BOWERS & WILKINS 802 Diamond

MJ10.01.2013

Floorstanding loudspeakers

The 802 Diamond appeared to be the most placement sensitive speakers I had ever had to place. This is not to say that I could not enjoy the great sound immediately after the speakers replaced my then resident speakers, but to optimize the Diamonds in the room took a lot of listening. The difference was a transformation from great to f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c which, translated into human terms, is like the difference between a cuvée wine and Chateau Lafite Rothschild that is worth the same amount like the pair of 802 Diamonds. The speakers are heavy (802 are 72kg each), however quite easy to move around due to in-build bearing wheels. Until you are 100 percent sure that you have optimized the placement do not replace the wheels with spikes as then the placement will become rather permanent.

100% reference

Function and form

98%
Ease of use
75%
Sound
100%
Appearance

From outside there are only minor visual changes between the old D range and the new Diamond range of the 800’s and 802’s. There is a new logo (Bowers & Wilkins vs B&W), magnetically hold cloth grilles for a cleaner appearance, shiny metal rings around woofers and popular piano gloss as a new finish option. The woofers also have smaller dustcaps due to the internal changes of the driver motor assembly. More important innovations were done internally.

The new 800 series Nautilus tweeters are more thoroughly decoupled – apart from the internal isolation the padding that connects the tapered tube to the Marlan head was modified. The tweeters also feature 4 magnets in the motor to increase their sensitivity by 2dB and decrease the power needs by 40%, the enhanced dynamics and purity to be the consequence. The crossover was reworked using top of the line Mundorf’s silver/gold/oil capacitors. And finally the most relevant are the sonic changes.

The seamlessness of their 3-way design is where the new Diamonds made a leap forward. They still do not reach the point-source radiation pattern of the best speakers I have heard, yet the drivers are better integrated and dynamically aligned than any previous B&W’s model. Comparing the new 802 Diamond to 802D I also felt that the new model could perform with less stress and more ease - where the 802D was too much forward or started to be dynamically limited, the Diamond keeps its poise. When it comes to bass, the Diamonds‘ lows are more resolved, texturally more truthful and dynamic swings are faster. As the result they seem to be less full and not that much extended, but this is purely due to the new improved quality of the bass and has nothing to do with the frequency response. The 802D, in a sense, may have been more audiophile speakers thanks to their higher level of exposure of music details – though the new Diamonds do transfer even more detail clues to our ears, the detail is now better blended in and becomes the part of music.

There is bad news common for both the D range and the Diamond range: do not assume that the 802 is sonically identical to the 800 with just a smaller footprint. As far as the mids and highs are concerned, both are like twins in case of the new Diamond series (there were audible yet small differences with the D’s). Other than that the 800 Diamond’s internal volume and the way it is decoupled from the floor lends to the speaker a different level of authority and scale that significantly contributes to the realism of the listening experience.

As the 800 and 802 speakers are mostly identical in design, the details can be checked in the Bowers & Wilkins 800 Diamond review.

Bass management

Weight
84
Slam
78
Articulation
83

Should I wish something, I would perhaps go for a more romantic flavor, more silkiness and warmth, but maybe this wish is based on my listening patterns that need to be redefined by the Bowers & Wilkins’ nautilus. The nautilus tweeters are bliss with superb recordings and they are merciless with lesser ones. The high resolution unmasks the slightest drawbacks of any program material – forget about mp3 through these speakers. Through the 802 Diamonds I also reconfirmed by observations that there was a significant difference between an original CD and its ripped lossless version burnt back onto a CD-R. Whatever I did and whichever software I used including the EAC, the ripped version was audibly inferior to the original. But if you treasure very good recorded originals, then whiskey glass clinks (Brooks & Dunn, Hillbilly Deluxe) or a rolling coin on a bar desk (Tom Waits, One From The Heart) are copies of real things.
Both the 800 and 802 Diamond reveal that some CDs, like Michael Hedges’ critically acclaimed guitar opus Aerial Boundaries from 1984, are compilations from takes recorded in different studios. Indeed, some of the tracks were recorded in Windham Hill studios on a two-track tape recorder, some were recorded elsewhere and edited and overdubbed. If your budget is not that generous to afford 800’s and you would like to hear what I just described you can go ahead with 802’s as the middle and top sections are identical.

