B&w 805 Diamond (£3750)

The smallest member of the 800 series gets the diamond treatment

As soon as B&W introduced diamond tweeters to some of its 800 series speakers in 2005, people began asking for a diamond tweeter to be fi tted to the smallest model in the range, the 805. Well, the wait is over – the offi cial 805 Diamond is here – though its price has more than doubled over the old 805S.
   The good news is that this isn’t a mere swap job: B&W has taken the opportunity to re-engineer the 805 thoroughly. For instance, the input terminals are more than chrome plated, with metal ‘nuts’ replacing the previous plastic items. In fact the terminals are now made of oxygen-free copper while the terminal ‘buckets’ on the inside are now crimped rather than soldered to the crossover connecting wires.
   As before, that crossover is as simple as they come, comprising an air-cored series inductor to the bassmid unit and new Mundorf silver/ gold/oil capacitor in series with the tweeter. While this electrical network gives fi rst-order crossover slopes, the overall acoustic slopes are steeper because of inherent driver roll-offs.
   Changes have also been made to the drivers themselves. As well as the new diamond dome, the tweeter gets a revised surround, selected by listening, a new quadmagnet neodymium-iron-boron motor system designed to enhance sensitivity, and a redesigned housing. The bass-mid unit has a new GRP (glassfi bre) voice coil former, revised suspension (the spider material and profi le have both been changed) and a new surround material.
   The motor system remains the same but the driver has a new chassis and there has been a small retuning of the bass alignment.

The 805S was never a tonally neutral speaker, and the Diamond is no different. The scooped out upper midrange and lower treble response results in great image depth but it also softens the sound. However, sympathetically partnered with a dynamic amp the 805 Diamond does an unusually fine job of delivering beguiling liquidity of sound on, say, male and female vocals without sounding too sugar-coated. For instance, it revelled in Radaka Toneff and Steve Dogbrogosz’s ‘The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress’ [Odin NJ 4028-2].
   But what about rock? The 805 Diamond is not a natural partner for rock music, any more than the 805S was. Free’s ‘I’ll Be Creepin’’ [Island CRNCD 2 518 456-2] was just too stodgy with a little too much, albeit clean, bass and not enough presence band snap to build a worm hole back to four decades ago.
   Point it at an atmospheric orchestral piece like Hilary Hahn’s reading of Vaughan Williams’ ‘Lark Ascending’ [DG 00289 474 8732] and the B&W is in its element. Hahn’s violin tone was silken and the big, elegiac orchestral accompaniment soared like the violin.
   Smaller classical forces fared well too, like Quatuor Ebène’s much-lauded disc of French string quartets by Ravel, Debussy and Fauré [Virgin Classics 50999 519045 2 4]. This recording can sound a bit glutinous but the 805 Diamonds did a fine job of cutting through to natural instrumental timbres, revealing the instruments separated in a believable acoustic.

At the price there are many fine floorstanders offering greater perceived value and, at their best, a more neutral tonal balance better suited to a broad range of musical styles. But the 805 Diamond has a beguiling sound that, on the right material, is tough to resist. What it does well it does very well indeed.

Originally published in the Yearbook 2010