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Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4 Review

A new arrival to B&W’s famed 800 Series is always an occasion of significance. Not only does it introduce technology that will eventually filter its way down to more terrestrial members of the range, but some of the ideas tend to find their way into wider speaker design too. This latest range comprises the same choice of five stereo models and two centre speakers as before and the 805 D4 is the smallest and most affordable option as well as being the only standmount. Read our Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4 Review.

The major refinement for this latest version of 805 (and the floorstanding 804) is that they are constructed in the same way as the larger members of the range. The process, which Bowers & Wilkins calls ‘reverse wrap’, takes alternating layers of birch ply and adhesive and forms them into an arch. The driver aperture is cut in the front of the cabinet at the strongest point proportionately. The cabinet then curves back with the sides converging toward one another. Engineers cut the cabinet and insert a rear section to seal it, leaving a section behind which houses the crossover. The bottom is sealed with more birch ply, while the top has a machined aluminium section.

As well as closing off the cabinet this aluminium mounting also supports the tweeter. In keeping with previous generations, this is a 25mm Diamond dome that is mounted in its own machined aluminium housing. The housing is longer than before, though, and is now affixed via two decoupled mounts rather than the one used previously. It is recessed further into the top of the cabinet and the result looks much better.

The tweeter hands over to a 165mm Continuum mid/bass driver that is materially similar to the previous generation. In the case of the 805 specifically, this includes the use of the same mounting spider as before, as the new design employed in the rest of the range can only be used in dedicated midrange versions of the Continuum driver. Instead, the standmount only receives the revised anti-resonance phase plug and a tuned mass damper to better control resonance between driver and cabinet.

Neither is this the only effort expended in this direction. The ‘matrix’ bracing that has long characterised the 800 Series is now made from the same birch ply as the cabinet sections and is further bolstered by metal sections in key areas. The result is a speaker that is almost completely inert when sat on a dedicated stand. Touch the side when it is running hard and there’s barely a trace of resonated energy and it feels almost completely solid. This perception is undoubtedly helped by the fitment of a metal rear section as found on the larger floorstanders.

This metal plate closes off the area in the cabinet behind the internal bulkhead that seals the main enclosure and contains the crossover, which has been revised and updated across the range. This allows for bi-wiring and bi-amping via two pairs of terminals on the rear, for which Bowers & Wilkins supplies a set of rather lovely cable links for single wiring. The 805 is now the only member of the range to be front ported and a neat two-piece foam bung is supplied to help control air flow.

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Thanks to the revisions in the design, the 805 looks significantly different to its predecessor. What Bowers & Wilkins has done very effectively is leverage enough visual cues to ensure that it is still instantly recognisable as an 800 Series member. I would, in the black finish of the review sample in particular, describe it as a handsome rather than actively beautiful product but there’s absolutely no qualms as to the attention to detail with which it has been assembled.

Sound quality

Any qualms I have about the aesthetics are quickly put to one side as the performance it offers is a genuine step forward over what’s come before. Importantly, none of these advances come at the expense of everything that the previous 800 Series was good at. Listening to Hayden Thorpe’s Moondust For My Diamond, the 805 D4 is tonally outstanding. Thorpe’s lovely falsetto is recreated with an authority that can leave even very talented rivals sounding momentarily less sure of themselves. Without ever feeling embellished or over saturated, voices and instruments demand attention.

The perception of reality is further enhanced by an almost innate ability to create a believable perception of space appropriate to the performance. With the intimate scale of the Thorpe recording, it responds appropriately and you can then pivot straight to the vastness of Hans Zimmer’s Dune score without wrong footing it. Key to how the 805 D4 does this is that, so long as a modicum of care has been taken with its placement, the cabinet simply vanishes into the soundstage, helping to foster the perception of a soundfield rather than just a more prosaic stereo image.

Further helping this is a wholly impressive amount of scale from what is still a relatively compact cabinet. Whatever outright lack of extension the 805 D4 demonstrates in comparison with a floorstanding rival at the same price, the sheer integration and cohesion it has from top to bottom is so utterly convincing that you tend not to notice it. The caveat to this is perhaps the only consistently definable area of weakness that this speaker has in that it does need to be running at a reasonable volume level for this to really come alive. At lower levels (and levels where other speakers here are not affected), it can sound a little thinner and more shut in.

Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4 Review
Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4 Review

Once you do have this prerequisite volume in play, though, where the 805 D4 breaks new ground over what came before is that it is enormously entertaining. Without compromising on the ‘good enough for Abbey Road’ realism, there is now a fundamental joy to what this speaker does which makes using it for extended periods extremely pleasurable. It hammers its way through Public Service Broadcasting’s Bright Magic with an ebullience that simply isn’t part of the repertoire of its predecessors. The glorious Blue Heaven sees it at its best with Andreya Casablanca’s delicate vocals rising beautifully from the supporting instrumentation. The tempo of the music doesn’t need to be terribly ballistic either. The gorgeous Neptune by the Olympians is as smooth and relaxed as the early Seventies sounds that it emulates, but there’s still an absolutely wonderful flow to it.

B&W’s 805 D4 is almost completely inert when sat on a dedicated stand

Conclusion

To wrap up this already enticing combination, Bowers & Wilkins has worked to ensure that this is a genuinely easy speaker to partner up and use. As noted, placement is straightforward and it works happily on a selection of stands. This wouldn’t be my choice of speaker to run on the end of a very low-power valve amp, perhaps, but it certainly shows itself to be entirely benign with a selection of solid-state options. The sheer transparency of the 805 D4 means that it will never be a sticking plaster to fix a system you aren’t happy with, but partnered with electronics you do like it is capable of delighting.

The 805 D4 is not only a significant step forward over what went before, it is now one of the most viceless and entertaining speakers you can buy for under £ and something that absolutely demands an audition

details
PRODUCT Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4
ORIGIN UK
TYPE 2-way standmount loudspeaker
WEIGHT 15.6kg
DIMENSIONS (WxHxD) 240 x 440 x 373mm
FEATURES
• 25mm Diamond dome tweeter
• 165mm Continuum cone mid/bass driver
• Quoted sensitivity: 88dB/1W/1m (8ohm)
DISTRIBUTOR Bowers & Wilkins
WEBSITE bowerswilkins.com

HOW IT COMPARES

With the bespoke stand included, the price of the 805 D4 rises to £; or £ less than the Kudos Titan 505 (HFC 451). The B&W has a more detailed top end and does a much better job of disappearing from the soundstage than the Kudos. The 505 hits back with better bass, supreme timing and an ability to sound far happier at lower listening levels. It is a mark of how far the 805 D4 has come that the two are even on the same page.

OUR VERDICT

10 Total Score
Recommended Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4 Review

Not only the best version of the 805 yet, but also a joyously talented standmount

PROS
  • Accurate, spacious and powerful sound that’s great fun
CONS
  • Needs a little volume behind it to truly come alive
  • it’s not terribly pretty
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Specifications

Product Name805-D4 - Allen Bradley
Speaker TypeBookshelf
Number Of Speakers1
Number Of Tweeters Included1
Number Of Midranges Included1
Number of Drivers Included2
Wireless Multi-Room AudioNo
Product Width9.45 inches

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2 Comments
Show all Most Helpful Highest Rating Lowest Rating Add your review
  1. The 805 D4 is a good speaker don’t give me wrong I additioned it sounds really nice. That being said I have to disagree with this review to extent. I myself I’m very familiar as well with the 805 D3 as I currently own them. I have pretty much done a virtually direct comparison to them. Is there an improvement yes would I say it dramatic improvement absolutely not. I certainly wouldn’t say it’s worth the upgrade fee of $8500 over the D3 series. Not counting the $1200 for the speaker stands. Yes there are other speaker stands but you will want to bolt these down for this kind of investment. I would say there is an improvement between the D3 series and D4 series a 10 to 13%. What I would say would be a dramatic improvement and one that would be a more justifiable upgrade and say you’re coming from the D2 generation or earlier there is not only an audible difference obviously because a Kevlar but the difference between those generations in my opinion or at least 40 to 60%. Now that type of improvement is worth it it makes you feel a more justification in an upgrade path as compared to upgrading from the D3 to the D4. Hi myself will be sticking with the 805 D3 I feel it’s an absolutely excellent speaker and there are many other components I can upgrade in my sound system to further enhance the speaker for years to come. Besides that though I actually think the 805 D3 is a better looking speaker I feel it has more class to it.

  2. I disagree with the review. Between the 805 D3 which I own and after auditioning the 805 D4 I would say there is a 10-13% improvement in the sound characteristic. Not worth $8,500 let alone the additional 1,200 for the stands. With an investment like this you’ll want them as secure as possible. An upgrade possible worth it would be coming from an 805 D2 or earlier generation. In my opinion there is at least a 40- 60% improvement in the sonic character between the D2 or earlier compared to the D4. Hope this helps.

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