● Design: 3-Way, Ported
● Drivers: One 1" Aluminum
Dome Tweeter, One 6"
Midrange, Two 6.5" Woofers
● MFR: 38 Hz - 22 kHz
● Crossover: 350 Hz, 4 kHz
● Sensitivity: 90 dB/2.83
● Nominal Impedance: 8 Ohms
● Dimensions: 40.2" H x 9.4"
W x 13.8" D
● Weight: 62 Pounds/Each
● MSRP: $4,000/Pair USA
Bowers & Wilkins
B&W (Bowers & Wilkins) speakers have been around since the 1960's when John Bowers and Peter
Hayward built the P1 using an EMI woofer and Celestion tweeter. By the end
of the decade they had constructed the DM70 entirely in house with a 12"
woofer and electrostatic midrange and tweeter. This was the beginning of
B&W's pursuit of loudspeaker perfection.
The journey led to what
some believe to be the perfect loudspeaker, the famous Nautilus. The snail
shaped design comes very close to zero cabinet colorization.
As with car companies and their race teams, the technology used for ultra
high end audio trickles down into the rest of the lineup. This is found in
the 804S with solid neutral construction that has separate internal chambers
and highly tuned drivers. It is nice to see so much value placed in the
construction of the cabinet.
With the 804S, right away you notice the almost separate spherical tapered
tube tweeter enclosure mounted on top and slightly back from the front
This is done in an attempt
to reduce internal resonance, edge diffraction, and time alignment errors.
Those are the kind of errors that keep engineers up at night, but most
people would never notice. With the entire 800 series, B&W has spent time
perfecting those seemingly inconsequential details, and it pays off, as the
804s is a highly refined natural-sounding speaker.
The rest of the cabinet also contains separate enclosures for each driver,
massive amounts of internal bracing, and flawlessly wrapped veneer.
Handling the midrange is
the interesting Kevlar FST (Fixed Suspension Transducer). This midrange
driver has an unusual surround edge that is designed to reduce unwanted
breakup caused when the surround edge flexes away from the cone as the
driver extends outward. The bass is supplied by a pair of 6.5” drivers that
utilize Rofacell, a plastic foam used extensively in high performance
automobiles. In this application it helps to reduce unwanted imperfections
in driver output caused by flexing and poor dampening.
The B&W 804S loudspeakers were sent along with a Rotel RB-1092 switching
amplifier which was connected to the pre-outs on my Marantz surround
The front left and right outputs were configured to full range and
used without a subwoofer. I also employed an Oppo 981-HD multi format player to test
CD SACD and HDCD playback.
The speakers are capable of being bi-wired/amped
and the Rotel stereo amplifier has four outputs for this (bi-wiring) use.
For my listening
tests I chose to use standard single wiring as the benefits provided by bi-wiring
are not clear to me as yet.
The speakers flanked my projection screen, which put the tweeters seven feet
apart and ten feet from my ears. This required minimal toe-in to achieve a
tight focused soundstage.
The height of the speakers places the tweeter
tad higher than my ears, but I am at least a tad shorter than
average. As well, the speakers have good
vertical dispersion, so the height issue was not a problem in my setup.
adjustable floor spikes were installed into the base which allowed me to
level the speaker on my thick carpet.
Jesse Cook's intricate guitar work and motivating percussion found on their
Free Fall disc reproduced cleanly, with good separation of instruments and
noticeable depth. The imaging of this finely crafted loudspeaker
complemented the passionate rumba-flamenco guitar playing, producing an
Strangely, the bass was not satisfying or full enough
for me, even though it is a big speaker. Lack of power surely was not
the problem seeing as the Rotel RB 1092 provides ample juice. There was
plenty of midrange and the top end was revealing and open without being too airy.
With this recording the soundstage and phantom center image can be smeared
when you are forced to place the speakers at such a wide distance. A great
track for this is "Viva".
The percussion fills in the stage, with guitar
pulling center duty.
