In most circumstances, the mention of a 50th anniversary brings to mind melancholy thoughts of reflection, but in the case of the popular audio manufacturer Bowers & Wilkins (B&W) it’s quite the opposite. Instead of looking back at its past accomplishments the company chose to look forward, and not only did the company choose to charge ahead, it did so in the grandest possible way—by introducing its new statement 800 D3 Diamond floorstanding loudspeaker.
Referencing the company’s beginnings, which go back to when John Bowers founded the company in 1966, B&W Group president USA Doug Henderson emphasizes the company’s goal has always been to create the perfect loudspeaker.
“It’s all was all about removing sources of distortion,” says Henderson talking about Bower’s method to creating the perfect loudspeaker. “[Over the years] you can see the consistency of our efforts [in developing the perfect loudspeaker].”
Embracing a New Era
Before discussing the new flagship 800 D3 loudspeaker, which represents the pinnacle of the company’s engineering capabilities, Henderson did, in accordance with B&W’s 50th anniversary, take time to reflect before looking ahead. Henderson says that for more than 30 years CEO Joe Atkins has been the driving force behind the company’s influential products and ability to stay ahead of product and technology trends.
Speaking to where the market is heading and addressing the company’s new ownership, Atkins says newer companies such as Sonos are pushing the market forward.
The path that Sonos and Sonos wannabees have taken will result with a different path in how people access music,” he admits. “As a global brand B&W has to embrace new technologies, and the challenge is to find the right technologies.”
Enabling the company to move ahead and fit into today’s usage trends Atkins says B&W’s new owners Eva Automation have the experience and expertise to strengthen the company’s software capabilities.
Gideon [Yu, founder of Eva Automation] and his partners have spent considerable time developing these technologies,” says Atkins. “They do not have a brand or global delivery system. On paper and in reality it’s a wonderful match [the acquisition of B&W by Eva Automation]. Consumer electronics and Silicon Valley don’t usually meet, but it is exciting; it’s a different world. The mix [with Eva Automation] and B&W is the right mix to take B&W to the next level. I am confident we found the right partner to take B&W, Rotel and Classe to the next level.”
Saving the Best for Last
This past fall B&W introduced its newly redesigned 800 D3 Series of products, which included the 802 D3, 803 D3, 804 D3 and 805 D3 loudspeakers. Now, those products have been joined by the flagship D3 product: the 800 D3. (Check it out more in-depth here.)
Explaining how the redesign of the D2 products “consumed their lives,” Andy Kerr, senior product manager, Bowers & Wilkins, says the 800 series of products have evolved over the years, but throughout the lifespan of the products, they have been based around a few fundamental design elements such as curved cabinets. Commenting specifically on the company’s new flagship 800 series product the 800 D3 Kerr states that virtually every single part in the speaker is new.
Like the first wave of D3 products the 800 D3 utilizes the same diamond tweeter, as well as the family of products’ new Continuum Cone FST drivers, and Aerofoil woofers. Statistically the 8-ohm, three-way 800 D3 loudspeaker is rated to deliver a frequency response of 15Hz to 28kHz +/-3dB, and B&W points out the speaker is also 90dB sensitive.
Elaborating on Kerr’s statements, Martial Rousseau, head of research, Bowers & Wilkins, says the development of the 800 D3 started as far back as 2007.
We are extremely proud of what we have achieved,” notes Rousseau. “We’ve been working on this for a number of years.”
Rousseau explains the three-way loudspeaker’s Continuum Cone midrange drivers deliver many of the same performance characteristics of Kevlar cones, and it even utilizes a woven material, but he says it thoroughly outperforms the company’s older Kevlar drivers. Getting deeper into some of the other design elements of the 800 D3 he says that size matters when it comes to the use of woofers, but he emphasizes engineers have to be careful of linearity issues that come with the use of larger drivers. With the development of the company's new Aerofoil woofers, however the company was able to create a stiff, but light cone that moves with a more fluid linearity that mitigates cone distortion.
Pointing out even small details such as the plinth the speaker resides on Rousseau adds that large objects tend to resonate. To minimize resonances that could affect sonic performance the 800 D3 features a plinth made from aluminum with “constrained layer damping.”
Summing up the industrial design and performance improvements made to the latest generation 800 loudspeaker, Rousseau says the speaker is the culmination of B&W’s collective product development team.
This is the first time we’ve realized this level of power and refinement at the same time.”