Review: B&W 803 D4 Floorstanding Speaker

Review: B&W 803 D4 Floorstanding Speaker- The most compact Bowers & Wilkins floor-standing speaker to feature a head has all the technical advantages of a dedicated midrange enclosure.


The Bowers & Wilkins 803 D4, the latest addition to the esteemed 800 series of speakers, is positioned as a worthy successor to its predecessor, the 802 D3. In this review, we’ll explore the key features and performance of the 803 D4, highlighting its improvements and what makes it an attractive option for audio enthusiasts.

We have previously reviewed B&W 805 D4 as well. Read the review here.

A Trusted Brand in the Music Industry

Bowers & Wilkins, or B&W, has established a strong presence in the professional audio world, with its speakers frequently found in recording studios, including the iconic Abbey Road studios in London. This association underscores the brand’s reputation for quality and reliability.

What’s New in the D4 Series

While at first glance, it may appear that not much has changed between the D3 and D4 series, a closer examination reveals significant enhancements. B&W has made several refinements to boost the speaker’s performance and aesthetics.

  • Biomimetic Suspension: One standout improvement is the biomimetic suspension of the midrange driver, which has significantly enhanced midrange clarity, addressing an area of previous criticism.
  • Streamlined Design: The overall design of the D4 series appears more coherent and refined, making it visually appealing in any listening environment.

Notable Features of the 803 D4

The B&W 803 D4 boasts several features that set it apart:

  • Diamond-Coated Tweeter: The 803 D4 features a diamond-coated tweeter, a hallmark of B&W’s high-end speakers, offering extended frequency response and improved treble energy. The tweeter is housed in its dedicated tube to minimize interference with other drivers.
  • Three-Way Design: With two redesigned 18 cm woofers, the 803 D4 is now a three-way speaker. Improvements in the neodymium magnet drive and Aerofoil membrane contribute to robust and efficient bass reproduction.
  • Bass Reflex Port: The downward-directed bass reflex port further enhances the speaker’s low-frequency performance.

Practical Considerations

While the 803 D4 has an efficiency rating of 88.5 decibels, indicating that it can deliver impressive sound levels, it requires a robust amplifier due to its nominal 4-ohm impedance and impedance minimum of 2.9 ohms at 100 Hz. Adequate power is essential for optimal performance.

In the world of high-end audio, the Bowers & Wilkins 803 D4 speakers are not just renowned for their exceptional sound performance; they also stand out for their unmatched build quality. This review takes a closer look at the craftsmanship and construction of these speakers, shedding light on what sets them apart in terms of build quality.

Precision and Expertise

Bowers & Wilkins has a long-standing reputation for its meticulous attention to detail and uncompromising commitment to quality. The 803 D4 is a testament to this heritage. Every element of these speakers reflects precision and expertise, starting with the materials used in their construction.

Materials of Distinction

  • Industrial Diamond-Coated Tweeter: The most striking feature is undoubtedly the diamond-coated tweeter. Bowers & Wilkins is unique in offering this technology in its price range. Diamonds, being incredibly hard, provide a superlative surface for audio transduction. The tweeter, housed in its elongated tube, not only looks distinctive but also contributes to the speaker’s longevity and performance.
  • Metal Midrange Driver: The midrange driver, encased in its own “turbine head” tube, is another hallmark of the 803 D4. Crafted from metal and refined over the years, it exemplifies Bowers & Wilkins’ commitment to optimizing driver design for exceptional sound reproduction.
  • Aerofoil Membrane: The woofers in the 803 D4 have undergone a significant transformation. These 18-centimeter drivers now feature an Aerofoil membrane that enhances their performance. This material, combined with advancements in the neodymium magnet drive, contributes to precise and efficient bass output.

Exquisite Cabinet Construction

The cabinet housing these meticulously engineered drivers is where the 803 D4 truly shines:

  • Multiplex Wood: The bass housing of the speaker is crafted from multiplex wood. This material is bent into shape using a complex process, ensuring both structural integrity and resonance control.
  • Metal Skeleton: The internal structure of the 803 D4 features a sophisticated metal skeleton. This skeleton provides vital support to the drivers and cabinet, maintaining stability and reducing unwanted vibrations that can color the sound.
  • Leather Accents: An elegant touch is the leather covering on the top of the bass housing. This attention to aesthetics not only adds to the speaker’s visual appeal but also serves to dampen vibrations and resonances, contributing to cleaner sound.

Attention to Detail

While the choice of materials and overall construction are impressive, it’s the finer details that truly elevate the 803 D4’s build quality:

  • Driver Isolation: Each driver—tweeter, midrange, and woofer—has its dedicated chassis within the cabinet. This innovative design prevents interference among the drivers, ensuring that they work harmoniously to reproduce sound.
  • Quality Assurance: Bowers & Wilkins maintains stringent quality control throughout the manufacturing process. Each speaker undergoes rigorous testing to meet the brand’s exacting standards.

