Reviews

Review: B&W 805 D4 stand-mount loudspeaker

Review: B&W 805 D4 stand-mount loudspeaker: In terms of airiness, transparency and spatiality, the B&W 805 D4 is among the best you can get for money

Continuum membrane, tweeter-on-top housing, matrix reinforcement – and of course many other keywords come to mind very easily. But which it doesn’t need at all, so that most people already know: It’s about sound transducers from the southern English coastal town of Worthing, where John Bowers began manufacturing loudspeaker systems as early as 1966, and where Bowers & Wilkins ( https://www. bowerswilkins.com/de-de ) which still does today. The complete, legendary B&W 800 series is manufactured at the company’s headquarters. As a result, the current compact model from the top series, the B&W 805 D4 (8,000 euros) to be tested, is also adorned with a “Made in England” label.

And, of course, the small 800 is adorned with carbon: “Diamonds are a listener’s best friend” has apparently been the motto of the English for 15 years and four series generations, although all models of the B&W 800 Series have only had a diamond tweeter since 2010. The noble cap of the Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4 is not one of the innovations compared to the previous model B&W 805 D3 , which the colleague Jochen Reinecke had on the reel four years ago.

B&W 805 D4 – technical highlights and innovations

However, the British made changes with regard to the size and attachment of the “tweeter-on-top” housing of the diamond dome. Still made from a single block of aluminium, the tweeter tube has now been extended to around 30 centimetres, and it also rests on a two-point decoupling made of silicone rubber and two L-shaped steel brackets. B&W wants to further reduce the distortion in the lower transmission range of the dome in particular. In addition to its larger rear volume, the “breathing” of the dome should improve as a result of further adjustments: The ventilation and the magnet system of the drive have been further tuned, which, among other things, results in lower electrical damping of the coil in the coil gap, according to Senior Product Manager Ulf Soldan.

The dome is still separated quite high, at around 4 kHz. And that remains flat with 6 dB/octave: the diamond sparkles southwards directly up to the upper mids and therefore influences the perception of the mids not only through the overtones . Definitely one of the reasons why B&W gives its 805 D4 an “even more credible midrange”.

B&W 805 D4 - Frequenzweiche

As usual, the rather subtly adapted crossover is clearly arranged: a high-quality air- core coil , a noble capacitor (Mundorf MCap Supreme SilverGold.Oil) with specially treated connecting wires used exclusively by B&W, two bypass capacitors and one screwed directly to the rear aluminum profile of the loudspeaker housing , therefore resistance that does not require an extra heat sink. That’s it. Valuable and minimalistic – the sound purists will be happy.

As with the tweeter, the B&W developers also had housing on their agenda for the crossover. Thanks to the new “inverted case design” (I’ll come back to that in a moment), capacitors and the like can now feel particularly safe from disruptive influences thanks to their own area on the stable aluminum case back.

B&W 805 D4 - rückseitiges Aluminium-Profil

The honor of wearing a turbine head on strong bass shoulders works with a two-wayer not per se and is only given to the next but one larger model, the 803 D4. The silver-grey Continuum cones, on the other hand, are even found in the lower model series from B&W. Nevertheless, something has also happened in the midrange department of the B&W 805 D4, namely in the form of a new voice coil and a voice coil former that has been improved through the use of fiberglass. The new “Biomimetic Suspension” technology, which replaces the usual tissue centering spider and, thanks to its filigree suspension system, hardly generates any air movement that can interfere with the actual membrane, is reserved for the dedicated midrange drivers of the larger three-way models. The ferrite magnet drive of the 16.5 cm bass-midrange speaker is also kept a bit simpler in the 805; only the big 800s have double copper or double silver versions.

Bowers & Wilkins Continuum-Membran

Larger dwellings or filigree suspensions: Bowers & Wilkins attaches the greatest relevance to housing tuning, the keyword “reverse wrap shape” has already been mentioned. B&W has had this mechanical trick for a long time, but it is used for the first time in the 800 compact model. “Due to its shape, the housing is stiffer than ever before,” says Ulf Soldan. The driver-retaining baffle is the stiffest part of the housing, not least thanks to its comparatively small surface, which is also reinforced by an aluminum construction behind it, to which the mid-bass driver is finally screwed directly through the wooden housing.

