Just over 35 years ago, Bowers & Wilkins hit the right note with the introduction of its now iconic 801 loudspeakers, which quickly became a recording studio standard. The various incarnations of the 800 Series flagships that followed have both visually and sonically impressed industry critics and high-end audio lovers alike. Then in 2005, top of the range models were given some added sparkle with the inclusion of the company's new diamond tweeter, which eventually rolled out to all speakers in 2009 for the launch of the 800 Series Diamond. Now B&W's engineers have been let loose again, with the company insisting that the latest refresh is not so much an update, but rather a legend re-imagined.
After seven years of research and development, B&W revealed its new 800 Series Diamond speakers late last week. The company states that virtually all of the components differ from the previous generation speakers, with the diamond tweeter being one of the few parts to remain, albeit in a new solid body aluminum assembly.
"We found it impossible to improve on the performance offered by diamond, although behind the diamond dome, the motor system was improved considerably," said Head of the company's Martial Rousseau.
Elsewhere, improvements have been made to the cabinet, with something called a reverse-wrap design that sees the front and sides forming a continuous curve backed by a spine of solid aluminum – claimed to improve sonic dispersion and reduced cabinet reflection.
Inside, a criss-cross of interlocking panels form a matrix bracing that keeps the 800 Series Diamond speakers rigid. MDF of previous generations has been outed in favor of thicker birch plywood with metal reinforcements at key stress points. Larger Series members feature a weighty 35 kg (77 lb) resonance-resistant plinth made from a solid block of aluminum, with castors for ease of movement and integrated floor spikes that can be lowered or raised as desired.
The instantly-recognizable yellow Kevlar cone of the midrange drive unit of old has been swapped for a proprietary composite Continuum cone, reported to result in vastly improved acoustic clarity and sonic performance. The driver is housed in a new Turbine head enclosure constructed from solid aluminum with internal radial fin bracing, and a slimmer profile than previous 800 Series head units.
Bass performance has been given a boost courtesy of the distortion-killing Aerofoil cone. Using computer modeling, the company says that its engineers have managed to vary the thickness of the cone for precise, life-like lower end and improved pistonic behavior.
The new D3 Series comprises four floor-standing speaker models, a stand-mount speaker and two home theater center-channel units. Pricing starts at US$6,000 for a pair of 805s, and rises steadily to $22,000 for some 802s (though the specs, cost and even photos of the range-topping 800 Series Diamond units are still to be revealed).
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