With other speakers it is easy to lose the coherent
feeling just by moving your head a few inches off-axis. The B&W's were able
to define the soundstage without breaking up at multiple seating locations
on my couch.
The first SACD I played through the B&W's was Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. Right
away, the extended high frequency response was clear through these speakers. The
designers of the tweeter did a remarkable job that is evident with the
clock chime that opens up "Time". With Claire Torry's vocal solo in "Great Gig
In the Sky", there seemed to be no imperfections. This is a great test of
midrange and crossover quality as this solo has terrific range and emotion.
here, the bass was the weak point. Mind you the bass line in "Money" was full
of presence; it was the deeper bass that was lacking. This was clearly
evident with the heartbeat which had missing intensity. Given that bass is very
room-dependent, i.e., placement, this must be taken into consideration with your own
auditioning. Also, if more bass is desired, add a nice subwoofer.
Editor's Note: I
reviewed the 804S with a center channel speaker back in 2005, and the
bass response was good, so I suspect this is a room placement issue in
Jared's case. However, there really is not much option with front left/right
speaker placement, so the subwoofer solution is still the one to follow.
Also, the amount of bass is colored by the amount of distortion, with more
distortion being perceived as "more bass", when you take into account that
bass distortion is not necessarily unappealing. The 804S does not have a lot
of distortion in the low frequencies, and depending on what one has listened
to in the past, the 804S' lack of bass may just be a lack of distortion. I
consider the 804S to be superb, and I wanted to see how it performed in a
more conventional consumer-type environment, so I asked Jared to review them
as a follow-up to my original one.
When I finally obtained a CD player capable of decoding HDCD, I had a
difficult time finding a suitable disc. Seems not many of my favorite
artists have embrace this technology. The best example of the extra resolution
afforded by HDCD that I could find was Tool's Lateralus. This disc was
especially fun to listen to, as the B&W 804S were more than capable of
reproducing all the layers present in this progressive and loud album. The
detail and depth can often become lost with lesser speakers. These towers
were able to push the volume limits without distorting the music.
The detail and control were consistent through all volume levels. It was only
at very loud levels that the bass finally shone through. Fortunately this album
as with all of the Tool disc's begs to be turned up. Maynards melodic vocals
were consistently front and center. The heavy crunchy guitar and definitive
bass line had their own space and considerable separation. It is just too
bad that Danny Carey's drum set had to be subdued.
For Fathers Day, I stumbled upon a bluegrass cover of The Wall by Pink Floyd.
This strange melding of genres was done by Luther Wright and The Wrongs.
Canadian band lead by Luther Wright and one of the leading punkgrass bands
This album is more than The Wall, Banjo Style. They took every song
and made it their own. A highlight is the fun finger-picking "Hey You". They
somehow retain the
dark feel and yet get your toes tapping and hands
The multiple string instruments all clearly have their own space.
The drum kit has depth, and the vocals are firmly planted in the center.
"Comfortably Numb" sounds like it was supposed to be done this way. The
accompanying female vocals are found just off-center when used in the
chorus. The high-hat and percussion comes through cleanly in amongst all the
layers. At one point there is a metal guitar to the left and a banjo to the
right. The two instruments extend the soundstage seamless beyond the
speakers. This recording is heavy on the mid-bass which masks some of the
low bass output.
B&W has produced a solid, well-built tower with exceptional attention to
detail, as one would expect at this price level. The design and construction
are well thought out and executed. Ample bracing, solid high quality drivers
and gorgeous veneer work all combine to create one high-grade speaker. Quite
an undertaking for a level entry speaker – the 804S is the entry floor-standing speaker in the 800 series.
The unique placement and construction of the tweeter fill out the top end
smoothly, with no audible crossover holes. The midrange and mid-bass sections
are very pleasing, providing solid bass lines and natural vocals. The only
area I found lacking was the bass output, but that was in my room, and is
something easily remedied with a subwoofer, of which B&W has several.
Jared Rachwalski -
Rotel RB-1092 Amplifier
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