"The B&W Sound"

Does the "B&W sound" that may critics complain about have more to do with design or materials (perhaps both)? (i.e.: does a metal dome tweeter always impart a bright signature, or does it depend more on the crossover design?) I don't hate my 703's, but I'm certainly not satisfied either. I have been considering speakers that utilize a soft dome tweeter. What are the signatures (i.e.: weaknesses) of a soft dome design (if any)? Most importantly, what speakers will: 1.) Play at least as loud as the 703's (yes, I'm a product of the 70's -louder is better); 2.) Offer superior highs (smother, but still detailed); 3.) Rival or better the 703's bass response; 4.) Cost less!! ($2,000 - $3,000 range)??? I would like to hear from previous B&W users - preferably those who have replaced their 703's with speakers that offer a less fatiguing (i.e.: bright/harsh) sound.


Prove to us first that it is the speakers, and not harsh sounding electronics and cables being perfectly reproduced by the speakers.
HMMMM, the B&W sound! I have heard some B&W in systems that I liked, and others that I did not! I myself was an avid B&W guy until I discovered JM Labs...Of course I had dreams of some Wilson Audio in my system, but it is a little to expensive for me. I have fallen in love with my JM Labs 926's. Smoothest overall presnetation I have heard from speakers in the price group. Used they would be a little more than what you 703's are worth, but I find their inverted dome tweeter to be most inviting to listen to. I would get some high-frequency fatigue while listening to my b&w's (602 s3's to the cdm-1nt's to the nautilus 805's in my speaker evolution) but I always thought that they created a good soundstage. I just think that the overall timberal balance of the JM Labs are much better. Best of luck! Try and get out and hear some other stuff, you will find something that tickles your fancy!
I never really had the brightness problem with my B&W CDM1 NTs, but then I was running a tube pre, which may have helped some. Your equipment may have something to do with this brightness - have you tried other speakers in your set up?

Anyway, I was looking to upgrade so after listening to tons of speakers (almost literally) I finally went with the Gallo Reference IIIs, which are just phenomenal speakers! Great tight low bass, exceptional soundstaging, detailed but non-edgy tweeter. I got mine for $2500, so they're in your price range.

My system now:
Shanling T-100 CD
VPI MkIII/Rega 300/Sumiko Blackbird/conrad-johnson phono preamp
Eastern Electric Mini-max tube preamp
Nuforce Reference 9 monoblocs (incredible amps!!!)
Gallo Ref IIIs

I love it love it love it, and I'm done with the upgrade bug for the foreseeable future!
Good luck!
You mention the '"B&W sound" that many critics complain about'. IMHO, it is precicely that these speakers are so incredibley accurate and do not have a sound (sonic signiture) that seems to be the "real" seed of these complaints/critics. Questionable cables, improper amplifier power, or other improperly matched source components, will rear their ugly heads with a top of the line B&W speaker. Conversely, these speaker sing with "the right stuff".
Listen closely to what Sugarbrie said. I was very unhappy with my 800N's until I started upgrading the digital front end. A high end tube CDP added bass and smoothed out the treble a bit. I have a new tube preamp on the way. New cables too. I am confident my speakers are going to sound great.
You should have no trouble auditioning your speakers with some good gear. There seems to be a B&W dealer on every corner.
the 703's are very nice with the proper gear. no need to upgrade without a really big jump in price.
I do not have "the right stuff". Moving from CDN 1NT to Tylers Linbrooks ( Seas Tweeter). I can´t listen to music more than an hour!!! Having B & W´s speakers for than eight years, I feel is enough.
Ben - Maybe you've already thought about some of this but....What about your room? It can, and likely does, have a huge impact on the sound of your system. What about speaker placement? Try listening with them straight ahead, then toe them in slightly, etc. There are a number of tweaks that will change and, in many cases, improve the sound of any speakers. Besides, tweaking the room is part of the fun. Good luck.
Someone here or on another audio forum recently reported taming the treble output of B&W CDM1s by upgrading capacitor(s) in the crossover network. I didn't take a note of this because I got rid of mine after 6 years of struggle trying to integrate them into a suitable system. If they hadn't been so good in all other respects I wouldn't have bothered, but a combination of warm amp (Plinius 8150) and cdp (Arcam CD93) still didn't work. It wasn't that the treble was harsh or otherwise objectionable - there was just too much of it. I've ended up happily with New Zealand-made Image speakers with Morel drivers, including a soft-dome tweeter, but these are not yet readily available outside NZ.

