Bowers & Wilkins Debuts New 800 Series

From the press release:

Within their elegantly curved exteriors the new 800 models feature a rigorously developed balance of all-new technologies and refinements to existing ideas, while further incorporating the full range of detail improvements brought by the highly acclaimed Signature 800 and Signature 805.


Diamond Dome Tweeter
 Perhaps the new 800 Series’ most radical innovation is the pure diamond dome tweeter used by the six top designs, identified by the “D” suffix of their model names.  In classic B&W style, the diamond dome technology began purely as a lengthy research project conceived to reach a better understanding of the relationship between drive-unit behavior and actual sound quality. (This research is detailed at length in the 800D Development Paper, and presented in simpler terms on the B&W DVD by B&W’s Head of Research Dr. Gary Geaves.)

B&W views this development as a significant advance in the journey towards our ultimate ambition, as defined by founder John Bowers: to create a transducer that truly neither adds to nor subtracts from the original signal.  Subjectively, listeners report that the diamond dome tweeter affects every aspect of performance, but most notably contributes an absolute transparency and seamlessness to the whole midrange and treble region, bringing the listener closer to that elusive ideal of “being there.”

The remaining models in the 800 Series (denoted by an “S” suffix) use the alloy domes developed for the acclaimed Signature Series, and thus improve considerably on the original Nautilus 800 iterations.

B&W’s pioneering use of Nautilusâ„¢ tweeter tubes continues in the new 800 Series.  Moreover, in all models the mechanical design has undergone further refinement and is considerably better damped and more isolated from energy in the main cabinet.

FST Midrange Driver
All of the new 800 Series’ three-way systems utilize an improved version of B&W’s FSTâ„¢ midrange driver.  This incorporates the improvements already developed for the Signature 800 (aluminum phase plug and neodymium magnet system), as well as an improved chassis design.  On the flagship 800 models the iconic Marlan® sphere/tube ‘head’ continues, but with detail changes to its interface with the tweeter tube.

Bass Drivers
Among the new 800 Series’ most dramatic changes is the design of its bass drive units.  To achieve dynamic and rhythmic low frequency performance, B&W has long believed in the use of stiff materials such as their paper/Kevlar® mix.  Advancing this principle has resulted in a new cone using a sandwich-construction of carbon-fiber skins and a core of Rohacell®, a rigid foam widely used in the aerospace industry for its light weight and high strength.  While Rohacell® cones are not unique to B&W, until now their manufacture has been limited to the 1 – 2mm (0.04 – 0.08 in) thickness range. 

The new 800 bass drivers are 8mm (0.3 in) thick, which greatly increases the suppression of sound transmission through the bass unit itself (see the 800D Development Paper for measurement plots).

In all of the new 800 models, development of crossover designs and component choice represented a major portion of the range’s development time yielding real improvements in performance.  Extended listening tests are vital to distinguish between components with seemingly similar specifications, enabling the optimum choice for each application.  For many years, B&W’s crossover philosophy has begun with striving to optimize every aspect of a speaker’s mechanical design, so that only the simplest electronic adjustment is required to balance the system acoustically and musically. This is only fundamentally good engineering sense, since electrical components in the signal’s path by nature cannot add to its basic quality.

The crossover feeding the tweeter section in all of the new 800 Series products best exemplifies this philosophy.  It uses, for the first time in the 800 Series, a single series capacitor developed by B&W in conjunction with one of the foremost European component manufacturers.  Senior Product Manager Mike Gough comments, “One of the listening sessions I took part in with the development engineers was to judge the specific change wrought by moving to a single component tweeter filter on the new 804s.  To my ears that change alone could have justified a change of generation let alone the range of improvements that would come later.”  Because of this move to first-order tweeter filters, physical placement of the tweeters has been moved slightly forwards, towards the listener, to maintain phase coherence with the midrange driver.

The striking curved cabinets of the 800 Series, manufactured in B&W’s cabinet factory in Denmark, have undergone refinements throughout the lifetime of Nautilus 800 Series. 

On all models in the new series, the main curved part of the cabinet is formed from a single piece of layered ply, eliminating a join at the rear of the cabinet.  All models continue to use B&W’s patented Matrixâ„¢ bracing system.

An important development embodied by two of the new 800 Series’ subwoofers is the introduction of digital room correction, evolved from B&W’s Listening Room Optimizer (LRO).  Led by B&W’s Dr Peter Fryer and in collaboration with world-leading digital and psycho-acoustic consultants, the LRO concept arose from a three-year research project and is the subject of several patents.  It drastically improves the performance and integration of a subwoofer into real-world rooms by automatically optimizing its frequency response to reduce dramatically the impact of measured anomalies in room acoustics.

The full range of 800 Series technologies is dealt with in detail in the 800D Development Paper.

Model Range

The new 800 Series comprises a boarder range than ever before, with new models added to reflect the continued growth of the home theatre category.

