Banner
Banner
cookie-banner
Article Index
B&W 804D
Sound quality
Conclusion
Measured Performance
All Pages

SOUND QUALITY

A hard and edgy presentation after twenty four hours of run-in convinced us the B&Ws needed more and we had to give them one hundred and twenty hours in total of heavy running in with pink noise and Monitor Audio’s De-Tox disc before reviewing could commence.

    I still was not satisfied that our ever impressive Musical Fidelity pure Class A AMS50 transistor amplifier was an ideal subjective match and used our Icon Audio MB845 MkII valve amplifier for this review. The softer, well damped presentation of this amplifier, with its machined graphite anode 845s and Jensen paper-in-oil capacitors, was a perfect foil to the obviously tilted tonal balance of the 804Ds.
    ‘What?’ you may ask in surprise at hearing this. Even if you are not technical and prefer to avoid our Measured Performance section, one look at the green Frequency Response trace shows a distinct lift up at far right and this means treble is emphasised – a property obvious in use. The tweeters jumped out, delivering a stream of fine, filigree detail right into my lap. Smallest taps on cymbals on my obligatory Angelique Kidjo test CD, ‘Fifa’, rang out hard.  And 'diamond' does aptly describe treble quality. Apart from being extremely strong and obvious, treble had a sparkling clarity that was aurally alluring. If you want every little detail to sparkle before you, with a purity that is beyond reproach, then B&W's Diamond tweeter is quite an extraordinary performer. This tweeter avoids the metallic qualities of metal domes of all types and in this respect it is unimpeachable. It does not have the resolution of a ribbon or electrostatic driver though, meaning a Monitor Audio PL300 or Martin Logan Ethos will run it hard. But even when paired with our MB845 amplifier, both with hours of running on the clock (i.e. warm voice coils plus warm 845s) I was always aware that treble output was excessive; this is not something that you can ignore even with acclimatisation, making sibilants obviously hissy for example.
    With such strong upper midrange output and projective treble, sound stage images were well wrought, with hard clear outlines, every instrument and vocalist being placed precisely. All vocalists, from Jackie Leven's baritone range to the soprano of Renee Fleming were hard lit centre stage in a way that other loudspeakers would struggle to match. But the 804D can sound a bit remorseless at times. It is conspicuously clean and clear, but not exactly svelte. Its overwhelming upper midrange rather shades the lower midrange, wringing warmth from the sound. This is not a full bodied or warm loudspeaker, yet it has a solid, meaty sound all the same.
    Bass quality was very much B&W, meaning low notes were perfectly pitched and moved up and down the bass scale fluidly, with no sign of one-note effects. That the cabinets are clean and bass distortion is low is quite obvious by the tight yet bouncy nature of bass lines. B&W restrain subsonics to ensure there’s no overhang or sloth and it’s a good strategy in my view. So the 804D does not deliver strong ultra lows, but it got the emphasised bass lines of Fifa out into the room with flawless ability and here the 804D again runs most rivals well. My only reservation, after listening to larger but less expensive Triangle Antals or similarly priced Tannoys was that there was little in the way of upper bass detail. I could not really make out much of the bass synth used in Lady Gaga’s 'Bad Romance'. The 804D has bass power and a lovely exuberant low end quality, but it isn’t expressive in the way larger cabinets can be and at this price a Tannoy DC-10T would give it a hard time (as it would for both tonal accuracy and depth of insight).
    In view of the 804D’s unbalanced nature I was surprised at how well it reproduced Nigel Kennedy’s violin and the English Chamber Orchestra accompanying him. His violin sounded sweet, crystal clear but smooth and especially well resolved, fast little tremolos I hadn’t noticed before suddenly becoming obvious. There was an unbalancing of the instrument's basic tonality but it wasn’t especially annoying. Horns had a lovely brassy blare at the introduction of Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘Scheherazade’ and individual string instruments of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra were well differentiated. The 804Ds have a dense yet well lit presentation that sounds refreshingly brisk and modern. You’ll believe you have a high technology loudspeaker when listening to it and so will the neighbours. And it’s one that handles classical music very well I found, no matter what I played. Vivacious, clean and temporally sprightly the 804Ds impress with classical. An absence of cabinet colour and port whoomph helped.



