Return of the B&W 801


Return of the B&W 801
Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Bowers & Wilkins have launched a new 800 Series Diamond range of seven models, beginning with the two-way 805 D4 stand-mount speaker. That’s joined by a series of three-way floorstanding models, including the 804 D4, 803 D4 and 802 D4. For the flagship model in the range, the 801 D4 replaces the existing 800 D3, bringing a genuinely iconic name back to the brand. Every new model in the range combines hundreds of detail improvements plus several entirely new technologies to create “the most transparent, detailed and natural-sounding series of loudspeakers Bowers & Wilkins have ever produced”. 
The first and most obvious change is the addition of a fourth finish to the line-up which now includes a Satin Walnut finish, joining the established selection of Gloss Black, White and Satin Rosenut. Every stereo model has a significantly upgraded cabinet design with a rigid, cast aluminium top section – replacing the previous wooden version – to offer even greater stiffness and thus improve cabinet quietness. The aluminium top is finished in Connolly leather, in black for dark cabinets (Black, Satin Rosenut) and light grey for lighter finishes (White, Satin Walnut). 


Every model in the range adopts a revised version of the Solid Body Tweeter-on-Top housing, with an elongated tube-loading system to produce an even more open sound for high frequencies. This supremely stiff enclosure deftly resists unwanted resonance and is an exceptional acoustic form – especially when combined with a new two-point decoupling system that isolates it from the rest of the loudspeaker. As before, the Solid Body Tweeter is milled from a single solid block of aluminium and now, it has an anodised finish, either dark or light depending on the cabinet colour.

Finally, the range introduces three entirely new cabinet forms. The 805 D4 and 804 D4 stereo models adopt the reverse-wrap cabinet design first introduced in 2015 for the larger speakers in the series. This new form reduces the profile of each cabinet’s front baffle while dramatically increasing the overall rigidity of the complete system. It also allows crossovers to be mounted in dedicated spaces on the rear of each speaker. The 804 D4 builds on the potential of its new configuration by adding a downward-firing port with an integral aluminium plinth – as seen in the larger floorstanding speakers in the range. 


Continuum Cone, FST & Biomimetic Suspension 
800 D4 combines the Continuum cone and FST surround of its midrange drivers with a composite Biomimetic Suspension that replaces the conventional fabric spider with a minimalist composite suspension system that revolutionises midrange cone performance by greatly reducing unwanted air pressure – aka sound – that a conventional fabric spider can generate, removing its unpredictable, non-linear effects. 

Decoupled Midrange & Turbine Head 
In all three-way models, midrange drive units include a highly stiff aluminium chassis featuring Tuned Mass Dampers (TMD) to quieten any resonance. These complete drive units and motor systems are then isolated on sprung decoupling mounts, further restricting the flow of vibration into the assembly. The 803 D4, 802 D4 and 801 D4 include the massively stiff aluminium Turbine Head enclosure for their midrange drive units, providing not only an outstanding acoustic form but also even better isolation – since the head assembly is itself further decoupled from the bass enclosure below. 

Solid Body Tweeter 
A revised version of the Solid Body Tweeter housing continues to be machined from a solid piece of aluminium, but is now elongated (almost 30cm/12in long) with a longer internal tube-loading system. This is decoupled from the speaker body or Turbine Head (depending on model) in two locations rather than one: this notably improves spaciousness and openness. At the same time, the tweeter’s motor assembly has been re-engineered to allow the drive unit to ‘breathe’ more effectively with no loss of performance. The result is a notable reduction in the resonance behind the tweeter dome. 


Reverse-Wrap Cabinet & Matrix
Matrix has been a core Bowers & Wilkins technology for more than 30 years and has also been continually developed throughout that time. An internal structure of interlocking panels that brace the loudspeaker internally in all directions, Matrix helps to make speaker cabinets rigid, inert and quiet. 
The 805 D4 and 804 D4 now feature the reverse wrap speaker cabinet previously reserved for the larger floor-standing 800 Series Diamond models. Each model now has a stiff aluminium plate on the inside face of its cabinet, bracing its baffle against resonance. Inside, both models also feature updates to their Matrix bracing, with thicker panels made from solid plywood rather than the previous MDF, reinforced by aluminium bracing sections. 
Every stereo model in the range also features the new cast aluminium top replacing the previous wooden design, dramatically increasing the rigidity of the speaker enclosure. As before, drive units are housed in aluminium pods mounted to the baffle of the speaker while crossover units are fitted to equally stiff aluminium spines running up the rear of the cabinet. Finally, 801D4 introduces a steel plate in its base section around the port – again, all in the name of adding stiffness to the enclosure and further quietening its operation. 


Aluminium Plinth 
The 804 D4 joins the other floor-standing models in the 800 Series Diamond range by offering a downward-firing bass port, exiting on to a new, stiffer solid aluminium plinth complete with a constrained layer steel damping sheet designed to offer a rock-solid foundation and to control resonance. The 804 D4 also has upgraded spikes and feet, with M12 spikes that are both more stable and stiffer than the outgoing M6 designs. 803 D4, 802 D4 and 801 D4 use the same arrangement of downwards-firing Flowport, solid aluminium plinth and constrained layer steel damping, but retain the wheel-plus-spike configuration introduced in 2015, making each model “easier to manoeuvre to the perfect listening position than any rival design”. 

Aerofoil cone
The result of advance computer modelling, the Aerofoil cone is a composite bass cone with a varying thickness designed to offer maximum stiffness where it is most needed while preserving low mass – thanks to its carbon-fibre skin and light syntactic foam core. Alongside revised and optimised motor systems, each floorstanding speaker in the 800 Series Diamond range now combines its Aerofoil Cones with a new foam Anti-Resonance Plug , which gently braces the voice coil and lowers distortion as the cone moves through its operating range, ensuring even cleaner bass. 

801 D4 £30,000 / $35,000 / €35,000. 
802 D4 £22,500 / $26,000 / €26,000 
803 D4 £16,000 / $20,000 / €20,000 
804 D4 £9,500 / $12,500 / €12,500
805 D4 £6,250 / $8,000 / €8,000