B&W 802 Diamond

Syd -- Thu, 11/11/2010 - 19:48

I really enjoyed reading your recent review of this speaker. I would be interested in your opinion as to whether the 802 Diamond is fully competitive with speakers in the Wilson Sasha or Magico V3's league even though the B&W's are not priced in their league. As you point out in your review, B&W does enjoy economies of scale in manufacturing, without which these speakers may well be priced similarly to the Sasha's and V3's or perhaps even higher given the elaborate "physical" nature of their design?
- Syd. 

staxguy -- Mon, 11/22/2010 - 16:08

Don't you think that the 802 Diamonds are priced high enough for what they offer? :) ($15,000/pair) Your "economies of scale" argument perhaps applies to the $9000/pair savings over the 800 Diamonds ($24,000/pair), but we'll have to see what Robert and others say re: Wilson Sasha or Magico V3! The old Matrix III Series 802's -with stands- are going for just over $2000 on audiogon right now (originally $4,500/pair), but that's not a fair comparison, either: you can see how prices of B&W have risen - perhaps their costs have, equally...
The local B&W dealer here also has Wilson Audio in his line up, so I can do a comparison for you if no-one else chimes in.
Best regards,

Syd -- Mon, 11/22/2010 - 21:25

That would be very interesting comparison. Let me know what you think if you get to hear them. The "economies of scale" point was actually made by Robert Harley in his review of the speaker in the latest issue of TAS  That's what prompted me to start this thread in the first place.

He hasn't chimed in yet. I hope he does though...
- Syd

mcduman -- Tue, 11/23/2010 - 09:57

scale economies is such an old fashioned and overused term. did not it remain in the early days of the industrial age? since when does one make a purchase decision of an aston martin or patek or hi-end end speakers with diamond tweeters on the  basis of existence of economies of scale? this is ridiculous, we are not talking about a kitchen robot or a dishwasher.
i am not denying that the marginal benefit (mb) of selling an additional  802 Diamond is greater than the marginal cost (mc) of producing it so B&W is always better off selling more 802 Diamonds and can lower its sales price until mc=mb. and yes, if you sell more, you spread your fixed costs over a greater number of units etc. but this is such economics 101. it is not what hi-fi is all about. unfortunately, it is also one of the cliches that should have been taken out of the audiophile vocabulary a long time ago. i am surprised experienced writers like RH still use this term and actually  think we as customers naively believe in this.
1. how do you make sure that B&W passes additional savings made by way of scale economies on to the customer? if i were their shareholder, i would prefer higher margins.
2. how do you know that when you lower your price you actually sell more in the world of enthusiast hi-fi? one could argue the opposite: the higher your prices, the broader attention you get for your products. if you decrease the cover price of TAS, do you sell 100,000 copies instead of 50,000. no, because the market is small and relatively price-insensitive.
3. in hi-fi, margins are high enough to keep even smaller players in the game. dealers earn a  margin too. so to what extent do you think scale economies will impact the final sales price to the consumer?
i can go on and on. i am just trying to make a point that even industry insiders like RH make remarks without thinking and try to justify the purchase decision of a limited number luxury item with a poor understanding of outdated economics principles.



staxguy -- Tue, 11/23/2010 - 17:43

Nice reply.

David Matz -- Thu, 11/25/2010 - 23:41

Mcduman, nice post. I want to clarify a couple of things.

I agree with you that audio products are more like "experiences" and luxury products, rather than run of the mill manufactured products. Obviously costs should be covered by the price, but the price should be determined by the perceived value of the product. So there is always that psychological component at play that drives the perceived value with this type of a product. However, most audio companies are run by amateur business people who do not understand this and instead use some kind of a cost multiplier to price their product. Some of the things that will drive the perceived value are brand image, product looks, reputation, scarcity of the products, esoteric sounding parts used, what the dealer's store looks like, etc. Ultimately, the value of the brand will be determined by the buzz from the press and the customers who are able to vouch that the speaker or component can bring that great audio experience into their lives.

With that said, I disagree with you that economies of scale is a "dead" concept. Economic fundamentals have not gone away. (Most people thought basic economics did not apply during the dot com era either, but they did just chose to ignore economics at a great cost to their investments.) RH is absolutely right on about using economies of scale to lower internal company costs. The lower the costs, the more of the savings can be passed on to the consumer. The shareholder is looking for the company board to hire the most experienced management who know the business and price the product just right. You don't want to price the product too high or too low. You want the price that will maximize the profits. Having lower costs gained through economies of scale allows companies to price the product to maximize the profits.

Having heard these speakers several times, I believe RH's sonic description in the review is right on. I also regret he did not directly compare the speaker to other similarly or higher priced speakers, but I guess he did not have the others in his home.

Elliot Goldman -- Tue, 11/23/2010 - 13:26

Come on man , be real. This is where RH hits the speed bumps everytime. You shoul dknow better by now my friend.

KeithR -- Tue, 11/23/2010 - 17:20

Agreed. RH doesn't even compare speakers in his reviews anymore.

