BOWERS & WILKINS 800 D3

MJ29.06.2016

Floorstanding loudspeakers

At a first glance the new 800 D3 speakers are built around the same principles like their successful predecessors, 800 Diamonds. And in fact they are – only that everything is a bit more extreme here - the cabinet, drivers, materials and the way the speakers look. The changes paid off as the sound has improved too. A lot.

100% reference

Function and form

98%
Ease of use
86%
Sound
100%
Appearance

The main cabinet is reversed: instead of a curved enclosure with a flat front baffle the 800 D3s have a U-curved front battle that is held together by a aluminum panel at the back. The panel also hosts bi-wirable speaker terminals. Internal plywood braces were replacced by MDF ones.

Aluminum heads: B&W’s proprietary Marlan heads for midrange and tweeter housings was replaced by aluminum to further reduce resonances. The midrange unit’s head has received a tappered look to better dissipate energy inside. All three driver compartments are ‘glued’ together via gel segments to eliminate the energy transfer.

New drivers: The 25mm diamond dome of the tweeter is made of, surprisingly, vaporized diamond. Traditional yellow Kevlar that has become synonymous with Bowers & Wilkins speakers is gone – now we have what they call 150mm Continuum cone. Also two Rohacell membranes of bass drivers have been replaced by 250mm “Aerofoil” cones of variable thickness with ‘better pistonic behaviour’. Alike the Kevlar or Rohacell the new materials are woven composites. The bass is supported by a down-firing port.

800 D3 are available at piano black, satin white and rosenut finishes.

Bass management

Weight
90
Slam
91
Articulation
91

Bowers & Wilkins specifies the 800 D3 to be able to reach 15Hz (-3dB point). Looks great on paper and apparently – when I auditioned them - the speakers have no trouble to dig deep. Yet it is important to realize that at such low frequencies no music instrument operates. What happens below 20Hz is mostly just the ‘breathing bass’, a moving mass of air rather than a sound. Especially in smaller rooms such extension brings along more difficulties than benefits. When listening to Beck’s Missing from Guero album the bass was pumping and deafening, despite the speakers were placed far from boundaries in a >100sqm room. The bass, which I would describe as “subterranean” had its prevalent energy between 40-80Hz, which is where the most bass instruments are centered, with attack above 100Hz. However, when I cut off everything below 25Hz with an equalizer (steep roll-off applied) the sense of weight and scale was reduced. This also demonstrates the usefulness of having the extension down to 15Hz - but only when the acoustics of the listening environment allows. This should be the crucial element for your consideration if you plan to invest into 800 D3s.

Clarity & delicacy

Detail
96
Air
89
Transparency
85

I shared my listening room with a pair of 802 Diamonds for over two years so I know what to expect from Diamond Nautilus tweeter. It never disappointed – the highs were always immaculately transparent and extended with a tad of certain robustness but also a tad of forwardness at the same time. There is no doubt that the 800 D3 is in treble at least comparable if not better, yet I still can sense the same forwardness, as if the speakers were tuned to give extra air above 10kHz and extra presence to vocals above 1kHz. Though not bad for jazz divas and small ensembles it is quite challenging for some hard rock material – the result is maybe too much energy in those audio bands and the sound borders shrieky and piercing at occasional moments. The good thing is that this forwardness is balanced by the competent bottom end and the sense for scale. Still, make an effort to find a good matching amplifier if you plan to listen to rock music only.
From the sensitivity point (90dB) the Bowers & Wilkins 800 D3 are not difficult to drive, however their impedance curve is a bit wild so you will need a stable amplifier.

Tonal accuracy

Timbre
82
Dynamics
84
Temporal resolution
85

I would say that the dynamics and overall coherence that is so successfully paired to the 800 D3’s transparency is what makes the speaker so different from the Bowers & Wilkins 800 Diamond. Opening lines of any instruments are amazing. The fiery rendition Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies by Georges Cziffra is a great example. Each key stroke is like a detonation, Cziffra’s pianism is almost supernatural in its precision and speed and so are the 800 D3. Each note is virtually sculpted in a high transient contrast, no smear here. Is this because the Cziffra’s recording has been remastered on B&W speakers at Abbey Road for EMI’s Great Recordings of The Century series? Perhaps.
As far as the tonality is concerned I only have a small remark – during my listening sessions I had a feeling that the new 800 D3 favour slightly the upper part of frequency spectrum which lends a bit thinner (just a tiny bit) impression in comparison with its predecessor.

