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B&W Speakers HT Upgrade - Help

Discussion in 'Home Cinema Speakers' started by IsoArska, Sep 26, 2003.

  1. IsoArska

    IsoArska
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    My HT setup is currently:

    B&W CDM1SE - Surrounds
    B&W CDM7SE - Fronts
    B&W HTM 1 - Center

    I bought the HTM1 a few months ago and have been extremely please with it...however my dissatisfaction with SE series has since grown :rolleyes:

    So, my goal is to upgrade my front speakers and have two major options:

    1) N804s
    2) N805s + quality sub

    I leaning towards 2, because my HT receiver isn't very good (maybe the next upgrade?) and I have read that N804 demands a powerful amp to drive them.

    On the other hand, N804 is said to resemble HTM1 sonically.

    So, anybody with experience of these speakers, loved to hear your suggestions. (Maybe there are more alternatives)

    Thanks in Advance
     
  2. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    Hmm. Tricky.

    I've never actually heard 804s, but most of the reports I've heard from people who have suggest that they're not much cop for the price. More than one Nautilus dealer I know of actually doesn't stock them any more, because so many customers ended up buying either 805s or 803s.

    The HTM1 is not too bad a match for 803s, but they sound (I am told) rather unlike 804s and (I can say from experience) quite similar to 805s, so I wouldn't get too hung up on the matching.

    804s will not require any more amplification than the HTM1 does - electronically they are pretty much the same speaker.

    If the centre speaker were not an issue then I would unhesitatingly recommend that you go for Signature 805s, but they really wouldn't match an HTM1, and the Signature HTM is very expensive.

    I'd suggest 803s, but they are presumably out of your price bracket.

    So I don't know, really. Second hand 803s, maybe?

    Or you could sell me your HTM1, buy an HTM2, and use that to match Nautilus 805s. ;)
     
  3. alexs2

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    I'd agree with NicB on many points...the 805's to my ears sound better than the 804's which have a looser bass(to my ears)and I'd much rather have a lesser amount of good tight bass than the other way round.
    All of the Nautilus range have a deserved reputation for being difficult loads....the impedance tends to drop to quite low values in the bass region,and thus the current demands are high.
    That's not to say that you need mammoth amps to drive them,simply that you won't get the best out of them otherwise.
    That point was certainly illustrated to me when auditioning a set of 805's in the dealer's(very nice)listening room,with Tag multichannel amps(rated at 100W/channel)....the things were audibly struggling on louder sections,and in no way compared with the similarly rated Krells I have at home.
     
  4. meep

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    Hi There

    As it happens, I took the afternoon today off and spent it in my local friendly Hi-Fi dealers.

    I demoed the Sig 805, Natulis 804 and the New 703. I'm no Hi-Fi expert but here were my impressions.

    All speakers were connected to a Bryston B-60, bi-wired with Transparent cabling and fed from an Arcam CD player (72 I think but unsure).

    First up were tyhe N804s. My immediate impression was Woah - too much bass. Compared with my own set-up of 1NTs with the bottom end filled in with a Velodyne CHT-15, the bass seemed to have huge presence on the 804s - overbearing in fact. However, as I spun a selection of discs, I got used to it very quickly and settled in to a pleasant hour of listening.

    The speakers handled everything I threw at them with grace and poise. The rich, deep country voice of Dave Alvin sounded great as did the bare acoustic accompanyment on the Blackjak David CD. The opening thack on Massive Attack's Protection was handled with authority and fantastic control. The impressive double bass solo on Autumn Leaves from Patricia Barber's Nightclub CD was certainly played with greater clarity than on my 1NTs. Lots more tracks sounded good as well. Nothing i put on disappointed. I liked them.

    Next up, signature 805s. I was looking forward to this for some time. I had not heard them before and everyone has great things to say about them. The last track i listened to on the 804s was K.D. langs Consequences of Falling from the Invincible Summer CD. anyone who knows the CD will know it's simply dripping with summer brigtness and goodness.

    I was initially disappointed. Yes, the bass extension and control was outstanding, for a stand mount speaker. This was much much better than my 1NTs by themselves but, after about 20 minutes, I concluded that what I was hearing was very very similar to my 1NTs with the subwoofer engaged.

    Whereas the n804s had immediately put a bug smile on my face, the Sigs sounded pedestrian and familiar. Not the impact I had expected.

    However, the more I listened, the more I appreciated what the 805s were doing. Clarity was hugely improved. I could distinguish instruments much much better than on my own system or with the 804s on the same system. The upper mid-range had more impact. Cymbals had a lot more detail. Higher frequency percussion were more forceful. I guess well worn words like insightful and detailed sum up the listening experience.

