When you mention Bowers & Wilkins (B&W) audiophiles pay attention. So, apparently, does the monarchy. In 2005, the English loudspeaker company was awarded the UK’s most coveted commercial accolade, The Queens Award for Enterprise, taking out the innovation category for its renowned Nautilus Tapering Tube technology.
The result of five years of research, the Tapering Tubes first appeared in the company’s flagship Nautilus speaker and are now present in varying levels of engineering complexity throughout the B&W range, including the 15-strong 800 Series. The technology claims to reduce musical distortion through the Tubes’ ability to absorb the sound coming from the rear of a driver, ensuring it does not reflect back and affect the sound coming from the front of the driver.
In addition to Tapering Tube technology, the 800 Series benefits from an innovative 25 mm Diamond Dome tweeter. B&W says this new tweeter, found in models with the ‘D’ suffix, uses a fabric with ‘the exact chemical composition of diamonds’. This, the company says, creates ’absolute transparency and seamlessness to the whole midrange and treble region, bringing the listener close to that elusive ideal of actually being there’.
The 800 Series starts at $2,500, but cashed-up lovers of fine music will choose from among the six flagship models, which are characterised by a distinctive sphere/tube ‘head’ that sits proud of the wood cabinet. These utilise the Diamond Dome tweeter and a slew of other refinements, including a pair of 250 mm bass drivers featuring a cone with an 8 mm core made from Rohacell, a light, strong and rigid foam often used in aircraft construction, as well as a 150 mm Kevlar FST midrange-driver.
Cosmetics-wise, all models in the 800 series, including the two subwoofers, are available in cherrywood, rosenut or black ash finishes, and to eliminate the need for a join at the rear, a single piece of layered plywood is used to form the main curved part of the cabinet.
So which 800 Series model you buy? For home theatre work we’d recommend the ASW855 subwoofer ($6,000), the HTM1D ($14,000) centre channel and a pair of HTM2D ($7,000) for surround effects. For front stage duties, the logical choice would be the 800D which, at $35,000, is top of the 800 Series tree, and a very fine stereo pair indeed. On the other hand, if the step-down 801D model, which is installed in London’s Abbey Road Studios, were all that was available we certainly wouldn’t feel like we were settling for second best. And it’s a mere snip at $31,000.