B&W Matrix 805
B&W Matrix 805 with grille removed. enlarge. This free website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially this link directly to the Matrix 805 at eBay, or this link to all B&W speakers (see How to Win at eBay) when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Thanks! Ken.
The B&W Matrix 805 monitor is an exceptional loudspeaker that takes everything Bowers & Wilkins learned in 15 years of designing and manufacturing the world-standard B&W model 801, and put it in a desktop speaker. It even uses exactly the same tweeter as the Matrix 801!
It is set apart from other speakers because of its "Matrix" enclosure. The biggest problem with speakers in boxes is that half the sound goes from the back of the drivers into the box, and then has to come back out somewhere, usually mangled through the box and the driver itself, mucking-up the sound.
These Matrix 805s sound exceptionally well precisely because of all the mucked-up and obfuscating sound that they don't let out of the box. Since they are only producing the desired sound with the irrelevant resonances and internal reflections removed, all one hears is the direct, unadulterated natural sound. One can hear all the spaces in-between the notes, not just a loud wall of confusion.
A Matrix enclosure uses a ton of internal cross-bracing, so the enclosure is about ten times more solid than you'd expect. It uses an internal cellular structure comprising of a series of interlocking perforated sheets. Each internal cell created by this structure is filled with acoustic foam to eliminate standing waves. As B&W's literature shows, this construction is significantly more dead and solid than concrete!
Tap on the cabinet, and it sounds like it's made of solid wood, not a hollow box like a speaker. Because of this, it is uniquely free from the box coloration which is the bane of all conventional speakers, and why boxless planar and electrostatic speakers usually sound so much better than conventional speakers. B&W describe the benefits of the Matrix enclosure as "an increase in detail resolution from the systematic removal of masking influences."
This isn't a common home speaker. In its day, it was expensive as heck (about $2,400 the pair in 2011 dollars) and popular for use in smaller recording studios for near-field monitoring. Sure, you could use these for surround speakers for video, but these B&W Matrix live for careful listening to serious music.
Sixth-order means that this very special speaker is designed for use with a dedicated bass alignment filter (equalizer) for significantly more extended, tighter and less boomy bass than conventionally designed speakers, like today's newest Diamond 805. If you want boomy, thumpy bass, buy a Bose system, not these.
This Matrix 805 is the first version of today's $5,000-the-pair B&W Diamond 805. Exactly like today's 805 Diamond, this original 805 Matrix uses a 6.5" (165mm) woven Kevlar cone with 30mm Kapton-former voice coil, and uses the exact same tweeter as B&W's top-of-the line 800-series speaker of its time.
This original Matrix 805 has a more attractive tweeter than the weird-looking thing on top of the new Diamond 805, and more importantly, this Matrix 805 uses a far more advanced active sixth-order bass alignment than the simpler and less expensive fourth-order passive design of the Diamond 805.
"Alignment" has nothing to do with physical placement of components, drivers or anything; in this case, alignment refers to the poles and zeros of the abstract (imaginary) mathematical transforms that are used by speaker designers to describe the exact frequency responses of loudspeaker systems. Speakers are designed by modeling the low-frequency performance as an electrical filter, for which engineers have many tools to simulate. Once simulated, the drivers, vents and boxes can be designed and then built just once exactly without having to build numerous samples to see what happens.
A fourth-order alignment describes any vented-box or passive-radiator speaker. If you add a second-order dedicated high-pass filter before your power amplifier, you have far more control of the bass frequency and phase response. This Matrix 805 is designed for use with such a filter, which was included with it in the beginning. This concept was too advanced for the market, so as B&W expanded into the mass-market, it dropped these more advanced sixth-order designs because so few consumers understood it, or used B&W's dedicated equalizers.
This is too bad for people who buy today's $5,000 Diamond 805, since they get a less-extended and bumpier response than this Matrix 805 gives with it's dedicated equalizer. John Bowers passed away some time ago, and after brilliant speakers like the Matrix 805, B&W sadly has pretty much been coasting along on the marketing department's innovations.
This Matrix 805 uses a fourth-order Bessel alignment (type of frequency response curve) because the Bessel alignment has uniform group-delay, meaning all frequencies leave the speaker at the same time, so nothing gets time-smeared. B&W could do this because they add the lowest bass and more back in with the equalizer, while today's simpler speakers have to use higher Qs and different alignments like Butterworth to replace true deep bass with a bumped response curve, along with its non-uniform group delays, just to try to get as much bass out of the box without the benefit of having an intelligent dedicated equalizer as part of the design.
The Bessel alignment has the advantage that adding a very simple second-order electrical filter (the equalizer) allows one to create a completely different kind of alignment, a sixth-order Butterworth alignment, whose frequency response is also flat, and extends and extra half-octave deeper in the bass. The high-pass nature of this filter also ensures that extreme low-frequencies below the speaker's range are removed, preventing the woofer cone from flopping all over due to recording-venue noise (or turntable rumble for you old-timers).
