Bowers and Wilkins 800D3 Diamond Series
Our 805D3 and 804D3 have now arrived and are on demo.
In early September we visited Bowes and Wilkins factory for our first look at the 800D3 Diamond Series. The Diamond Series stands at the very pinnacle of Bowers and Wilkins design capabilities and has always represented the very best of what technology and design are capable of. What we saw and heard was impressive to say the least and groundbreaking in many areas. The sound was nothing short of a revelation.
Bowers and Wilkins have been busy
It’s not just about being a ‘flagship’ design – just about every speaker company has one of those – nor even a ‘reference’ model (which is another of those almost meaningless terms). Rather the 800 Series has always been an exemplar of what Bowers & Wilkins engineers and designers can do when they’re let off the leash, and given the freedom to develop the best products they can, freed from all the ‘yes, but’ considerations.
The new 800 Series Diamond re-writes the rules of high-end loudspeaker performance. For almost 40 years generation after generation of the 800 Series from Bowers & Wilkins has set the standard other loudspeakers attempt to follow. Now, on the advent of the company’s 50th anniversary, the new 800 Series Diamond redefines what is possible from a Hi-Fi loudspeaker.
The new 800 Series Diamond is the result of an intensive seven-year project to make the best better. A combination of tireless research and development, advanced engineering and countless hours of listening by the very best ears in the business has produced a range of loudspeakers that place the listener closer to the recording than ever thought possible.
Such is the fundamental evolution of the range that almost all of the component parts are different from the outgoing 800 Series Diamond. As Bowers & Wilkins Head of Research Martial Rousseau says, “This is not a product update. This is a completely re-imagined entity. One of the sole remaining elements is the Diamond tweeter. We found it impossible to improve on the performance offered by diamond.
The exceptional Diamond dome tweeter may have been retained, but the rest of the loudspeaker has been re-imagined from the ground up to deliver an uncompromising high-fidelity sound that sets a new benchmark for loudspeaker technologies.
The changes involve a vast number of technological, engineering and acoustic innovations that combine to create a sublime listening experience. Most striking is the transformation of the midrange drive units. A new Continuum cone featuring superior acoustic properties replaces the Kevlar cones that have long been a major factor of the 800 Series’ blisteringly realistic midrange performance. Bass performance has also been dramatically improved by the introduction of the Aerofoil cone, which considerably reduces distortion thanks to new cone geometry.
These innovations, when teamed with improved cabinets, a more robust Matrix bracing system, a new solid body tweeter assembly and the vastly improved Turbine head design means the new 800 Series Diamond represents the nirvana of reference quality sound.
Testament to Bowers & Wilkins desire to consistently produce class-leading loudspeakers, the entire manufacturing plant in Worthing, West Sussex, was redesigned specifically for production of the new 800 Series Diamond, creating a speaker that does not rely on its reputation alone to deliver superlative performance.
In addition, the new 800 Series Diamond features a radical new aesthetic that delivers a slender, more modern industrial design. With the Turbine head constructed from a single piece of aluminium sitting on a sleek reverse-wrap cabinet crafted from layers of wood, which are curved into shape under intense pressure, the new 800 Series inspires thoughts of architectural achievement with its sumptuous, acoustically derived lines.
Throughout the range – from the extraordinary 802 D3 to the more accessible 805 D3 – there is something to suit every audiophile preference. Imagined, designed and produced in the UK, the new 800 Series Diamond range is the pinnacle of British acoustic engineering achievement.
As a result, the 800 Series models have provided not only world-beating performance of the kind that’s seen successive generations adopted as monitors for recording and all stages of music production, but also the technology familiar throughout the Bowers & Wilkins catalogue. From the use of ultra-rigid Matrix cabinet construction to the idea of separate enclosures for high-frequency drivers or Flowport bass-reflex tuning, they all started out in 800 Series products.
Bowers have been working on the new 800D3 series for over 3 years. Their brief was not to improve upon the old series but to start afresh with a clean sheet of paper. Perhaps key to the development of the 800D3 series was the development of new laser microscope technology that enables Bowers R&D department to accurately measure and map distortions in drive units and the materials that housed them. For the first time they could put a frequency through a drive unit (or an enclosure) and actually “see” what happened to it. This was something of a “road to Damascus” moment.
Of course the last thing they wanted was to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Many of the principles and technologies that had been developed from previous 800 series held true but often the materials used to build them could be realised far better.
The end result is a series that is almost totally different in every respect except appearance. Believe it or not only two things remain from the old series; the diamond tweeter diaphragm and the binding posts!
Does the 800D3 series use Kevlar?
