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In Reply to: B&W Nautilus 804 - review posted posted by JerryS on October 30, 2004 at 12:17:32:
What I find fascinating is that the things you say are great about N804s are precisely the things I feel they do the worst.
1. The tweeter has an obvious, measured peak ~9.5kHz
2. There's a dip between the midrange/tweeter causing a clear separation between the drivers.
3. There's a dip between the midrange/woofer causing a clear separation between the driver
4. The extra harmonics added by the Kevlar, combined with phase problems and mediocre off-axis response causes flaky imaging that doesn't hold up except in one spot in the room.
5. Bass is peaky and lightweight, so your room would have to be extremely complementary to sound good.
6. Construction quality isn't poor, but not nearly as good as the marketing materials and reputation, such that it is, would imply. They aren't terribly heavy speakers and aren't any more densely constructed than some well done $1000 tower speakers of similar size.
7. The harmonics and resonances produced by the Kevlar, exacerbated by the FST design, make the speaker seem tweaky, demanding, and critical. However, it's just the sound of cone resonances that you won't find on better drivers from SEAS, ScanSpeak, Vifa, Focal and others. You can read more about good speaker design at the link below.
That being said, it's nice that you had good things to say, but if you can't hear any of the above, the review becomes highly suspect. All speakers have flaws and if you can't hear them, reviewing might not be your calling. I apologize, as much as I can, in advance, but Bose is proof positive that "reputation", great reviews, popularity, great marketing materials, high price, etc is not a reliable indicator of quality. Extrapolate as needed.
Not being very familiar with B&W's maybe I'm not very qualified to respond but thought I would anyway because I to feel the B&W's aren't all that. Some years ago I heard a pair of floor standing B&W's in a home then months later some smaller ones at a dealer. Don't know the model numbers/names but the big ones sounded dreadful to me. The midrange screamed like bad out of phase midrange horns too small to handle the mids. Kind of a gargle/crackle, close yet distant phasy sound and I couldn't take more than a minute of listening. The smaller B&W's were ho hum and the salesman neglected to tell me he had a subwoofer on until I asked how B&W got such good bass from such a small cabinet. The subwoofer went off and the B&W's alone didn't have much bass, or anything else for that matter. I figured to each their own and I'm not in a rush to hear a B&W again.
John...just curious as to what specific speakers you do like and highly recommend for full range dynamics (less than say $3000)? thanks
Well, I'll keep it to stuff I don't sell and have heard:
1. PSB Stratus Goldis - A little dated, but smooth, powerful, dynamic. Lacking mainly in resolution and have more soundstage than precision imaging, but are an exceptional pure R&R speaker.
2. Paradigm Studio 100s (V1/V2) - Dynamic and detailed sounding. A little bright, but good construction and good integration. A good alternative to B&Ws as they're a better value, but have a similar sound, but not as pronounced and far more accurate.
3. Thiel CS2.3 - These have probably topped $3K by now, but I believe they came out under $3K originally and seem to rise in price every year. Or is that the 2.4 now? Anyway, groovy if not terribly deep bass, excellent soundstage and imaging. A little thin in the lower midrange, but they do have some superb characteristics not found in some other high-end speakers. Not good for high volume listening though as they get shrill at high volumes as the limitations of the 1st order crossover becomes apparent.
That's all I can think of off hand. I'm sure I'm missing something obvious, but it's not coming to me. To be honest, I'm out in BF SouthWest where there's not much good competition to listen to. One of the things that I see that is screwed up is the trend towards smaller, peakier, more midbassy drivers instead of good single large woofers that do well at low frequencies. It just doesn't make sense to use a 6" driver for a midrange and then 2 or 3 6" drivers for bass. 2.5-way designs also don't make sense. 8" is the bare minimum size for a woofer in a 3-way design, but 10" or 12" typically is better. The incredible shrinking woofer(s) has more to do with making a speaker easier to sell than actually sounding better. Women like small, narrow cabinets. The woofers on the B&W N804/N803 are too small and compromised. The woofer on the N801 is too big and was marketing driven. The N802/N800 actually make sense for the midrange.
