Bowers & Wilkins 802 D3

Bowers & Wilkins 802 D3

Beyond Expectations

Listening to the B&W 802 D3 speakers I immediately struck by how they present the music. To my ears they are better than the previous 800 Diamond (or “D2”). The midrange is the first aspect of the 802 D3 that I notice. Its effortlessly reproduces vocals as if the singer(s) were sitting in the listening room with me – very natural sounding to my ears. Next, I throw on a little Daft Punk to hear how these bad boys kick out the bass; snappy, little overhang, and able to articulate the very lowest of frequencies within the music.  Last for me was the high frequency reproduction sounded miles better to me than the D2 series did. Now, I am splitting hairs here but to me the D2 series was ever so “excitable” with high frequencies and could be a bit much for me. However, in the 802 D3, that’s been corrected, or at least I don’t have any reserves about it. I don’t know if B&W felt they had to fix this or if it was just part of their refinement and redesign, but it works very well for me. Overall I’m hearing a much more balanced speaker and it’s apparent by how the entire frequency response is free from clutter and is effortlessly reproduced.

The entire D3 series speakers have been re-engineered by Bowers and Wilkins from their predecessors, few features have been left over and I know, by sound alone, these are completely different speakers. They are still very much B&W, but they are in a league all their own. 

So let’s start from the beginning; unpacking the 802 D3 has become much more simple compared to the last series. Included in the packaging is a ramp that helps remove the speakers from their bottom protective packaging – the reason I mention this has a lot to do with the size of the speakers, they are big and knowing that unpacking (or, packing them up) has become easier, makes the entire ownership experience just that much better from the previous series.

Again, even with the speaker’s plinth B&W thought ahead for the D3 series. The plinth not only makes a sold and ridged base for the speaker to perform at its best, it has also been designed to allow the end user (or for our case, “the dealer”) to position the speakers as needed in the listening room with ease by use of the casters. Once the desired sweet-spot is found switching to the isolation spikes happens in the matter of minutes. Simple and effective, and this ability to switch between casters and spikes may come in handy for the owner, if further fine tuning is needed after the speaker is completely run-in. 

The 802 D3’s flowport is similar to the previous version. Being located in the bottom of the speaker will help allow placing these closer to the wall than would otherwise be possible if the flowport was rear firing. However, I found that these speakers like to be a bit from the wall; in our listening room their sweet-spot seemed to be about 70cm from the wall – this however will vary from listening room to listening room.

As we move further up the speaker, the cabinet has changed from the last series. In simple terms, it looks like it has been reversed from the previous series. The curved side now makes up the front baffle, while the flat side (which use to make up the front baffle) makes up the rear of the speaker. There is much more to it than simply a reversal, the cabinet has been completely redesigned, but still made of the extremely ridged and non-resonating multi-layered pressed wood/resin construction. Inside the 802 D3 B&W’s innovative Matrix bracing is employed giving this speaker an exceptionally clean low frequency reproductive characteristic. Aiding this level of performance is the use of the Aerofoil cone for the two 8 inch bass drivers. Aerofoil has variable thickness in order to strengthen the weak areas of the cone in order to help maintain its piston-like shape allowing it to deliver pristine low frequencies even during complicated passages and while being driven hard.

On to the midrange unit and it’s housing. The new Turbine head is quite impressive; giving it a light knock with my knuckles tells me that this head unit has been developed to be free, at least as much as possible, of resonance. This has been possible with being constructed out of a solid piece of aluminium that has internal fins to increase stability and dampening.  This unique design also increases dispersion – the soundstage produced by the 802 D3 is immense and invites the listener to continue listening for hours on end.  Sitting on top of the Turbine, the well know diamond tweeter.

B&W’s diamond tweeter doesn’t need any sort of introduction – as it has been around for a while now and has proven itself to be one of the finest tweeter drive units being produced today. The housing of the tweeter is made from a single block of aluminium and with light knock with my knuckles, proves it to be a lot like the Turbine – very dead sounding with little resonance. This gives way to me thinking about how the top-end performance of the D3 compares to the D2 series. As mentioned before, this new 802 D3 out performs (at least in my opinion) the previous flagship model, the 800 D2, and one of the main reasons for me to write this with confidence has a lot to do with the performance of the diamond tweeter and Continuum midrange driver.  

Overall the entire 800 D3 series has set a new standard for Bowers and Wilkins – they have truly raised the bar on how high-end speakers should perform.  If you are a fan of the 800 series and/or are a proud owner of the previous versions, I highly recommend coming in for a listen. 

For further informationa about B&W click HERE

For availability of the 802 D3 click HERE

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