What are your general thoughts of B&W speakers

What do you guys think of B&W speakers. Specifically, the 800 series diamond line. What are their strengths and weakness? I know I will get quite a few different opinions on this subject. If you had 8 to 10k to spend on a pair of towers, what would you choose? I prefer to buy new so, for the sake of this discussion to new retail products only and stay away from used. I have listened to the B&W 804 diamond quite a bit. I don't have any high end dealers near me but, I can make a drive to audition some brands within an hours drive. What should I sit down to listen to in this price range?
1. Everyone's got an opinion. Yours is the one that matters most. Now that this caveat is out of the way...

2. If you've heard 804s and are still asking about 800 Diamond line, you've probably already decided you liked what you heard...good start.

3. Some observations about 800s. They need a lot of high current to really have the full runway to play music for you. High quality, high power, high current.

4. They come from a background of studio monitors...the treble can be quite precise, and one is not careful...might be a bit sharp...due to co-ownership?, Classe and B&W are often linked together. I have heard the match, and it is a good one.

5. Bass on the bigger B&Ws (800, 801, 802) take a lot of energy to snap properly...one of the first things to go if you have a weak amp is flabby bass...this speaker more than most.

Value for money...a big plus here. You get a lot of speaker here for the money...particularly in this day and age of rising audio prices for the new new thing.

For that kind of money, i would look at Quad 2905...but it wont have nearly the dynamic power/muscle, the SF Extremas or Guarneris...paired with a sub...very different from B&W...you'll get the magic midrange of SF plus big bass power. But the 800 will provide a very solid upper bass/lower midrange presentation that will be tough to beat with a smaller monitor/sub.

One man's opinion. Good luck and enjoy.
Not my cup of tea
I find them too dry to my taste but everyone's taste is different. You really should go by your own audition rather than others' taste.
Not a fan. Trust your own ears. If you like them that's all that counts.
Overpriced/unmusical/congested mids
I actually like older Matrix 801 S3 better than the newer series...
Not my cup of tea.
have heard the 802D and found it to be overly warm and not especially detailed or open

I am not a big B&W fan and this did not change my mind...
I remember Atmasphere making comment about 802 drivers. Midrange is 8 ohm but woofers total is 4 ohm at lower sensitivity expecting amplifier to double power. It won't happen with tube amp. It sounds like it is better suited for SS amp.

Clearly negative sentiment here for B&Ws. For 8K, picking up a pair of 801s or possibly 800s is still a ton of speaker in terms of range of sound. As evidenced above, you have to like it obviously. And they really need high power, high current, high quality amplification.

FWIW, my other suggestions (Guarneris with sub, 2905s, etc)...are speakers i personally would prefer over 800s, 801s. I have truly liked only 1 B&W speaker the 805 silver signature...and even that one, i had others i preferred for the money.

That said, its your ears. good luck.
In that price range, I find the B&W dry and a little bright. I would prefer Sonus Faber or even my PSB Synchrony Ones. Ariel 7t is another good choice. There are plenty of options in your price range.
Never liked them, as many have pointed out they sound "dry" and are uninvolving IMHO. Overall they are hifi sounding and not musical.
On one audition, I remember my head flinching and turning to the side when some high vocal harmonizing sounded shrill. Rightly or wrongly, I attributed it to the speakers.
B&W Warm?
B&W seem to be like Wilson in that people who don't like them really think they suck. Personally to each his own, tastes very greatly. I own a pair and am not going to change them out for a long time. They work well if properly setup, powered, and matched with equal level electronics. Basically you will get out of them what you put into them. They can be finicky with placement from rear wall as the bass will be muddy if too close. They also excel with higher powered amps.
Manitunc, That was exactly what I read in the post when somebody went to buy B&W but listened also to Sonus Faber. He felt that B&W were more "impressive" but left store with Sonus Faber.
I use mine for home theater and i could not be happier... if you are talking 2 channel....well.... that might be a different story as the two channel guys are very particular about things... Some say wire changes sound others talk about raising their speakers up a few inches make night and day sound difference others have talked about adding foil to their amps and the sound changes... i personally don't hear the differences but again i use my speakers for home theater and i have not tried some of the "tweeks" and i usually buy used so the price for the quality would be a hard argument to make.

in speakers or set up or what ever i have found... that a quality amp "no names" just a quality amp makes a noticeable difference and a good processor makes a noticeable difference.

i am sure that ANY speaker would sound "bad" if not driven correctly and by quality components...

besides that maybe my ears are not as good as others.

