801 carat sounds
Hi-Fi Choice|December 2021
A new 800 series, and a return to the original 801 name, but the 801 D4’s enhancements are more than skin deep

DETAILS

PRODUCT Bowers & Wilkins 801 D4

ORIGIN UK

TYPE 3-way floorstanding loudspeaker

WEIGHT 101kg

DIMENSIONS (WxHxD) 451 x 1,221 x 600mm

FEATURES

25mm Diamond Dome tweeter

150mm Continuum cone midrange driver

2x 250mm Aerofoil bass drivers

Quoted sensitivity: 90dB/1W/1m (8ohm)

DISTRIBUTOR B&W Group Ltd

WEBSITE bowers-wilkins.co.uk

Some six years since the arrival of B&W’s 800 Series Diamond range, and over 40 years after the launch of the company’s original ‘no compromise’ 801 model, here we are with an all-new flagship lineup for the Worthing-based company. The timing’s about right: in the rolling programme of upgrades, we’ve seen the 600 and 700 series replaced since the 800 D3 models broke cover and the company makes no secret of the fact that work started on these new 800s almost as soon as the last generation was released.

Much has changed since the 2015 launch of the 800 D3 range: Bowers & Wilkins was acquired first by Silicon Valley-based Eva Automation, then by Sound United – joining the likes of Denon and Marantz. Meanwhile, the Steyning Research Establishment has been replaced with a much larger facility at Southwater, also in Sussex.

The new 800 lineup – officially called the 800 Series Diamond – comprises seven models: five main stereo speakers and two matching centre-channel designs. The range kicks off with the 805 D4 standmount at £6,250 a pair and then there are three floorstanders – the £9,500 804 D4, the £16,000 803 D4 and the £22,500 802 D4 – plus the two centres: the £4,750 HTM82 D4, designed for use with the 803 and 804 models, and the £6,500 HTM81 D4, for use with the larger speakers. All are available in a new Satin Walnut finish, as well as the Gloss Black, White and Satin Rosenut of the previous series.

The largest of these speakers is what we have here – the 801 D4 flagship, which marks a return to the model designation of the original 800 series flagship, the 801 of 1979. The last series had an 800 model, the 800 D3, as its range-topper, launched a year or so after the rest of the lineup arrived. Bowers & Wilkins isn’t making quite the same claims for this one that it did when launching the 800 D3, when it made clear that just about every component was new aside from the odd nut and bolt. However, even though the new model might look very similar to the 800 D3 it replaces, much has changed.

Now adopted across the board is the company’s ‘reverse wrap’ technology, in which the entire cabinet assembly, front and sides, is made as a single moulding using thin sheets of wood laminated with glue under heat and huge pressure. This wraps round to create a tapered enclosure, terminated with a metal spine at the rear, onto which the crossover components are mounted for stability and heatsinking.

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