North Creek B&W 801 crossovers? Tried them?

I know they are rather pricey at $1600.00+... Has anyone auditioned these crossovers or own a set? I have a pair of B&W 801 S3 speakers that I drive with a CAL 2500 MCA. The sound is very nice but I was wondering what difference these crossovers would make, if any... If so would the difference be worth the $$? I only paid $2100 for the speakers (an AWESOME deal as far as I am concerned, considering the condition, PERFECT). Hope to hear from you. I am also looking for a pair of the stands they used to make for these speakers. Are there any out there for sale? Thanks for looking! Paul
Hi Paul,

Yes..I have a pair with just about 325 hours on them from new. I bought my Anniversary Limited Edition 801 (Rosewood) for not much more than you,(although I drove 1900 miles round trip to get them! :)... and although good sounding, they are not even close to comparable vs. the NC' XO's.. The Anniversary is basically a S3. Drivers and crossovers in a S2 cabinet with the swivel head assembally. The APOC is not active just like your S3, and the woofer impedence compensation circut is intact as well like the S2..(not on the S3). At first hook up you notice an immediate increase in dynamics at low levels and a more resolving bass and upper mids. The highs follow with more extension and then the mids bloom better than any 801 Ive ever heard.The well document "tubby bass" of the 801 becomes a non isuue when the NC's are on board.The bass is much tighter and seems a bit leaner and cleaner...But, when the music has bass dynamics and slam and truly deep bass material, you are astounded that this is the same speaker. The bass is still not world class IMO...but MUCH better than stock.They still tend to roll off around 30Hz rather quickly, but the XO's transition points are the same in the NC as stock. I felt that the drivers as well as the crossovers of the stcok 801 were equally at fault for the limited dynamics and a sense of restraint and compression when the speaker is pushed. Not bad,much better than some slim collum 2 or 3 ways of more recent designs and which are much more popular these days, but could be better for a speaker of this caliber that sold for $6900 new even 14 years ago. What amazed me is that I found that the drivers and cabinet were very good designs and were VERY limited by the stock XO. Ive heard some say that B&W used a trio of drivers with different sonic signatures and each having a very different make up that was heard as a severe coloration in the finished sound, but I dont think so now. The real problem was and is the stock XO. NC recommends a full 300 hours of break in, and they seemed to get to that "liquid" sound right around that mark in my set up. My 801 came with the Sound Anchor stands which are a must with these speakers. I used to have the matching stand with my older 801 S2..the kind that matches the speaker cabinet and is sand filled with the platform over the sand loaded base. I think they were Arcici stands...but could be wrong. They are indeed much harder to find, but I believe that the SA are a better design and do a better job of mechanical isolation and coupling to the floor. This MO anyway. I can highly recommend the NC's for your 801's. George usually can have a pair made within a week or 2, dpending on his availability of boxes and finishes.He is very helpfull and of course the 45 day money back warranty is nice. I would be suprised if he actually had a pair come back! I dont know though. :) That $1600 is well spent believe me. Many audio guys dismiss the 801 Matrix as old technology and to be honest, I did too. When you hear them set up with excellent components in a good room, you hear the potential, With the NorthCreek's, that potential is realized.
Good luck- Ken
Thanks Tab, I remember we talked about that. I think you also rewired yours with better wiring if I recall. Ill have to see about this also. :)
Haven't heard the B&W x-overs, but I just assembled bass units for a 2 piece DIY loudspeaker system utilizing monstrous North Creek custom 10 ga air cores and their Crescendo caps (cascade bypass) for first order x-overs. The sound is phenomenal! So much so that down the road I'll open up the monitors and re-do their x-overs with North Creek parts. I'm now certain it'll be well worth the extra work and expense.
I thought you were familiar. Is the floor suspended or concrete? If i remember correctly, i sugested that the feet be changed to something more substantial, since the Tone Cones tips are somewhat soft.
Tab- Concrete floors, Logan etc type spikes which are adjustable on sand filled Sound Anchors.What was the wiring you used? Any others you would look at?? My 801's do not have the flimsy clip connector between the drivers, yet I may rewire them anyway for best sonics eventually. Thanks, Ken
Furukawa was recommended. You could-Ahem- wire them with the same cables that you're using(Crossover's too) for true synergy if you plan on keeping theses for the long-haul. I almost forgot, spike the the boxes. You could use some substantial spkies here to good effect. Try some ERS sheets inside or out. To go overgoard you could use Marigo Dots on all the Xover caps. As i may have mentioned before, i had suspended floors and i wanted to isolate everything: BDR "Through Things" between the cabinet and stand or feet and stand. It is a good thing the the Manufacturer simplified and lowered costs too. They used to be a four box system that had to be hard-wired. Don't the 801's look cool with two black boxes sitting on white carpet?
Yes...Indeed, Thanks!. Boxes are spiked. I have moved the boxes behind the speaks for now for a neat and clean appearence. Thanks for the info Tab!

