Floor-standing Speakers

B&W 805 Diamond Bookshelf and HTM4 Center Channel Speakers


The B&W 805 Diamond and HTM4 Speakers In Use

My test system for the 805D's and HTM4 included a Marantz AV8801 processor, wyred4sound MMC-5 amplifier and an Oppo BDP-105. The Oppo 105 was used as the source, and unless otherwise noted was playing FLAC files created directly from all source material, streamed from a local server or red-book CDs. The Oppo was connected to the Marantz via HDMI. During music testing, I ran the 805D's as full range speakers and did not engage my dual JL Audio FL113 subs, with Audyssey Professional MultiEQ XT32 room correction employed. For movie testing, I instructed the Audyssey Professional software to cross the 805D and HTM4 over at 40 Hz to the F113's.

Those who have read my reviews know I start very predictably and most often with a studio album from the band Phish. Though the band is almost certainly best experienced live, they put a lot into their studio albums in terms of engineering and the results are always terrific. We don't yet have a release date for "Wingsuit" (debuted in its entirety as a musical "costume" during the second set of the bands Halloween show last month in Atlantic City, NJ), so I decided to pull out the most recent studio album, "Joy".

Engineered by Grammy award winning producer Steve Lillywhite, whose has worked with the likes of U2, Dave Matthews Band and the Talking Heads (just to mention a very few), and released in 2009, this disc is filled with a wide range of styles and is a great way to get started.

The opening track of this album is "Backwards Down The Number Line", an upbeat tune highlighted by driving vocals and guitar from band leader Trey Anastasio. As the song got started, I was literally bowled over with the additional detail I was experiencing. My normal speakers are Usher Mini Dancer 2's, and while the Usher's have given me hours of enjoyment over the years, characterized with a luscious mid-section, the amount of additional detail given by the 805's was astounding. Whether Anastasio's precise guitar or Jon Fishman's quick and precise percussion, the 805's were literally trouncing what the Usher's were capable of producing. In addition, though both the Ushers and the 805D's share a diamond based tweeter, the treble on from the B&W's was clearly tighter and more precise. Imaging was a bit more forward in my set-up, falling somewhat in front the sound stage that my Usher towers throw. The sound stage thrown was incredibly large for speakers of this size. Bass was admirable, with Mike Gordon's strong lines in this song easily discernable, punch and tight. In a room of my size, the 805's were capable of putting out bass bunch for me to be happy.

The next tune I queued up was "Ocelot", a far flower song with strong electric guitar lines from Anastasio. Again, I was struck by how much more of everything that I was hearing. Though not as rounded or large in the mid-section as my tower speakers, the added detail and uniformity more than made up for the loss.

Was all of this added detail fatiguing? I'll say that in the beginning, my ears were a bit shocked by the increased resolution. Paired with a similarly revealing Class D amp from wyred4sound, nothing was hidden. However, after a few days of listening, my ears adapted and with each passing hour of listening, the 805's became more and more enjoyable. I will say that the 805's aren't overly kind to mediocre material. Hoping to test this I pulled out some live material from my archive, specifically some audience recordings from Phish's fall '98 tour. To say that the 805's were harsh would be an overstatement, but they certainly provided a clearer window into the fidelity of the recording than a more laid back speaker such as the Usher would.

Looking to mix things up a little bit, I turned to some New Orleans music, inspired by the recently concluded HBO series "Treme". New Orleans musician Steve Earle was a fixture on the first two seasons of Treme as an actor and performer, and it was through the series that I was first introduced to Earle's extensive catalog. The song "Invisible" off of "The Low Highway" is a beautiful tune, emblematic of Earl's delicate voice and acoustic licks.

Again, the song was beautifully represented by the 805's, with every nuance of Earl's delicate voice shining through.

To check out some female vocals, I grabbed another favorite from last year: Haim's "Days Are Gone". I was first introduced to the band after their appearance on Saturday Night Live in November and fell in love with their funky sound.

"The Wire" is perhaps the catchiest song on the album and a favorite of mine. This tune might have been one of the most enjoyable I listened to on the 805's. The speakers literally sung right along with song. Vocals were completely clean, precise and enjoyable. Percussions were exceptionally tight – this song really allowed the diamond tweeter to shine. Imaging was, again, flawless.

I first came to his hobby through movies and I was eager to see if the dynamic capabilities of the 805D and HTM4 would be capable of producing a pleasurable film experience.

I've always been a fan of stop-motion animation and was eager to catch up with last year's "Frankenweenie". This is a truly delightful and well-executed film from the same folks that created "The Nightmare Before Christmas".

I have absolutely no complaints with the B&W ability to keep up with a terrific movie soundtrack. Dynamics were tight, and all of that detail I mentioned above, added to the experience immensely. The sound stage was incredibly enveloping. Lightning cracks during the scene where Sparky is first resurrected were powerful and tight. During the assault on the town by the various undead pets, the combo shown by providing both detail and the pairing with the JL Audio F113's was absolutely superb.

A key reference heavy lifting scene for me is the confrontation between Voldemort and Dumbledore in the Department of Mysteries from "Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince". Though the Blu-ray disc is several years old at this point, the uncompressed PCM soundtrack is pristine and this scene in particular has a little bit of everything. My absolute torture test for speaker detail and dynamics falls specifically when Voldemort shatters all of the glass and hurls it at Dumbledore.

The B&W set-up handled this scene with ease, moving deftly from the high-powered effects the glass shattering to the subtleness of the sand landing as Dumbledore fends off the attack. Any tweeter must work overtime in this scene and

On more subtle material, such as last year's terrific "The Descendants", the B&W's did an equally fantastic job conveying the mood from the discs DTS-HDMA track. Dialog was clear and un-muddled and the movies terrific soundtrack of Hawaiian folk music sounded incredible.

As I experienced on the audio side, these speakers can fall towards "unkind" with mediocre material. On material of dubious quality provided via Time Warner Cable, the 805's let you know what you were hearing wasn't recorded all that well. Again, I never found them revealing to the point of fatigue, but you'll certainly know when the content isn't necessarily up to snuff or comparable with something from a high quality broadcast or Blu-ray. Go to Page 5: Conclusions