Audio Score – Bowers & Wilkins 802 Diamond (D4) – Audio Speakers Review
Iteration or Innovation? How good is the new D4 series from Bowers & Wilkins?
For the last few years, I have checked the rumors about B&W releasing a potential new 800 series speakers. The rumors were accurate – yes, there is a new 801 D4, but in a similar form factor as the 800 D3 and not like the notorious 801, with the single woofer, washing machine design. So now the new flagship is the 801, with the 802, 803, 804 and 805 completing the 800 series diamond. B&W does not increase the prices every year, in fact, they only increase the prices every six years with the release of a new series. This also happened this time, with a hefty price jump of the 802D4 to 26.000 Euros in Germany. In comparison, that is 4000 Euros more than the former flagship (800 D2) and the predecessor (802D3). This brought up the hope in me that the new 802 is not only better than its predecessor but also better than the 800D2 in as many terms as possible.
Let’s check out this review and see how the new 802 D4 performs.
These 26.000 Euro speakers are connected to Mcintosh separates (MC 611 Monoblocks and C53 Preamp) and a Linn Streamer. All of the components were connected to a ISOTEK Aquarius EVO 3 filter. The review is done at Hifi Audio in Düsseldorf, my favorite B&W and Mcintosh dealer in the area. If you ever have the chance to check out hifi equipment in the Düsseldorf area, please check out Hifi-Audio, or check out their website.
For the last 20 years, I have been a happy customer and can highly recommend a personal visit or digital on: hifi-audio.de
This A3S – score review is quite simple, with 3 main chapters:
- The first part SIGHT focusses on the score of the device. Based on my personal experience, I will rate the speakers in various categories, give a score for the current value and the give it an audio-score. The total score is 40 points maximum.
- The second part focusses on the SOUND aspects of the device, with a maximum of 50 points.
- Last, we have the VALUE part, that accounts for 10 points.
If you would like me to feature your device, please feel free to contact me or visit my website audioscaleurs.com
Time for the Audio Components Review!
Convenience – Bowers & Wilkins has proven to us again, that great speaker packaging can be realized with simplicity and attention to detail. The boxes of the new D4 series are very similar to the exceptional packaging of the D3. The design makes the boxes reusable, and the speakers can be put back in with two people. At 88.10 KG per speaker, the 802 has become heavier than all its predecessors. I felt that and the handling was like the 800 D3, although the speaker lacks the depth, width, and height of the bigger brother. The 802 D4 has a price tag of 26.000 Euros in Germany, which puts it between the 800 D3 (30.000 Euros) and the 802 D3 (22.000) Euros. The overall handling is represented in the price positioning and because of its special design, the wheels at the bottom and the versatility, it scores well in this category.
LOOKS & STYLING.
The review speakers came in a piano black finish.
The main differences to the predecessors are as follows:
1. The new leather covers on top of the main corpus as an an homage to the D2 and D1 series.
2. The refreshed wire terminals at the back of the corpus.
3. The revised diamond tweeter housing, with a new, even more futuristic look.
4. The bass driver covers are now individual instead of one cover for both drivers.
5. A new walnut finish on top of the rosenut, black and white finishes that we know from the D3 series.
However, most people will only spot the differences at second or third glance, like when the D2 series was introduced as the successor of the D1 series.
The 802D4 looks more futuristic than ever before and at the same time it is easily recognizable as a Nautilus series speaker. For me, the D4 series is beautiful, more so than the D3 and on par with the D2s. Therefore, they score high for looks and styling and I am impressed by the changes B&W made.
The D4’s stand for 10 years of warranty in Germany, a packaging that needs no explanation, finest quality materials and finishes, with an improved design over the D3 series.
The leather feels thinner than on the D2 series, but the leather quality feels and looks great. The corpus is made from high quality woods, which are bend and shaped in the notorious B&W factory in the UK. The speaker proudly wears the “made in England” badge- find some videos of that production process from B&W.
Because of the attention to detail, the marvelous selection of materials and the stunning result, they score high in the quality category – as expected from a speaker in this price category.
The 802 D4 is using the diamond tweeter for the highs (25mm), the turbine head for the midrange (150mm) and the matrix design for the bass chassis (2 x 200mm). The 802 is a three-way design with refined bi-wiring terminals. Technology has evolved but there is no true innovation with this redesign. I wish B&W would have made a bigger lead and introduced something special – a room correction system, active design, semi-active design, or something of that sort. Therefore, the feature score is medium.