". It just doesn't make sense to use a 6" driver for a midrange and then 2 or 3 6" drivers for bass."
Umm your describing the Paradigms - I'd agree on the V2 the V1 was overly shrill and had apparently horrible treble. The V2 I found a better buy than the CDM 9NT just because the 9NT was SOOOOOOO expensive(double the price) and the 100V2 did most everything just as well. So in this regard I'd agree. You'll probably be woefully dissapointed in the V3 which has a hollow sounding effect in the midrange and poor bass and dynamics for a speaker that went up $500.00Cdn?
I do agree with you generally on your take on stacked 6 inch multiple drivers in slim cabinets. Almost none of them are good IMO. However, I will suggest you try some Dynaudio's and PMC speakers as examples of a few that do this style well. I'd suggest Totem if they would cut every model's price by 30-50%.
Your posts have made me want to re-try the Thiels - but you seem to express the limitations I heard years ago with them - so perhaps they're not suited it would seem to amplified music but prefer acoustic - this is fine if you know it going in and perhaps that's why I was dissapoined - I have too much of a wide music collection for a speaker not to play R&R at louder levels while also doing Beethoven and Vivaldi Piano, Oboe and Voilin. Then there's trance music and dance/pop.
Don't get me wrong, the Thiels aren't exactly my favorites, but they do have fantastic imaging and have low level detail, so I prefer them to the B&Ws. Triads are really great, but they don't do towers for some reason. Their sub/sats are pretty impressive. So, Thiel is a great speaker that also has significant handicaps. But the B&Ws, to me are just plain overpriced and don't have any distinguishing characteristics that would make them worth more money over good affordable stuff, except for reputation and that love it or hate it midrange coloration.
I did notice a little brightness on the V1s, but not as bad as some of the B&Ws and they had solid, quick, neutral, well-integrated bass and could play loud without straing. And they cost $1800 vs $5500 N803s which would be the obvious competitor from the B&W line. I haven't heard V3s, but was disappointed with the configuration. I think they're trying too hard to try to be B&W now with the yellow cones and thin design.
Thanks very much John - your thoughts are interesting..btw, what speakers would you include that you do sell and also those > 4,000 (i might find some used)?
From your post, "...the review becomes highly suspect".
I beg you to please suspect all of my reviews. Compare them your own experiences or listen for yourself. After all, if you disagree, then you have an opinion. In the end, yours is the only one that matters.
Please see http://www.10audio.com/ears.htm#Reviews_and_You
That's great, though I find that to be a copout. You're basically giving yourself permission to say anything you want under the guise that everyone should listen for themselves. However, if that is truly the case, why bother "reviewing" the speaker to begin with?!? You want to influence people, then say "hey, don't listen to me!". Doens't ring true, sorry.
For my own involvment, let me be clear in saying that I think B&W, more than any other brand, exemplifies what is wrong with "high-end" more than any other brand of which I'm aware, just as Bose exemplifies what is wrong with "mid-fi" more than any other brand of which I'm aware. It's a well-publicized distraction from the true course, which is more natural, more realistic, more transparent sound. We'd like to ignore it, but it's gained the status of being a bigger distraction than audio is "high-end". But, if B&W or Bose build a great speaker, I'd give them credit. I'm waiting.
I wonder if John being a dealer is critical of B&W as he has to compete against them in sales, just a thought, not a flame for a flame war.
I suggest you go find a pair of B&W Matrix 3 speakers and give them a good listen. Even though they are about 20 years old, they sound better in most ways than newer B&Ws. Of course, they didn't use Kevlar or porting, but they also had a much better cabinet than todays speakers. What flaws they had were flaws of subtraction, not addition.
