Bowers & Wilkins 50th Anniversary and 800 D3 Speakers Unveiled | Audioholics

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Bowers & Wilkins headquarters

When I received a personal invitation to celebrate the 50th birthday of Bowers & Wilkins, I thought to myself:

? The answer is yes for both accounts! This is a great opportunity to see one of the most respected names in the audio behind the scenes, especially the people responsible for its continued success. I also look forward to meeting with colleagues in the press such as Stereophile, AVS Forum and Sound & Vision.

When we arrived at the B&W headquarters in Boston in a limousine, we were welcomed by some very cool cars equipped with B&W car systems. Harman was originally engaged in most of the car audio OEM work for B&W, but I believe that as B&W does seem to concentrate more resources in this field to become a larger market participant, this situation has developed for many years.

Of course, I am an avid car fan, and I admit that I am more interested in the interior of a McLaren sports car that is more than $200,000 than listening to the audio system. However, I was very pleasantly surprised by the sound quality of the audio system. I also checked the B&W system of the new BMW 750i, which is good on its own, but McLaren does have something special.

The car is drooling, now is the time to learn more about Bowers & Wilkins, you can not only see the historical clips of the audio, but also see the company's recent development direction


I must admit, there is almost information overload. I am like a child in a candy store, observing all audio equipment from the past to the present. I'm an old-fashioned audio nut in the closet, so I'm really happy to see some of the early speaker designs that made B&W famous, such as the huge 808 floor-standing speakers or the old 800 Matrix series stackable towers. I like to see vinyl spinning on the 808, and I also want to sit there and do it, and then soak them all, but time is a luxury we don't have.

Next was a Q&A session composed of B&W Group President Doug Henderson and CEO Joe Atkins. It is obvious to me that these gentlemen are very knowledgeable and passionate about the industry. It is really inspiring to see Doug's music fans, especially those of classical rock and progressive rock. I know we will do some good demonstrations later.    

When asked about B&W’s philosophy of running a successful high-end speaker company, Doug replied with a sentence from Neil Armstrong.

"BW follows a similar philosophy to the corporate group, pooling resources to continue its artistic progress. Therefore, the introduction of the new Diamond 800 D3 (manufacturer’s suggested retail price: $15k/ea) flagship speaker system has fully realized this Goal. Joe Atkins talked about the goal of making the perfect speaker for the late John Bowers, which is to minimize the reduction by not adding or removing anything from the original source. Distortion, the idea is to remove the glass plate between performance and speakers. According to Joe, the people at B&W believe that the 800 D3 has achieved this goal.

It also asked about the development direction that B&W will take after being acquired by EVA Automation. Joe Atkins (Joe Atkins) explained that the core of B&W remains the same and can provide a high-end audio experience, but now it will expand to wireless. According to Joe, SONOS is the largest company in the market, but it cannot reach the level of performance that B&W hopes to achieve through product launches in the near future. Their goal is high performance and ease of use. I am disappointed with this, especially if it can open the brand to more fans.


It represents the culmination of all research and know-how of all the owners of B&W. Dr. Martial Rousseau (head of R&D department) explained that they used a laser Doppler vibrometer to optimize the housing and driver to minimize mechanical resonance. You can see the results of their labor in the 800 Matrix chassis, which is made of solid plywood, reinforced with aluminum profiles, and firmly connected to the inner surface of the cabinet by thick steel plates. impressive!

The use of finite element analysis (FEA) to simulate the driving cone and shell stress, and 3D printing for modeling, so that they can print and test prototypes, and also reduce the arrangement of variables that can be analyzed immediately, without the need to build endless prototype models .

B&W 800 D3 is a three-way, four-drive floor-standing speaker with dual 10-inch airfoil woofers, 6-inch Continuum cone mid-range speakers and 1-inch diamond dome tweeters. To the sandwich structure), far beyond the operating bandwidth.