I already mentioned the profiled aluminum back in connection with the new crossover positioning, but not yet the aluminum cover plate on the upper side of the bass-midrange housing. In addition to increased stability, it should promote reduced housing tolerances, and according to Ulf Soldan, “the tweeter decoupling is more precise and narrower in the tolerance”.

B&W 805 D4 seitlich von vorne

The effort that went into the construction of the housing is undoubtedly enormous – and anything but a matter of course in the price range of the B&W 805 D4. Additionally, the internal B&W signature Matrix stiffener on the 805 D4 is now 18mm plywood rather than MDF. Yes, if you touch and tap these noble converters more intensively, they actually give off something “safe”. Only the elegant leather cover of the aluminum cover plate ensures that the 805 sometimes shows its soft side…

By the way, since the influence of the speaker mechanics on the sound is often underestimated: Just for fun, loosen the screws of the drivers on your speakers at home and set up the speakers a little more wobbly to get an idea of ​​what besides expensive driver technology and fine electronics can have a significant impact on the sound. Or better not – vice versa, it becomes a shoe, because in practice it is unfortunately often “loose and wobbly”. So tighten the screws of your loudspeakers (slightly!) and align the loudspeakers as smoothly as possible. A nice transition to the practical part of this test report, as I just noticed – so let’s go to the listening room with the Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4 …

Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4: Sound Test & Comparisons

B&W 805 D4 - Schallwand von oben

English speaker tradition with almost 60 years of “long” roots, even old BBC monitor warhorses like Spendor (founded in 1969) or Harbeth (1977) can’t quite keep up. If you think of a warm sound bath with a bit of high-frequency patina, you are quite wrong when looking at the Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4. Sure, why would you need a diamond tweeter for that…?

Finest fare

B&W 805 D4 - Diamant-Hochtonkalotte

To get straight to the point: The high and highest tones that the carbon trumpet of the 805 D4 delivers to the ear is such fine fare that even as the happy new owner of a pair of Wilson SabrinaXs , I raise an eyebrow. The high-frequency range of my SabrinaX may be a touch reduced on the level side, but when comparing it to the tonally straight, compact Bowers & Wilkins, that’s not the crucial point for me. More of a question of taste. The aspect of resolution, i.e. the question of whether there are more details here or there, is academic for me on the level that both solutions offer.

But when the track “Rhododendron” by the French duo Quadrupède (album: Togoban ) is about the tones of the offbeat quarters of ride cymbals on the right channel and the hi-hat in the stereo center, things look a little different from: With the B&W 805 D4 it simply sounds even more convincing like “real metal” – even more shiny, more open, more shimmering. The rimshots also seem more defined, finely dynamic a bit more pronounced. The overtone spectrum of the diamond tweeter can fully demonstrate its strengths in such tasks: resolution, fine dynamics and “air” are at Premier League level and, regardless of the price, are among the best that I have ever heard in my listening room.

B&W 805 D4 - Oberseite und Gitter des Hochtöners

Especially since the hyper-airy (the B&W 705 Signature also ends early in the super treble) and extremely subtle treble was tuned by the B&W engineers on the level side in such a way that it unmistakably shows what it’s capable of – shyness is different – but because of its superb quality does not introduce any artificial harshness, sharpness or hissing into the sound. Even Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” (Album: So), which at least in the digital version I have available always tastes a bit like plastic and contains poisonous percussion and distinctive sibilants, is easy to digest on the high-frequency side.

A new femininity

Of course, the exquisite treble quality of the Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4 doesn’t just benefit drums and the digestibility of bad recordings. Rather, the 805 gets you pretty excited, not least with Cynic ‘s spherical “Amidst the Coals” (Album: Carbon-Based Anatomy) and the room-flooding, throaty-ethereal vocals of guest singer Amy Correia. The purity of the almost bell-like singing over long stretches, the apparent limitlessness of the “wall of voice” that builds up in front of you, isolated tongue noises and inhalers, the final change from the angelic to the subtly diabolical in the vocal color – that’s great cinema and very clear a domain of the 805 D4.

High-quality recorded female vocals are a real treat per se: the American singer-songwriter Laura Veirs sounds a bit less ethereal than Amy Correia on “July Flame” (album of the same name), but the mountain lake-clear purity and subtle airiness of the B&W still leave her singing seem more absorbing than I’m used to. In a direct comparison, my Spendor D9 (approx. 9,000 euros) sounds more diffuse, the Sehring 903 in particular less airy and transparent.

