B&W 803 D4 Loudspeaker

hfnoutstandingThis downsized, but perfectly-proportioned, facsimile of B&W's 801 D4 flagship is smaller in all but sound...

It's all good and well lusting after a flagship like the B&W 801 D4 [HFN Nov '21], but not everyone has the means or opportunity. Cue the 803 D4, which is a modestly downsized version costing (nearly) half the price. Intriguingly, it also utilises the same technology and similarly designed drivers as the 801 D4, including the trademark turbine head.

Of course, suggesting the 803 D4 is in any way a miniature speaker is rather ridiculous. These are still hefty 62kg, 1.16m-tall enclosures, proudly sitting in the middle of the new 800 D4 range. The collective sigh of relief by dealers and reviewers alike when it was confirmed the D4s would retain the retractable wheels of the previous generations could be heard across the globe. If only its major competitors took note…

As for industrial design, not too much has changed, so the 800 models are still available in glossy black, white and (a firm favourite in Asian markets) the satin rosenut pictured here. But I'll take the new satin walnut version, with the wood finish contrasting beautifully with the silver-coloured turbine and driver assemblies. Add in the leather by London-based crafter Connolly covering the top of the main cabinet, and this brings a real touch of refinement – especially, again, on the walnut version. But there's no faulting any version in terms of build quality or finish. Even considering the price hike which the D4 generation introduces, Bowers & Wilkins' finest very much look the part.

Closing The Gap
Unusually Bowers & Wilkins maintains a two-tier approach, effectively splitting the 800 D4 family into two distinct parts. Below the 803 D4s are the 805 D4 bookshelf [HFN Feb '22] and the 804 D4 floorstander, both boasting a more conventional cabinet shape. This makes the 803 model the entry-point to the top-tier, as the R&D department flexes its muscles and drops in the latest innovations. All are immediately recognisable by the streamlined turbine head fitted with a decoupled tweeter on top.


The 803 D4 features B&W's 25mm diamond dome 'tweeter on top', a 130mm Continuum cone FST midrange (with Biomimetic suspension) and a pair of 180mm Aerofoil cone bass units, reflex-loaded through a very wide port that fires down onto the plinth

In the D3 generation and before, the difference in sound quality between the models with and without the turbine head was so stark the choice was easy to make. That's less the case with the new lineup. Without losing sight of the 803 D4, the D4 update is as much about improving the entry-level 805 D4 and 804 D4 where the design improvements are very significant, including introducing the reverse-wrap cabinet design. This has closed the gap with the full-blown 800 models.

Decoupling Is Hot
This time around, the D4 version of the 803 features an enhanced tweeter on top – not the actual tweeter with its 'diamond' dome but a longer alloy tube that better dissipates its rear radiation. The turbine head, below, is not only very rigid and heavy but also contains mass dampers, now retuned, which further improves its inertness. Meanwhile, a new four-point decoupled mount for the Continuum midrange driver further reduces unwanted vibration.

In fact, 'decoupling' is the magic word when it comes to the D4 generation. There's now less interplay between the turbine head and woofers in the main cabinet, and a more robust fit courtesy of a stiffer aluminium top-plate instead of the original wooden surface. In the same vein the tweeter on top is attached to the turbine on two points now instead of the single point anchoring of the D3 generation. B&W also touts its new Biomimetic Suspension which replaces the fabric spider in the midrange driver as a major improvement [HFN Nov '21]. The spider used for the Aerofoil coned woofers isn't replaced by the biomimetic technology but is revised and simplified.

sqnote Grand Slam
Looking back on past experience with 803s, the D4 model appears to be that bit better balanced, with less of an edge and a deal more refinement. The speakers still have their customary sparkle, now with a greater sense of detail, and retain the close relationship between imaging and toe-in. These are not speakers to casually drop in a room, but done right the 803 D4 rewards with an impressive soundstage on a grand scale. Stereo imaging has always been a strength of the brand.

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