“If you can make a better product, then you will sell it” – so went the belief of John Bowers, founder of Bowers & Wilkins.
This decades-long pursuit of the ‘perfect’ loudspeaker has seen the company to place innovation at the centre of its design and build process – and its latest flagship model provides no exception. The final piece of the puzzle in the 800 series Diamond 3 range – launched in 2015 – the Bowers & Wilkins 800 D3 represents the culmination of an extensive development process that sees more than 850 individual alterations from its previous iteration.
Visibly contiguous with the other speakers in its line, the 800 D3 is slightly wider, deeper and taller than the 802 D3. The search for ever-greater performance has seen the company adopt new materials, manufacturing techniques and make several small but significant adjustments to deliver as little deviation as possible from natural replication of sound, as well as an expanded frequency range and response.
Changes from the bottom up
Visibly, the starkest difference between the 802 D3 and 800 D3 is in the bass driver. These cones are not only two inches longer in diameter, but also use a stiffer carbon fibre composition that, being coupled directly with the plywood body, reduces resonance inside the speaker and offers more complete bass delivery.
The mid-range chassis was given a complete overhaul for the 800 Series D3. A Continuum cone replaces the Kevlar composite that has been a staple of Bowers & Wilkins loudspeakers since 1987; this stabilises the drive unit’s behaviour and improves performance. The 800 D3 loudspeaker builds upon this further by employing superior capacitors and crossovers, so that the mid-range channel stands up to the enhanced bass delivery.
Despite the myriad changes, Bowers & Wilkins has left the most notable aspect of this product line untouched; namely, the diamond tweeter dome that the series name derives from. This delivers crisp, clear audio detail thanks to one-piece, solid aluminium casing and a gel-based decoupling system that prevents mechanical vibrations from reaching the tweeter.
Everything in its right place
While Bowers & Wilkins is known for the audio-enhancing form of its top-end speakers, it goes one step further here: using computer modelling, it has crafted a curved wooden cabinet reinforced with an interior aluminium sheet. As the cabinet is reversed so that the curve is on the front, the drivers sit on the stiffest part of the structure, rendering it significantly more inert structure and significantly reducing the number of joins needed. This reduces sound reflection and baffling, as well as having a positive effect on the way that audio is dispersed.
All told, the 800 D3 offers a significant sonic improvement on the already impressive performance of the other members in the 800 Series Diamond family. The first units won’t ship until July and will cost £22,500 for a pair, if you’re buying in the United Kingdom.