My big point is that B&W has been the recipient of a social promotion program by Stereophile because the owner/publisher of Stereophile and the chief editor were both big B&W fans and owners. And since most of the editors and many of the writers in audio went through the Stereophile school of audio writing, you'll see B&W held up as a model for how a speaker should sound. The problem is that there are a LOT of better speakers out there, especially for the same price, certainly with objectively flatter response and better quality drivers/cabinets. The flaws of the product have been twisted into "benefits", but you can look on any measurement of any recent B&W and see severe FR variations. Just like Bose is the posterboy for what's wrong with mid-fi, B&W has become the posterboy for what's wrong with high-end. So I apologize for my strong reaction, but please, there are lots of good speakers out there, give a great review to one that deserves it. Again, no speaker is perfect and if you can't hear the imperfections and comment on them, then a review is just a "promotion" or "advertisement", not a review.
Here's a link of 703 measurements, it was the closest I could find, but if you do a google search for "measurements B&W frequency response" you'll find all you need to know. People are *finally* starting to figure out via the internet that the emperor has no clothes and kevlar is a bad midrange material.
It's no problem for us to have differing opinions. I did hear a set of Matrix series III a number of years ago and I have fond memories of them, but I do not have any extended experience with them.
It seems to me that you state Stereophile as making B&W into something they are not, yet I see the European audio press also very fond of B&W (the Nautilus line), so it must be a universal conspiracy.
I have no problem with you not liking B&W speakers, or at least their latest iterations, I just disagree with your overall assessment. Having a friend that had been to B&W this past year and listening to him talk about what he saw contradicts some of what you say.
I have an audio friend who has went through a lot of speakers over the last year or two, including N803's, S805's and Matrix (Series II) and many other brands; he purchased the Matrix speakers from fond memories and regretting selling a pair, after getting them he realized it was more of fond memories.
You'll notice that B&W and Paradigm among others don;t send them speakers for review - because they know that when faced with blunt honest opinions both brands could take a rather big beating. The 703 and new Paradigm Studio 100V3 IMO are atrocious speakers given the amopunt of money they want for them. Both should be 3 digit not 4 digit speakers IMO. I think that B&W takes a beating more so than they should but this new 700 line is much more expensive than the CDM series and IMO not any better - IMO worse and they even look worse. I don't get that. Two of the best speakers of recent years from B&W has been the DM 302 which I owned and had no kevlar or metal driver and is better than the 303, and the CDM 2SE. The 2SE I liked a fair bit given the money and it was easily better than the Totem Model 1 which cost 50% more money.
I just think B&W is too expensive. The 705 is $2300.00Cdn and versus the Audio Note AX Two at $700.00Cdn I would like to know what the price justification is. The AX Two is shipped in from Europe is about the same size so shipping isn;t going to be hugely different. The AX Two is made by a much smaller company uses good vifa drivers looks very well built and has nice connectors ---- oh and sounds a helluva lot better is more efficient. The B&W's LOOK better and everyone has heard of them and not so with the AX Two. BUT, this is the point. I could listen to the AX Two long term or some lesser priced Dynaudios and Gershman Acoustics but the 705 - well I don't get it. I loved the 302 and I can recommend the N805, CDM 1NT and 1SE and 2SE(despite some problems) and Matrix 805, 801 and the Model Nautilus. But some of these big companies seem to be pricing themselves for snob appeal than sonic quality.
And UHF does not seem to be homers either given the lackluster reviews they've given Bryston and some off handed put downs(or at least non drooling attitutes) to Paradigm in their advice column.
I think B&W is beat up unfairly to some extent - the 600 series is in line price wise with most competitors and I prefer the 604S3 at $2,000Cdn over the Paradigm 100V3 at $2700.00Cdn. Since Paradigm is in Canada IMO there is no way it should be priced this high - it sounds like the $1500.00 Energy. But name appeal works.
No, I'm one of those realistic, normal, sane dealers who don't sell B&W becaue I wouldn't own it and wouldn't sell it to anyone I liked - it would be ripping off people I actually like and appreciate. I worked for a B&W dealer for over a year and spent most of my time trying to convince him to ditch the speakers for something better like Paradigm or Thiel or just about anything else.
BTW, one of my favorite older speakers is the B&W Matrix 3II which was an excellent design, well built, excellent design. So, I have nothing against good design, but I do have something against bad sound.
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