If there was a standard for high-end standmount speakers, then Bowers & Wilkins 805 D3 would surely be one that benchmarks were fashioned after. Like the rest of the range the 805 D3 have gone through an entire makeover even if on first glance it looks exceptionally similar to the previous D2 version.
B&W has made it clear that hundreds of design changes have been made to the new 805 D3 speakers; these changes will be minute on an individual basis, but when added together, they combine to make audible difference between the D2 and D3 versions. However, visually there are some very noticeable difference.
Immediately you’ll notice the traditional yellow mid/bass drive unit has been replaced with a new silver cone called the Continuum driver; the cone is a sandwich of metallised woven fibres with a foam core and took over eight years and many different iterations until the R&D team at B&W were happy with how it reproduced sound. The Continuum cone is used as a dedicated FST midrange drive unit in the floorstanding models in the 800 D3 series. As a mid/bass driver in the 805 D3, the Continuum cone is one of the cleanest and most detailed drivers I’ve hear in a standmount speaker. Like its brethren, the mid/bass is housed in a protruding enclosure from the front baffle, helping minimise the effects of standing sound waves.
Another noticeable change is the housing of the diamond tweeter. Visually it is slightly shorter and somehow seems to be more at home and look as if it belongs on the 805 D3 (and 804 D3) when comparing it to the D2 version. The most obvious change isn’t visual, but rather with a light knuckle-wrap on the housing reveals the biggest difference of all; this single piece of billet aluminium is resonance free and a dead sounding “thunk” is almost completely opposite from the “ring” you’d get with the same knuckle-wrap on the D2’s tweeter housing. There have been so many changes to this new speaker that the performance is simply hands down better than its predecessor in all aspects of music reproduction.
With more improvements than I can list in this short write-up, what can a person expect from spending an extra £750 (the 805 D2 costed £3750 and the D3 costs £4500)?
During many of my listening sessions with the 805 D3 the pages of my notes are scared with comments on the speakers produce soundstage; words like massive, deep, beyond speakers perceived capabilities, etc., etc. This was just the start of it. The high frequency response is airy and delicate without any sense of distortion/harshness I use to hear, though ever so slight, in the previous model. The midrange has this very precise nature to it that is exceptionally lifelike and accurately portrays the human voice’s minute subtleties and is able to reproduce great instrumental tonalities. The low frequencies leave just a little to be desired, but with that in mind, I never felt I needed to add a subwoofer – rather I was actually a bit resistive of the idea, thinking it might take away from what the speakers could reproduce. When thinking about a set of speakers on the warm-to-analytical spectrum, with neutral being in the centre, I would say these speakers are close to the centre leaning just a bit to the analytical side. This in turn allow the listener to easily mould their system’s sound in accordance with listening preferences; for example, if you want it a bit warmer sound, then maybe try valve based amplification and the 805 D3 will transform.
These speakers, being the least expensive in the whole 800 D3 series give such an accomplished sound, have to be one of the best value for money speakers Bowers & Wilkins produce. If you want high-end sound in a small to small/medium sized listening room, then I highly recommend giving the B&W 805 D3 a listen.
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