Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4 Review
The Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4 is one of the most popular bookshelf speakers on the market today, thanks to its exceptional sound quality, impressive technical specifications, and reasonable price. This latest generation of the B&W 800 series has received high praise from reviewers, who have noted its attention to detail, excellent build quality, and outstanding performance.
The history of the Bowers&Wilkins 800 series
The story of the 805 speakers began in 1987 with the successful development of Matrix speaker technology. This technology was invested in the 801 and 802 models, resulting in the launch of the Matrix 801. The 800 series was gradually expanded, and models such as the 803, 804, and 805 were introduced.
The Matrix 805, the predecessor to the 805 D4, underwent two improvements, including the introduction of a liquid-cooled aluminum hemispherical diaphragm tweeter, the division of the circuit boards of each crossover, and internal wiring reform.
The latest version, the Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4, features a new carbon dome tweeter and Continuum cone midrange driver. These technical specifications improve upon the previous design, resulting in clear and detailed high-frequency sounds and natural and balanced midrange tones that are the hallmark of B&W speakers.
If you are looking for a compact speaker that delivers high-fidelity sound, the 805 D4 is worth considering. It’s perfect for those who want a bookshelf speaker that only takes up a little space or requires a significant investment.
In 1998, Bowers & Wilkins introduced the Nautilus 800 series, a complete overhaul of their flagship 800 series, featuring technology and experience from their Nautilus line. The Nautilus independent box tweeter was introduced in the two-way, two-unit layout of the N805 model. This tweeter is shaped like a microphone peak and has a back pressure relief tube inside, significantly improving sound quality.
The speaker box also changed significantly, moving from the traditional square shape to a curved, non-parallel surface design. The result was an innovative full arc side connected to the back, a forward-sloping box roof, and a Flowport reflection hole design similar to a golf ball’s surface.
In 2005, the Nautilus 800 series underwent a drastic change again, with a selective injection of diamond diaphragm tweeter technology in higher-level models, forming the 800D series. Four ground models, 800D, 801D, 802D, 803D, HTM1D, HTM2D, and two mid-range models were included in this series. The remaining smaller models featured the Signature 800 tweeter technology, forming the 800S series.
This situation was maintained until 2011, when the 800 series was unified into the 800 Diamond series, providing advantages in sound quality, processing, materials, and exterior design. The 805 models finally enjoyed the benefits of high-pitched diamond components, improved crossover components and input devices, and an updated design. Changes to the 800 Diamond series varied in magnitude, with some aimed at sound quality improvement while others were focused on vision and user experience.
The evolution of the 800 series from the N805 to the 805 Diamond has significantly changed its treble diaphragm, drive system, and suspension system. The diamond diaphragm significantly upgrades from the aluminum diaphragm of the previous model. The magnetic drive system and suspension system are also improved considerably. Moreover, the independent speaker for the treble is replaced with a different one, and the fiber box is replaced with an all-aluminum casting box.
The surface decoration between the mid-bass and the reflective air hole has also been modified, and the sound box’s surface treatment has been changed. A black piano version has also been added to enhance the Signature 805. Speaking of the Signature 805, it is a refined special edition that continues the momentum of the Silver Signature. Even though it cannot be strictly classified as part of the 800 series, the two-way small bookshelf layout of the 805 has always been relatively friendly to space requirements.
After the launch of 805 Diamond, a special edition Bowers & Wilkins 805 Diamond Limited Edition limited to Japan appeared about two years later. An 805 Maserati Edition, jointly developed with the Italian supercar Maserati, was also launched seven years ago. This rich history of special editions underscores the popularity of the 805.
The latest addition to the 800 Diamond series, the 805 D3, features a significant upgrade in its mid/bass unit. B&W has replaced the traditional Kevlar cone, used for almost five decades, with a new material called Continuum. The new cone has a glossy, light gray appearance, a braid-like texture, and a soft hemispherical phase cone in the center. This change in material results in improved damping characteristics, energy dissipation, basin collapse frequency, and overall stability compared to the Kevlar cones.
Moreover, the frame behind the unit has been redesigned to improve stability and resonance characteristics. The new structure is much more solid and doesn’t vibrate or reverberate like the old generation frame.
This improvement will provide a better working environment for the cone and ultimately enhance the sound quality of the Bowers & Wilkins 805 D3. It’s worth noting that the development of the Continuum material began eight years ago, and the result is a significant upgrade that represents B&W’s commitment to innovation and quality.