"Filter" and "equalizer" mean the same thing here. Engineers call this a "filter," while to most people, "equalizer" means more. This "filter" very precisely boosts the bass, as well as removing subsonic frequencies that cause distortion.
B&W also claim this little speaker is designed for very little power compression for optimum use with digital sources. Back in 1990, digital sources were great and CDs were mastered with little dynamic compression, but today, all the peaks are clipped off and the dynamics and life are sucked out so that the entire album can be cut at 100% to sound louder than all the other albums. Oh well.
I have a pair of original sealed-box (second-order) B&W 801Fs from about 1980, which I love to death, even more than the Quad ESL-63. When I saw this ad in the October, 1995 issue of Audio Magazine recently, I knew I needed to borrow a set of Matrix 805 for my desktop audio system:
This Matrix 805 came either with its tweeter on the top, or on the side.
The normal Matrix 805 V, "Vertical" version shown here has its tweeter on top.
A less common Matrix 805 H, "Horizontal" version had its tweeter on the side, directly next to the woofer, so that it could be placed horizontally.
All these versions of the 805 are about the same size, use vented 10 litre cabinets, use a top-mounted tweeter, use the same tweeter as the top-of-the-line 801 of their time, and use a 165mm (6.5") woven Kevlar woofer with a 30mm Kapton former. The differences are mostly marketing, and reducing manufacturing costs with flashier, but less stiff, cabinets for newer models.
1990-1997: Matrix 805 (reviewed here)
This B&W Matrix 805 was announced along with the Matrix 803 and Matrix 804 in 1990 as a logical expansion of the Matrix 800 line. These new Matrix 803, Matrix 804 and Matrix 805 speakers were smaller than the studio-standard Matrix 801 and its slightly smaller brother B&W Matrix 802 floor-standing monitors.
For the next years this Matrix 805 was such a perfect design that it was never altered, even while B&W introduced Series 2 and Series 3 versions of the larger models.
The Matrix 805 is the only advanced sixth-order 805-series monitor that's designed for use with the B&W Bass Alignment Filter. This was a concept so advanced that B&W dropped it as they sought a broader consumer market after the passing of their brilliant founder John Bowers.
At introduction, the Matrix 805 of course shipped with the integral B&W Bass Alignment Filter, but it wasn't included in later years. B&W was able to cloak a price rise by selling you the filter separately as the years progressed.
1997-2004: Nautilus 805 (not reviewed here)
B&W unleashed the snail-like Nautilus series in 1997, and replaced the classic Matrix 805 with the N805 Nautilus.
The Nautilus 805 uses a rounded cabinet and looks like its tweeter is partially coming out of the top of its cabinet. It has a larger vent, which impresses the innocent, but robs effective box volume from the interior of the cabinet.
As Stereophile's measurements show, the Nautilus 805's less-expensive to manufacture cabinet lacks the solidity of the Matrix's cabinet. Compare the Matrix 805's cabinet vibration to the Nautilus 805's cabinet vibration; they are so different that they aren't even shown on the same scale!
Likewise, simplification reduced the design to a simple fourth-order speaker, not the advanced fourth-order Bessel/sixth-order Butterworth alignment of the classic Matrix 805, meaning that the bass response of the Nautilus and newer 805s is diminished from the classic Matrix 805, if you use them full-range.
The Nautilus 805 is rated 49Hz-22kHz ±3dB, and has no filter available for it. The Matrix 805 is rated more tightly and goes deeper at ±2 dB 45 Hz-20 kHz with the B&W Bass Alignment Filter.
The Nautilus 805 listed at $2,000 the pair at the time.
2004-2011: 805 S (not reviewed here)
The 805 S was the same as the Nautilus 805, with the tweeter further separated from the main cabinet to look even sillier.
The 805 S is rated the same as the Nautilus 805; 49Hz - 22kHz ±3dB on axis, -6db at 42 Hz and 50 kHz, 11.5 kg / 25 lbs
The 805 S listed at $2,500-$2,800 the pair at the time.
2011: 805 Diamond (not reviewed here)
New for 2011, B&W added the "diamond" external tweeter to the 805 S. It looks like a microphone glued on top.
It also added silver trim, a silver woofer dick, and bumps the list price to $5,000 the pair.
As all the other 805s except for the original Matrix 805, the Diamond 805 is a common unassisted 4th order design, not a sixth-order design for use with a Bass Alignment Filter.
Sorry if I'm not showing any respect if you just bought a pair of the 805 Diamonds; if you did, then why are you reading this? I'm sure they're awesome, but I'll wait until I get to hear them to pass judgment on if they are as good as the original.
Hey, Avery Fisher and H H Scott also invented some of today's most important audio technology that we take for granted (Fisher invented the transistor audio amplifier and HH Scott the RC oscillator), and each founded companies that made some of the best gear of their time, but each of those companies fell into making plastic consumer rubbish after their founders stepped away, too.
B&W Matrix 805 with grille removed. enlarge.
26mm (1") aluminum-dome.
3 kHz crossover.
Mounted on top to eliminate box effects.