The 800 D3's coaxial rating is 15Hz to 28kHz (+ -3dB), and the sensitivity is 90dB at 1m/2.83 Vrms. They claim that under the 90dB reference output level, the harmonic distortion is above 70Hz, below 0.3% when it is above 0.3Hz, and the rated power is up to 1kW.

All 800 series speakers are produced in its 150k ft ^ 2 factory in Worthing, England, which has 320 employees and produces approximately 350 cabinets per week. The 800 series offers three surface treatment options (black, rose and white). Doug Henderson explained that about 30% of the production revenue comes from products made by the factory in the UK, while the rest is produced in its own Chinese factory.  

Samples of the driver, assembly parts and explanations of the reasons for doing this and surrounding reasons are all passed to the workbench. I was particularly fascinated by the 10-inch bass driver, especially noting the thickness of the conical material, which is light and strong. The cast basket adopts neodymium motor structure, which can generate the necessary magnetic force without being too large and bulky. The turbine housing (up to 40 pounds in weight) is made of aluminum and is an impressive engineering design. It is used to accommodate 5-inch mid-range products starting from the 803 D3 model, while the 800 D3 model uses a slightly wider housing version to accommodate 6-inch mid-range cameras. To seize this photo opportunity, it is very challenging to hold it on my shoulders. Children, please do not try at home.

Since B&W said they could not design a better tweeter, the same 1" diamond tweeter dome in the D2 series was carried over to D3. However, the remaining tweeter motor system and suspension have been improved to achieve better Linearity. The solid-state tweeter body has also been redesigned to enhance heat dissipation and reduce mechanical resonance.

B&W has several demo rooms in their facilities for listening, and they make it necessary for us to check their high-performance CWM8.5 ($2,800/pair) in-wall speakers. CWM8.5 has a 7-inch mid-bass Kevlar driver and a 1-inch aluminum-carbon support tweeter, with a Nautilus tube and anti-resonant cavity. They are designed for new installations and come with a back box for controlling sound insulation and isolation. We listened to Shirley Horn's song "You Will Not Forget Me". The c frame is very open and ventilated, providing an excellent sound field for in-wall speakers. Bath is a little thin, but very clean. If you want to install a pair of such speakers, you must add an in-wall woofer to complement the bass response.

For many years, I have been reading about B&W Nautilus speakers and have always wanted to know their sound. Although they are 20 years old, they still have timeless design like the timeless Acura NSX. By today's standards, they may not be considered snuff, but their performance was so revolutionary and the design was so attractive that they were very old and still respected. The people at B&W did warn us that the new 800 D3 comfortably beats the $60k/pair Nautilus speakers, but I still want to hear them. The demonstration starts with the instrumental works, then the soundtracks, and all are sent to the Classe CP-800 stereo preamplifier/processor. The sound is very delicate, lush, and the bass is warm and pleasant. I think the overall sound is good, but there is no fatigue. I sat on the money seat and cursed a bit to understand their image. They were not disappointed.

B&W conducted a 800 D3 2CH demo in an acoustically controlled room, which made me think it was the kind of room I would die in when I first walked in. They played some human voices to show off the clarity of the midrange. Found it very well. The most memorable moment in the demo was when they put on Deadmau5's track "Seeya", literally tearing down the house. The bass is impressive, and the sound is very clean, without fatigue. It's like in a nightclub, but there is no annoying sound distortion, making your ears bleed or being fumbled by someone next to you.

They then moved the speakers to another demo room for SACD and DVD-A playback with five 800 D3 in the 5.0 configuration. I recall that someone heard the staff say that these speakers are good for 120dB output levels, and the bass base is as low as 20Hz, which means that no subwoofer is needed, at least no music playback is needed. Normally, I would be skeptical of bass management that runs five full-range speakers rather than ideally placed and equalized multiple subwoofers, but I must pay tribute to the people at B&W. They demonstrated the demonstration very well in a configuration without a subwoofer. The front and rear speakers are located at 1/4L and 3/4L positions, so the bass distribution is very good. They used the first-class Classe Electronics and Oppo BDP-103 universal Blu-ray player.