No; in fact when Bowers measured the Kevlar drive units they could see distortions in the uniformity of the drive unit’s movements that were undesirable. After exhaustive research they patented a new material to replace the Kevlar material used for the mid-range drive units. This new material offered a more uniform pistonic movement and did not break up or “buckle” under load. The end result is a purer mid-range performance. The Continuum cone delivers pristine midrange performance by effectively negating the break-up behaviour that can adversely effect this all-important part of the spectrum.
Bracing is essential in keeping a speaker stable, so the character of instruments comes through cleanly. Developed using computer modelling and constructed from wood ply with metal reinforcement, Matrix offers the ultimate in bracing.
The new Matrix is even thicker, more dense and more rigid than before. It is made from ply instead of mdf. It has also steel braced mountings that enable the drive units to fit directly to it to ensure rigidity in every plane; a perfect housing for some of the finest drive units on the market.
Reverse wrap cabinet
Relocating the curve of the cabinet to the front has a double benefit – it allows stronger joins at the back, while also helping sound dispersion across the curve of the baffle.
This is the opposite of the old design and works in combination with the improved matrix to make a totally inert cabinet. The end result is that there is no unwanted colouration.
The Turbine head houses the mid-range unit. It is the idea shape for sound dispersion. In previous models the head was made of Marlin and under certain conditions this material could flex. The new head is made of internally ribbed, aluminium construction that ensures it is acoustically inert.
Solid body tweeter
In fact the only thing that remains constant from the previous range is the actual diamond tweeter diaphragm. Every other part of the treble unit has been refined and improved. Even the grille protecting the precious diamond unit has been reinforced and is acoustically invisible.
The bass driver material has been transformed. The new Aerofoil cone’s variable thickness provides added strength where it is needed to maintain its pistonic shape, delivering rock sold bass.
A great speaker needs a rock-solid foundation. By moving the crossover from the plinth to the main body of the speaker, we’ve been able to create a base for the 800 Series Diamond that’s more stable and resonance-resistant than ever. Replacing the original open-box design, the new plinth is constructed from a solid piece of aluminium weighing in at a mighty 18kg. This improves stability by lowering the centre of mass and counter-balancing the weight of the turbine head.
The base of larger 800 Series Diamond speakers are fitted with castors to allow you to manoeuvre your speakers into position easily. Replacing these castors with floor spikes used to be a tricky proposition, involving tipping your speaker on its side. Not so with new 800 Series Diamond speakers, which come with integrated floor spikes that can be lowered or raised with a simple twist of a cog.
The Products complete
The sum of each of these new components is a range which currently consists of 4 new loudspeakers. These almost directly replace the outgoing models and whilst some look similar they are actually almost totally different in every aspect. In fact only the diaphragm and the speaker connectors on the rear remain unchanged.
The 802 D3 is the current flagship ( the 800 D3 will be introduced next year). If you’re looking for stunning realism without the studio-sized footprint, the 802 D3 is the answer. The Diamond tweeter, Turbine head and Continuum cone deliver pristine sound, while the 802 D3’s proportions make it a comfortable fit for larger domestic spaces as well as recording environments. At home or in the studio, it will reveal depth and detail in music you never knew existed.
The 803 has gone through the most exhaustive change and now features a headed mid-range driver to it’s armoury. This is a remarkable sounding loudspeaker. The 803 D3 is the first of its kind: a full-range, studio-quality speaker built for the home, and the most compact headed unit B&W have ever produced. While this elegant speaker comes in a living room-friendly size, it shares the same revolutionary technologies and design features as its larger sibling, including the Turbine head and reverse-wrap cabinet.
Resembling the older 804D but with immense changed in all aspects from front curved baffle to drive units to cabinet construction and crossover. Wolf in sheep’s clothing. It might have a more traditional appearance than other speakers in the range, but don’t let that fool you. The 804 D3 delivers incredible acoustic transparency, thanks to unique 800 Series Diamond features such as our Continuum cone and augmented Matrix bracing system. So while its looks may be conventional, its performance is anything but.
Again similar to the previous model only in dimensions and size. Everything else has changed. Small sounds beautiful. The smallest speaker in the 800 Series Diamond range is also one of the most groundbreaking. Packed with cutting-edge technologies never seen before in a speaker of its class, it’s the only stand-mounted speaker in the world to feature a Diamond dome tweeter. For lifelike spaciousness and detail, no other small speaker comes close.
White/Silver, Gloss Black and Rosewood.
More to follow
We will post prices and more information shortly and we expect to have these loudspeakers on demonstration in the next couple of months.