Sound & Image takes an in-depth look at the 800 D3. As the flagship model of the 800 Series Diamond, the 800 D3 takes the innovative, ground-breaking technologies developed for the new series to the ultimate conclusion. The result is the best loudspeaker Bowers & Wilkins has ever produced. The 800 D3 has all the latest home theatre technologies to give you a luxury entertainment experience in the comfort of your home.
Sound&Vision says – “The 800 D3 is the best Bowers & Wilkins can do to create a perfect-as-possible speaker—the pinnacle of audio perfection.”
Stereophile say – “The 800 D3 is an impressively better loudspeaker in every way.”
Press release from Bowers & Wilkins –
May 10, 2016 – The new Bowers & Wilkins 800 D3 loudspeaker redefines reference quality sound. It is the best performing, most advanced loudspeaker the brand has yet produced and is a fitting announcement on the eve of Bowers & Wilkins 50th anniversary; taking the company closer than ever to John Bowers’ stated goal of “losing the least” – it reveals layers of musical information from even familiar recordings that were simply unheard previously.
When the new 800 Series Diamond launched late in 2015, the range as a whole redefined performance standards, both for the 800 Series itself and for the wider world of premium loudspeakers. The result of an intensive seven-year project to make the best better, the 800 Series Diamond resulted from a combination of tireless research and development, advanced engineering, and countless hours of listening by the very best ears in the business. And with the launch of the range’s flagship 800 D3, the bar has been raised once again.
The most immediate visual differences between the new 800 D3 and the 802 D3 is the size of the new speaker’s low frequency enclosure and twin bass drivers. The 800 D3 features two 10-inch Aerofoil bass drivers, as opposed to the two 8-inch drivers on the slightly smaller 802 D3. However, the bass drivers are not only larger: they also utilize a unique carbon fiber construction for an even stiffer, more pistonic cone and are optimized for linearity and low distortion. The drivers also benefit from a higher specification motor assembly with upgraded magnets for increased control and crossover improvements that offer a considerable upgrade over the 802 D3 in terms of performance.
The Aerofoil drivers’ dust caps are an enhanced version of the component found on the 802 D3 and 803 D3 and are formed from a sandwich construction consisting of carbon fiber and the same syntactic foam as the Aerofoil cone itself. This further reduces dust-cap resonances and is one of the many seemingly minor developments and tweaks that represent the incredible attention to detail on the no-stone unturned 800 D3.
Elsewhere, the 800 D3 deploys the same size Continuum cone, Turbine head and solid-body tweeter assembly as the 802 D3. However, improved crossovers and capacitors combine to raise the resolution of these vital areas in order to better match the 800 D3’s excellent bass performance. Even with all these changes, the 800 D3 sports a similar load and sensitivity to the 802 D3.
These innovations, when teamed with improvements to the series as a whole, such as dramatically stiffer cabinets, a more robust Matrix bracing system that involves thicker slats, and the thoughtful application of aluminum and steel bracing where it is required, means the new 800 D3 represents the pinnacle of reference quality sound. Obviously there is more bass weight on offer, but the key acoustic character of the new 800 D3 is both its effortlessness and accuracy. There are incredibly insightful levels of accuracy in the bass output and when compared to the already outstanding 802 D3, low frequency drive unit distortion is 10dB less.
There’s also a dramatically improved sense of scale when compared to the outgoing 800 Diamond, and the 800 D3 is capable of effortlessly rendering a full-size symphony orchestra in all its glory. This is thanks to the extra scale that is available and the improved knitting together of the four drive units, plus the extra resolution and detail that these new drive unit technologies deliver not only in the 800 D3, but across the entire 800 Series Diamond range.
Testament to Bowers & Wilkins desire to consistently produce class-leading loudspeakers, the state-of-the-art manufacturing plant in Worthing, West Sussex, was redesigned specifically for production of the new 800 Series Diamond. The 800 D3 is completely manufactured in the updated facility alongside the rest of the range.
The end result of these years of work, tireless attention to detail and significant commercial expenditure is not only a worthy flagship for an exceptional range of loudspeakers, but also the very best loudspeaker that Bowers & Wilkins has ever produced. The new 800 D3 is also an evocative reminder of the way the passion and drive of John Bowers is still alive and well in the company he founded 50 years ago.
