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Bowers and Wilkins 800 Series D3 Diamond Loudspeakers Overview

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B&W Announces the completely revised 800 Series Diamond Loudspeakers

B&W Announces the completely revised 800 Series Diamond Loudspeakers

Summary

  • Product Name: 800 Series D3 Diamond Loudspeakers
  • Manufacturer: Bowers and Wilkins
  • Review Date: September 21, 2015 08:00
  • MSRP: $6,000 - $22,000/pair
  • First Impression: Gotta Have It!
  • Buy Now

800 Series Diamond Technical Features

  • Diamond tweeter 
  • Continuum Cone FST 
  • Anti-Resonance plug 
  • Turbine head
  • Aerofoil cone bass units 
  • Flowport
  • Optomized  matrix
  • Solid body tweeter 
 

802 D3

  • Frequency Response (+/-3dB from reference axis): 17Hz to 28kHz
  • Sensitivity: 90dB
  • Nominal impedance: 8Ω (minimum 3.0Ω)
  • Drive Units: 
  • 1x 1 in diamond dome high-frequency
  • 1x 6 in Continuum cone FST  midrange 
  • 2x 8 in Aerofoil cone bass units 
  • Weight: 208lb
 

803 D3

  •  Frequency Response (+/-3dB from reference axis): 19Hz to 28kHz
  • Sensitivity: 90dB
  • Nominal impedance: 8Ω (minimum 3.0Ω)
  • Drive Units: 
  • 1x 1 in diamond dome high-frequency
  • 1x 5 in Continuum cone FST  midrange 
  • 2x 7 in Aerofoil cone bass units 
  • Weight: 144lb
 

804 D3

  •  Frequency Response (+/-3dB from reference axis): 24Hz to 28kHz
  • Sensitivity: 89dB
  • Nominal impedance: 8Ω (minimum 3.0Ω)
  • Drive Units: 
  • 1x 1 in diamond dome high-frequency
  • 1x 5 in Continuum cone FST  midrange 
  • 2x 6.5 in Aerofoil cone bass units 
  • Weight: 73lb

 

805 D3

  • 2-way vented-box system
  •  Frequency Response (+/-3dB from reference axis): 42Hz to 28kHz
  • Sensitivity: 88dB
  • Nominal impedance: 8Ω (minimum 3.0Ω)
  • Drive Units: 
  • 1x 1 in diamond dome high-frequency
  • 1x 6.5 in Continuum cone bass midrange 
  • Weight: 28lb

 

HTM1 D3

  • 3-way vented-box system
  •  Frequency Response (+/-3dB from reference axis): 28Hz to 28kHz
  • Sensitivity: 91dB
  • Nominal impedance: 8Ω (minimum 3.0Ω)
  • Drive Units: 
  • 1x 1 in diamond dome high-frequency
  • 1x 6 in Continuum cone FST  midrange 
  • 2x 8 in Aerofoil cone bass units 
  • Weight: 67lb

HTM2 D3

    • 3-way vented-box system
    •  Frequency Response (+/-3dB from reference axis): 45Hz to 28kHz
    • Sensitivity: 90dB
    • Nominal impedance: 8Ω (minimum 3.0Ω)
    • Drive Units: 
    • 1x 1 in diamond dome high-frequency
    • 1x 5 in Continuum cone FST  midrange 
    • 2x 6.5 in Aerofoil cone bass units 
    • Weight: 44lb

Executive Overview

It’s not every day that Bowers and Wilkins hosts an exclusive event for a new product announcement.   It’s rarer still that the venue for such an event will be a legendary recording studio.  But that’s exactly what the venerable British speaker maker did to announce their updated flagship line of loudspeakers, the 800 Series Diamond.

The new 800 Series Diamond Loudspeakers will initially be comprised of three floor standing models, the $22,000/pair 802 D3, the $17,000/pair 803 D3, and the $9,000/pair 804 D3.  There will be a single monitor, the $6,000/pair 805 D3, which can serve as either the front left and right channels in a two channel system or surround channels in a home theater setup.  Rounding out the initial lineup will be the $6,000 HTMI1 D3 and the $4,000 HTM2 D3 center channels with the primary difference being a larger midrange and bass drivers in the HTM1 D3.   In the Spring of 2016, B&W plans to top off the new 800 Series with the launch of the 800 D3 with details coming at that time.