    And the bass! The more i listened, the more I became amazed at what these speakers could do. Two small boxes (pretty ones in tigers Eye though). No sub and this sounded just like my 1Nts with a velo cht-15! And the control of that bass. you do not need a sub with these speakers to enjoy music.

    After this session, i discussed my thoughts with the shop staff. Loved the 804s but thought the bass was overbearing. We concluded, however, that room accentuation had a lot to do with this (more later). The cuboid facility was contributing to "boom". in my much larger room, this would not be an issue. The 805s, i said, although overflowing in clarity and posessing incredible low-end capabilities, were a dissapointment (expectation too high, i wondered?)

    It was suggested that we put the 804s back on and I listen to some of the tracks I had played through the 805s to listen for upper end detail but had not yet experienced on the floorstanders.

    The second listen to the 804s made me realise just how good the Sig 805s were.

    The first time I put on the 804s, I was blown away, as our American cousins might say. The initial impression of the 805 was so-so. However, on listening to the 804s right after the 805s with the same tracks, the 804s sounded like they were playing through carpet!

    Where was the instrument seperation? Where was all that detail in the upper mid and higher ranges? I was missing the Sig 805s already!!!

    A few more minutes with the 804s, though, and I was willing to forgive their comparative shortcomings. True, they were not as analitical as the Sigs but they did have a particular cgharacter that I enjoyed. They had a cohesive sound and provided a big soundstage. decisions decisions.

    Just for fun, we put on a pair of the new 703s. I was really looking forward to this. the speakers looked fantastic. The new B&W design is clean, simple, elegant. The dark Walnut finish was supberb. But the sound.

    After the treats that were the Sig 805 and N804, the 703s were clearly a step down. Again, a reduction in seperation and clarity. Bass was a bit uncontrolled and upper ranges lacking in bite. They were, however, a powerful speaker. Perhaps better suited to the 60W p/c amplification, there seemed to be more thump, more oomph. In fairness, these particular units were fresh out of the box and had not been run in properly.

    I had spent 2 1/2 hours listening to three very different speakers in some depth. I could still not decide which I would prefer! It was agreed that a second session would be required in a couple of weeks where I could further A/B the Sig 805 and N804 and have a listen to the 703s when properly run in. Next time, we're going to partner the speakers with an Arcam P7/Av8 combo.

    On the way home, I called on a guy who has a pair of used N804s for sale. Partnered with a Copland CSI-28 amp and Arcam 72 (outboard DACs), this afforded an opportunity to hear the same speaker in a different context within a short space of time.

    The room was much bigger and had more reflective surfaces. The speakers sounded just as good as they did in teh shop but the boom was gone. Very gone in fact. i was surprised at the lack of bass. Things improved when the ACI Titan II LE sub was switched on. Hmm. Still, I was impressed.

    i wondered what the Sig 805s would have sounded like in the bigger space. i wondered what any of the speakers would sound like in my own space. i wondered when i'd next be free to have another comparative listen.

    As noted abover, the sig 805s are expensive, but prbably worth it. however, if i went for them, I'd have to get the Sig HTM as well. That's an expensive speaker and makes the entire front soundstage significantly more expensive than a N804/HTM1 set-up. Particularly as the 804s are available used but perfect. I could buy those AND a very very good amplifier for the difference in what I'd pay for the Sig 805/HTM combo.

    Hope this helped somewhat. i guess at the end of the day it's a great big "I Don't Know" and stay tuned for future progress!

    Peter
     
  5. robfitzp

    robfitzp
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    How big were the two rooms you listened to the 804s in?

    Cheers
    Rob
     
  6. mgoldsmith

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    Glad to see i'm not the only one in a fix over which 800 series speakers to go for.

    i've been a big fan of B&W over the years upgrading from the 600 series to the CDM series and am about to make the biggest jump upto the 800 series.

    the 805's have been a joy to hear over the years with subtle improvement with each revision to an already excellent speaker. i was able to do a good A/B with the 805's and their signature version the other day (through a meridian cd player and an elecro-companiet amp). the 805's sounded a good as always, but then the system was switched over to the signature series..... i can't say i've ever gotten goosebumps from listening to speakers before, but that's exactly what the 805 sig's did. they really are in a class of their own.
    female vocals are a good test for speakers, and what a hell of a difference i heard with the siggys. at nearly twice the price of the "std" 805's i'd expect it as well.
    they add no colouration to the sound, and as wonderful as the 805's are, they just don't compare to these puppies :)

    but then of course, the next dilema is the centre channel. my inclination is to buy the 805 sigs and the HTM1. given that the HTM1 sig is the same price as a pair of 805 sigs i can't justify the additional expense and the HTM1 centre channel is brilliant in it's own right (as is the HTM2 for that matter). i'm still yet the test the HTM1 and 805 sigs together in a 5.1 setup, but given the quality of this centre channel, i don't see a problem with mating them together, and they'll blend in seemlessly based on what i've heard from each of the 800 series speakers in a HT setup.