 
Comments (5)
When is enough enough?
5Wednesday, 14 January 2015 22:37
Jenell Kesler
The 802's are rather large, so I understand the need to create a speaker with a smaller footprint, but why make an 804 to begin with, if the 803 is better, why not put all the effort there, cut the price with no 804 costs, and just make the higher end at a better price?

Does B&W really need to be ALL things to ALL people?
aa
4Wednesday, 10 September 2014 13:39
aa
Hi Laurie. The Monitor Audio PL300s and B&W 803Ds both have raised treble output, our measurements show. If that's the balance you like then they are otherwise well engineered and will suit the Naim SuperUniti. You should also consider the Usher Dancer Mini-2 that has a diamond tweeter like the 803D, but of smoother response and better quality: compare the B&W804D and Usher Dancer Mini-2 frequency response curves on this site. You might also like to audition Tannoys, like the DC8/10s that are great for Rock and smoother than the B&Ws and Monitor Audios. Noel
to Laurie
3Tuesday, 23 April 2013 21:41
Bert
Hi Laurie,
I compared the 804 Diamond with the Monitor Audio PL300 and found the PL300 a bit tiring with too much treble. The 804 came across much more natural. With the 804 I then compared Superuniti with NAC-N172XS+NAP250 and the latter combination was a true winner, which I bought in the end. Initially the speaker sounded a bit harsh but this disappeared in the first weeks.

It depends also on your musical taste: the 804 Diamond is magnificant for classical and acoustic, but probably less suitable for dance.

Good luck!
B&W 803Ds speaker drivers
2Monday, 01 April 2013 14:14
Waldemar Koralewski
Hi Noel. I'm well happy with that review and your conclusions. But is there any chance you could tell bit more about the B&W 804Ds speaker drivers itself. If possible some about the HTM1 centre channel as well. I'm more interested about the values and characteristics. Since my B&W 600 s3 home cinema got flooded being in garage for a while. Over decoration change. Really sad. So I decided to keep the drivers but build my own DIY speaker system. Still based on B&W but similar to the 804D with HTM1 as centre channel . So basically I'm looking to find out what is the ohm values and the frequency range of each driver. To figure out if the diamond series crossover would work well with the spare drivers I got left. Maybe I'm not for here. But any professional help I'll be much appreciated. Thanks

I do not have that information. The best solution is to salvage the parts you have and rebuild the cabinets if they are damaged, ensuring they are the same volume as before. You will not successfully re-design the 'speaker with the information you are looking for. It is a complex business requiring considerable measurement with software such as we use, Clio from Audiomatica of Italy. NK
Query
1Sunday, 10 March 2013 21:59
Laurie Hogan
Hi Noel,

I'm saving up for my first hi-fi system. Demo'd the Naim Superuniti with Monitor Audio PL300s and Proac D18s; thoroughly impressed. I'm also looking at demoing the B&W 803Ds. What else do you think i should be considering? I aim to make so with the power output of the SU until i can move up to a NAP 250/300 after paying of the initial sting.

Kind regards,
Laurie

Hi Laurie. The Monitor Audio PL300s and B&W 803Ds both have raised treble output, our measurements show. If that's the balance you like then they are otherwise well engineered and will suit the Naim SuperUniti. You should also consider the Usher Dancer Mini-2 that has a diamond tweeter like the 803D, but of smoother response and better quality: compare the B&W804D and Usher Dancer Mini-2 frequency response curves on this site. You might also like to audition Tannoys, like the DC8/10s that are great for Rock and smoother than the B&Ws and Monitor Audios. Noel

Add your comment

Your name:
Subject:
Comment:
  The word for verification. Lowercase letters only with no spaces.
Word verification:

Search

Hi-Fi World, Powered by Joomla!; Hosted by Joomla Wired.