A very highly respected “robot” !Foreword
I have never personally owned B&W loudspeakers, but I have heard a good sound of the 600 and 700 series speakers during the past decades. I have only listened the 800 series in a couple of events where they have been presented. Because of those experiences being almost from the “prehistoric” time, it was time to make an update. I sent an e-mail to B&W Finland and asked if they could arrange a listening session with 802D, 801D or 800D speakers. Mr. Taisto Hulanmäki kindly answered and told that Helsinki Sound & Cinema have 800Ds and they are able to do a presentation, but they should be informed two days beforehand. Then I called to Mr. Patrik Viitala and he told that everything was already quite ready for the planned session.
B&W has described that Nautilus is their five-year research and development mission to achieve, as near as possible, a perfect loudspeaker. Exactly the same technology is used in the 800 series. An 800D is a top-of-the-range model of this 800 product line. So one can guess that there must be something special in those models, which have finally been accepted to the production as a replacement for the old 800 line. B&W’s top of the line speakers have always been a very personal looking. Futuristic and revolutionary design ideas of the Nautilus are partly copied to the 800 series as well. When I look at the 800D, I can not help the feeling of seeing a “robot”. Anyway, that does not mean that the speaker is ugly, at least not for me. Actually, 800D is a very good looking, especially if one accepts the black housings of a midrange cone and tweeter.
B&W product catalogue and homepage give a lot of info from their loudspeakers. I am not telling the same specifications here. Several improvements have been done, including new elements. Perhaps a new diamond dome tweeter has engaged more attention than other reforms but naturally that is not the whole story of the new 800D.
For more detailed information:
The hosts in Helsinki Sound & Cinema gave me a great opportunity to listen to the system peacefully and practically in silence. They had warmed up the Classe electronics and only the speakers had to be set up, which actually happened very quickly! I was told that the system, including speakers, was already well in-burned. After Patrik had closed the door of listening room and left me alone I began to listen to my traditional test CDs. Although it had been a long time since my last B&W listening experience, I still could find the brand-typical features of the sound!?
From the very first seconds the sound had a lot of low level details and righteous richness, but probably the most obvious feature was anyway an unusually flat frequency response! For me the B&W loudspeakers have already shown that the frequency response is clearly one of the most important planning targets of the brand, but despite of that knowledge this session still delivered far better results than before. So, the hosts had managed to create a setup where the audio system and the listening room truly were an excellent match. This led to the balance I have very seldom met before.
Another striking notification was that the treble has been improved remarkably since the previous models. A new diamond tweeter is a wonderful piece of modern technology, which can be heard immediately! The sound of the cymbals was extremely clean and natural. The treble was clearly among the best I have heard, even though the other elements of the speaker had to give up a bit and some slight troubles in coherency were registered.
The sound was not quite razor sharp and the most demanding and dynamic music samples were generally slightly softened. Same kind of slight limitations were noticed in the sonical picture. Especially I expected more dimensionality of the vertical extensions. Anyway, the overall performance was excellent and all of my music samples were listened with a great pleasure. The best Jazz samples deserved even several encores!
In spite of the slight critics I must clarify that the acoustic treatment of the listening room was quite hard in the area of midrange and treble. I think this might overdose my feelings of the extra softness and especially vertically limited soundstaging. Another important notification for this evaluation is that I had to use Classe electronics. Although Classe is an excellent brand, their electronics, even the reference ones, will do some brand specific “finger prints” for the sound. And finally, when one is evaluating the level of the critics, the price of the system must be taken into account. B&W 800D is again competitive but it surely is not alone at the 20 k€ class!
A new 800D is a world class loudspeaker which will satisfy plenty of audio professionals and audiophiles. Still and not surprisingly it could not achieve perfection although a lot of great development has been done. A competition at this price class is tough! In my opinion there are several serious alternatives for the B&W 800Ds, like Audio Physic Calderas, Avantgarde Duos, Sonus Faber Elipsas, Dynaudio Confidence C4s and Acapella La Campanellas. Marten Birds go a bit over with its 22 k€ price, but they will very likely give the most “shaking” sound for their extra price! When compared to the B&W 800D it is easy to imagine that all these speakers may give a bit more impressive sound for some audiophiles, but naturally this does not mean they are objectively better speakers! Actually all previously mentioned speakers are excellent ones but they have strengths of their own: Calderas shine in soundstaging, Avantgarde Duos in speed and control, Sonus Faber Elipsas in tonality, Dynaudio Confidence C4s and Acapella La Campanellas in overall neutrality. But at least for me B&W 800D delivers probably the flattest overall performance in this price class. This seems to be a real benefit of B&W 800Ds!
• Floorstanding 3 way vented-box
• Tweeter: a diamond dome
• Midrange driver: 6 inch woven Kevlar cone
• Woofers: 2 x 10 inch Rohacell cone bass
• Height: 1180 mm; Width: 450 mm; Depth: 645 mm
• Weight: 125 kg
• Power rating: 1000 W
• Frequency response: 32 – 28.000 Hz (± 3 dB)
• Sensitivity: 90 dB
• Impedance: 8 ohms (3.1 ohm minimum!?)
• Price for the basic model: 20 000 € in Finland
• Importer: B&W Finland
• CD player: Classe
• Preamp: Classe CP-500
• Power amps: Classe CA-M400 monoblocks
• Interconnects: Taralabs Vector 1,0m XLR
• Speaker cables: Taralabs Air 2
• Power cords: Taralabs Prism AC 1,8m