At the beginning of September, we were invited to Studio 2 at Abbey Road Studios for the launch of the long-awaited 800 D4 series from Bowers & Wilkins. Their relationship is long-standing and well-documented, with John Bowers first installing his Matrix 801 speakers there in 1988. Since then, Abbey Road has updated the Bowers & Wilkins speakers to the latest current models.
The range still comprises five models of speakers and two centre speakers, which are complemented by the DB series of subwoofers. Bowers & Wilkins has made special mention of returning to the 801 branding on their flagship performer as opposed to 800 of the previous iteration, harking back to the heritage of some of the earliest predecessors of the 800 series which topped the range with the 801 number.
Some of the changes in the new range have been subtle from a visual point of view, but behind the cabinet, Bowers & Wilkins has had a major redesign and made huge advances in sonic performance. The 805 and 804 speakers have had the most substantial of the visual changes, with both now utilising the reverse wrap cabinet that was fully implemented with only the larger 803, 802 and 800 D3 speakers. When this improvement was made for the larger models, the sound became far more open, so we are very pleased to see it implemented with the smaller models.
The cabinets have also been further enhanced with the use of extra aluminium bracing. The top plate that holds the Turbine head makes the whole cabinet significantly stiffer and even more inert than before. It also allows Bowers & Wilkins to add one of the more noticeable visual changes to the larger speakers, which is a beautiful, soft piece of leather by Connolly.
On top of each speaker sits the Diamond Tweeter housing, which has been elongated for even better dispersion of unwanted frequencies. It now fits front to back on the smaller 805s and 804s and is further decoupled from each of the speakers. The Turbine head was a huge improvement on the D3 series, placing a single milled piece of aluminium to house the mid-range drive unit, making it as solid and unyielding a housing as achievable. This was not enough for Bowers & Wilkins, however, who have taken it a step further by adding damping inside the head for even lower vibration. This inherently boosts mid-range performance.
The 805s and 804s now follow the other models in the range with a large heatsink on the back, which houses the external crossovers. This gives the electronics more space as well as better cooling for the crossovers.Each floor standing speaker has been given an upgraded aluminium plinth, including the 804 D4 model for the first time. Additionally, the 804 D4 is equipped with a downward-firing bass port which allows greater low-frequency extension by constraining exactly how far the air will travel before meeting a solid surface.
A new antiresonance plug on the Aerofoil bass cones allows for a more linear dispersion of bass from these units. Finally, and most importantly, Bowers & Wilkins has introduced a ‘Biomimetic Suspension system’. Every mid-range unit on their floor standing speakers has one of these ‘spiders’. By extremely careful mapping, Bowers & Wilkins has developed a way of reducing the mass of this and preventing it from introducing distortion from inside the drive unit itself. This has optimised the performance of the mid-range in a notable way.
These speakers offer a level of detail unmatched in any speaker we have heard in their respective price range. They do this without pushing the sound forward and tiring the listener. Their previous ranges have always given an incredible level of detail, but some may have found them a little too forward for their taste. This has been comprehensively addressed by Bowers & Wilkins, whilst at the same time, they have increased the overall detail and soundstage considerably. The bass is surprisingly punchy and fast and a noticeable improvement over the D3 range.
The Bowers & Wilkins 800 D4 series are available in Piano Black, Rosewood and Satin White, with the addition of a Walnut finish. The cost of all these improvements is reflected in their price, starting with the 805 D4 at £6,250, the 804 D4 at £9,500, the 803 D4 at £16,500, the 802 D4 at £22,500 and the 801 D4 at £30,000. The matching stands for the 805 D4, the FS-805 D4 costs £1,100 a pair and are available in Black or Silver-Grey. The two centre speakers are the HTM81, which costs £4,750 and the HTM82, at £6,500 and are available in Black or White. The matching centre stand, the FS-HTM, costs £800 and is available in Black or Silver Grey.
Do contact us if you would like to listen to this new range of speakers.