Are B&Ws a love/hate speaker?

I was just catching up on all the forum going’s on this evening and had read the B&W 802 vs 803 thread with some interest. Obviously at that level you’re getting close to the best on offer. For models down range, I’m interested to hear whether there are those out there that swear by B&W. As in have have multiple iterations throughout the hifi journey.

I don’t get a sense that there is a massive group that are big supporters, but also don’t see a lot of folks dismissing them either.

My own experience of CM7s with a NAD C375 was completely lacklustre - dull and flat, which I thought was a factor of the NAD amplification. Something more lively seems like an obvious solution, but I don’t see a ton of support here…

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I have no personal experience of B&W 'speakers, but the impression that I have - from what I haver read on this Forum - is that they present a very difficult load even for a Naim power amplifier, and that people tend to steer clear of them for this reason.

Of course, that impression may be wrong, but that is the reputation that they have.

that makes complete sense given my experience

Doesn’t “love or hate” apply to all speakers? (Well, maybe not necessarily those extremes, though superlatives seem to be the norm on this forum.) Some people love PMC speakers, others don’t like them. Some think Focals are great, others can’t get far enough away from them. Some love Linn Kans, others would hate them. Sone people love miniscule standmounts with no bass, others can’t stand them.

Speakers are the component that have the greatest contribution to the sound character of a system (which is the reason that I believe choosing the roght speaker is infinitely more important than the source). This was first brought home to me almost 50 years ago when I did a mammoth audition of 13 speakers, all in the same quite high price bracket*. Considering that they all had received very good reviews, with most being the flagship of their respective manufacturers’ ranges, I was surprised and amazed at how different they all sounded - ten sounded so bad to my ears that I rejected within the first couple of minutes. Yet at least one of those is loved even now by a number of forum members.

(*Inflation equates to something like £2.5-£3k today, but there weren’t very many speakers priced significantly higher in those days, and at least some of those speakers if made today would be 2-3x that.)


Yes, definitely people fall into camps over speakers, and there are always the flag carriers for certain brands. So love/hate might be the oversimplified expression - polarising better perhaps? I’ve not run into those that say ‘I’d never seriously consider (fill in the blank - ATC, ProAC, etc.)’ here but have had a few interactions w folks off-forum that have said that about B&W

I was a B&W fan when I was younger as I owned the CDM 1SE for more than a decade. I briefly tried the N805 but went back to the CDM 1 SE. I left B&W and tried other speakers many years ago but the B&Ws did give me joy during my younger days.

I’m not sure how the current higher level B&Ws sound but I have no interest to find out as there are many other good alternatives around. In fact, too many.

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I Love my 805 D3 SE. They’re the only B&W model I’ve heard…except maybe those ‘Nautilus’ whatnots a long time ago.

I’ve picked up a similar impression: B&W are not Forum Favourites like the commonly posted makers*

I don’t know why this should be, but tbh I don’t really think about it or, bluntly, care too much.

  • I’ve not heard them as I don’t really ‘audition’ stuff or go to hifi shows.

On the specific subject of B&W, the only model I’ve heard is the 802D2. I certainly didn’t hate it, but the PMC MB2 at the same price point that I auditioned on the same occasion was simply better to my ears. I would love to hear their Nautilus - the original one, coiled shell shaped, and which is still available new today. Based on its design alone, I expect to like its sound - but who knows? At £90k new I doubt I’ll ever find out!

When I was younger I was a B&W fan like @ryder, indeed I started my Hi-Fi journey with a couple of B&W DM602 paired with a NAD amp. I was really in love with them. Then I tried more B&Ws, also some hi-end models such as the 801, 802, Signature Diamonds, etc. The only model that really stood out for me were the Signature Diamond (great soundstage and presence), others felt flat and soulless to my ears. In the end I moved away from B&W, however I do wonder if the models I tried were unproperly matched to their systems.

Still enjoy my B&W DM4 on the Nova.


They are not on my shortlist of speakers if I were to change from Audiovector. Love or hate is too much for any speaker brand.

I’m glad you do, in the end it’s just a matter of personal taste and how your Hi-Fi journey evolves.

I have one friend with a 500 system who loves his 802s, loved the 803s he had before, and has several sets of B&Ws around his house.

I have another friend who like me has 808s and neither of us likes B&W speakers. I have never heard a pair of B&W 802 or 803 speakers that I have really liked - never made me want to sit down and listen. Unlike Kudos Titan 505 and 808

Speaker preferences are very personal


this is what’s on my mind. for a speaker so ‘popular’ it’s got to be doing something right. i also wonder if i just had a bad match with that NAD. flat and soulless is how i would have described it as well.

upon reflection, i recall playing those CM7s through my UQ as well, but that setup is clearly underpowered…

i’m actually thinking about a pair of 702S2s to just see if I’m missing something.

It’s more about how they look than sound.
The Original matrix 800 and 801 was definitely thrashed with the ugly stick.
Later additions put some well considered industrial design into their speakers - although still divided opinion.

@Maury_Finkle I enjoyed my DM602 paired with a NAD amp (now I can’t at all) and I’m sure B&W speakers have do to something right, however I wonder what that really is these days.

Last year I also tried the 700s S3 and the 804s, still my idea hasn’t changed at all. I struggle to like them. By the way I’m open to change idea if the right matching comes along.

@TOBYJUG my DM602 didn’t look cool at all, except for the kevlar driver.

This was my last pair of speakers (I still own them, but they should be put up for sale), I had them paired with a Uniti Star. I auditioned multiple speakers/brands, and these paired wonderfully to my and my gf ears.

Of course, it also depends on the music, when auditioning, these were best allround, some others were better with specific pieces of music. And in the past I’ve heard B&W which didn’t sound good at low volume, but these didn’t have that issue.

When he brought an NDX2 and an ND555 round to my place for a home demo my dealer commented that it was the first time he’d ever enjoyed B&W800 series speakers (which they did carry). He was amazed how well my 135s controlled the 2007 vintage 804S, I suspect a lot of it is system and room dependent. I’ve enjoyed music on mine for 17 years, I’ve also heard B&W systems sound unpleasant to my ears.
3 or 4 years ago there was a poll on what brands of speakers people were using with 500 series Naim, and IIRC B&W came second or third after Naim first. Can’t find that poll at the moment.

Edited again to say I’ve found the original thread, it wasn’t a poll, @Innocent_Bystander kindly collated the results in a spreadsheet, I think this was his final outcome.


super interesting - thanks!

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I have had the 804D3, the smaller floor stander of the diamond series, for more than 8 years now in one of my systems. Yes it is very much a love/hate relationship as I’ve moved a few times during that period and, each time, they are very challenging to set up. L/R distance matters a lot, as does toe-in, and electronics pairing; that’s the hate part. However, once everything gels, it is such an engaging listen, with impressive clarity and detail, dynamics, and low end that extends beyond what it’s allowed to. Love love love.