Clarity & delicacy

Detail
96
Air
89
Transparency
78

I was wondering what would happen to Dave Ellefson’s bass guitar (Megadeth, Rust in Peace) - many speakers that excel with jazz and classical music implode on rock’n roll. I never pushed the PLAY button so hesitantly. Well, the Diamonds did not disappoint. More than that – they provided me with a deep insight into the recording process, subtly revealing that the soundstage was recreated behind a mix. For example, I could hear how the multimiked drum set was compiled from individual tracks. I did not need to hear this as I am not a mastering engineer, but which audiophile would object to having such remarkable at home?

Tonal accuracy

Timbre
79
Dynamics
73
Temporal resolution
69

A well recorded material like Bacchanale of Saint-Saens’s Samson and Dalila (Reference Recordings) makes the whole orchestra materialize in your room with realistic depth and width. The dynamic clarity of the B&W’s invites a listener to crank up the volume as there are no signs of compression or a loss of breath. The only sign that warned me that I ventured too far with the volume were the digital meter readings of my Accuphase A-60 power amp that signaled a dynamic transient power of 240W. Even then the 802 Diamonds did not show any kind of stress, though the bigger 800 Diamonds were audibly more in ease. This difference between 800 and 802 lies in details with the Diamond range, it was more profound in the previous D range. Theoretically there is no reason for that as the cabinets are identical in both the cases and I suspect the improvement to be a cumulative result of many minor innovations. Simply put, the new Diamonds are audibly much better performers.

Spatial resolution

Holography
70
Soundstage width
82
Soundstage depth
93

The key difference is between the Diamond and the D is much better coherence across the whole frequency spectrum, partly due to dynamic accordance of all the drivers. What does that mean? In case there are very dynamic mids connected to slow lows or compressed highs the result will never be organic and natural. The same happens when you try link a super-performing subwoofer to a pair of lesser monitors. Both the B&Ws were as coherent as any good speaker and the Nautilus tweeter was the only thing that reminded me of its presence here and there. Fortunately it is so honest and clean that its slight forwardness can be forgiven or tamed by absorptive elements in a listening room.

The FST Kevlar midrange woofer is very neutral and very natural and I did not observe anything that some describe as ‘kevlar mids’. Most likely this is a psychoacoustic phenomenon caused by the yellow color of the woven cone, a kind of kevlar awareness. True that I missed a bit of human imperfection, the touch of warmth and the touch of passion that I am used to with the Audio Physic HHCM drivers or the best planar designs.

Price as reviewed:350 000,- Kč

Recommended resellers

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

Jasyko, Brno, 541 210 108

Profimedia, Opava, 553 759 017

Associated components

  • Sources: Accuphase DP-510, Accuphase DP-78, Classé CDP-300, Rotel RCD-1520 and Denon DCD-2010AE
  • Amplifiers: power amps - Accuphase A-65 a Accuphase A-60, Accustic Arts AMP II MkII, Classé 5300 and Rotel RB-1582; preamps - Accuphase C-2820, Accustic Arts Tube II, Classé CP-800 and Rotel RC-1580, integrated amp - Burmester 082
  • Interconnects and speaker cables: Accuphase, Audioquest (Colorado, Niagara and Oak), InAkustik Reference, Homegrown Audio DNA, Furutech Speakerflux, CrystalConnect Reference and Ultra, Krautwire Fractal
  • Power cables: Nordost Valhalla, Furutech Powerflux a Shunyata Research Python
  • Power conditioning: Nordost Thor (modified), Accuphase PS-1220 and Shunyata Research Hydra

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