Bowers & Wilkins 805 Diamond Speaker System
The 800 Dynasty Continues
The world is full of B&Ws. Former and current users of the acronym include Bra & Wessels, the Swedish department store chain; Burmeister & Wain, the Danish shipyard; Boeing & Westervelt, the predecessor of Boeing; and the Black & White Audiovisual Festival of Portugal. The most notorious B&W would be Brown & Williamson, depraved tobacco pushers. So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that B&W, the formidable British loudspeaker maker, has reverted to its original name—Bowers & Wilkins—even though John Bowers and Roy Wilkins are no longer in the picture.
The company takes its name from two men who met in the British military during World War II and opened an electronics shop after the war. Wilkins’ son Paul still runs the shop. B&W Loudspeakers launched its first model from the back of the shop in 1966. The com- pany then established its own R&D and production facilities, and the famous 801 arrived in 1979.
After the 801 became a worldwide audiophile hit, B&W built several iterations of the 800 Series. The 800 Matrix Series morphed into different shapes and greatly expanded the audiophile fan base. The Nautilus Series was famous for the snail-shaped enclosure of its still-surviving flagship, which banished all straight lines and flat surfaces. The Nautilus 800 followed, reviving some flat surfaces for the sake of practicality. Its successor is the current 800 Diamond Series.
Today, the 801’s progeny are the recording monitors of choice at Abbey Road, Skywalker Sound, and Sony Music NYC. B&W’s innovations include the use of Kevlar fibers in woofer cones, tweeters in separate tapered enclosures, the golf-ball dimpling of the flares on their ports, and the synthetic diamond-domed tweeter—all of which enrich the 800 Diamond Series speakers reviewed here.
The 805 Diamond (or 805D) is the best-selling member of its line as well as the smallest and the only monitor design. It has four floorstanding sisters. The line also includes two horizontal center models, of which the HTM4 Diamond is the closest match to the 805D’s driver sizes. There is a Diamond Series subwoofer, but this review substitutes a CM Series sub, the ASW 12CM. The B&W folks explained that “the price/performance was in line with the 805Ds.”
There are only two flat surfaces on the 805D’s enclosure: the baffle and the bottom. The sides curve inward toward the rounded back, all formed from a single piece of 1.38-inch-thick pressed plywood. The absence of parallel flat surfaces reduces internal standing waves, helped by a honeycomb Matrix structure inside the enclosure. A 6.5-inch Kevlar-coned woofer dominates the baffle, with a phase plug in the middle to control its response. Below the woofer is a flared port with dimpling that the company claims reduces air turbulence. You can plug the port with a supplied foam bung to tailor bass response. I chose not to use it. The grille attaches magnetically, although I didn’t use that, either. The main fabric grille doesn’t cover the tweeter, which has its own tiny nondetachable mesh grille.
The 1-inch tweeter dome is made of synthetic diamond that’s grown with a chemical vapor deposition process that Bowers & Wilkins likens to “ice crystals forming on a window.” Remarkably, although a substrate is used to form the dome, it is removed once the deposition is complete. What’s left behind is a dome of pure crystalline carbon (synthetic diamond) that has a higher (and therefore less objectionable) breakup frequency than any other dome material in regular production. The tweeter connects to a synthetic rubber surround that serves as part of its radiating surface.