In the exhibition "Kiev's Great Gate", we started with the classical music "Pictures" and heard how the B&W speaker system reproduced the dynamic effects of the recording well. I must tell you this is epic. Close my eyes, I just entered the recording place. Actually, I want to hear this classic version of Emerson Lake and Palmer. Next is a track called "Riding" with Eric Clapton on the left speaker and BB King on the right speaker. The huge sound field and the immersive accompaniment made me immersed in it. No, this is not an Atmos demo. No

Simulate "immersive effects". If you have an excellent 5.1 core speaker setup and good source materials, you don't need Atmos to get an immersive feel. The treble is crisp but polarized. Although it may be a recording function. The voice of King BB sounded live in the room, and you can only get a "better than there" experience when you check the best audio equipment.

Then, we listened to the 5.1 SACD "Done Somebody Wrong" by Allman Brothers, which Doug Henderson clearly liked. The guitar is translated to the left, the stands on the right, and the harmonica is slightly off center. I hear the surrounding atmosphere is very good, the bass is nice and powerful. The voice was brighter again, but there was no fatigue.

Last but not least, we listened to Pink Floyd's "Brain Damage" in SACD 5.1. After blowing up my ears at the Brit Floyd concert in Ruth Eckerd Hall recently, my ears were a bit injured, so I was relieved that the B&W presentation was more cordial on my ears. Roger Waters' voice almost surrounded me, and the bass sounded harsh from my seat. I heard that other customers also praised the bass quality, so I knew that my seat was not the only good seat in the room. B&W paid tribute to this impressive new flagship speaker system for such an excellent multi-channel demonstration.

B&W took us on a trip to the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO), which is really a pleasant experience. We first visited the BSO Deutsche Gramophone Gesellschaft recording studio by Nick Squire (recording engineer). He discussed how to use B&W 802 D2 speakers and dual subwoofers to make records in this listening space. 

The 805 D2 was set up because the BSO moved its 802 D2 to Tanglewood for the summer meeting in Berkshire.

When asked why BSO uses B&W speakers, Nick explained that although he is not sure why, they meet the standards of classical music and recording. I want to speculate that historically, the midrange response of black and white speakers has dropped slightly, which may make the strings sound less aggressive, because the microphone is usually suspended above the player, and the violin emits most of the high frequencies vertically. sound. In addition, it may be that professionals generally like the classical music sound of B&W speakers, and they hope that every recording listening space can be used as a reference. Nick mentioned that he thinks the speaker is a "tool" that allows him to accurately hear the sound of music in the hall. This is a common comment from recording engineers who use B&W speakers.

Nick explained that by placing additional microphones in the space, they can mix in surround sound, but sadly, the market cannot maintain multi-channel recordings, so most recordings can only be in high-resolution two-channels Finished in.

Visiting this 116-year-old BSO historical building (opened in 1900) is a great experience. Unfortunately, there is no live performance to witness, but Nick did manage to hire someone to play the organ so that we could get a sample of the venue's acoustics. We also learned that during World War II, all windows of the facility were fitted with glass to prevent light from escaping and being detected by German U-boats. Yes, they are so close to the east coast, they are scared!

My visit to Bowers & Wilkins really inspired my enthusiasm for the company. I feel the tremendous energy and pride of the employees working there, which is rare in the corporate world. Even top executives have expressed enthusiasm for audio hobbies and are worried about maintaining the integrity of the company John Bowers founded 50 years ago. I believe he will lower his head and smile at his achievements, and the torch passed down will be handed over to him. I am very happy to see what direction B&W will be heading in the near future, and how EVA Automation will influence their future product designs to make it easier for the public to use them.

Gene manages this organization, establishes contacts with manufacturers, and keeps Audioholics in good shape. His goal is to educate the home theater and set more standards in the industry in order to eliminate the consumer confusion caused by the industry's snake oil.

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