On another note.. i like the way one poster stated the "for the price range" that was a get way to put it.... it seems that too many times people post the differences in speakers that are not only from different manufactures but also in different categories... alt of the comparisons are not fair to either side.. like comparing a 30k mustang with a 300k ferrari... you just can't do it...

Compare speakers in the same price category, in the same room, driven by the same equipment, using the same material...

if you did not compare the speakers like that then you did not compare.

B&W speakers got me into higher end audio. I always had decent low budget stuff from the early 80's and some time in the mid 90's I bought some DM602's and they were the best bang for the buck ever. I cranked those bad boys every day for 10 years. I think the 800 series are fantastic. Lets put it this way. What's the opposite of dry? Wet? Wet to me sounds like something someone would say who's never been to a live music event in their entire lives. Ive never been to a wet concert. Understand 90% of people on this forum don't go to live shows. Music wasn't intended to be recorded.
My thoughts are that b&w 800 series are awesome! When I first heard b&w I thought they sounded tinny with no bass. I was a paradigm man. This was around 1999 or so. I was using top of the line yamaha receivers and studio 40's then 80's and finally 100's. I still wasn't happy as I know a lot of us in this hobby are striving for excellence, always wondering what speakers in the magazine sounds like. Well my local stereo shop aquired the b&w line. They had the 805's 804's and the granddaddy the 802 d paired with mcintosh power c46 & mc402. I found after many years of listening to many different speakers, that I was someday going to buy b&w & mcintosh. And boy I did, and couldn't be happier. The pairing of these powerhouses in my opinion has brought joy back to listening to music. The refinement, transparency, low coloration, and soundstaging is beyond my expectations. So andyprice44, I wish you the best in your search for what makes you happy. It could take years, as it did for me, and a process of upgrades. It's been a blast. Cordially,
thanks for all the responses guys. I have been reading lots of speaker threads here and B&W just doesn't get mentioned alot. I guess I can understand why now. My friend has the 804 diamond towers. I think they sound good but, I haven't compared them to anything. My town is too small and doesn't have any so called hi-fi stores. Just big box stores like best buy and H.H. gregg. They don't carry any of the speakers I am interested in. I have checked out the sonus faber cremona M online. They look interesting to me. I might have to find a dealer nearby and listen to those. I wish I could take them home and try them out.
B&W is definitely a love it or hate it type of speaker. Their gear is found in
many homes of audiophiles, but also in recording studios. Their fit and
finish is very, very good and their resale is phenomenal. Their speakers
have been used as a reference many times. So, for those that don't like
them, that's okay. Just know that for every one person that doesn't like
them, there are many others that do. I don't own them currently, but have
owned them many times in the past. I've always been happy with them in
whatever system I had at the time.

It's been said that the FST midrange driver they build is one of the best
around. Not all high end companies build their own drivers, in fact, most
don't. Sonus Faber uses scan speak. Sure - they "modify" the
drivers, but they are still going to be to similar to the off the shelf version.
Designing a driver from the ground up affords many opportunities not
available to companies who use other manufacturers custom drivers.
I had to respond after seeing all the B&w hate. I really never understood it, maybe a case of envy? After all, Abby Road studios, Skywalker Sound, DG & London/Decca can't all be wrong.
I have owned the matrix series 2 since 1988. Around 2000, when the original 800 2 woofer series was introduced, I inquired about them at a well known local high-end retailer. He asked me if I was satisfied w/ my 801's. I said yes. He told me that he didn't think the increase in cost for the new model justified the minor increase in sound quality for me to upgrade.
Are B&W's ruthlessly revealing? I would say yes, which is as it should be for a studio monitor. So if your listening tastes are mostly popular rock and middle of the road type music, they are not for you, as they will reveal how the majority of current popular music is mastered severely compressed and loud and boosted in the higher frequencies.
I prefer to hear what's on the recording, good or bad. Every upgrade that I have made to my system has improved the sound of the speakers, and I feel that I have yet to reach the limit of my present set up. I'm sure w/ unlimited funds you could get better performance than B&W's, but at the lower price ranges, I would certainly give them a listen, and IMHO, would give most competitor's a run for their $ in terms of aural honesty. I also wouldn't believe what people say about lack of bass. It's there, you just need to mate the B&W w/ the right amp.
It's what i call an audio store speaker...listen to other speakers
Not my cup of tea either
Audio store speaker? you obviously know little about their 800 series.
Try to hear Aerial Acoustics and Vandersteen if you can.
Thanks for the thoughts guys. I am going to try to make it to a few dealers in the next couple of weeks.
I have owned (still do) 804s and 803d B&W speakers. I use them with Parasound JC1/2 SS amplification and I do find they are low impedance and power hungry. I find they need to be set up well into the middle of the room away from any walls. This reduces bass response somewhat so I supplement with a HSU sub.

