B&W 805 D4 Signature Loudspeaker

hfnoutstandingB&W's premium 800 D4 range is bookended by Signature versions of the flagship 801 D4 floorstander and the 805 D4 standmount. But is the polish more than skin deep?

Only two years after launching the D4 generation of its flagship 800 series [HFN Nov '21], Bowers & Wilkins has announced Signature editions of both the range-topping 801 D4 floorstander [HFN Sep '23] and its partnering 805 D4 standmount. At £10,000 a pair the 805 D4 Signature increases the stakes for this compact model, as the 'standard' 805 D4 [HFN Feb '22] retails for a full £3000 less.

While this signals a move into more rarefied territory for the brand, the 805 D4 Signature does raise a conundrum. It's obvious to compare the performance of the regular and Signature versions, but the latter is also priced very close to B&W's £11,000 804 D4 floorstander. In fact, the £1000 difference evaporates when you take into account the recommended FS-805 D4 stands, which retail for £1250 a pair. These are hefty and high-quality, but the resulting footprint also isn't much smaller than that of the 804 D4. Something for prospective buyers to think about…

Silver Service
B&W first deployed the 'Signature' name in 1991, on the Silver Signature standmount, to honour the achievements of company founder John Bowers, who passed away in 1987. Intended to signify – in the words of B&W – a 'no-holds-barred' design both inside and out, it has been used sparingly over the years since. The Silver Signature 30 floorstander arrived in 1996, followed in 2001 by two 800 Series Signature models [HFN Nov '02], and 700 S2 Signature additions in 2020 [HFN Sep '20].

The 805 D4 Signature inherits elements from its predecessors. The Midnight Blue colourway, for example, was introduced with the 702 and 705 S2 Signatures, and both this and the other finish on offer, California Burl Gloss, are trimmed with leather from London-based Connolly, an upholstery supplier to the likes of Aston Martin and Rolls-Royce that B&W first worked with on the 2001 Signatures.


'Continuum' bass/mid driver works into its own matrix-reinforced cabinet while the Diamond Dome tweeter is now terminated into a longer tube and features a refined grille

These two finishes may be all that's needed to convince some to opt for the 805 D4 Signature over its regular sibling. While the fit and finish of the latter is excellent, the Midnight Blue Metallic option looks like a premium car finish and gives the speaker a modern, sleeker look, and the California Burl Gloss of our review sample is gorgeous, if arguably a little more ostentatious.

There's no escaping the fact that, compared to the 801 D4 Signature edition, there are fewer upgrades to be found on this standmount. The cabinet design differs markedly; with no trademark turbine head assembly on the 805 D4 there isn't place for the 801 D4's new aluminium 'shoulders' and damping collar, both employed to control cabinet resonances. Furthermore, the two-way 805 D4 Signature doesn't require the Signature upgrades to B&W's Aerofoil cone bass drivers, nor the revised, more comprehensively damped, plinth.

Does this mean the 805 D4 Signature is just a cosmetic do-over? Although that would make for a satisfyingly brief review, when you compare the two 805 D4 versions it's clear they sound quite different.

Tweeter Tweak
The primary contribution to this will be the upgraded crossover, which now features double the amount of (higher-grade) bypass capacitors. And while the 801 D4 Signature received a completely new top plate, on the 805 D4 Signature the existing plate is more rigidly coupled into the cabinet by way of additional fixings. Finally, the mesh grille of the Diamond Dome tweeter has a new geometry, computer modelled to deliver a 'more free and open sound with high frequencies'.

What hasn't changed are the basics. Like Bowers & Wilkins' more affordable model, the 'D4 Signature houses its tweeter in a tapered, milled aluminium tube, double decoupled from the newly curved reverse-wrapped cabinet. The 165mm bass/mid driver, meanwhile, is again a Continuum Cone design, albeit now with an entirely new motor system. Rated sensitivity (88dB) and impedance (4.6ohm minimum and a slightly contradictory 8ohm nominal) remain the same.

sqnote Sibling Rivalry
Armed with both the 805 D4 Signatures and the standard editions, and using a Primare PRE35/DM36 preamp/DAC and bridged A35.8 power amplifier [HFN May '22], I was able to make direct comparisons between the speakers, although evaluating differences proved simultaneously easy and challenging. These 800 series models are obviously sonically related, and broadly go about their business in the same way – yet there are improvements on offer…

B&W Group Ltd
West Sussex
Supplied by: B&W Group Ltd
0800 232 1513