In the same room with the same ancillaries they give an all-round better performance than either the CDM1s or the newer 704 or 705 models (which I've trialled) at less than half the price. But if I had been able to tame the treble on the CDM1s it is quite likely I would have held on to them for life. I've got no issues with the rest of their pwerformance.
I had N805's and found I could not listern for longer than about 20 min. My previous and much less expensive system was NHT/NAD and I enjoyed it MUCH more than the 805's. I could not believe that the speakers were a problem so I looked elseware in the system. The biggest improvement came with the addition of a benchmark DAC. The main problem persisted which was a lack of "meat" in the sound. I don't listen to "audiophile music" I listen to rock, jazz, blues. The music still had no balls, but the highs were much improved with the DAC1 in fact the whole frequency range improved, just not enough. I then went to audition some 802D's at a local dealer. The Sophias were next to them and already hooked up, I listened to them first with a disc I made containing music I am very familiar with, WOW finally I heard what I expected from "high end". Next up 802Ds, I was prepared to be blown away but instead I heard the same sonic "signature" as my 805s only bigger. I could not stop listening to the Sophias and couldn't stop fast enough with the 802's. These were driven by big Krells, no lack of juice. Sold the 805s and bought some JM labs 907bes. They fit my room, have plenty of the meat that was missing and I listen for hours at a time now. It IS the speakers, audition some other brands and buy what you like for the type of music YOU listen to. Some JM Labs 927bes can be had in your price range and if they are anything like the 907bes they will be great. Good luck.

3 years I owned B&W CDM 1NT's, wich was a love-hate relationschip.
I used cheap equipement such as a Rotel 971 amp and a Rotel RCD 971 player.
I would discribe the sound rather as detailled, nearly analytical and a bit shrill.
However, later I've got great results with vinyl ( a cheap Pro-ject Debut (!), the music was far less agressive in my humble opinion.
I schould try smooth equipement on B&W speakers,
tube amps or amps such a LFD Mistral LE for example, however maybe underpowered for the big guys (N 802, 801,..).
Good luck.

Very good. Thank you. Good to hear from B&W enthusiasts. I am one who believes that B&W makes quality products. I simple don't care for the 703 sound. Yes, it could be my upstream components. However, what I am hearing is the very same thing that many others, even the reviewer's who raved about the speaker, have sighted as a weak point. I, like many others, believe the sound of the 703 tends to be a bit fatiguing and bright. I also believe this has something to due with the metal dome design (perhaps, the cross-over design - I'm not that well informed about speaker design). I should have stated "That 703 Sound", rather than painting such a broad stroke in making the statement, "The B&W Sound." Any way, back to my original thought...would a design that utilizes a silk dome give a "better" sound (clearly, bright is not desirable)? Or, are there significant trade-offs when switching from metal to silk? Maybe the material has less to due with the sound than the way the crossover is designed - or other design characteristics??? I don't know. We all know who some of the true "B&W bashers" are. I am curious if what "they" say is reality...Can you get better sound from speakers that are designed differently than the 703's, but sell for less (or roughly the same - less would be great!), without giving up anything that the 703's do well? (Again, I consider "less bright" to be better - something smoother in the highs, but not laid-back. I appreciate the control the 703's have. especially in their bass-response
One thing that I believe will go a long way to rectifying the brightness of your speakers is a tube preamp...as opposed to all solid state. A great tube preamp will, to use an oft repeated descriptor, "warm" your sound and, in my opinion, render the sound rounder and more real. There are lots of very nice tube preamps in the 800-2000 dollar range that have the ability to transform your sound.
I'm actually an N804 owner. I auditioned some Thiel 2.4's that sounded awfully good and some ML Aeon's that I liked but not as much as the Thiels. I was able to do this in my own listening room. The thiels have a metal dome, so I don't know if you'd be happy with that or not, but they are certainly worth a listen if you can audition them in your room.

On the silk dome tweeter, I've also auditioned Wilson Benesch Arc and Vienna Acoustics. I thought they were both very good on the highs. The bass on VA wasn't to my liking, but it was a nicely balanced speaker. The Arc was really nice all around. It was just a bit small for my room. IMO, the silk dome does piano and male voices a bit better. But that just what I was hearing. You could try the new VA Mozart, or do give a listen to the WB Arc if your room is smallish. In any event, you should try to try to audition them in your listening room. Hope this helps.
I have heard many people complain about B+W as well.I have both the martix 801s series 3 and nautilus 802s.The 801s are awesome.I initially hated the 802s but then I played around with the frontend etc.Now the nautilus are the best speakers I have ever heard.Another audiophile who recently heard my setup also stated the "it is by far the most natural and easy to listen to system I have ever heard."
I use a bryston bp26 and moon eclipse cd player on one circuit and my bryston 4b sst one another.Also don't use esoteric wires.Esoteric wires made it sound terrible.I just use elcheapo stuff.The one going to the amp is 30 feet and the one going from the cd to preamp is a 3 foot balanced.This same setup works just as well for the 801s.
I initially made the mistake of running them( the electronics) off the same circuit .They sounded quite grainy.I would not have believe it could make that much difference if I hadn't heard it for myself but it does.
This setup does not sound bright or fatiguing as before but very natural.Hope this helps other owners out there.