The transient response is fanatstic in these speakers (if you have the amp power to drive them). Forget tubes IMHO unless you listen to chamber music at very low SPLs (or you have a megabucks/high power tube amp).

I have found the "d" version to be a bit bright on some program material such as flutes, high pitched female vocals, some horns/sax. Sound field/imaging can be very 3D depending on program material. Some material (like older rock) resolves into a center image and two side images focussed at the speakers. Maybe I have mine too far apart, but I set them up to minimize the upper midrange re-inforcement when they are too close together. They have execellent resolution, as I have heard/resolved sound like vocals/lyrics I had not heard before on other systems.

A note about hearing these in a shop. I have never heard a pair of B&Ws in an audio store showroom sound as good as when properly set up in your own home. This I think explains some of the love/hate response to these. I bought my 803d from a Bay Area shop who is an avid B&W dealer, yet they still sounded bland with flat soundstaging in their shop.

They also benefit considerably by using a solid wood plinth with heavy brass footers. These clean up much of the upper midrange brightness and tighten bass response considerably.

I think the mid range (804/803) versions are an excellent deal used. Not so much if you are paying full retail new.
Was B&W on the leading edge of utilizing curved surfaces (not a box) in their cabinetry designs? More product on the market from other speaker manufacturers using the curves it seems.

The curved cabinetry was one of the features that attracted me to them in the first place. The 800 series is where this is employed to the highest degree. Go to their website and download the 800 series brochure. In there they show photos of just how complex the manufacture of those curved cabinets really is.
When did B&W start using curved speakers? I ask because i recall the SF Guarneri came out in 1994 and given their continued success (18 years!), i imagine they too inspired a number of curved speakers.
Never could warm up the B&W midrange in the 800 series. I'm guessing it's something about those Kevlar drivers that just sound kinda flat to my ears. They seem to lack the life and openness of other speakers I've heard in that range.

As for alternatives, I think the new Joseph Audio Perspectives would be very worth an audition, and with typical discounts should be right near the top of your range. Others I'd recommend hearing would be Usher CP8571, Vandersteen Quatro Wood, Merlin VSM, and whatever Nola, Marten, and Reference 3A have in that price range as well.

Have fun with your search, and best of luck.
The original Nautilus speaker (snail) was introduced in 1993. The Nautilus 800 series was introduced in 1998.
I would love to finally HEAR the B&W diamonds for myself so i can come to my
own conclusions. My 1st high-end speaker was a B&W 801 matrix, and the clarity in the midrange plus the DEEP BASS response was hard to beat for $5K (New) IF you had some excellent components upstream. The treble was a bit hashy (not surprising given a lot of CD's available in those days and the technology available to play them). BUT LATER ON i got to hear the same speaker sound very different and MUCH smoother with an advanced cdp and Pass Aleph amplifiers.
SO it is difficult for me to understand why B&W has not advanced MUCH further on in developing an even more transparent speaker in 2012. Of course now $5,000 only buys the smallest 800 series loudspeaker in the line instead of the largest (the 805). If the 801 was the "audio end of the road" for a stereophile reviewer back then, and the 802D2 got a rave review a few months back in the Absolute Sound, they must be doing something right. Not that they don't now have a lot of competition, but over the years the competition borrowed an awful lot of ideas from....(B&W...).
I own a pair of 803 Diamonds and prior to purchasing them was able to directly compare them to the 804 & 802 Diamonds in the showroom. For me, in my room, the 803 Diamond was the ideal solution. They have a very noticeable advantage in bass output and ultimate SPL capabilities over the 804 line and give up very little to the 802 Diamond.

For me, I went into the dealer with full intentions of getting the 802 so it wasn't really a matter of cost for me but after hearing the various models the 803 was a better fit in my room which is rather small at (12x9). The front firing port design of the 803 was the deciding factor for me over the 802 as it would allow me to position the speaker closer to the rear wall.

I am powering my 803 diamonds with a Pass Labs x250 which is complimented by a full Ayre front end and the results are impressive to say the least. I will be moving up to the x350.5 line at some point but not because they are under powered now but more to do with me wanting more Class A power.

I do not experience any of the negative affects mentioned previously in this thread in terms of of the speakers being too bright or to mellow. Please note, this coming from someone who sits only 7ft away from the speakers front plane.

If you want a speaker that is true to the source without added spices or false ingredients then you owe it to yourself to check out these speakers.

I think the answer lies in the fact the B&W appears to be more focussed on HT than on traditional high end audio/stereo. Just my impression. Can you imagine how expensive a 5.1 system is with 802ds all around?

