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Old 10-01-2021, 01:17 AM
joey_v joey_v is offline
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Default BW 802D4 vs 802D3: Back to back audition

I haven’t seen any meaningful posts about the sonic character of the 802D4, much less a comparison between D4 and D3 - so here is my take.

I was lucky enough to do a back to back: 802D4 vs 802D3, same room, same equipment, staggered positioning, volume level matched.

Here were my thoughts:

Background:
I’ve owned the 802D3 since 2016. I was always interested in the newest Bowers since the announcement mostly as an academic exercise as I am generally content with my 802D3.

Finally, I knew that to understand the differences from the D3 to the D4, I had to hear both side by side. This was proving to be a much more difficult endeavor than I had initially thought. I was able to listen to the 802D2 vs the 803D3 in the same room back when the D3 were just released in 2015. However, with covid, it seems like the purchase of high end equipment goes a lot faster, or atleast when there's a deal to be had.

Because it was becoming rapidly clear that there would be no one in the Dallas area with a leftover 802D3 by the time the D4 were shipping much less arriving, my sales guy and I decided that the only way was for me to put a deposit on the last existing 802D3 display model to hold it while the D4 was making its way via the shipping courier. So I put a deposit... and held the only pair of 802D3. We weren’t sure which D4 model the store was going to get, whether the 801D4 or the 802D4.... but the stars aligned and it was alas the brother 802D4 that was slated to arrive (the demo was going to be fair and not lopsided, plus it was the model I was personally interested in). The 802D4 landed earlier this week, and I was finally able to give the 2 some time for the first time today.

I listened to both for approximately 3 hours. I must have gone back and forth about 8x. We listened to various artists from Adele, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, Vanessa Fernandez, Moana OST, Top Gun OST, Jane Monheit, Whitney Houston Bodyguard OST, Spectre OST, and a bunch others. We also segued to Jessica Simpson's cover of Take My Breath Away. ​

Intro:
I did not expect much out of the comparison between the two. Just by glancing at both, there isn't too much of a difference. The reverse wrap is the same, the cabinet volume seems similar, the turbine head seems similar, the 4 drivers are similar, in terms of cone material and size.

Given that, I expected to hear a minimal difference if at all. I just wanted to do this comparison as an exercise in academics.

Build Differences:
The D4 has a leather top - with a more bulbous and upward angled collar of the cabinet - the area right below the turbine region. The D4 also has a longer tweeter structure which lowers the resonance... and I believe the tweeter motor structure has 1 less magnet to allow for more easy breathing of the diamond tweeter from behind the driver. In addition, the plinth is larger, more lateral support I believe. I also noted that the plinth has 2 screws that are visible towards the rear, I believe those are related to the spikes. Lastly, I noted that the 802D4 has a lower orientation (vertically) of the bass drivers. I believe this would lead to a quicker floor reflection compared to the older 802D3, which means that the image height might be pulled down.

Another difference are the grills, they are now magnetic to the surrounding metal of the drivers rather than a large grill covering the 2 woofers as was noted on the 802D3.

Also, I noticed that the grill for the tweeter was more open on the d4 than on the D3. The grill frame just seems skinnier and less grill and more air space.

Sonic differences:
So, while I expected only a small/minor difference and I did this back to back audition just as a way for me to hear the two for myself but more for academic purposes just so I know what I'm missing, if anything.

So what did I hear?

1. 802D4 is warmer. The 802D3 is comparatively hotter in the upper midrange. I can tell the SSS and TTT were more pronounced with the 802D3 (keep in mind, these speakers have been broken in since 5 years). For example, during Adele's Someone Like You, there are many portions during the latter half of the song where the D3 would accentuate the SSS and the TTT causing a brighter image. The leading edges of the notes also appeared sharper and the sustain was also brighter.

2. 802D4 has a more transparent and natural sound, especially with vocals. The 802D3 (and the sales guys agreed) has this artificial way of presenting a lot of vocalists. It may seem at times that the singer has more meat to the bones on the 802D3, but if you break it down, the singer has a resonance artifact, sounds to me like it's almost as if the singer was close mic'd. And while the resonance may add meat to the bones, I noted that this was only apparent with only some frequency range.... meaning that once Adele really got going, her voice would lose the image specificity and would lose that body as if she pulled her mouth away from the microphone... odd indeed.

