My Review of the 800 Diamond versus the 802 Diamond
My new speaker search started a couple months ago. I originally had a set of Salk HT2-TL, not a shabby speaker by any means. But, it would take something special to be clearly better. I had listened to a bunch of different brands and speakers but I kept coming back to B&W. There is something about the house sound that I find enjoyable for classic rock. Once you get into the 800 series you get all the music detail but little of the harshness involved with hyper accurate speakers. So I picked up a pair of 802 Diamonds. I had them for a week and loved them, but I knew there was more, and I wanted it. It has been 5+ years since I heard a set of 800s and from I remembered they were fantastic. So I created more money in the budget and exchanged the 802s for the 800s. I moved up to the 800s without hearing them, on a leap of faith that they would be everything that the 802s are and more.
I was more than glad I did.
The 800 Diamond is in a completely different league than the 802 Diamond.
The first thing I noticed is that this speaker seems much more efficient than the 802. This is strange considering both speakers are rated at 90db. I found myself not needing to turn the volume up nearly as much to excite the speaker. I imagine that some people would be happy running this speaker off of a 75 WPC tube amp, although I doubt it would be able to control the woofers like a quality solid-stage amp. The dynamics of the 800s are much closer to a much larger high efficiency speaker like a JTR than the 802/803.
: The bass is much more impactful. Once broken in (4 Hours of Electronic Music) the 800s dig much deeper. The bass still retains the speed of the 802s two 8” drivers but now I can feel it. “Fast Bass” is a term many dismiss but I refer to it as the speaker’s ability to reproduce a high frequency of kick drums independently. When listening to Rush’s Tom Sawyer Drum Solo each kick was fierce but separate, no muddiness here. The rise and fall of each bass note was reproduced with amazing speed and clarity. The speed is faster than my JL F113, although the F113 is much more visceral. I preferred the 802s with my F113 for music. I prefer the 800s without the F113. Maybe I would need two F113s to compliment the 800s, one F113 just gets lost. The bass is so good that I am thinking about selling the F113, but for right now I only have it turned on to shore up the lowest of lows on movies.
: Same mid-range driver as the 802 I should expect the same result with the 800? Wrong. The lower mid-range is much more natural. Male vocals have an inviting sound that might make you want to put away your Norah Jones albums and put on some Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton. After listening to the 800s I realized that many of the speakers that I have listened to have been a tad boxy and bloated in this region. Don’t get me wrong the 802s are great I would never have noticed this unless I compared it to the 800. The mid-range also seems slightly more detailed, diving deeper into each recording. As a measure of detail I use Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut. This recording a ton of detail deep into the soundstage that is only re-produced by quality speakers. Each time I upgrade my speakers I hear more and more out of the recording, it is kind of amazing considering I have been listening to that recording for 15 years.
: The 800 and the 802 are comparable in the HF region. Although I would classify the highs as being neutral I would have to say with my associated equipment it is one small notch on the bright side. This is something that I find enjoyable. My sound is comparable to an all Rotel setup as opposed to an all Mcintosh setup. My preferred toe-in with the 800s was similar to my preference of all the 800 series with the tweeters crossing 8’ beyond my listening position.
: This is a large speaker. Pictures on the internet make it seem like the 802s are similar in size but this isn’t the case. My girlfriend and I unpacked the 802s, for the 800s I requested my dealer give me hand. Once upright and unpacked the speaker move freely on the stock wheels. The 800s create a physical presence in the room whereas the 802s would blend in with a nice stand. WAF might be a factor for some due to its size. I’m not sure how I feel about the look on the Aluminum base plate but I would probably prefer it being matte black. The 800 is also 1" taller than the 802. For most people this will put the tweeter above the listener's ears in the seated position. I currently have the speakers tilted a bit with the included spikes but I am going to fine tune the tilt this weekend. You have to be careful though, the drivers are physically time aligned and that isn't something you want to mess with much.
If I was a reviewer I would give the 802s a 4/5 and the 800s 5/5. I didn’t understand what a “reference” speaker is until now. My speaker search is over and I will probably hold on to them for 8-10 years.
Original Speaker Considerations: Revel Salon/Studio, Sonus Faber Olympica, Focal Utopia, Salk SS10, Martin Logan
Is the 800 $10,000 better than the 802? I would say definitely, if you can afford it. Let’s say you have a $30,000 budget for equipment and speakers. I would rather have the 800s running with $5000 in equipment than have the 802s running with $15,000 in equipment. Although you would have to be smart how you spend the $5000.
Would the 802s be better than the 800s running $10,000 in subs? Depends on what is more important to you. Obviously $10,000 in subs (Two F113s) would create a fierce front of sub 80Hz sound, which would benefit movies. But for music the 800s mid-range and upper bass would still be far superior. And hey, you could always add subs later.
Associated Equipment: Wyred 4 Sound DAC2, Wyred 4 Sound mAmps, Mac Mini running Pure Music and hi-res music, quality cabling. The new mAmps are something to consider. At $2300 for a pair they provide more than enough detail and current to give the 800s what they need. Their small form factor doesn’t hurt either. As I continue to upgrade my system I am exciting knowing that the 800s will reward me with even better sound. I’m not even close to achieving the speaker’s full potential.
Below is pic of the 800s in my setup. Not ideal, but temporary. I have a new stand coming in a few weeks that will afford me floor space to get the F113 in there. Next year I plan on moving into a new house with a dedicated room.