I'm not sure how much you are really missing with the diamond driver. I have 804(s) and 803(d) and there is not a tremendous difference between them (upper-mid to high). The "d" is a bit smoother with nicer space. Program material and amplification matters a lot more. Plus, there have been numerous other improvements in crossover components from the Matrix versions through the Nautilus to the current "d" versions that also make a difference.
Your concerns are exactly why I like buying used on Audiogon. As long as you buy your speakers right you can always sell them without losing your ass. If you try something and its not your cup of teas. Sell them and try something else. Until you get them in your room with your equiipment you really don't know what they will sound like.

About ten years ago I started buying B&W including 802, 803 and 805's and others. Then when I started purchasing on audiogon I was opened up to many other speakers that I otherwise would never have had an opportunity to own. If I was looking for a ten thousand dollar speaker it would not be a B&W. It might be a Wilson, Sonus, Eggleston or a whole host of others but it would not be B&W.

The good news is when you decide to sell the B&W they sell quite well. JUst make srue you buy them right.
I like the b&w 802's. They sounded great to me everytime I've heard them. They always had serious amps hooked to them but they sound great to me. Great bass and what seemed to me as having a good amount of "bloom". I'd like to hear some sonus fabers too though. They just look beautiful!
In all honesty The last ten pair of speakers I have owned all blew the doors off the 802's including both the nautilaus and the diamond series.

I think the issue is most people who are just getting into the high end market like to hear the speakers they chhoose before they buy them and most of the time that is just not a viable option. Most of the high end speakers are very hard to find in stores. About 7 years ago I wanted to buy some 802's for the 2nd time and found a dealer about 75 miles from my home who had B&W and Wilson. That was the first time I have ever heard of Wilson. That day I bought a used pair of wat puppy 6's and a new pair of 7's.

Since that time I have owned Merlin, Dali, Eggleston, MBL, Vandersteen, and Sonus etc just to name a few. In my opinion all of those were vastly superior to the B&W. The 802;s were great looking speakers but they always sounded like they had a blanket over them when compared to the others I have owned.

That is what is so great about Audiogon. It gives you a great way to try speakers that in all likely hood you will never hear unless you buy them. If you don't like them you can turn around and sell them without losing an arm and a leg.

I like the blanket analogy, the speaker never opens up, the music does not fly out...

we have beaten this horse to death...


What did you drive your B&Ws with? I know the 801/801d/802ds pretty well. They do need some driving. Bi amping helps depending on the amp.

B&W has a "sound" but as to any of the speakers you mention blowing them away, including the phasey or defuse MBL I find hard to believe. Different yes.

To truly have such a strong opinion of B&W would mean you went to great efforts to maximise on each speakers performance. They are reference speakers and will show up equipment in the chain.

From your post I see no information which leads me to feel you seeked help from the right people set them up. To squeeze the last 10% out of any speaker takes effort and you mention none.

I am not saying they are the greatest speaker ever built, but they are not as you describe either.
Wow. What a topic to pick when you ask what people think of B&W speakers! This has to be the most "infamous" topic in the speaker forum. Yes, I like B&W. No, they are not the greatest speakers on the planet. They deffently have a "house" sound. But that can just about be said of any speaker system. Going out buying and selling speakers on A-gon at will is not as easy as one of the posters said.

I have listened to alot of different and expensive speakers and yes some sound better than B&W. But the one thing that impresses me is B&W has great value. Alot for the money. This is important to most of us that is unless you already have to much money. Some of you say the speaker sounds like it has a blanket over it. Ok, you like brite sounding speakers. Others say "blows the doors off of B&W" or "blows it away." I'm really leary of people's discriptions when they use terms like this.

There is a reason why B&W sells many thousands of speaker systems and I will tell you right now it is more than just their marketing strategy. Once again. Great speaker, and great value. IMO.
If you are living somwhere near Pontiac, MI then I would recommend you to give Salksound soundscape 8 an audition - one of the best in $10,000 price range. If not, just call them or email them to find out where you can get an audition near where you leave.
I would describe them as clinical (I had CM series). They didn't have the "soul" I was looking for. They are like Volvo, they're safe, they get the job done, but they're kinda plain....IMO.

what amp were you using to drive them? Being devils advocate... Could it have been your source or amp that was clinical?

Which speakers would you say are the opposite of clinical and what did you use to drive them?
I progressively traded up from the 804S to 803D to 803Diamond over a period of 5 years.

I continued to enjoy their unique combination of musicality and looks. I found in particularly the 804/803 visual design is timeless, though I also like the 802/800 avant-garde looks (not as much the 801).

