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Bowers & Wilkins’ pricey flagship speakers get an expensive update

If you’re a fan of the kind of pristine audio quality that only the best loudspeakers can provide, get ready to liquidate some savings. Bowers & Wilkins (B&W) has just released its first update to its flagship 800 Series Diamond speakers since 2015. Along with a new internal design, new materials, and an intriguing new driver suspension invention comes a much loftier set of prices. The range-topping 801 D4 commands $35,000 per pair, a $5,000 (or about 17%) increase over the British audio company’s current top model, the 800 D3. Similar increases apply to the entire new lineup of seven models, which will be available from B&W retailers starting September 1.

Bowers & Wilkins 800 Series Diamond D4 family of speakers.
From left: Bower & Wilkins’ 801 D4, 802 D4, 803 D4, 804 D4, 805 D4, HTM81 D4, HTM82 D4 Bowers & Wilkins

The D4 lineup consists of five sets of stereo speakers and two three-way center channel speakers:

  • 801 D4, $35,000 per pair
  • 802 D4, $26,000 per pair
  • 803 D4, $20,000 per pair
  • 804 D4, $12,500 per pair
  • 805 D4, $8,000 per pair
  • HTM81 D4, $7,500
  • HTM82 D4, $5,500

To justify the new higher prices, B&W is touting “hundreds of detail improvements,” plus several new technologies developed specifically for this new series, most of which are aimed at further reducing unwanted vibration and resonance by increasing the stiffness of components. Liberal use of aluminum throughout the new speakers is the main way engineers achieved rigidity. It’s now integrated into the top section of the stereo speaker models, an area that used to be made from wood.

Bowers & Wilkins 801 Series Diamond D4 matrix assembly.
The aluminum-reinforced matrix assembly from an 801 D4 speaker. Bowers & Wilkins

You’ll also find new applications of aluminum in the internal structure of the 805 D4 and 804 D4. These models get a stiff aluminum plate on the inside face of their cabinets and a central aluminum spine to which B&W has mounted the crossover units.

To further reduce energy transfer between components, decoupling techniques have been employed throughout the lineup. In all three-way models, midrange drive units (which consist of drive units and motor systems) are isolated on spring-mounted decoupling mounts. The all-aluminum turbine heads on the 801, 802, and 803 are now decoupled from the iconic solid-body tweeters that sit atop, further reducing vibrations.

And inside the midrange and mid-bass drivers, B&W has used a totally new suspension system that replaces traditional fabric spiders with something the company calls “composite Biomimetic Suspension.” It looks a little like the cockpit windows from the Millennium Falcon, with an outer and inner ring connected by a series of six suspension arms. B&W claims this new invention greatly reduces unwanted air pressure (and thus sound) that a conventional fabric spider can generate. Doing so removes unpredictable, nonlinear effects and results in “unprecedented midrange transparency and realism,” according to the company.

Rounding out the changes are new visible materials like Connolly leather, which covers the profile of the aluminum tops, solid plywood in place of MDF in some models, and a new Satin Walnut finish, which joins the existing Gloss Black, White, and Satin Rosenut options.

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Simon Cohen
Contributing Editor, A/V
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like…
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