While the Diamond tweeter in the B&W 800 series remains unchanged, the Nautilus tweeter in the 805 D3 has undergone significant upgrades. The tweeter is now made of solid aluminum, a departure from the aluminum casting used in the previous generation.
This change provides several benefits, such as increased strength and reduced cabinet resonance. In the Diamond generation, the tubular structure started to resonate at 4KHz, while the solid structure of the D3 generation resonated at 16KHz, resulting in improved heat dissipation performance.
Regarding the main speaker, the front baffle has been redesigned from a flat surface to a curved surface, giving the sound box a full-arc wall without any flat surface except the bottom. The metal tube structure pushes the woofer out of the front baffle, further enhancing the sound box’s overall pressure resistance and stability while reducing sound pollution. Driving the woofer out of the cabinet wall also improves dispersion and effectively deals with the effect of diffraction.
The interior structure of the sound box remains true to the Matrix 3D all-around reinforcement concept. Instead of MDF, solid wood plywood is used as the internal reinforcement structure, which is more substantial and expensive. The proportions and design of the vertical and horizontal reinforcement between the structural boards have been rearranged, and openings have been redesigned further to increase the rigidity and stability of the sound box.
Design of Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4
The Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4 is a vertical two-way speaker featuring a diamond dome tweeter and a 6.5-inch mid-bass driver made of Bowers & Wilkins’ proprietary Continuum material. Continuum, which replaced the aramid fiber cone the company previously used, was first introduced with the debut of the 800 D3 series in 2015. The tweeter design of the 805 D4 is a Bowers & Wilkins signature, with a diamond dome separate from the speaker’s main body. The company refers to it as a studio-grade tweeter.
The Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4 has an impressive frequency response range of 42 Hz to 28 kHz, with a nominal sensitivity of 88dB and an impedance of 8 ohms. While the sensitivity may seem slightly low, these specifications are typically associated with high-end tower speakers rather than bookshelf speakers.
The company also publishes harmonic distortion specifications, which measure the second and third harmonics at 90 dB output, one meter away, on-axis. Bowers & Wilkins state that distortion remains below 1% from 90 Hz to 20 kHz and below 0.3% if measured from 120 Hz to 20 kHz. Therefore, we recommend using a power amplifier with a power output of 50 watts to 120 watts.
An exciting aspect of the Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4 speaker is its unique cabinet design. Unlike most speakers with the crossover inside the cabinet, the 805 D4 has its crossover on the back with its own radiator. This allows for better heat dissipation and is just one aspect of the speaker’s more complex cabinet design.
The cabinet comprises multiple layers of high-quality plywood pressed and formed in the company’s factory. Bowers & Wilkins has complete control over the design and manufacturing process, allowing them to maintain an extremely high level of craftsmanship.
For those interested in purchasing these speakers, Bowers & Wilkins also sells specific stands, the FS-805 D4, for $1,250 a pair in silver or black. These stands fit the speaker perfectly in size, shape, and appearance, adding cable management for a neat look. The company recommends using them for “the best possible performance.” However, if you already have some large brackets, they can be used as an alternative.
In the new 800D4 series, Bowers & Wilkins has released only one bookshelf speaker, the 805 D4. The advantage of the bookshelf design is its versatility and ease of integration into a small listening space. In the 150-foot audition room, the Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4 quickly presents a sound stage with a sense of depth. However, the weakness of bookshelf speakers is that they may need to provide a different depth of low-frequency extension than more prominent floor-standing speakers.
The 805 D4 bookshelf speakers can provide excellent low-frequency performance, despite not being floor-standing speakers. In particular, the speakers can reproduce a double bass’s full form and dynamics, with a harmonious and natural resonance with the piano box. The low frequency does not come across as harsh or lacking fullness and maintains a sense of down extension. The cymbals also have a light, sweet, and thick metal fullness, played vigorously and lively.
Additionally, the speakers can provide a wide and deep stage space without any sense of fine grain. The instrument’s shape is presented in front of the listener like an image under the appropriate proportion. The sound imaging is not buried or forward-leaning, and the high-density musical beauty is without being inseparable.
It does not require any super-sharp or over-stimulation, allowing the listener to feel the rich details of the instrument and the three-dimensional sense of micro-dynamics. The transpositions and variations are light, sweet, and smooth, presenting the moving beauty of the music with richness, detail, and delicacy, bringing satisfaction to the soul and mood.