The 800D is the flagship: a 3-way system comprising a 1x 1-inch diamond dome tweeter, 1x 6-inch Kevlar FST mid driver, and 2x 10-inch Rohacell bass drivers. As befits a flagship, the 800D contains several unique refinements, most notably the ultimate in crossover capacitors using silver and gold metals.

The 801D—already installed in Abbey Road’s famed Studio 3—is for those that relish the sheer power of a 15-inch bass driver, the ultimate studio or large room monitor.  A 3-way system, it comprises 1x 1-inch diamond dome tweeter, 1x 6-inch Kevlar FST mid driver, and 1x 15-inch Rohacell bass driver.  To improve its bass performance the new 801’s cabinet is larger than that of the outgoing Nautilus 801, and yet, thanks to changes in the styling of its cabinet-base and plinth, it is noticeably less visually daunting.

The 802D continues as the most domestically sized model of the range’s “headed” products.  The 3-way system comprises 1x 1-inch diamond dome tweeter, 1x 6-inch Kevlar FST mid driver, and 2x 8-inch Rohacell bass drivers.

The 803D is a completely new speaker providing performance approaching the levels of the flagship 800 models and features the new diamond tweeter.  Employing the elegant and very popular cabinet design of the 803 and 804 and eliminating the Marlan head, the 803D achieves prodigious bass output while, at the same time, keeping the cabinet as narrow as possible for the best possible midrange performance.  Slightly larger than the 803S, the 803D is a three-way system comprising 1x 1-inch diamond dome tweeter, 1x 6-inch Kevlar FST mid driver and 3x 7-inch Rohacell bass drivers.

The 803S is a three-way system comprising 1x 1-inch alloy dome tweeter, 1x 6-inch Kevlar FST mid driver and 2x 7-inch Rohacell bass drivers.  The 803S’ cabinet, and its internal Matrix, are revised to enhance stiffness, with a resultant increase in weight of some 25 lbs.

The 804S is the entry-level three-way model in the 800 Series and comprises 1x 1-inch alloy dome tweeter, 1x 6-inch Kevlar FST mid driver and 2x 6.5-inch Rohacell bass drivers.

The 805S builds on the huge success of the Signature 805, offering greatly improved performance from the same cabinet design.  Like its predecessor it is a two-way system comprising 1x 1-inch alloy dome tweeter and 1x 6.5-inch Kevlar bass/midrange driver. As before, a matching speaker stand is available.

The new 800 Series’ SCMS model is derived from the 805S to offer 800 Series performance from an on-wall location.  Intended for use as a rear channel surround speaker, it comprises 1x 1-inch baffle-mounted alloy dome tweeter and 1x 6.5-inch Kevlar bass/midrange driver.  The SCMS comes complete with a wall bracket that allows both vertical and horizontal adjustment.

The HTM1D is the new flagship center channel of the 800 Series.  ,Referred to internally as “The Hummer” (one look shows why!), it for the first time, offers the Marlan head unit of the flagship 800 models in a center channel model.  It comprises 1x 1-inch diamond dome tweeter, 1x 6-inch Kevlar FST driver and 3x 8-inch Rohacell bass drivers.

The HTM2D, another all-new model, delivers the diamond tweeter in a more conventional cabinet.  It comprises 1x 1-inch diamond dome tweeter, 1x 6-inch Kevlar FST driver and 2x 7-inch Rohacell bass drivers.

The HTM3S builds on the outgoing Nautilus HMT1 and comprises 1x 1-inch alloy dome tweeter, 1x 6-inch Kevlar FST driver and 2x 6.5-inch Rohacell bass drivers.

Similarly, the HTM4S evolved from the previous Nautilus HTM2, and is nearly identical acoustically to the 805S.  It comprises 1x 1-inch alloy dome tweeter and 1x 6.5-inch Kevlar mid/bass driver.

The DS8 is the 800 Series’ unique new rear-channel speaker, engineered to deliver both dipole and monopole operation, selectable by a 12V trigger for fully automatic modal integration, or via its mechanical switch.  It comprises 3x 1-inch alloy dome tweeters, 2x 4-inch Kevlar midrange drivers, and 1x 6.5-inch Kevlar bass/midrange driver.

The ASW875 (1x 15-inch) and ASW865 (1x 12-inch) subwoofers are similar; each coupling its Rohacell bass driver to a 1000-watt power amplifier and integrates B&W’s digital room correction system.  The ASW825 sub is derived from the outgoing ASW800, with the upgrade of a 12 in Rohacell cone driver.

All of the new 800 Series models are available in Cherrywood, Rosenut and Black Ash wood finishes.

Availability:  January 15, 2005 for all models except the ASW875 and ASW865 subwoofers, which will be available Spring 2005.

Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Prices (each):

800D                           $10,000

801D                           $8,000

802D                           $6,000

803D                           $4,000

803S                            $2,750

804S                            $2,000

805S                            $1,250

HTM1D                      $8,000

HTM2D                      $4,000

HTM3S                       $2,500

HTM4S                       $1,300

DS8S                           $1,500

SCMS                          $1,100

ASW 825                    $2,500

ASW 865                    $3,200

ASW 875                    $4,000

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