B&W 800 Series Linuep

B&W had each model of the newly-announced 800 Series Diamond line on-hand for us to see close-up

B&W’s announcement took place at Sterling Sound in New York City. Founded in 1968, Sterling Sound has mastered some of the most memorable albums of all-time from Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, Bob Dylan, Guns & Roses, Van Halen, Adele, Norah Jones, and Taylor Swift to name just a few.  Located on the 6th floor of New York’s famed Chelsea Market, Sterling Sound was a perfect venue for B&W to make the announcement.  Like the famed Abbey Road Studios in London, Sterling Sound is one of the many mastering studios around the world that relies on B&W loudspeakers as their reference standard. 

Sterling Sound

B&W's launch event took place in New York City at the legendary mastering studio, Sterling Sound

Bowers and Wilkins was certainly out to make a statement at the invitation-only, exclusive event.  In attendance were Joe Atkins, Chairman of B&W Group; Dave Nauber, president of Classé, B&W’s sister electronics brand; and Doug Henderson, President of B&W Group USA.  

“This is the biggest launch in the company’s history,” Doug said in his opening remarks, as he announced that B&W’s entire reference series lineup had been redesigned from the ground up.  But redesigned can be such a cliché term.  

B&W President

Doug Henderson, President of B&W USA, formally announces the B&W 800 Series Diamond at Sterling Sound in New York City

The D3 is a completely new design for the 800 series right down to the screws and packaging.

B&W wanted to emphasize that just about every single part in the new 800 Series was new.—down to the screws and custom packaging.  So, when Stuart Nevill, B&W’s head of engineering took the stage, he showed a illustrating just which parts the new generation shared with the previous series.  Chuckles filled the room as everyone saw a white slide with just a few minor parts show up.

B&W 800 Same parts

To emphasize the extent of the re-engineering done, Stuart Nevill, B&W’s head of engineering, shows a slide with all parts shared between the previous generation 800 Series Diamond and the new lineup.

Gone are the kevlar drivers, say hello Continuum.

“But surely those iconic kevlar cones remained,” you might ask.  Well, if you’re familiar with B&W’s speakers, then you’ll be surprised—no, shocked—to know that the distinctive yellow kevlar cone, which has been a staple of the company’s flagship speakers since the 1970s is gone.  I don’t mean that B&W has painted the kevlar cone a different color (though the cone’s new color is a silver-grey).  I mean to emphasize that the Kevlar cone has been completely replaced by a new composite material and dubbed the Continuum cone  (I'm sure die-hard Star Trek fans will say that the material harkens from the Q Continuum).

Continuum Cone

Stuart Nevill shows the differences between the company's Kevlar cone (left) and the new Continuum Cone (right) with its new patent-pending composite material.

Stuart went on to explain that the Continuum is a new, patent-pending woven composite.  Like Kevlar, the new Continuum cone gives a highly controlled break-up.  70 iterations and eight years of development went into the Continuum cone prior to launch.  Stuart showed a video highlighting the behavior of the new Continuum cone compared to their previous Kevlar cone.  The video showed a clear improvement in nearly every aspect of the cone’s performance when compared to the previous generation’s Kevlar.

Just as Kevlar has been replaced, so has the company’s Rohacell-carbon sandwich cone, which was introduced in 2003 for the low-frequency drive units. Stuart said that in 2012, B&W began experimenting with different simulations to create a new bass cone to deliver the optimum combination of shape, lightness, and skin stiffness. 

B&W calls the final product the Aerofoil cone.  The Aerofoil cone is made up of an all-new core material.  The exact makeup of the new composite is patent-pending.  The Aerofoil cone uses a variable thickness structure that B&W says delivers maximum stiffness where it’s needed most by the cone while also extending the pistonic behavior further up the audible range.

Once again, Stuart showed a side-by-side comparison of the performance of the previous-generation Rohacell drive unit and the new Aerofoil drive unit.  The Aerofoil cone once again delivered a noticeable improvement over its predecessor.  

The diamond tweeter is the one material that hasn’t changed in the new models.  B&W says they couldn’t find anything that was a superior performer to their synthetic diamond.  That doesn’t mean there were no improvements to the tweeter’s overall design, however.  In the new models, the tweeter body has been completely replaced.  Instead of the hollow enclosure of the previous generation, the new tweeter body has been billeted from a single body of solid aluminum.  