We have already touched on the topic of spatiality. The Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4 create – not least thanks to the outstanding treble – a wonderfully spacious sound, the vertical stretching surprisingly high. As if you were dealing with significantly higher floor-standing loudspeakers. The small 805 D4 can do Wall of Sound like the big boys. And often they will be able to do even better: Not many loudspeakers are able to differentiate the instruments and voices romping about on the spacious stage so clearly, with a lot of air around them and subtle spatial information. In the test of the Wilson SabrinaX, I described the standing loudspeakers from Utah as a benchmark in terms of spatiality: the 805 are on par here, in terms of “subtle room information” they are slightly ahead,

Clear sound philosophy

B&W 805 D4 - Rückseite von oben

It is only logical that my Sehring 903 and Wilson SabrinaX, as more expensive three-way floor-standing speakers, are audibly more capable, not least because of their dedicated drivers for the bass and midrange, when it comes to low-frequency pressure, low-frequency differentiation and a rich mid-range reproduction that is crystal clear even at higher levels. At this point at the latest, however, we are comparing apples with pears. It is not for nothing that B&W also attributes advantages in terms of bandwidth, voice and detail reproduction to its next-largest model in the series, the 804 D4 three-way floor-standing loudspeaker.

Either way, the 805 D4 follows a clear sound philosophy in the mids. For example, I attested a certain restraint in the upper mids of the B&W 705 Signature, which was also designed as a compact two-way speaker, but the 805 approaches things differently here. There is no trace of restraint at this point, I would even say that not least voices are illuminated a little more than strictly neutral at the top. Good to hear, for example, in “Wrapped in Blue” by The Coral (Album: Curse of Love). On the one hand, the extremely good transparency of the Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4 is noticeable here, which probably did credit to every studio monitor. On the other hand, that singer James Skelly is shown a little more directly. The clean e-guitar licks on the left channel, the plucked chords of the western guitar opposite and the central snare also seem a bit more present than usual: For example, the typical buzzing of the snare comes to the fore a little more compared to the impact impulse.

B&W 805 D4 - Mitteltöner mit Continuum-Membran

A neutrally tuned compact speaker like the Sehring 901 reproduces the mids correspondingly more sonorous than the B&W 805 D4. On the other hand, the Berliner is at a disadvantage when it comes to airiness and transparency. Well, the lighter tonality of the 805 D4 naturally also promotes the fascinating richness of facets, the brilliance and the subtlety of what is on offer. Depending on listening taste and room acoustics, the recommends the use of warm to neutral-sounding – and not brightly tuned – amplifiers. And yes: A tube amp can also be a very good idea.

Pull the right strings

B&W 805 D4 - Bi-Wiring-Terminal mit Brücken

If you really want to help the B&W 805 D4 to achieve a more earthy sound, you can try bi-wiring. The above listening impressions relate to single wiring with my extremely permeable Kimber Carbon 16 and the 805 cable bridges included. The bananas of the Carbon 16 were stuck in the mid-low terminals of the loudspeakers.

B&W 805 D4 im Bi-Wiring

Switching to my much cheaper, but nevertheless harmoniously balanced bi-wiring cable Real Cable BW OFC 400 then offers something to be expected – as well as something surprising. In terms of precision, transparency, imaging size and openness, the sound quality is noticeably on the decline. Anything else would have surprised me too, but the 805 D4s are obviously among those loudspeakers that show such differences very clearly. At the same time, the bass noticeably gains in blackness, clarity and substance – down below the Real Cable is actually a real gain! Which in my opinion can only be due to the bi-wiring itself. Ergo: If you are looking for a more expressive bass and want to make the lucid tonality of the B&W 805 D4 more down-to-earth, you should definitely experiment here.

On the foot…

B&W 805 D4 - Bassreflexrohr-Öffnung mit Golfballprägung

Whether single or bi-wiring: the bass reproduction of our Bowers & Wilkins loudspeakers is very contoured and dynamically jagged in both cases. Whether it’s massive bass runs like in The Grassy Knoll’s “Down in the Happy Zone” (Album: III) or rock-hard, dry impulses like they can be heard in abundance on Download’s Helicopter electrofiddle disc the B&W doesn’t give in to such challenges and follows the music template on the foot. The same applies to the bass: anyone who expects a clichéd “warm and soft” from English monitors is at the wrong address with the B&W 805 D4.

power

B&W 805 D4 von oben

Finally, let’s take a quick look at the topics of “broadband” and “power”: Of course, commercially available high-quality floor-standing loudspeakers with even higher level stability regularly reach down deeper on the bass side. And three-way compact speakers like the Sehring 901 can also be used to their full potential here.