Summing up the Sight Score, the 802 D4s are a worthy successor of the D3s, and it shows in all categories. The speakers look very futuristic and modern. Some small improvements lead to a better overall design, with a clear heritage in the Nautilus series. The build quality is exceptional, the features are adequate for a passive design and B&W makes it as convenient as possible for us to own them with 10 years of warranty and great packaging. Chapeau on the sight score of 29 out of 30 points.
TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS & AUDIO EXCELLENCE.
With a system frequency response of 17Hz and 28kHz at -3DB, the 802’s go far down the human hearing spectrum. On paper it is excellent, and in combination with the sensitivity of 90DB, the 802 D4’s are not that power hungry. As with all B&W flagship speakers, more control in the amplification will make a significant difference.
The first note I took, after about 20 minutes of listening was: The tweeter completely disappears from the soundstage. The reproduction of female voices, especially at medium- to high volumes, is a difficult task because I feel there has always been somewhat of a trade-off between detail and sharpness. I will never forget the clarity of the Focal Utopia (EVO) series, with comes with the compromise of that tendency towards sharpness when you crank it up. The D4 did an outstanding job at finding the right balance. The tweeters are exceptionally detailed, fast, accurate and at the same time completely integrate into the sound. Like it should be. Detail is excellent and one of the best I have heard so far. Yes, I had four moments where I heard something new in tracks that I have listened to hundreds of times with high-end speakers. Another note I took was openness- and yes, the D4 is another improvement over the D3 in this regard. The ability to disappear as a loudspeaker is brought to an extreme.
The second thing I noticed was the extreme focus of the D4. I wrote down “monitor-like”. The D4’s created a very focused representation of voices, without any exaggeration. The soundstage sounded so direct and accurate that I wrote down the word “compressed”. Especially at lower volumes, the representation was very accurate, but it lacked character. I wish the speakers would produce a bigger soundstage; however, I am sure the D4 is true to the original. If you are searching for a speaker that blows you away with 360-degree soundstages at any volume level, there are better options on the market. I even think that the older D2 generation has more character in the imaging, while being slightly untrue to the original sound. Academically, the D4 is getting closer to perfection. For me, that step did not result in more enjoyment but in the desire for more character, more bloom, a wider soundstage. Many people will love this ability, especially when listening to more complex music.
I listened to Billie Eilish, to Stefan Bodzin and to classical masterpieces like 1812 from Tchaikovsky. I was missing a lot of presence in the bass. I wrote down “they sound like musical instruments”, the reproduction is so clean, so fast and the bass is deep. After about 1 hour I went to my dealer to get a second opinion and he said that I have simply listened to the 800’s D3 and predecessors too much. I would like to make a statement here. In the older (D1, N) series, the 802 was tuned with a rise at about 100 hz in the frequency response to compensate for the natural shortness in bass vs. the 800. That made it sound warm and full, but also slower and if cranked up, significantly less accurate. The 802 D4 does deliver serious bass performance, it goes low, and it is as accurate as it gets. If you have more than 40m2 and like to go very low, you need more. You will miss character, you will miss the lowest frequencies, the groove, and the punch. For everything less than 40m2 the 802 delivers excellence.
Picking up the impressions for bass, synergy is strong. The 802’s need-controlled amplification to deliver their accuracy, their punch and their openness. However, with a 200 wpc Mcintosh, Hegel, Luxman or equivalent you are rocking your house. You don’t need monoblocs or even separates.
The Sound Score of Bowers & Wilkins 802 Diamonds (D4) is 41 out of 50.
At $26.000 I have mixed feelings. On one hand I am impressed by the quality of materials, the looks, the overall styling, the punch, the groove, and the accuracy of these speakers. They are perfect for any room smaller than 35-40 m2 and for complex music. Personally, I would pick up an 800D3 or even the D2 because they simply deliver more down low. The improvements in the highs are significant and B&W has put together the perfect speaker for medium sized rooms at a hefty price. I can’t wait to test the rest of the lineup.
Add it all up and the scores are 29+41+6= 77 out of 100.
If you are in the market for the best speaker for medium-sized listening spaces, go ahead and buy the new 802. The car equivalent for me is the 2021 BMW M5 competition. Fast, luxurious, high quality and accuracy.
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