Using a solid piece of aluminum addressed several problem areas—especially around the 4kHz region, where the comparison focused.  A slide analyzing the stresses manifest on the old vs. the new housing were night and day differences.  Slides aside, Stuart resorted to a simple example to emphasize the point.  He took the previous tweeter body and struck it.  It rang like a tuning fork.  Striking the new tweeter body yielded a totally dead thud.  

Tweeter Assembly

Stuart Nevill shows the differences between the previous generation's tweeter assembly (left) and the new billeted aluminum assembly (right)

It seems clear that B&W went out of their way to control all forms of resonances in the new D3 series.

It’s important to note that the diamond tweeter and new assembly have also been tuned with the protective cap on.  There is no longer any reason whatsoever to remove the cap to get optimal tweeter performance and create a scenario where someone can accidentally poke the tweeter dome and damage it. I am sure many B&W dealers who have had to deal with customers accidentally shattering the diamond tweeters will be jumping with joy at this news.

The midrange matrix and the entire cabinetry have also gone through a complete overhaul.  Once again, Stuart showed examples of the distortion present in the previous generation’s midrange chassis at 1500Hz and 4000Hz.  Showing the new matrix at the same frequencies, you could readily see that it exhibited far less distortion.  As with the tweeter assembly, Stuart lifted up and struck the previous generation’s midrange matrix. It sung.  When he struck the new midrange chassis, it was completely inert. 

Drivers aside, what really caught my eye during the presentation was the engineering changes in B&W’s cabinetry and internal bracing.  When it came to designing the ideal shape for the 800 Series Diamond cabinet, B&W literally did a U-turn. Instead of a flat-fronted speaker with a curving back, they developed the new 800 Series with the front and sides forming one continuous curve and held together with a spine of solid aluminum.  A curved front means less baffling around the drive units.  So sound dispersion is improved, and cabinet reflection is reduced. You’ll also note that the drivers’ housing also slightly extrudes from the face of the front baffle in order to reduce diffractions and improve bracing (more on that below).

B&W Cabinet Bracing

Stuart shows the measurable improvements made in the new 800 Series Diamond cabinet bracing (right) vs. the previous model (left)

Speaking of bracing, we know that internal bracing plays an important role in good loudspeaker design because it reduces both amplitude resonances and flex in a loudspeaker’s body or cabinet. If resonances and flex are not addressed, then the character of the speaker’s housing superimpose itself on the music it is there to portray. In other words, it colors the sound.  Bracing is therefore essential to allow the listener to hear the drivers, not the cabinet, so that the original character of the instruments can come through cleanly.

Instead of an MDF-based matrix bracing, the new Matrix is constructed from thick sections of high-quality plywood (except for the 805 D3, where B&W says that MDF is sufficient).  By shifting to high-quality plywood, B&W was also able to reduce the number of sections in the matrix bracing while simultaneously increasing the effectiveness of the bracing.  B&W says that fewer joins make for a stiffer, more inert structure.

To take the bracing and cabinet reinforcement a step further, B&W added aluminum and steel components at critical brace points in all “headed” speakers.  Thus, the bass drive unit pods now couple directly into the Matrix itself, which B&W says optimally couples the drive units into the stiffer parts of the assembly.  Once again, Stuart showed a side-by-side slide of the difference that the new Matrix assembly makes in the overall cabinet.

The plinth base of the 800 and 802 Diamond housed the crossover and critical components.  Now the crossover has been moved from the plinth to the main body of the speaker.  B&W says that by making this shift, they were able to fabricate a base for the 800 Series Diamond that’s more stable and resonance-resistant.  The new plinth is constructed from a solid piece of aluminum weighing in at 77lbs! B&W says this new plinth improves stability by lowering the center of mass and counter-balancing the weight of the turbine head.

Cabinet Bracing and Driver

The new aluminum-reinforced and plywood matrix bracing and new bass drivers in the 800 Series Diamond

But the refinements in the plinth don’t stop there.  B&W completely re-thought the purpose of the plinth as a stabilization platform and conceived of it as a way to help tune the speakers to the room. When B&W showed off this one simple, but brilliant refinement, all I can say is that this is where high end companies like B&W strut their stuff by marrying ingenious industrial design with practical needs.  Here’s what they did: 

