Bowers & Wilkins did some very cleaver thinking when they decided how to price the new 800 D3 series speakers in relation to the level of performance they would produce for the end user. Just a quick comparison – if I were to buy a new pair of B&W 803 D3 at £12,500, I could expect them to perform better than the old 802 D2 (£11,500) and moving to a level closer to the 800 D2 (£18,500). So in essence B&W have been able to create speakers, with the advancement of technologies, that now preform miles better than their predecessors without massive price hikes. For this alone, my hat is off to them.
The 803 D3 has had a complete make over from the previous D2 series. It is no longer a large version of the 804, which is a more traditional styled floorstanding tower speaker. Rather, it’s a scaled down version of the new 800 D3, and is the first in the series to use the newly developed Turbine Head; the housing for the new Continuum midrange drive unit. The Turbine Head is made from solid aluminium and is virtually resonance free thanks to strategically placed internal ribbing. With a quick knuckle-wrap the head sounds absolutely dead, allowing the drive unit to experience the least amount of internal interference whilst performing its job. The shape of the Turbine has been designed to help disperse the sound, which in turn helps the 803 create an awesome soundstage.
Sitting on top of the Turbine Head is diamond tweeter (used in the D2 series), whose housing has been completely redesigned. Like the Turbine Head, the tweeter housing has been made from a single piece of billet aluminium and is resonance free. This new housing design/material has improved the overall performance of the diamond tweeter. To my ears, the sound is now smoother and less harsh. For example, cymbals are clean, crisp, true to their natural timber, and have a nice air to them – again, to my ears, much more preferable than the previous D2 version.
Moving down to the main body of the speaker, the woofer enclosure, there are some very noticeable upgrades. First, the cabinet has been reversed from the old 802 and 800 D2 speakers. Now the curve is in the front of the speaker (instead of the rear), and both 180mm Aerofoil drive units protrude from the curved front baffle. Changing from the Rochelle cones, the Aerofoil has been developed by B&W’s R&D team with great success. With various thickness throughout the cone, B&W have claimed that these new cones behave more piston-like, which in turn allows for deeper, more impactful, and more articulate low frequency reproduction. To put it simple, the Aerofoil cones work better than I expected them too. The bass is not only powerful as its lightning quick reproductions bring rhythm into my listening room, but they also seem to find low frequencies that I never noticed before.
Overall, B&W has created a much more listenable and high-end speaker, that out preforms almost the entire 800 D2 series. It is an exceptionally well accomplished speaker with great balance throughout the frequency spectrum that just loves to play music.
As I write this, my colleague is ordering another set of B&W 803 D3 for one of his customers, who is upgrading from his old 803 D2 speakers. I believe his exact words were, “Wow, I’ll take them!” At the moment, and since the launch of the 800 D3 series, the 803 is the best-selling speaker out of the range…and for good reasons.
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