Tahoe36c...Let me once again reinterate that the NC XO's are indeed worth the bucks, especially if your goung to keep them for awhile. Should you ever decide to sell them eventually, I know there are many who would get in line to buy them used! Good luck with your 801's.-Ken :)
I realize this is an old thread, so I hope the knowledgeable parties will continue to weigh in.

I'm confused about the application of the NC external crossovers to the 801-3s, especially as regards the exchange between Tab and Ken about "changing the internal wiring". Are the NC replacement XOs designed to be plugged into the existing dual speaker inputs on the 801s without having to alter the innards of the speaker? Or do you need to go inside the speaker cabs and rip out the old stock XO for the new ones to be effective? I couldn't figure this out from the NC website and got no answer to an email inquiry.

Hi Bob,

I think I understand your question and will try to answer.

First...The "internal wiring" that Tab and I are were conversing about is all the wiring that runs

1) from the woofer wire on the crossover up into the cabinet and connects to the woofer and then..

2) from the woofer up into the midrange head and connects to the midrange driver.

I did not do this wiring change ( upgraded quality wire) in my set up, but left the B&W stock wiring in place. Tab also noted that B&W uses a clip connector(S2) to attach the woofer wire to the midrange wire..He felt it best to do away with this...In my S2 speaker (Anniversary model and basically a S3) it was not present,

As to the NC XO's to answer your question.

This is not really as complicted as it may sound. Basically you are disconnecting the 4 or 5 colored wires at the crossover on the speaker end.. ..then just connecting the new NC wiring by spicing into the wires where you made the just follow the color coded wires on the speaker binding post plate that match up to the existing wires with barrel crimps( supplied).The new Nc wiring runs to the new binding post plate. The plate can be mounted under the speaker. I actually left the original B&W spk binding post plate intact as you are not using it at all( You cannot replace the plate with the new NC plate as it is too big to fit in the same stock space, even though NCsays in the instructions to remove the stock plate and replace it with the NC),,,It wont fit.)..Its actually better to either attach it via a few small screws under the cabinet or let it hang behind the spkr.) Everything is cut and crimp and color coded so you really cant screw it up..Once you see the'll know how it attaches. The directions are very good.

Just another point....You could actually take the whole stock crossover off the bottom of the speaker and then just spice into the wires as noted above. I left the stock XO on the speaker in case I wanted to reconnect it back at some point,,either way and what ever is best for you though.

Hope this helps and not confuses.

Ken, thanks for the detail which I of course did not understand. Are the NC XO instructions illustrated? I can't even figure out how to open up the speaker. It seems hermetically sealed!

I'm not mechanically challenged, just completely unfamiliar with electronics. So, any idiot can do this?
If you never get them, you'll always wonder what could've been. As Kehut said they're easy to connect. Years ago, you had to hard-wire four boxes and pay $2400. Since you have an S3, the cheap clips have been eliminated, the iron core inductors changed to air versions and fluid cooled tweeters added. Aside from the NC's, you NEED the Soundanchors stands and Polycrystal/brass feet.

You can indeed do this. To start, you turn the speaker on one side and work from underneath the speaker. If you have the soundanchor stands mounted to the speaker...they must be removed including the base that attaches to the 801 itself. A large allen wrench is used here.

From there, you unscrew the bottom wood cover to expose the XO board. If you have the soundanchors already, this cover may already be off. At this point, you follow the instructions supplied by NC, and as I mentioned above.

George Short is a great guy, and you will be able to call him for any info needed during the set up if you need to. He will surely be most happy to help you by phone.

As Tab110s mentioned, if you dont already have the Soundanchor stands for all means you NEED them to place this speaker off the floor. It changes the sound so much for the better, that its like night and day difference. The addition of the external crossover will add refinement and dynamics to an already nice sounding speaker.

Ken, thanks for the additional detail. I see the route in now. ;)

Do you have to leave the 801 bottom covers permanently off in order to use the NC XOs? I already have the speakers on Sound Anchor stands.

Dust is an issue at my place. If the NC replacement binding post plates do happen to fit on my speakers, does that mean I can hook up the new external XOs through them and close up the speaker bottoms? If that is the way its supposed to work, then even if the supplied replacement plates don't fit, I could possibly recut them so that they do.
If you can use the new plate in the stock hole, then you will be able to close up the bottom. That bottom plate when on.. may still allow you to run the wiring out the side even if you cant use the newer plate in the old plate hole. I think the plate has some areas that wires can be passed out of??

You certainly could cut the speaker to allow the NC plate to fit..but then you would be making a permanent change and I suggest this only if you are going to either keep the speakers or sell the speakers later with the XO's.

When I sold my pair, I sold them together, but offerd the buyer the option of taking the speaker with or without the NC XO's. I could have then reconnected the stock XO's and binding posts if necessary. You have to make that decision for yourself of course.
Ken, Thanks again. I've got a much clearer picture now of how it will work out, depending on whether the new binding post plates fit or not.

I wouldn't alter the speaker box to make the new binding post plate fit. I was speaking of possibly re-machining the new plate to conform to the existing hole in the speaker.