    out of the 805's, 805 sigs and 804's, the 805 sigs are my pick by a long mile. (but i'm happy to let a subby handle low end bass, and leave the mid and upper to a good main speaker, which won't strain the amp as much either)

    one thing i am considering doing is buying a pair of nautalis SCMs and the HTM1 and using the SCMs as my front mains for the moment, and then in a few months time buy the 805 sigs and move the SCMs to the surrounds where they belong.
    i figured that with the SCMs being an 805 is a different chasis, they'll work just as well as mains for a while and it won't be as troubling to my wallet if done in a few phases.

    Matt.G
     
  7. meep

    meep
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    Rob

    The in-store demo room was about 13 feet x 13 feet and had 13 foot ceilings - a real cuboid! Soft furnishings, carpet and lots of broken surfaces.

    The second room was substantially bigger, probably 20x18 with 8 foot ceilings and lots of reflective surfaces (1 glass wall, wooden floor but broken up by big sofas, shelving, curtains etc.

    Peter
     
  8. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    mgoldsmith,

    If I were you I would think very carefully before trying to mix speakers in the way that you're suggesting. The HTM1 is a nice centre speaker, but it is VERY different in sound from Signature 805s. It works quite well with 804s or 803s. (An 803 fronts / HTM1 centre / N805 rears system is what I hope to end up with - 803s and 805s are very close to each other tonally as well).

    Matching speakers precisely from front-to-back is not that crucial, but having a centre that sounds completely different from the L&R fronts will mess up the sound-staging across the front three channels - as a sound moves from left to right it will change its character as well as its position, which is very distracting.

    Had you thought about trying to buy three Signature 805s?

    Be a little wary of SCM1s too. They are dedicated satellite speakers - they are only rated down to 80Hz, while the Nautilus 805s officially go down to 56Hz. (-2dB on-axis, that is).
     
  9. robfitzp

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    Meep,

    Thanks for reply. I am contemplating the same sort of thing but in a room 18ft * 12ft, normal ceiling height, wooden floor etc. The signatures are lovely speakers but I think I would tend to the normal Nautilus if the right bargain came up.....I keep looking!

    Cheers
    Rob.
     
  10. IsoArska

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    Thank you very much for your insights. Too bad I'm even more confused now, I had never even thought Sig805s...:D
     
  11. lovegroova

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    Well, I have Sig 805s and a 'normal' HTM2 in my setup and it sounds great (to my ears at least). True, there is a slight difference in tonal matching between the two when listening to a test signal, but in 'real life' the difference is not really that noticeable.

    It really depends what you use your system for. If, like me, it is predominantly a music system, then worry less about the centre/fronts match, and go for the better music option (the Sig 805s I think you prefer). If you predominantly use the system for Home Cinema, then go for the 804s for better matching with a slightly reduced music performance.

    If only B&W would make the HTM2 as a Signature model...
     
  12. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    Well, I certainly wouldn't have described the difference between Sig 805s and a Nautilus HTM2 as "slight" - to me it's night and day - but obviously everyone's perception is different. I suppose this is yet more reinforcement of the fact that you need to let your own ears decide. :)
     
  13. mgoldsmith

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    Hi NicolasB,

    an 805 sig for the centre would be fantastic, but of course trying to offload your spare 805 mightn't be quite as easy :)

    i'm sure B&W themselves would be interested in consumer feedback over this 800 series dilema, and i recently decided to leave a message for them at www.bwspeakers.com via their "contacts" page about the lack of a HTM2 signature. i suggest that anyone in the same boat drop them an email as you never know what the outcome might be.

    Matt.G
     
  14. NicolasB

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    Have you actually asked your dealer whether they will sell you three? They might well. I imagine B&W must at least occasionally distribute them singly, for example for cases where one speaker of a pair malfunctions so badly it has to be replaced rather than repaired to satisfy the guarantee.

    I don't think you'll get much joy from B&W over a "signature HTM2". The Signature series as a whole is really designed for people buying Signature 800s. The HTM and 805s are intended for those who wish to extend a pair of Sig 800s into a 5-speaker setup - i.e. the Sig 805s are primarily intended to serve as rear speakers in a Sig 800 setup, with a secondary function to serve as a stereo pair on their own in "lower end" systems.

    Still, can't hurt to ask, I suppose.

    Personally I would be much keener on them doing a plain-case version of Signature speakers - in the same way that the Nautilus 800 is exactly the same speaker as the Signature 800, but without the the fancy finish, and consequently £5000 cheaper - and also in doing an 803 or 802 type speaker that uses the Signature tweeter and cross-over circuitry (preferably also in a plain case).