3. Imaging was better with the 802D4. The soundstage didnt seem as forced forward as on the 802D3. Let me explain, the D3 had more force to the vocalist, it would appear a step forward in the stage. Now while this seems good, the 802D4 had a more relaxed stage. And while the singer didn't have as much energey as on the D3, the D4 was able to suspend belief because once you got used to its type of imaging, you could easily follow the notes and the act better on the 802D4 compared to the relatively messy soundstage of the 802D3.

4. Atmosphere. Wow. I thought the 802D3 was good at this, but it was probably one of the best attributes of the 802D4. The atmosphere was just scary good. The room was better materialized on the D4. It was as if the corners of the room were just holographic. Whereas the atmosphere was lacking on the 802D3. Not sure if it's because of the bass being more present and more natural on the D4....

5. Image height, mouth height. This was a big one for me. I found that the 802D3 mouth height was too tall relative to the 802D4. The D4 mouth height was just right, felt like there was power coming from even below the mouth height as if the energy was coming from the singer's diaphragm. On the 802D3, because the image height, mouth height was taller, you could sense a vacuum of sound below the vertical midline.

6. Bass. Bass was definitely more present, more natural, and more sustained on the 802D4 compared to the 802D3. The pianos felt more natural and more like a regular grand as opposed to a baby grand or an upright. Speed was just as quick. No overhang that I could detect. I'm sure the 801D4 would be even more majestic with the bass.... but that's unlikely for me and my room size.... as I had issues with 800D3 in my room a couple years ago, and after I had initially upgraded from my 802D3 to the 800D3, I found myself missing the overall balance of my 802D3 in my room that I had the dealer trade back my 802D3 and he took away the 800D3.

7. Natural sound - warmer. I felt like one other big difference between the 2 is the naturalness of the 802D4.... significantly more natural yet clear imaging and tone. After going back and forth between the 2 speakers, I was convinced that I wasn't hearing things, the D3 sounded amusical by comparison.

Conclusion:
I came in thinking there would be no difference, and I left sad. Sad because now I know I must have these 802D4. Sad because now I'm going to have to find a buyer for my 802D3 and I'm going to have to go through what all of us audiophiles dread - the packing of the units, the posting of the units for sale, the dealing with low ballers, the lifting down the stairs, and the pallet and strapdown. Ugh.....

I'm lucky I was able to arrange the back to back demo between the 2 speakers. Even though the room was imperfect, even though the speakers were staggered in positioning and there was no true central seat in the room, I still felt that I was able to get a good sense of the differences between the 2 speakers.

The 802D4 is more natural, warmer, less bright, better imaging height of vocalist's mouth, the stage was better layered front to back, the atmosphere was better on the D4.

There was less artifact on the D4. The D4 was easier to follow in my mind, the stage was easier to unpack on the D4. Mentally, my brain was falling for the illusion of the performance many times more than on the D3.

In the end, I also noted that I had about 7 or 8 episodes of goosebumps - all on the D4.

I recall that when I auditioned the 802D2 vs 803D3, by the time I made the decision that I was ready to upgrade to my D2 to the D3, it took me about 10 auditions to commit. By comparison, I think a single audition was all I needed to decide to upgrade from D3 to D4. In the end, I felt like the 803D3 was better than the 802d2 by approximately 25% for my musical preferences. The biggest thing I recall the D3 did that the D2 didn't was remove the haze around the image of the instrument/voice.

But comparatively, the D4 is a significantly better speaker to the D3 than the D3 was to the D2. I truly believe that. The 802D4 corrected almost all of the deficits I know I have been living with the 802D3, it's as if Bowers had read my mind.

I do not think for a medium size room and medium listening levels, I don't think I have heard a better, more put together, more complete speaker than the 802D4. By the end of the demo, I stopped switching back and forth as it was a fruitless endeavor. The 802D4 was just so good.

I left the demo knowing that there was no way I wasn't going to upgrade. The question will be do I entertain the 801D4 or do I stick to the 802D4.... and then - black or walnut?