Aerofoil cone Sometimes, new technologies allow us to achieve things in engineering that wouldn’t have been possible a few years ago. The Aerofoil bass cone is a perfect example. By using advanced computer modeling and a new syntactic core material, we’ve been able to produce a cone of varying thickness, with maximum stiffness where it’s needed most. This optimized shape means the cone displays pistonic behavior further up the audible range, producing bass that’s precise, controlled and utterly lifelike.
Turbine head Hear the sound, not the cabinet. That’s the principle behind our separate head units – a feature we introduced when we launched the first 800 Series speaker in 1979. Now, thanks to a radical redesign, the 800 Series Diamond head unit performs better than ever. Constructed from a single piece of aluminum, braced with internal radial fins and with a raised, slimmer profile, the turbine head is almost totally inert, producing a sound that’s free from cabinet coloration.
Solid body tweeter Vibration is the enemy of good sound. To minimize vibrations, you need components that are as stiff as possible. For the 800 Series Diamond, we created our stiffest tweeter enclosure yet. The tweeter assembly for the new range is housed in a solid piece of aluminum, while an improved gel decoupling system isolates the tweeter from the effects of cabinet resonance. The result? Pin-sharp acoustic detail, and new levels of insight into a musical performance.
Continuum cone For decades, we thought that nothing could beat Kevlar as a midrange cone material. But now, following eight years of intensive development, we’ve finally come up with something even better. Due to its composite construction, the Continuum cone avoids the abrupt transitions in behavior that can impair the performance of a conventional drive unit. The result is a more open, neutral performance. And a giant leap forward for loudspeaker design.
Thanks to computer modeling, the design of the 800 Series Diamond midrange chassis has been completely overhauled. The new chassis is engineered for superior stiffness, while tuned-mass dampers help to reduce unwanted vibrations to a bare minimum.
Reverse wrap cabinetWhen it came to designing the ideal shape for the 800 Series Diamond cabinet, we did a U-turn. Quite literally. Instead of a flat-fronted speaker with a curving back, we produced a cabinet with a front and sides formed of one continuous curve, held together with a spine of solid aluminum. Fewer joins make for a stiffer, more inert structure, and a curved front means less baffling around the drive units. So sound dispersion is improved, and cabinet reflection is reduced.
Matrix Matrix provides the backbone for our speakers. It’s an internal structure that works like the bracing of a ship’s hull, with criss-crossed interlocking panels keeping our cabinets rigid and inert. For the 800 Series Diamond, we’ve introduced our most radical rethink of the Matrix concept yet. The internal panels are thicker, solid plywood has replaced MDF, and metal components have been added to reinforce key stress points. All together it’s the most solid Matrix system we’ve ever built.
Plinth 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 aluminum. This improves stability by lowering the centre of mass and counter-balancing the weight of the turbine head.
The base of larger 800 D3 is fitted with castors to allow you to maneuver 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.
Diamond domes Some things don’t change. While almost every component of the 800 Series Diamond has been reinvented, the element that gave the range its name remains unchanged: the speaker’s diamond tweeter domes. Our diamond domes remain the ultimate in tweeter technology, capable of unrivalled acoustic detail, naturalism and spaciousness.
Diamond: the super-material The properties of diamond are prized in highly specialized industrial applications, from neurosurgery to CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. Its unique stiffness-to-lightness ratio also makes diamond the perfect tweeter material. Developed especially for the 800 Series Diamond, diamond tweeter domes push the break-up frequency threshold to a remarkable 70kHz, resulting in superb clarity and detail.
Making diamond the natural way takes seismic pressures, volcanic temperatures and around two billion years. Thankfully, science has found a way to shortcut the process. Using chemical vapor deposition, our diamond domes are grown like crystals in super-heated furnaces under laboratory conditions, before being cut to produce the perfect tweeter dome shape.
S&I Verdict – The 800 D3 is the technologically advanced flagship model speaker from the venerable Bowers & Wilkins. It’s the best performing, most advanced loudspeaker the company has ever produced, a fitting addition to the product line for B&W’s 50th anniversary.
The 800 D3 is available from both our S&I stores. It is available in Piano Gloss Black and Rosenut.