Robert Harley -- Tue, 11/23/2010 - 20:30

The 802D doesn't have the midrange transparency and resolution of the Wilson Sasha or the Magico V3. The B&W has a smoother treble balance than the V3 and greater treble dynamics. The V3's bass is much leaner and tighter than that of the 802D. The Sasha's bass is the best of the three. I would rank the three speakers overall in this order: Sasha, V3, 802D.
I think economy of scale is a valid point to raise; a company that can amortize R&D over a large number of units, along with relatively large-scale production, can deliver more performance for the money than a company that manufactures in smaller quantities.

Sam -- Wed, 11/24/2010 - 03:35

I am lost with how you rate the V3 so highly and some others in your magazine think its not even a good speaker. How can experts differ to such a huge extent?

Elliot Goldman -- Wed, 11/24/2010 - 10:37

Its only one persons opinion! Take it for what it is worth.

T_Bop -- Sat, 12/25/2010 - 14:11

The 802D sound like a great speaker but seems to be punching out of it's weight class in your ranking. I was wondering how you would rank the 802D against say the Magico V2, the Wilson Sophia, and the YG Carmel?

7ryder -- Wed, 11/24/2010 - 00:36

RH -
Nice review.  I was wondering what the dimensions are of your new room and where both you and the 802 Diamonds ended up being placed in relationship to the walls and each other when you got them dialed in?  Thanks.

Robert Harley -- Wed, 11/24/2010 - 14:11

Thanks for the comment about the review. The new room is 22' long, 19' wide (if you include the open hallway), and has a ceiling that slopes from 14' to 21'. My head was 65" from the rear wall, and the 802D's front baffle was 80" from the wall behind the speakers.

a2k2000 -- Mon, 06/13/2011 - 14:29


I have a 16.5 feet by 15.5 feet by 9 feet Home Theater Room. I listened to a wide aray of speakers and shortlisted 3 speakers.

1. B&W 802 Diamonds
2. Sonus Faber Cremona M
3. YG Acoutics - Carmel ( I havent listened to them as my dealer does not have them)

Which one of these speakers would you reccommend?

Syd -- Wed, 11/24/2010 - 15:39

I'm glad this thread finally took off after remaining stagnant for a while.... It doesn't have the "liveliness" of the Q5 thread, but it has potential!

RH - Thanks for Elaborating on your review and providing the comparison's I asked for.

Elliot/Staxguy/Mcduman - In the spirit of full disclosure, I owned a pair of 802 Nautilus (non diamond version) for some time. Even though I've moved on, I still like to keep up with how the speaker has evolovied since the time I owned them. For better or worse, that's one of the ways I enjoy this hobby.
Happy Turkey Day!
- Syd

villager -- Mon, 11/29/2010 - 10:57

Your review of the B&W 802 Diamond included a comment about an essential  upgrade from Straight Wire for the Lynx AES card break out cable from your music server. Have you compared the Straight Wire cable with other brand offerings? Or simply with the Lynx cable?

Robert Harley -- Mon, 12/27/2010 - 11:57

I have tried one other aftermarket cable (from Belden) and found that the Straight Wire was the best.

dobermann -- Sun, 07/31/2011 - 04:07

 Hi there
This might be an outdated question.. but how does the B&W compare to the Maggie20.1? Or other speakrs in the price range to the Maggies? As I am seriusly considering them, and whre i come form, its difficult to audition everything in that range.
Thanks again

staxguy -- Sun, 07/31/2011 - 11:37

Hi there. Can anyone recommend a more resolving (but also, good dynamics, impulse response and frequency extension) speaker than the B&W 802 diamond? I really liked this speaker, but still found it sound too "hi-fi" and not musical - a bit like a toy speaker. It was "100 times" better than the 803 diamond, which I found bad, and I also  liked the Linn Magic speakers, which were very musical, but not incredibly life-like sounding - good, like the 802 diamond, but not good enough to actually buy.

I listened to the 802 diamonds with Classe CTM-600M 600W monoblock amps, and a Classe upsampling CD player, so the source should of been decent enough to hear the speaker characteristics, and they were certainly well driven to deliver thunderous tight electronic bass lines.
I was thinking along the Tidal or Rockport lines - or are these not very resolving? The Wilson Sophia 3 sounded very good playing music in the background for a party, etc. - very relaxing, but yet still very distorted and harsh compared to a less complex speaker like the Fidelity Acoustics RFM-3, with a 1st order crossover, and good parts.
Is Magico the best/only option, if I want a speaker better in every respect from the B&W 800 diamond line, or would I be unhappy with the Magico bass Q5/Q3, compared to the 802 diamond, etc? Is there a perfect subwoofer to mate with the magico to get impactful but accurate bass?
Does something like the NOLA baby grand reference deliver any of the 802 hi fi magic, but add real resolution past 16-bit 44.1 sources (allowing for good SACD or 24/192 playback to be heard, or good analogue). The 802 diamonds sounded great enough for 16/44.1 as did the Linn magic line, resolution wise, and 20 years ago, I would have been more than happy with both speakers, but now I want something to sound better than my Stax Omega 2 phones with SRM-007t amp, and better by a long mile, if we are talking north of BMW.
The party line seems to be that the 800 diamond or 802 diamond are priced cheaply as they are produced by B&W, but are competitive with 3x and above more expensive boutique speakers, due to their B&W design and production. To compare, I've only heard up to the Wilson Sasha W/P and the Focal Scala Upopia III, but these are mid-end, and not really boutique hi-fi, like I would see listed on higherfi.com and elsewhere for sale, by mail.
I'll listen to the Revel Ultima Salon II's with new Mark Levinson electronics next, and then Avalon Indra's with Ayre KX-R/MX-R amplifcation.
Ideally, I would like to pay less than great sports car, and hopefully a super-car for my next set of speakers, so that's my general price range.