Both the 803D and 803Diamond have been the most satisfying loudspeakers I owned in terms of combination of good tonal balance, bass weight, transparency and smooth sound.
The 804/803 does not necessarily require high powered amplifiers (I successfully drove them to satisfying levels with 60W) – but they demand the highest quality transparent low noise amplifiers you can afford (think Class A).

Their slightly warmish, smooth sound and relatively low cost (at least compared to the boutique brands) tend to result in music/gear lovers pairing them with less ideal front-end equipment. Interestingly, although they are fairly forgiving of less than high-end equipment and top-notch recordings, they reward any upgrade in equipment and increase in recording resolution. They will sound a bit flat if you scrimp on the equipment quality. However they will reward any tweaks to mains conditioning, vibration isolation, cables, synergistic equipment combinations, room position adjustment to millimetres (similar to the care that a Wilson Audio loudspeaker is positioned). That is why most hifi store setups sound less than inspirational.

So any significant weaknesses (other than if you think fanatical setup hygiene is too much hard work)? I will rate the Kevlar midrange as good rather than exceptional. It is not as adept as e.g. a Seas magnesium midrange at micro-dynamics. However it tracks overall macro-dynamics very well without compression and the sharp break-up nodes of the magnesium cone. On balance I think the midrange compromises of a 3 way are well judged. Any significant advance will likely require a 4 way design using a pure pistonic midrange design (as per the Nautilus design) or a significantly more advanced cone material.

I listen to my 803D / 803Diamonds probably around 350 out of 365 days every year. They faithfully provide me listenable and enjoyable music and continue to surprise me on a good recording.
This topic has been killed! And yet people still compare crazy speakers to B&W. By Crazy I mean the COST difference between the B&W and WHATEVER.

Look it comes down to this,

What B&W speaker are we speaking of????

What speaker are we comparing to????

What are we using it for? two channel or home theater???

Are we using a sub in either instance????

What equipment is being used????

what type of room is being used??? has it been treated???

All things concidered equil, If you compare Any speaker to a speaker in a much higher price range the more expensive speaker SHOULD sound better.

If you have a pair of $20,000 speakers and want to compare them to a pair of $4,000 pair of B&W, you are being ridiculous! then think about the guy with the 20k speakers, I would imagine he also has two mono amps for them at a cost of 10k a piece. I doubt the 4k B&Ws have that.

If you put ANY higher end speaker with lower quality equipment, Lets say a "best buy" receiver (to exagerate my point), it will sound like crap.

Hey... lets compare a ZR1 Corvette with a Camaro...

Vette is 120k the camaro around 30k....
Will the Vette be faster???? Hell Ya it will.
Will the vette go around the corners faster??? Hell Ya it will.
Is the vette 4 times as much money??? Hell Ya it is.

Now think of this.... How many divers that own the ZR1 vette can drive it to its potential???? I would say less than 1%. Also you would have to rent out a track to even play with it at that level.

It is just stupid to compare these two, Period!

There are good buys ( bang for the buck) in all catigories of speakers, processors and amps...

Buy what speakers you want, buy equipment that complements them.

and just enjoy them.

B&W speakers represent innovation, immaculate contruction, genuine value, and solid performance.

They were the first to use woven Kevlar drivers, adopt computer analysis of their own drivers, and explore different cabinet materials, construction, and shapes. Witness the laminated curved birch cabinet introduced with the N802. That set the industry on its ear. It's probably one of the most copied shapes ever. Most of todays copies do not exhibit the same quality of materials and contruction. Other examples are the matrix cabinet, the dimpled ports, and the tapered tube enclosures. How many manufacturers offer diamond tweeters? They are certainly at the fore front of technology.

B&W are competitive at the various price points in the market. There will be afficiondos and detracters as with any product.

BTW, I own two pairs of B&W, the orignal CM1 with the Phenolic cabinet and full matrix construction and N802's. I also own other brands of speakers that I enjoy as much or more.

Exactly the point I have made in earlier posts. This thread and others like it are useless without full descriptions of model and amps driving them etc.

I have heard many speaker systems sound bad. Many of those times it was not the speaker that was bad. You are only as good as the weakest link. A great speaker under powered or over damped will sound at best average.

Even the ZR1 would be slow if driven by a blind person, or driven in the snow, or across a ploughed field. Come on people. Lets have proper information.
Chadeffect ,I totally disagree with what your saying.."What are your general thoughts of B&W speakers" is what was asked.We dont need to know room size,amps,preamps,cables,treatments etc to give thoughts of the brand.Personally I wouldnt take em if free assuming I couldnt sell them and get what I consider better.The way I read it are comments on the B&W line,pretty simple to access!