    At the moment it's a frustrating decision to have to choose between the wider frequency response and superior mid-range and upper bass of the 803s, and the superior treble and upper-mid-range detail in the Signature 805s. If you could combine the Sig 805 treble and the N803 midrange response in the same speaker, that would be awesome - and if you added the 802's tear-drop mid-range enclosure (although perhaps not whatever it is that makes the 802s so hard to drive) that'd be even better.
     
  15. lovegroova

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    Hmm, perhaps "slight" wasn't the best word to use :D. Yes, there is a difference between the two, but I find I notice it much more when listening to test signals than I do watching TV or movies where I can't say I notice it at all.

    Again, it's really best to let your own ears decide...
     
  16. bamber

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    There is a noticeable difference between my Nautilus 802's and the HTM1. It was a closer match to the 803s which I now use as rears.

    I will be getting my Nautilus 800's on the first week in December and hope I can live with the HTM1. If not it's more saving for a third 800.

    I know that you can definately get individual 800/801/802 from B&W but don't know about 805/805Sigs.

    Gaz
     
  17. mgoldsmith

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    Interesting thing is that on the bwspeakers website you can work out a "budget $XXX " system and it lists the price of ALL speakers individually, including the 805 sigs which has a list price of 1250 UK pounds per speaker. it even allows you to select an 805 sig as your centre channel and give you a "final price" based on 5 or 7 805 sigs.

    Matt.G
     
  18. NicolasB

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    Gazza, what have you got against the Signature HTM? And don't you think you'd be better off using Sig805s as rears rather than 803s? :)
     
  19. bamber

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    I think I would hear the difference between 800s/HTM as I do with the 802s/HTM1. I will make a decision on this when I get the 800's and hear them with the HTM1.

    If the 803's are even a close match with the 800's then I would keep them as the rear channels aren]t as important to me as the LCR channels. Stephen Baker from B&W has assured me that the whole Nautilus range should match the 800s. It seems quite a few people are using the 800's with the rest of the Nautilus range.
     
  20. Operandi

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    I spoke to a B&W dealer about this today. He said that they cannot make a Siggy HTM2 because the magnet assembly of the signature mid range driver is too big to fit in the HTM2 cabinet. He recommended a Siggy HTM1 to match Sig 805's.
     
  21. NicolasB

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    Well, you might, but the Signature HTM is specifically designed to match the 800s, and only the 800s. There is a lot of variation within the Nautilus range - 805s and 803s are quite similar, but 804s are rather different, and 802s different again; so the HTM1 will inevitably have its work cut out trying to match all of them.

    At any rate, if you don't like the 800/HTM1 mix, I would definitely audition a Sig HTM before you commit yourself to buying another 800. Could save yourself £3000. :)

    I'd be a little surprised if they were, but we shall see.


    Oh for God's sake! :rolleyes:

    The innards of a Signature 805 won't fit inside a Nautilus 805 cabinet either. That didn't prevent them from making the Signature 805, did it?

    (mutter)

    Edit: corrected typo
     
  22. mgoldsmith

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    B&W replied to my query about the HTM2 siggy.

    here's what they had to say.

    Matt.G

    ========================================
    Dear Matt

    When we first considered producing a Signature line it was going to be simply the N800's, HTM1 and SCM's. This would allow our end users of both multi channel and two-channel to have the option of a luxury finish on our premium range of models.

    On a separate note we had also been asked for a number of years to produce a very high-end bookshelf speaker, especially from the Far East. The results of an awful lot of hard work were the Signature 805's. This is a very different speaker to the N805 and not only a change in finish like the N800 to S800's.

    The Signature line is now (as far as I am aware!) complete and no further additions will be made. I can fully understand that a Signature HTM2 would be an obvious addition, however it is extremely unlikely.

    As a user myself of Signature 805's I bought an HTM2 in black to suit, as in terms of timbre matching there are no issues. A colleague uses Signature 805's with one of our subwoofers and the Signature HTM1 and is very happy with the results, so there are other options for you to consider.

    I would also suggest you contact the Australian distributor to ask if there is the possibility of purchasing a single Signature 805, though do bare in mind that that unlike the N805's the Signature 805's are not magnetically shielded.

    Best regards

    Stephen Baker
    Product Manager
    B&W Loudspeakers UK
     
  23. PhilCTTE

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    Just to throw another element in ... Have you tried the 8NT inwalls they also have the nautilus tweeter . In a 800 similar 3 array.
     
  24. pwiles1968

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    Has anyone listened to a Signature SCM as a centre they are supposed to use the Sig 805 internals, I would have thought they would be a good tonal match.
     

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