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When the Bowers & Wilkins 801, the first speaker in the B&W 800 series, debuted all the way back in 1979, it ushered in an entire movement of high-fidelity, at-home speakers. It adhered to John Bowers’ maxim, “The best loudspeaker isn’t the one that gives the most, it’s the one that loses the least.” For over 35 years now, the 800 Series (now the 800 Series Diamond since 2009) has represented the best of what Bowers & Wilkinson can do, and to many is one of the finest ranges of loudspeakers on the market. Now, the best has gotten even better.
Revamping the 800 Series Diamond was a task that took seven years of research, engineering and testing to complete. And while this is an updated version of the preexisting series, Bowers & Wilkins note that the new speakers are almost entirely made up of brand-new components. One of the few remaining parts is the diamond tweeter, what with its already-supreme performance, though the motor system behind the diamond in the tweeter has been updated considerably.
One of the most significant innovations are found in the new speaker cones. Bowers & Wilkins has been using kevlar as their material of choice for midrange cones since 1974 because it made for clean and consistent tones, but in revamping the 800 Series they switched to a composite material dubbed “Continuum.” They found that Continuum retains the desirable acoustic effects of kevlar while producing a more open and neutral sound. For the bass, the new speakers will use an “Aerofoil” cone that has varying thicknesses so that it has the ideal stiffness in specific areas. B&W says the result of this is precise, controlled bass.
For the speaker cabinet, Bowers & Wilkins reversed the 800’s design. Before, the cabinet body was curved in the back and flat in the front, but the 800’s new body has a curved, U-shaped piece that makes up the front and the sides; the whole thing is backed by an aluminum spine. According to B&W, having the curved shape in front better disperses sound. It also looks cleaner, more contemporary and sexy as hell.
The new 800 Series Diamond speakers will be available in October with several models on deck, ranging from $4,000 to $22,000.