Spatial resolution

Holography
78
Soundstage width
84
Soundstage depth
93

Like with 800D and 800 Diamond if you want to achieve deep and wide soundstage with precise imaging it is necessary to invest money and time. The money will be needed to tame the acoustics of your room and time to finalize the positions of the speakers within it. It is not easy to balance them properly but it is worthwhile the effort. The 800 D3 play nice if you respect all the usual speaker placement recommendations but the play great if the placement is painstakingly fine tuned. You’ll be rewarded by a holographic soundstage with extra focus, extra depth and less overhang. The trade off is that the sweet spot is very narrow, limited to one listener at time.
Like their predecessors the Bowers & Wilkins 800 D3 are very egoistic speakers. B&W knows how to push audio industry limits and the world needs reliable benchmarks – that is why the speakers like the 800 D3 were made.

Price as reviewed:800 000,- Kč

Recommended resellers

Eurostar Ostrava, Dobřejovice u Prahy, tel. + 420 323 606 877

Jasyko, Brno, 541 210 108

Associated components

  • SACD player: Accuphase DP-720
  • Amplfiers:  Accuphase A-70 power amplifier, Accuphase C-3850 control amplifier
  • Interconnects and speaker cables: Audioquest Oak and WEL Signature
  • Power cables: Audioquest WEL
  • Power conditioner: Accuphase PS-1220 for SACD player only

Gallery

ANTE Supersonic One

The Supersonics were visually inspired by Lamborghini Countach racer. The functional elegance of the Lamborghini does not come at budget costs and neither the Ante does. The price tag of €160,000 keeps the Supersonics in the company ...

Recommended resellers

Media Control, Bratislava, SK, +421 905 613 928

Sound
84%

AUDIO PHYSIC Avantera

The Audio Physic’s HHCM midrange drivers are fantastic. The realism of both male and female vocals through the Avanteras is nothing short of magic. The Avanteras skillfully blend a cocktail full of colors, sonority, textures, ...

Recommended resellers

CZ: High-End Audio Studio, Praha, tel. +420 224 256 844

SK: Platan Audio, Hlohovec / Bratislava, tel. +421 905 409 802

Sound
64%

AUDIO PHYSIC Cardeas Plus+

Audio Physic's original Cardeas was like an album of a respected band that was recorded just because  it had to be recorded due to a contract. Not like the album that was recorded because the band wanted to. I sighed with relief that ...

Recommended resellers

CZ: High-End Audio Studio, Praha, tel. +420 224 256 844

SK: Platan Audio, Hlohovec / Bratislava, tel. +421 905 409 802

Sound
81%

AURUM CANTUS V6F

The Aurum Cantus V6Fs have the ability to dissapear from your ear-view - they move an orchestra to your living room instead and let you bathe in an expanding and transparent soundstage. After listening to the V6Fs you'll find ...

Recommended resellers

Hifi studio MeLissa, Brno, tel. +420 777 04 1313

Sound
55%

AVANTGARDE ACOUSTIC Uno Fino

Should your priority is to blend the speakers with your interior and make them visually disappear, the Avantgarde Acoustic Uno Fino is not for you. I am not in favor of color lacquers on speakers and prefer natural veneers where ...

Recommended resellers

HI-FI studio TYKON, Ostrava, tel. +420 723 449 894

Sound
60%

BOWERS & WILKINS 683 S2

Mainstream floorstanders are the subject of this review. They can be had at 1-2 monthly salaries and as such they can be yours if you skip family vacations this year. Unlike suntan these speakers will make you happy also in ...

Recommended resellers

Eurostar Ostrava, Dobřejovice u Prahy, tel. + 420 323 606 877

Jasyko, Brno, 541 210 108

Sound
41%

BOWERS & WILKINS 800 D3

At a first glance the new 800 D3 speakers are built around the same principles like their successful predecessors, 800 Diamonds. And in fact they are – only that everything is a bit more extreme here - the cabinet, drivers, materials ...

Recommended resellers

Eurostar Ostrava, Dobřejovice u Prahy, tel. + 420 323 606 877

Jasyko, Brno, 541 210 108

Sound
86%
Back to category