BTW, I noticed a vintage Mac MR-77 tuner in your setup. I have one that I bought new around 1974. It stopped working awhile back, and is now at Audio Classics being rehabbed.

Cheers, Bob
I see what you mean on the re-matching the new plate. You could do that..but remember you have 6 posts now instead of the 4. It may be a very tight fit.

I love the MR77. I also owned a MR71 several years back. My dad is a mac lover, and has his original bought new MR 71, C-28 and MC-2105 amp. I sent my 77 back to Mac this summer for a full alignment and new glass. It looks and sounds great.

Audio Classic guys are really good. I used to live not too far from them years back and visted on several occasions. They are a bit pricy for alignment and repair, but worth it for mods to the tuners. Now that Richard M. is with them...they can really make the 77 and 78 models sound good or better than when new. Richard does some addional upgrades that were not avail back then. As you may know..he was the original chief designer of those tuners at McIntosh.... Downside is the expense though :-)
Re: NC XOs. It didn't occur to me that there would be 6 posts on the new binding post plate instead of the stock 4. So, I gather that there are three pairs of wires--one for each driver--coming out of the external XO, and that each of these pairs of wires has to be connected to a respective set of binding posts? (Please pardon the "duh" factor here...)

Re: MR-77. I'm aware that the original designer of the tuner (Richard M) now works at AudioClassics. I decided in favor of all the available upgrades since he did a pretty good job the first time around!
The bottom plate with "sing" along with the music if left in-place. Anyone using the Xovers should also utilise good spikes. Be carfeful when handling them as the bottom plates aren't very sturdy.
Tab, thanks for the recommendation and warning about the bottom plates. I don't think I'd use the XOs if I couldn't have the bottom plates on while doing so, since I have the speakers mounted on Sound Anchor stands that fit over the plates.
I meant the bottom plates of the NC's. Mine was craked in half. They pack a lot of parts on a not-too-sturdy platform. I just remembered that I drilled the original BP plates to accept the NC versions with minimal fuss.
So you are recommending to remove the bottom plates of the NC XOs AND use spikes to improve their performance...therefore I'm picturing the XOs up on spikes with the bottom completely open, right?

I still don't understand your second sentence: "I drilled the original BP plates to accept the NC versions.." What are 'BP plates'? and the "NC versions" of what?

Thanks, and apologies if I'm being dense.
KEEP the plates on the Xovers(The electronics are attached to the covers).The bottom covers are about a 1/2" thick and don't seem appropriate for the load they support, so handle the Xovers with care(Each Xover are around 50lbs each). GET RID OF the bottom plates on the speakers. Unless you live outside, dust shouldn't be a problem. My Xovers had Binding Post(BP) plates that were supposed to be attached to the outside of the enclosure. I instead utilized the factory BP plate and enlarged the holes and drill an extra hole to accomodate the Xovers Binding Posts(My Xovers had wire leads for 5 BP's). Change the spikes that come with the Xovers to something more substantial such as the small Polycrystal/brass footers.
I hope that many of you are still interested in the NC external XO and periodically read this post -- 10 years later!

I recently acquired a pair of 801 S3's with NC XO's and Sound Anchor stands. The speakers have a bottom plate on them. Not sure what is on inside. The tri-wire NC plate is attached where the old B&W bi-wire plate used to be. The terminals stick out beyond the back of the speaker prohibiting me from flipping them on that side without doing some damage due to the weight of the speaker. Other than that, there are no issues.

I have no clue where the old parts are, so if I had to sell to a collector, I am out of luck and will have to sell the package. Please do not hold your breath. I cannot compare the sound of the addition of the XO's since I got the whole package. However, compared to stock 802 S3, which I replaced, there is a world of difference. Detail, sound stage, and base. ENJOY THE MUSIC!

Just curious about the internal wiring. How much difference will the internal wiring make compared to stock?

I have much to up-grade. Current system includes:

Oppo 95 with volume control
Geek Pulse DAC also with volume control
Yamaha MX - 1 amp (no preamp as my turntable is kaput)
B&W 801 S3 with NC XO's

Any suggestions on the Amp?

George at Northcreek is of the impression that upgrading the internal wires won't make that much difference. OTH, if you google the subject, specifically regarding the 801's, some believe it to be beneficial. There is not much wiring internally. Wires to the main drivers are attached via a slip on connector. There are some who believe that soldering directly will improve the sound. Also, the wires to the revolving head unit involve another connector, allowing removal of the head unit. Again, some people believe eliminating the connector will improve the sound. Obviously, if you do this, the head is not so easily removed.

The bottom plate covers the original BW crossover, assuming the original purchaser of the Northcreeks left it there.

You did not mention if you also obtained the bass alignment filter. Some people feel the original BW filter muddies the sound a bit. Personally, I think it is essential to the overall package. If you can get the Krell filter, you'd be better off.

I would upgrade your amp, used Krell, Pass Labs would be worth an audition.

polly crystal brass feet! where do they go!. I have the 801's and the covers and the sound anchor stands.


I assume your response was to me previous note above regarding amps. If so any specific used models?