Nonetheless, the 805 audibly takes chase at the beginning of the track “Madame Guillotine” by the indestructible Legendary Pink Dots (Album: 9 Lives to Wonder), when the grumpy synth pad repeatedly starts to crash abruptly towards the deep bass. For a speaker of this size, that’s an honor. The B&W 805 D4 offers enough foundation to let it rock as well as with old drum and bass discs from Photek or Klutedon’t let it down entirely. In terms of volume, it easily delivers levels that also unequivocally inform the surrounding neighbors about their own taste in music. Nevertheless, I always find the 805 D4 most fascinating when it makes music between “very quiet” and “around room volume”: Even then, it retains its initial gait and also comes across as even more accurate, even more homogeneous to me – the 805 D4 is a special one Tip for dedicated quiet listeners.

B&W 805 D4 - Lautsprecherklemmen in der Nahaufnahme

Conclusion

In terms of airiness, transparency and spatiality, the B&W 805 D4 is among the best you can get for money and good words, and is absolutely on the ball in terms of coarse and fine dynamics. The compact speakers from Bowers & Wilkins’ top line would also be an asset to any recording studio. In the private listening room, thanks to their extremely accurate treble, they ensure a concentrated, gripping and yet permanently stress-free listening experience – provided that high-quality players are used.

Despite all the long-term suitability that the diamond dome radiates, “cozy” or “warm” is of course different: If you are looking for a classic, full-bodied Brit sound, you should rather ask around the usual suspects. The B&W 805 D4, for example, draws voices more directly, garnished with an extremely complex, fascinating overtone aura. Tonally it’s a bit lighter than emphatically sonorous. If you prefer a richer, earthier sound with a more powerful and blacker bass, we recommend experimenting with bi-wiring (or bi-amping, of course). The highly sensitive 805 D4 clearly shows differences in the cabling used – and amplification – in general.

Given their size, the English women can do pretty well when it comes to level stability, which is almost suitable for a party. Nevertheless, they play particularly fine and pure to my ears, especially up to levels that roughly cover a lively conversation. Especially for “quiet listeners” the 805 D4 could be exactly the optimal B&W speakers, if not the optimal speakers par excellence, which do not even allow the desire for more expensive and larger speakers to arise.

The B&W 805 D4 are characterized by …

  • a world-class treble: highly transparent, finely dynamic, shimmering, ethereal and airy and absolutely suitable for long-term use, provided the recording quality itself or the players are not inadequate.
  • an absolutely fascinating three-dimensionality that perhaps only the very best compact monitors are capable of: the stage separates wonderfully from the speakers, is beautifully spacious and rises vertically as high as with large floor-standing loudspeakers. Individual instruments seem extremely precise and three-dimensional.
  • a transparent, crisp mid-tone that tends to be slightly drawn towards the upper register. The 805 D4 were not trained for emphasized sonority.
  • the possibility of achieving an earthier sound image by means of bi-wiring. The bass range, which is crisp and precise in one way or another, then becomes even more powerful and blacker. In view of the compact dimensions, the 805 D4 also offers an impeccable draft.
  • good level stability, yet a special accuracy at low listening volumes.
  • very valuable, luxurious workmanship. Listeners using speaker wire with spades might want knurled, grippier terminals.

Facts:

  • Model: B&W 805 D4
  • Concept: passive 2-way bass reflex compact speaker with diamond tweeter
  • Price: 8,000 euros
  • Dimensions & weight each: 44 x 24 x 37.3 mm (H x W x D), 15.5 kg
  • Efficiency: 88 dB (2.83 V RMS, 1 m)
  • Nominal Impedance: 8 ohms (minimum 3 ohms)
  • Colours: glossy black, white satin, rose nut, satin walnut
  • Other: bass reflex plug with removable inner part, bi-wiring terminal with bridges
  • Guarantee: 10 years