room, etc.). This has nothing to do with being a "bass face"- very few full range speakers can produce bass as well and as accurately as (a) dedicated subwoofer(s)and if you sacrifice amp power to produce bass you are likely to also be affecting the production of higher frequencies. Hopefully this will be helpful.
The 804D2 is 3db down @ 38hz,  The 804D3 is 3db down @ 17hz.  Unless you place them where a room causes a suck out effect,  there is no reason to add a sub to this speaker. 
If you do add a sub,  you will be ADDING to these frequencies of where ever you cross,  say 40 hz and down. Effectively,  you will be causing a hump in the bass region from the crossover point and down..  Not my cup of tea
Hi @timlub --> I'm with you but just fyi.. we are talking about 802D3 :)

my fingers were just faster than my head,  spec's are correct for 802D3

awww.  Thanks... NOW I'm with you, ha ha.
.8 pass labs and 802 d-3’s ,that’s a negative on the sub ! I have  802 d’s with a Mac 602 pushing them and I just turn my sub off when listening to 2 channel  ,or I get to hear my wife say that’s too much bass 

You are totally wrong of what a sub will do for the B&W 802's. If you look at the way sub(s) are integrated with the main speakers, you will not double up on the low frequencies.
We have the B&W 802D3's in our mastering suite at our professional recording facility.  They are mated with a Pass Labs 350.5.   While we certainly have different needs than the typical hifi user, these speakers have plenty of bass response, BUT they need tremendous amounts of power to deliver properly, particularly in the extreme bottom octave.

However, this series of B&W is truly incredible.  I demoed Magico, KEF, Focal, Revel, Vadersteen, etc (ranging from $30K-$50K) and the B&W's were what I needed to work on.  I was also auditioning with records that I have produced, mixed, and/or mastered, so I know what the material was supposed to sound like.

I know you'll enjoy them!
FWIW, I run 800Ds, second gen and I run 2 rythmick 15 subs.  I am 75/25 music/HT and love it.  I am trying to pressure 10k cubic feet, my room is large.  Get the fronts, measure, breakin, measure again....go buy subs(at least 2 maybe 3).
@gat3 -> regarding your comment on power required for the 802d3: Your passlabs 350.5 are significantly larger than the passlabs xa60.8 I have. Do you think the 60.8 will do justice to the speaker?
When I first read that I was concerned that it may not be enough.  I think it will depend on a few factors, such as how loud you want to listen, musical tastes, and the room.

In an acoustically tuned mastering room, where we are working on music that has to be compressed, equalized, and limited for commercial distribution, we have to listen at various volumes and hear very subtle dynamics changes.  This may not be the case in a normal listening environment.  I know the XA60.8 wouldn’t be enough power in my situation.

In fact, while the 350.5 is plenty loud enough, I have wondered if more watts wouldn’t even pull more from the speaker in my circumstance.  I hope to get around to trying the X600.8 at some point in the near future.  I do know a mastering engineer using 802D2 using X600’s and he’s thrilled.

i hope that helps, but I think you’ll have to test it and see.
mr_m.  No, I am not wrong. There is something to be said for room interaction causing dips or A wimpy amp not having the current to drive the bottom effectively, but all things being equal, adding bottom will increase the output at the given bass frequencies. 
brycethomason, make sure that you break these in well before judging them too intensely. They will change dramatically in the first 100 hours and still noticeably after that. 

Good point @timlub — will do!