"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.


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.