B&W 802 d4 vs 803 d4 (vs Sonus Faber Serafino G2?)

Just for laughs, here are our test subjects in our listening area. Yes, the B&W are probably too close to the fireplace, but the SF work perfectly there.


Sonus Faber Serafino G2 in “Wenge Wood” (I prefer the Violin Red)


B&W 803 d4 in gloss black.


(not a great photo, but shows relative sizes)

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I just can’t persuade SWMBO that the speakers on the left are aesthetically pleasing!

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Was/is she scared of daleks?

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Definitely a Dalek look, isn’t it? :laughing:

I think they look better from above or from the side, when the “sculptural” (ahem) quality is more evident. But I was surprised that, following SWMBO’s veto of the KEF Blades, she didn’t seem so concerned about the pair of Daleks flanking our fireplace. I guess they’re relatively small Daleks…

A friend of a friend had a real dalek in his house - it was huge by comparison.
…I never thought: I could have bought a pair to make into speakers!

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They’re not real you know, it’s only a TV show … :wink:

Hey D.C I listen to a wide range. I have teenage daughters so it now encompasses whatever is currently “hot” in the pop world too! I guess if pushed I’d say I listen to a fairly even mix of jazz, classic rock/pop, electronic, acoustic/vocal, hip hop, soul and pop. I don’t listen to classical a lot at this point but I am certainly beginning to appreciate it more. The Amatis are just really amazing all rounders, hence one of the reasons I was drawn to them. Equally capable with Bill Evans as Run the Jewels.

As noted further up thread the midrange is frankly golden. Strings are insanely natural and vocals (in a good mix) are I think as close to life as I think I’ll ever get. My room looks similar in size to yours but I have a concrete floor that’s carpeted. It’s fairly lively, hence one of the reasons why I don’t think the Chord Sarum really worked.

If the majority of the music you listen to is classical and/or acoustic I’m not sure the step up to the Amati is needed. It really depends how important the really low end is to you? With that type of music the Serafinos sound very very similar. The bass capability isn’t just about recreating the very low notes though, for me it has an impact on the overall scale and immersion of the music and that’s why especially with jazz and electronic music the Amatis were worth the extra.

Personally I would try cables at home once you’ve decided on your speakers. If your dealer can’t/won’t arrange cable loans then perhaps buying secondhand is a good option as if you don’t like them you can resell and not loose anything. The Sarum T might work really well for you :slight_smile:

I went with the graphite due to other items in the room and the decor. It’s not really graphite though - in bright light it clearly has a brown tone! They do look stunning though. If you have more flexibility then the red make a real statement. Very classy!

Good luck

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Many thanks @WhiskyGuy - this is really helpful!

Same for me: it’s that greater sense of atmosphere and authority. I must see if I can audition these back-to-back with the Serafinos.

I did try the previous Amatis (G4) next to the current (G2) Serafinos and couldn’t detect much difference in the LF response; I believe that the Amati G5 has more powerful bass drivers though. At the top end, these new speakers are demonstrably superior to their predecessors, aren’t they?

DC it looks from your pictures your room might be on the bright side? Also I’m not a fan of the Naim Naca5. I suspect that better cables could make a big difference. I think that the Sonus will in the long run be a musical choice. It’s to bad you can’t demo big ProAc’s say K6 Signature, or Wilson’s, Dynaudio Confidence 30’s or 40’s the Dynaudio’s have arguably the best dome tweeter in the Esotar 3 … I think you’d love the Dynaudio’s

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Thanks for the suggestions, opus.

There’s some reverberation but the ceiling is so tall and the room extends so far back behind the seating position that most of the sound is lost in the distance. I do need to think about room treatment at some point though…

People don’t seem to like this cable, do they? Truth be told, I originally bought it to go with my (then) Naim amplifier: impedance matching or something?! My problem is the large cable run required (ca. 2 x 10m), which makes premium cables stonkingly expensive.

Agreed - but I know that my wife would veto either of the Dynaudio’s on size/height grounds, and the Wilson’s on aesthetic grounds (and probably the ProAc too…). The Sonus Faber are the first speakers she’s actually liked the appearance of, and that means a lot. (Surprisingly though she didn’t freak out at the B&W Daleks - perhaps because they’re relatively low slung: the “death ray” tweeters are barely above the rear bookshelf).

If it were entirely up to me, we’d have the KEF Blade 1 or Blade 2 Meta…

Is there anyway to reduce the speaker cable distance? 10 meters of speaker cable isn’t doing you any good sonically. Really not good.

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I’ve 3.5, 5, 6 and 12 m runs of nac a5. The 12 m runs sound by far the best and are my retirement fund in case I want to retire.

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Also are you using the Dave as the preamp?

Could you position the Ultima close to (e.g. between, or behind one) of the speakers, use short speaker cable (no loading of amp required as with old Naim power amps) and feed from Dave via decent balanced cable, e.g. Mogami, saving the cost and potential adverse effect of such long speaker cables.