If you have ever had to position or move incredibly heavy speakers, you know what a chore this can be. Now, the top of the line 802 D3 and 803 D3 plinths come with permanent castors.  You can roll the speakers and re-position them with incredible ease.  Then, once you’ve solidified the positioning of the speakers, you just spin the new, integrated spikes down with a simple twist of a cog from the plinth and lock them into place.  Have a hardwood floor?  No problem, the spikes come with magnetic feet that literally snap onto the spikes to protect any sensitive flooring.  I cannot emphasize enough how brilliant this simple addition is to dialing in your speakers to your room.  Gone forever are the days of tipping your speakers on its side.  Welcome to the days of being able to fine-tune your B&W Diamond Series speakers with ease.

integrated spikes

The integrated wheels and spikes are a brilliant example of B&W's industrial design that makes moving and securing the speakers a breeze

There’s lots and lots of other details that I could delved into, such as the newly refined and designed turbine head in the 802 D3 and 803 D3 models. But suffice it to say what you’re looking at with the new 800 Series Diamond is a complete redesign from the ground up.  In fact, one of the most readily noticeable things about the new line is that it look decidedly slimmer and sleeker than before.  

Listening Tests

But let’s face it, we can talk technical specs all we want.  The bottom line is, how do they sound.  B&W didn’t let us down. Choosing the legendary venue of Sterling Sound for the venue was done precisely with that in mind. 

All of us who were invited to attend the exclusive event were broken up into small groups where we would have an opportunity to listen to the 805 D3 Monitor loudspeaker and the 802 D3 floor standing loudspeaker.  Both loudspeakers were setup into two of Sterling Sound’s acoustically treated mixing rooms where we could audition the new line for ourselves.

The sonic improvements of the D3 series were immediately apparent.

The 805 D3s were setup in a mixing room along with the previous generation 805 Diamonds. Oscar Peterson’s, “You Look Good to Me,” was played first through the recently retired 805s.  They were then removed off their stands and the new 805 D3s were put on the same stands.  Nothing at all was changed in the signal chain.  “You Look Good to Me” was then played again a second time.

Needless to say, you didn’t need to listen very carefully to hear the differences.  The improvements were immediate and readily apparent.  While the older 805 Diamonds are no slouch whatsoever, the new 805 D3s were just spectacular.  The ability to resolve additional detail, improve upon the sense of dynamics, and simply present the music in a more life-like environment was palpable.  Sourced by a Macbook Pro serving up the digital files and fed from a Classé CA-2300 two-channel amp and CP-800 preamp-processor, the 805 D3s sound was engaging and boy did they sound bigger and deeper than they had any right to.

Comparison

The setup at Sterling Sound comparing the previous generation 805s with the new 805 D3s.  The differences and improvements between the two models was easily apparent.

I have to confess that I’ve been a big fan of the 805s and I’ve always felt that they have stood as some of the best value monitors in high end audio.  Now, the advent of the 805 D3s takes that notion to a whole other level.  Everyone in my group who heard the 805 D3s pretty much wanted to pack them up and take them home.  Game over.  These monitors are going to be a huge hit for B&W.  

I’m sure these new models go down as yet another iconic milestone in B&W’s storied history.

Next up, we went to an adjacent room where we auditioned several tracks through the 802 D3s.  Once again, digital source files were fed from a Macbook pro to a Classé CP-800 but this time Classé’s flagship CA-600 monoblock amplifiers provided the foundational power. 

Now, do I need to even state what you know to be the obvious?  The top to bottom experience of the 802 D3 was mesmerizingly beautiful.  The 802 D3 simultaneously exuded refinement and command.  The warmth and full body sound of a grand piano playing Mozart resonated in all its glory through the 802 D3s.  LeAnn Rimes vocals on “What I Cannot Change” were solidly placed and, at times, had that almost inexplicable quality fooling you into thinking that you were experiencing the performance.

B&W 802 Listining

The 802 D3s were mesmerizingly beautiful from top to bottom in their presentation.  The 802 D3s were powered by Classé's flagship CA-600 monoblock amplifiers

Audiophile nuances aside, what struck me about the demo was that the 802s seemed very natural throughout.  I was curious about the overall volume of the tracks being played so I took out my SPL meter registered musical peaks in the 87-90db range.  I’ve been to other product announcements where the peaks have been well into the 90’s.   My point is that the D3s didn’t need to be overly cranked up. Even at a moderate listening level they so sound thoroughly engaging and beautiful. 

Bluntly, I just loved the sound of the new D3s.  I’m sure these new models will go down as yet another iconic milestone in B&W’s storied history. 