It's hard to find the most talked about high-end gear in town.


staxguy -- Sat, 08/11/2012 - 11:26

I listened to the Revel Ultimate Studio 2's (with ML No326s pre, Anthem M1 monoblocks), and would give it 80%. Focal Grand Utopia III EM's, 90%. The Revel couldn't do acoustic music as acoustic music, but excelled in pop and electronica. With the Anthem amps, it felt there was limitless free-of-breakup headroom for listening, and even partying: a solid monitor. The Focals could do acoustic instruments as live, honest.

Heading to New York to listen to Magico, and wish to hear the Sanders 10c.

Since it's been a while since I've heard the 802 B&W's, am re-interested : not as listening loudspeakers, but as affordable mastering and monitoring speakers. Also now interested in the Stax 009, after hearing the Audeze LCD-2, LCD-3, and Sennheiser 800's together : want something completely better than the 007's, not only in one respect, and worse in other ways.

The Audeze LCD-2's would be good affordable monitors at $1000. Good for basement home-recordings for amusement and hobby.
Will recommend them to a friend.

oldears -- Tue, 09/11/2012 - 17:39

What I find amzing, is that with the 802DII, I can listen to and enjoy all of my music. My tastes are very broad, from large scale orchestra, through chamber, rock,pop,folk, jazz just about all styles except country! In the past I have owned large panels, and found I was limited to really enjoying only "Audiophile" music- small ensembles jazz and vocals.So to my mind they have got something very right in the setup of these speakers. I am now enjoying a lot more of my music. I have not heard Wilson's in my system but when I have heard Watt/puppy's they have seemed cold/accurate with slam, but lacking in "emmotion", might have been the Levinson amps? I suppose with speakers of this kind it comes down to personal preference. I would listen to a broad range of your favourite music when auditioning speakers, and see which one handles everything you like. I am largely a valve man so value mid range and warmth! A common error in auditioning speakers, I believe, is to only listen to "Audiophile Demo Music", this music will make just about anything sound good!!
The purpose of the hifi is not to Demo to fiends, but rather for you to enjoy your music.
As regards economies of scale, I agree with David, I think it is very valid. Also realise that price is a marketing tool, and not related to real world production costs with respect to luxury goods. If a Rolex was $500.00 no one would aspire to owning one, or a Ferrari for $40,000.00 for that matter!! Notice how all cable manufacturers, now have a range with at least one model priced way up in the stratosphere, it plays on our psychology because we believe if it costs more, it must be better. Even B&W have the Nautilus, unfortunately the local dealer won't play them for me, possibly because I didn't arrive in my Veyron! At this level all the speakers mentioned are great, which one you like depends on your system and personal preference, and knowing they are great, you can tailor the sound to your liking with cables, positioning, room treatments etc. The decision is complex, and in high end circles a big attraction seems to be rarity, and cost, hence a lot of the scepticism with respect to the ubiquitous B&W range.

staxguy -- Wed, 09/26/2012 - 20:07

Which amplifier(s) do you use to drive your 802DII? I've heard them with NAIM NAC 300, Classe CT-M600, McIntosh MC601's, and Devialet D-Premier integrated.

How do you get live and engaging sound out of them, while still maintaining their detail and relative neutrality?

oldears -- Thu, 09/27/2012 - 00:48

 Hi Staxguy, 
I am using Nuforce Ref 9V3, I think the control they have over the bass is unbelievable. In terms of the top end, I have controlled that with Van den hull The First Ultimate Cables, which I found recessed this a bit. While all the detail was there, I found it a bit overwhelmed by the mid and bass. I have since put the Vanden Hul "The Mountains" in, which I think gives a better balance from top to bottom. It is not at all harsh or edgy with these interconnects, but the top end is a little more forward. 
I feel that in this league, you know the equipment is good, it's then a case of system synergy, and tailoring the sound to your taste. Tonight I will be trying out Bakoon amps on the setup, last time I found them not as good in terms of controlling the bass, as the Nu force. Have never heard the Devialet, although all accounts are that they are superb. I suspect it is the shear power in Watts and the damping factor that is important in this regard. (bass).
I have never found them to be topy and harsh, except when I have used my olg Kimber KTAG interconnects. Overall I think it is system synergy that is important, which may include some sound treatment, but mine is mainly in the form of thick curtains and furnishings, rather than dedicated "Hi-fi" traps and diffusers. The last thing I want is a dedicated "Hi-fi" room stuck away where I have to go to listen, I like my music in the living area where I can enjoy it while going about normal life!

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