Summary:
The 802D4 is a more refined version of the 802D3. The 802D3 feels like it left Steiynig a little too early or the production was rushed, it sounds incomplete and discombobulated by comparison.

I’ll make it an easy comparison for some of you, the 802D3 sounds like great digital, the 802D4 sounds like great vinyl.

Unequivocally, for me, the 802D4 is best speaker I have experienced (for my preferences and biases) in a medium sized room.

Last edited by joey_v; 10-01-2021 at 11:23 AM.
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Old 10-01-2021, 01:19 AM
joey_v joey_v is offline
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Old 10-01-2021, 01:21 AM
joey_v joey_v is offline
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802D4 vs 802D3

At the end of the audition, the D3 were sold to another customer prior to my demo, it was wrapped up immediately and picked up by the delivery guys.
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Old 10-01-2021, 03:06 AM
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doggiehowser doggiehowser is offline
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Thanks for an amazing review! Can't wait to listen to the D4s
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Old 10-01-2021, 05:46 AM
JemHadar JemHadar is offline
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Default BW 802D4 vs 802D3: Back to back audition

Joey, Thank you for your excellent review…and we feel your dread…indeed most of us have been there. But you have something magnificent to look forward to.

Talked to my Dealer today. He thinks the D4 addresses many ailments of the previous versions. He was especially surprised by the 801D4, wich in his opinion stands head and shoulders above the other models in the range. I hear you thinking…”of course he would say that”, but I know him to be very critical and honest in his appraisals.

We are going to try to set up a comparison between the 801D4 and Marten Parker Quintet.

Last edited by JemHadar; 10-01-2021 at 06:34 AM.
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Old 10-01-2021, 06:20 AM
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Art Vandelay Art Vandelay is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joey_v View Post
Preliminary:
Finally, I was able to hear both side by side.

Unequivocally, for me, the 802D4 is best speaker I have experienced (for my preferences and biases) in a medium sized room.
Wow, great review Joey.

Thanks for sharing the experience in such detail.
Being able to organize a direct A-B comparison is absolutely invaluable, so well done on that. It's great too that you went in without any real preconceptions or expectations. The D4's have obviously delivered improvements in areas and ways that were unexpected but which amount to a more compelling and rewarding experience. Obviously, another (not insignificant) step closer to perfection and reality.

I'll be auditioning the 801D4's very soon now, - when Edgar from SSA has finished and authored his official review. He hasn't given too much away as yet but he did text me with the words "rather spesh" when he started the audition. His reference speakers are Wilson Alexia 2's, so that counts for something. He also mentioned a secret document that lists a lot of revisions and improvements (applicable to all models) that weren't made public - in order to protect valuable IP. Obviously, I won't get to see the doc, but the very existence may explain some of what you're hearing.
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Old 10-01-2021, 08:53 AM
joey_v joey_v is offline
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Dave,
I think you nailed it. The word is “spesh”.

What I heard yesterday was special.
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Old 10-01-2021, 09:24 AM
hdvidguy hdvidguy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joey_v View Post
Dave,
I think you nailed it. The word is “spesh”.

What I heard yesterday was special.
Thanks for the review!

Are you thinking of comparing 801/802 D4? It’s like starting all over again. I’ve read all your experiences in lots of detail and really appreciate all your input and effort to compile feedback with 802/800 D3.

Last edited by hdvidguy; 10-01-2021 at 09:28 AM.
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Old 10-01-2021, 09:51 AM
joey_v joey_v is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hdvidguy View Post
Thanks for the review!

Are you thinking of comparing 801/802 D4? It’s like starting all over again. I’ve read all your experiences in lots of detail and really appreciate all your input and effort to compile feedback with 802/800 D3.
Thx friend
I have done my best to chronicle the differences I perceive since the 802d2 I owned in 2014. I did it to help others who may be in the same boat. Regarding the 801d4 or the 802d4... that’s a rough decision for me. I think I might go with the 802d4 simply because it’s an easier integration into my system.
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Old 10-01-2021, 03:31 PM
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Joey, fantastic review!
Well done.
Thank you.

The new D4s (801 or 802 remains to be seen ) will shine even more in your room.
Your electronics are top notch.
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