A Masterpiece of Craftsmanship

In conclusion, the Bowers & Wilkins 803 D4 speakers are not just a testament to sonic excellence but also an embodiment of craftsmanship and engineering precision. Every aspect of their construction, from the choice of materials to the meticulous attention to detail, underscores the brand’s commitment to delivering a speaker that not only sounds exceptional but is also a work of art. The 803 D4’s build quality is nothing short of a masterpiece, setting it apart as a benchmark in the world of high-end audio.

Sonic Performance

The 803 D4 offers compelling sonic qualities:

  • Treble Emphasis: Compared to its predecessor, there’s a noticeable emphasis on treble energy, providing extra sparkle and openness, which can be advantageous across various musical genres.
  • Immersive Soundstage: The speaker excels in delivering a three-dimensional soundstage, creating a rich and immersive listening experience for classical music, jazz, and rock genres.

The Bowers & Wilkins 803 D4 speakers have garnered a reputation not only for their exquisite build quality but also for their sonic prowess. In this review, we delve into the sound test and sound quality of these remarkable speakers, exploring how they deliver an unparalleled auditory experience.

Sonic Prowess

Bowers & Wilkins, often referred to as B&W, has a longstanding presence in professional recording studios, including the iconic Abbey Road Studios. This background in studio monitoring is a testament to the brand’s commitment to sonic accuracy. The 803 D4 speakers inherit this legacy and bring it to the forefront of home audio.

Clarity and Precision

One of the standout qualities of the 803 D4 is its exceptional clarity and precision across the entire frequency spectrum. This is immediately apparent when listening to a wide range of musical genres. Whether you’re delving into the intricate details of a classical orchestra or reveling in the raw energy of rock music, these speakers provide an astonishing level of clarity. Every nuance, every instrument, and every note is presented with remarkable precision.

Treble Brilliance

The signature diamond-coated tweeter, a hallmark of B&W’s 800 series, plays a pivotal role in the treble region. Its industrial diamond coating provides a rigid and highly responsive diaphragm capable of reproducing frequencies well over 50 kilohertz. This translates to treble notes that are crisp, extended, and incredibly detailed.

Midrange Magic

The midrange driver, housed in its own specialized tube known as the “turbine head,” offers an improved midrange performance compared to its predecessors. The 803 D4 exhibits a midrange that is not only clear but also possesses an exceptional level of freedom and openness. The incorporation of biomimetic suspension, a key innovation, contributes to this newfound clarity in the midrange.

Deep, Controlled Bass

Equipped with two redesigned 18-centimeter woofers featuring Aerofoil membranes, the 803 D4 delivers a deep and controlled bass response. While not as thunderously powerful as some larger floor-standing speakers, these speakers excel in providing articulate and precise low frequencies. The bass reflex design, with a downward-firing port, ensures that bass remains tight and well-extended.

Soundstage and Three-Dimensionality

One of the most striking aspects of the 803 D4’s sound quality is its ability to create an expansive soundstage. When listening to well-recorded tracks, the speakers transport you to a three-dimensional space where instruments and vocals are not just placed but are alive and tangible. This sense of holographic imaging is a testament to the speaker’s ability to reproduce spatial cues faithfully.

Sound Test: Real-world Examples

To illustrate the 803 D4’s sound performance, consider these real-world examples:

1. Leonard Cohen’s Jazz Interpretation

Listening to Leonard Cohen’s songs performed by an ensemble of top-tier musicians is a transformative experience. The speakers bring out the best in this recording, making it sound incredibly open and magnificent. The drums are perfectly organized, the bass grooves with precision, and the overall presentation is nothing short of heavenly. The 803 D4 captures the structure and passion of this recording, offering a soundstage that feels boundless.

2. Richard Strauss with the Cleveland Orchestra

Classical music enthusiasts will revel in the 803 D4’s ability to breathe life into orchestral recordings. In a program featuring Richard Strauss’ tone poems performed by the Cleveland Orchestra under the direction of Franz Welser-Möst, the speakers shine. The sound is delicate, not overly rich, with the strings shimmering and each instrument rendered with exceptional plasticity. The speakers excel in portraying depth and holographic precision.

Sonic Excellence Redefined

In conclusion, the Bowers & Wilkins 803 D4 speakers redefine the concept of sonic excellence. They offer a listening experience characterized by unmatched clarity, precision, and a captivating sense of three-dimensionality. These speakers effortlessly handle a diverse range of music genres, showcasing their versatility and prowess. Whether you’re exploring the subtleties of jazz or immersing yourself in the grandeur of classical orchestras, the 803 D4 speakers elevate your listening experience to unprecedented heights, making them a true benchmark in the world of high-end audio.

Comparison to Competing Models

When compared to other high-end floor-standing speakers in the 10,000 to 15,000 euro range, the 803 D4 stands out with its deep, controlled bass, and precise mid-high range reproduction. It competes admirably with elite models like the FinkTeam Borg.