The 805 D4 is exceptional for reproducing human voices, but it can also convey the sense of space, stage, and dynamics of symphony orchestras. During a “Devil’s Dance” performance from John Williams , Anne-Sophie Mutter’s violin sounds light and sweet, with delicate and subtle dynamics, strength, weight, and gradual progression.
The orchestra’s dynamics also spread with significant energy infiltration, rich layers, and natural and beautiful timbres. Listening to the Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4 is like indulging in a slightly sweet and clear creme brulee, where you can feel connected to the music on a deeper level, appreciate its nuances and textures, and communicate with its charm and depth.
Listening to “Händel goes wild” – “Sinfonia” on the 805 D4, the stage and instrument positioning is incredibly strong and clear. Each instrument is presented with great care, creating a 4K UHD-like image in the mind’s eye. The triangle bell’s sound is flexible and transparent, with a sweet and thick texture.
The wood instruments’ beautiful and pleasing sound intermingles, creating a touching beauty reminiscent of birds singing in a forest. The harpsichord’s penetrating characteristics and the dexterity, transparency, and smoothness of the violin are all expertly conveyed by the 805 D4.
Despite the 805 D4’s unassuming appearance, one can’t help but wonder what changes Bowers & Wilkins has made to create such a stark contrast in audio performance between the previous and current generations. Even without an AB comparison, the new generation has undergone refinement and tuning, elevating its audio performance.
The Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4 speakers driven by the MC 702 amplifier do not strive for a super-sharp, hyper-fast, or over-stimulating listening experience. Instead, they have a distinct sense of rhythm that is neither too slow nor too rushed, leaving a refreshing aftertaste.
Pete Albertson’s “Cover My Blues” has a unique voice that seems unmatched by the likes of Nat King Cole and other greats. The first song, “Walking Blues,” showcases his rich voice singing American grassroots blues in a simple and unpretentious musical accompaniment, showing off the three-dimensional sense of the recording.
Pete’s leisurely and light work in the song is deeply engaging, and the wild changes in “Help Me” make me want to listen to each music on the album repeatedly. “Georgia On My Mind” is another highlight with a rough, soulful performance.
The power of the electric bass in “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie” is impressive, and the activity and tenacity of “Cold Turkey” demonstrate the richness of the 805 D4 without any sense of moisture or cumbersome feeling.
Listening to Klára Würtz’s “Schubert Impromptus,” I was struck by the smooth and coherent energy conversion of the 805 D4’s piano sounds. The dynamics of strong and weak notes were expressed with passion, while the subtle changes were dense and coherent, evoking deep emotions.
The sound was full and rich, with no sense of emptiness, thinness, or flatness between notes, and the emotional impact created a strong resonance. The size and shape of the piano were not diminished in any way, and in terms of the system’s ratio to the sound field, it was like a 90-inch 16:9 audio screen with no lack of fine details.
You sincerely appreciate the 805 D4 speakers from Bowers & Wilkins. The way you describe the natural beauty of the sound and the precision of the design is quite poetic. You value the emotional resonance that the speakers bring to music rather than just technical characteristics. Are these speakers a good investment for serious music enthusiasts who want to experience music in a more immersive and emotionally resonant way?
In conclusion, the Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4 bookshelf speaker is a stunning achievement in audio engineering. It showcases the result of decades of research and development by the renowned British audio company, delivering high-fidelity sound with excellent clarity, balance, and accuracy. The 805 D4’s design perfectly blends aesthetics and functionality, with its refined and elegant appearance fitting into any home environment.
The speaker’s sound quality is outstanding, offering precision and detail unmatched by many other bookshelf speakers on the market. It is versatile and can easily handle a wide range of musical genres, making it a perfect choice for music enthusiasts who demand the highest level of audio performance.
Whether you’re listening to classical music, jazz, blues, or rock, the Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4 presents music with lifelike detail and accuracy, allowing you to immerse yourself in the music and experience it in a new and exciting way. Its dynamic range is impressive, and it can produce powerful bass, clear midrange, and sparkling highs without distortion or coloration.
The Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4 bookshelf speaker is an excellent audio product for those seeking high-fidelity audio reproduction. Its exceptional design, build quality, and sound performance make it a top choice for audiophiles and music lovers.