Conclusion

In summary, the new 800 Series Diamond speakers represent a vast number of technological, engineering and acoustic innovations from B&W that the company says combine to create a “sublime listening experience.”  Improved cabinets, a more robust Matrix bracing system, a new solid body tweeter assembly and the vastly improved Turbine head midrange enclosure means that B&W has focused on reducing distortion dramatically in every regard.  The end result? An increased level of clarity, dynamics and engagement. 

But alas, the 800 Series Diamond isn’t for the frugal. In fact, pricing has increased on every single model in the lineup.  However, if your quest in life is achieving sonic bliss, then auditioning the new 800 Series Diamonds is worth your time.  Availability for the new 800 Series Diamonds will be sometime in October.  

Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.

About the author:
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Theo is a serious audiophile and home theater enthusiast—a passion he's enjoyed for over 20 years. He heads up many of our speaker system and receiver reviews as well as covering the latest in streaming technologies and Ultra HD video.

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AcuDefTechGuy posts on May 08, 2016 19:27
KEW, post: 1136751, member: 41838
Who did you sell your 802's to?

I sold my 802D2 to a guy who said he owned a trucking business.

One of his guys came to my house with a big truck filled with thin panel TVs.

The buyer said he was from Canada.
<eargiant posts on May 08, 2016 11:18
AcuDefTechGuy, post: 1136742, member: 26997
As a former owner of the 802D2, I would say that I bought them for more than just sound quality.

I didn't think the B&W Diamonds (any models) sound better than many other ugly boxy towers that cost significantly less.

To me the older B&W (802 Matrix, 802 D1, & 802 D2) were VISUAL “art” and a “statement” piece. That is until I stopped caring about such things.

My experience was exactly the opposite. There was just something about the sound reproduction that made me bring them home. Unlike you, I did think they sounded significantly better but that only means we were probably seeking different things. As for the styling, it only grew on me after I had them home for a while. Like sound preferences, we all have different aesthetic preferences.

Lucky for me that I wanted stand-mounts and not floor-standers because on my last in-store audition my wife came along because we were going somewhere afterwards. She's usually oblivious to all this stuff but when she saw the floor-standers she asked “What are those ugly things with the spaceman helmets?”. I could see the look of disapproval on her face. Thank goodness she didn't think the “microphone” on top of the 805's was a big deal.

That was the last audition before I decided to pull the trigger. I haven't regretted it one bit. The more time I have listening to these, the more I appreciate what they can do. But again, it's all about what you are seeking. I remember the very last speaker I auditioned for comparison was the Sonus Faber Olympica I. Within the first minute, I knew they didn't have the sonic presentation I was after with this purchase.

Here's what a Hi-Res audio engineer (that's not afraid to speak his mind and ruffle feathers) thought about the 800 Diamond series.

http://www.realhd-audio.com/?p=5353

In the end, it all depends on what sonic attributes you're looking for in a speaker, there's something out there for everyone.
KEW posts on May 08, 2016 10:07
Who did you sell your 802's to?

It seems like the pair discussed in this article mysteriously appeared around that time.
Coincidence?
https://medium.com/@StereoStylist/netflix-s-daredevil-kingpin-aka-wilson-fisk-e8ce75ea2c99#.ix24k646q

…the stereo of a power-hungry criminal.
High praise, indeed… because we all know power-hungry criminal masterminds have refined (if somewhat diabolical) tastes!
AcuDefTechGuy posts on May 08, 2016 08:57
KEW, post: 1136671, member: 41838
We were all generally disappointed with the B&W's - at their price point, they should have easily out-classed the high frequency sound quality of the $1600 Martin-Logan Motion 60XT which were in the same showroom, but they did not!


As a former owner of the 802D2, I would say that I bought them for more than just sound quality.

I didn't think the B&W Diamonds (any models) sound better than many other ugly boxy towers that cost significantly less.

To me the older B&W (802 Matrix, 802 D1, & 802 D2) were VISUAL “art” and a “statement” piece. That is until I stopped caring about such things.
billy p posts on May 07, 2016 15:32
TheWarrior, post: 1136682, member: 57254
It'd be interesting to hear a comparison vs. the Scanspeak D3004 Illuminator! Given the significantly lower cost of beryllium, as well as its manipulation in to a diaphragm.
I usually don't like to link cross talk between forums but early indications shows it has unlimited energy and dynamics….if properly implement….given his pedigree and work with all types of tweeters over his many years in RD with OEM….I doubt he ever used the adjective “speachless” in describing a new design. I guess time will tell….
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