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You stole my idea IB! FYI the OP is using a Chord Ultima 5 power amplifier. @d.c.palmer you could put the Power Amp behind the left channel speaker on a stand then you could use better and shorter speaker cables. Before someone chimes in the don’t need to be the exact same length. Then run balance cable to the Ultima

Your asking about Dave reminded me the OP had that and the Ultima (no worries about gripping speakers there!) . The talk of long speaker cables made the solution obvious!

Yes - works brilliantly and keeps the sound chain as pure as possible. (Did try a Chord preamp at the dealer and it made the sound muddier.)

For any other Chord users out there: I am using the RCA output from the DAVE into the Ultima, NOT the “Balanced” output that Chord recommends. Why? Because DAVE requires an extra bit of circuitry to generate a “balanced” output and this audibly (though subtly) degrades the sound. We went through this quite a bit on the Head-Fi forum and when I did back-to-back tests of the same cable (1.5m length of Audioquest Black Beauty) in RCA vs Balanced forms, the differences were audible. Obviously, for much larger cable runs you’d be better off for balanced - but not here. Rob Watts confirmed this on the forum at the time.

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Thanks for the suggestion. Could try this - in fact, my excellent dealer here in Oxford suggested the same. Problem is, it does rather mess up our layout - and doesn’t address the point that with the existing layout the 803s are able to generate a much brighter sound.

Ultimately, I think we’re dealing with different “baked in” audio signatures - the treble in the (otherwise exquisite) Sonus Fabers being deliberately dipped in the “presence region” presumably to reduce “listening fatigue”. I think that’s a shame, but who am I to argue with the designers?

Thanks again for all the suggestions re. speaker cables/lengths. I will see if we can try something out here in the hope that the Serafino high-frequency “dip” can be ameliorated.

In the meantime, having “run in” the 803s for over 120h, their sound has improved considerably: much richer mid range and bass compared to the thin sounding speakers I had originally auditioned. However, the Serafino G2 sounds better for pretty much all my music (chamber, vocal, opera, choral, orchestral) except in two cases:-

  1. Solo piano, where I prefer the brighter tone of the 803 with its sharper transient “attack”.

  2. Some (but not all) vocal and operatic music, where the higher-frequency headroom lets female voices soar to more ecstatic heights. (Opera lovers will know exactly what I mean.)

For everything else - including piano concertos - there is simply no contest. The Serafino G2 are that good. Yes, I’d like a tad more bass (wouldn’t we all?) but these are incredible in their ability to present subtle orchestral details, instrument layering, separation - in even the most complex works. And they do drama as well. Recent revelations have included:-

  1. Vaughan-Williams Sea Symphony (EMI/Haitink) - totally expected 803s to sweep the board here, but no: the Serafinos presented a much broader, richer and subtly-nuanced sound picture, but still with great dramatic impact, especially on the opening brass notes.

  2. Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 (DG/Argerich/Dutoit). Again, for such a bold, dramatic work, I again expected the 803s to win. They failed completely, with flabby bass and muddled mid tones, next to the exquisite mid-range detail of the Serafinos (and still with no loss of orchestral impact).

  3. That other great “warhorse” of a piano concerto, Rachmaninov 2 (I have two recordings: Decca/Ashkenazy/Haitink; Channel Classics/Fedorova/Pitrenas). Same results as for the Tchaikovsky.

  4. Puccini La Rondine (CBS/Maazel/Te Kanawa/Domingo) Voices are presented with holographic ease. Yes, the 803s add a higher-frequency edge, which makes the vocal line easier to follow, but the mid-range clarity and imaging of the Serafinos makes up for this somewhat.

So I’m back to the start; would the larger B&W 802 d4 make up the lost ground: we have the clarity of the diamond tweeter and no doubt a more-authoritative bass; it’s the mid range (and “holographic” imaging) that we need to establish. Perhaps I need a trip down to Worthing…

No, this isn’t the solution. I have the 803s right next to the Serafinos and one has a bright, incisive treble; the other has a more muted, “rounded off” treble. Same speaker cables!

We tried short lengths of Chord Sarum T in the dealership and it made little if no difference to the Serafinos. This is clearly a “baked in” sound profile, as one can see from the prominent dip in the frequency response between 1K and 10K:-


(this is for the larger, Amati G5, but as it shares the same mid-range and tweeter units, we can compare it; full review in HiFi News, [https://www.hifinews.com/content/sonus-faber-homage-amati-g5-loudspeaker-lab-report].

Contrast this with the 803 d4:-


Not quite at the KEF Reference level, is it?! The prominent peaks between 1K and 10K would explain the brighter nature of this speaker. Full review in HiFi News, [https://www.hifinews.com/content/bw-803-d4-loudspeaker-lab-report].

I think a second problem with the Serafino G2 is that perhaps they’re not quite as fast as the 803s: I’m not getting that initial transient on piano notes (and solo violin, for that matter). Now, my wife and younger son both prefer this softer sound, but I’m not so convinced.