In the world of high-end speakers, the Bowers & Wilkins 803 D4 holds a position of reverence. However, to truly appreciate its greatness, it’s essential to pit it against some formidable competitors. In this comparison, we’ll assess how the 803 D4 stacks up against other elite models.

Bowers & Wilkins 803 D4 vs. FinkTeam Borg

The Battle of Precision and Authority

803 D4: The B&W 803 D4, known for its meticulous craftsmanship and sonic brilliance, sets a high bar. Its strength lies in its precision across the frequency spectrum. The treble, driven by a diamond-coated tweeter, sparkles with exceptional clarity and detail. While its bass is deep and well-controlled, it might not match the sheer power of larger models.

FinkTeam Borg: The FinkTeam Borg is another heavyweight contender, particularly in terms of authority. It delivers an awe-inspiring sense of control, especially in handling timpani and bass drums. The Borg leans towards a slightly warmer sound signature, making it a solid choice for those who appreciate richness in their music.

Verdict: In this showdown, precision meets authority. If you prioritize precision and three-dimensional imaging, the 803 D4 might edge ahead. However, if you’re drawn to commanding bass and a warmer tonal balance, the Borg holds its ground.

Bowers & Wilkins 803 D4 vs. Bowers & Wilkins 804 D4

A Family Feud

803 D4: The 803 D4 is undoubtedly an impressive speaker, setting new standards for midrange clarity and overall performance. It excels in creating a holographic soundstage and offers a slightly brighter, more sparkling sound signature compared to its sibling, the 804 D4.

804 D4: The B&W 804 D4, while slightly smaller, doesn’t lag far behind. It’s distinguished by its pleasing authenticity, particularly in rendering voices. The 804 D4 inherits many of the technological advancements of the 803 D4 but with a tonal balance that caters to those who favor authenticity and midrange presence.

Verdict: This family feud showcases the evolutionary leaps Bowers & Wilkins has made with its D4 series. The 803 D4 offers an exquisite balance of precision and spaciousness, making it suitable for various musical genres. On the other hand, the 804 D4 appeals to those who prioritize vocal authenticity and midrange warmth.

The Bowers & Wilkins 803 D4 is a formidable contender in the world of high-end speakers. Its prowess in clarity, precision, and spatial imaging sets it apart. While it excels in various musical genres, its competition offers distinct characteristics that cater to specific preferences. Whether you prioritize precision, warmth, or bass impact, this comparison underscores the exceptional versatility and excellence of the 803 D4. It remains a benchmark in the realm of high-fidelity audio, setting the stage for unforgettable listening experiences.

Conclusion: A Worthy Successor

In conclusion, the B&W 803 D4 is a remarkable addition to the 800 series, showcasing exceptional craftsmanship and sonic performance. Its slightly brighter tuning, improved midrange clarity, and stunning plasticity make it an attractive choice for audio enthusiasts. While it may not match the bass power of its predecessor, the 802 D3, it excels in many other aspects. Ultimately, the 803 D4 is a compelling option for those seeking a high-end speaker that delivers a captivating and immersive listening experience.

Pros of the Bowers & Wilkins 803 D4 Speaker:

  1. Exceptional Build Quality: The 803 D4 boasts meticulous craftsmanship, using high-quality materials and attention to detail, ensuring durability and an elegant appearance.
  2. Advanced Technology: Incorporating innovations like the diamond-coated tweeter, biomimetic suspension, and redesigned woofers, this speaker leverages cutting-edge technology for superior sound quality.
  3. Clarity and Precision: The 803 D4 offers remarkable clarity and precision across the entire frequency spectrum, making it suitable for a wide range of musical genres.
  4. Three-Dimensional Sound: It excels in creating a three-dimensional soundstage, immersing listeners in a lifelike audio experience.
  5. Compatibility: Designed to work well with a variety of amplifiers, including high-end options, to unlock its full potential.

Cons of the Bowers & Wilkins 803 D4 Speaker:

  1. Price: This speaker is undeniably expensive, placing it out of reach for many potential buyers.
  2. Size and Weight: Its substantial size and weight, although manageable with included wheels, may limit its placement options in some rooms.
  3. Amplifier Requirements: To fully exploit its capabilities, the 803 D4 demands a robust amplifier, which can add to the overall cost of ownership.
  4. Impedance Variability: The speaker’s impedance drops significantly in the performance-relevant range, potentially posing challenges for amplifiers with less stable power supplies.
  5. Bass Power: While it delivers impressive bass, it may not match the sheer bass power of some larger competitors, potentially leaving bass enthusiasts wanting more.

It’s worth noting that while the Bowers & Wilkins 803 D4 has its drawbacks, its numerous strengths, particularly in sound quality and craftsmanship, make it a compelling choice for audiophiles seeking top-tier performance.