B&W claims it's time-aligned.
165mm (6-1/2") patented woven Kevlar cone.
3 kHz crossover.
Rounded trim to reduce diffractive effects.
B&W claims a low hysteresis surround for optimum transient performance.
B&W Matrix 805 in English Walnut. enlarge.
Grille and badge close-up, B&W Matrix 805. enlarge.
The grilles are nice: they are solid particle board, with rounded edges and radiused holes cut for the woofer and the port to eliminate diffraction.
Even nicer, the vertical sides (seen on the left in the photo) are made of extruded aluminum, anodized in Denmark. On this English Walnut example, the aluminum is anodized in matte brown!
The badge is solid die-cast aluminum, solidly attached to the particle board foundation.
8 Ω rated.
4 Ω minimum, rated.
Impedance magnitude (Ω), and phase angle versus frequency. (R&S UPL; +90º is capacitive, -90º is inductive.)
B&W is honest: 8 Ω nominal is correct, and the minima I see is 6 Ω at 190 Hz and 5.1 Ω at 10.5 kHz, far easier to drive than 4 Ω which is the bottom of this graph. At these minima, the impedance is resistive, so these are easy to drive.
87 dB with 2.83V RMS input at 1 meter.
Suggested Amplifier Power
50 W - 120 W into 8 Ω with no clipping.
A 20 W amp that's played so loud that it clips will probably blow out the tweeters, but a 250 W amp playing very dynamic original material in a recording studio should be fine.
Suggested Cable Impedance
0.2 Ω (200 mΩ) or less.
B&W also suggests wire of at least 1.5 square millimeter conductor area, which is AWG 15 or better.
Therefore, using the 12 AWG low-voltage outdoor lighting cable I buy at the outdoor store, I've got up to 18 meters before I hit 200 mΩ. With AWG 18, this calculates out to 4.5 meters.
Bass Loading Design
Fourth-order Bessel, speaker alone.
Sixth-order Butterworth, 42 Hz cutoff, speaker with B&W Bass Alignment Filter.
-6 dB at 35 Hz and 22 kHz, with supplied B&W Bass Alignment Filter as specified in 1990.
-6 dB at 42 Hz and 30 kHz, without B&W Bass Alignment Filter as specified in 1996.
±2 dB 45 Hz - 20 kHz on-axis with B&W Bass Alignment Filter, specified in 1990.
±3 dB 42 Hz - 20 kHz on-axis with B&W Bass Alignment Filter, specified in 1993.
±3 dB 52 Hz - 20 kHz on-axis without filter.
As specified in 1990
±30º ±2 dB horizontally to 10 kHz.
±5º ±2 dB vertically to 20 kHz.
As specified in 1996
±40º ±2 dB horizontally.
±10º ±2 dB vertically.
Distortion at 90 dB SPL at 1 meter
As specified in 1990
<2% 20 Hz to 150 Hz.
<1% 150 Hz to 20 kHz.
<1.5% 20 Hz to 150 Hz.
<1% 150 Hz to 20 kHz.
I don't believe this; there is no way this tiny speaker can put out 90 dB SPL at 20 Hz at all, much less with 2% distortion. It would require 28 dBW, or over 600 Watts of amplifier power. Even the 800 Diamond is only rated for distortion down to 45 Hz at 90 dB SPL.
As specified in 1996
<1% 90 Hz- 20 kHz, 2nd and 3rd harmonics.
Capacitors are custom-made.
Polypropylene capacitors are used in the in HF signal path.
Coils use iron-dust cores.
Rear, B&W Matrix 805 in English Walnut. enlarge.
Not only are separate terminals presented at the rear for bi-wiring, the crossovers for each are on separate circuit boards internally.
Internal wiring is by Van Den Hul. Every strand is silver-plated oxygen-free copper.
Actual measured dimensions
Including top tweeter and front grille
413 x 260 x 224mm HWD.
16.26 x 10.24 x 8.82 inches HWD.
Box only, excluding tweeter and grille
347 x 260 x 210mm HWD.
13.66 x 10.24 x 8.27 inches HWD.
407 x 260 x 210mm HWD.
16 x 10.24 x 8.27" HWD.
805 H (horizontal model): 333 x 334 x 210mm HWD (13.11 x 13.15 x 8.25").
8.5 kg, rated.
18.7 pounds, rated.
Black Ash with black grille cloth, black anodized aluminum side panels and black-painted tweeter.
English Walnut with dark brown grille cloth,dark brown anodized aluminum side panels and dark brown-painted tweeter (shown here).
Rosewood with appropriately colored grille cloth, anodized aluminum side panels and tweeter.
Oak was also available in 1990.
Unknown to most people outside the factory is that the drivers and crossover components were selected and deployed to give each a very slightly different voicing most appropriate to the use expected. The black ash were the most dry and neutral, since they were expected to be deployed in studios for mastering and mixing; the walnut were very, very slightly warmer, designed for the best overall sound for enjoying music and generally the color most preferred; while the rosewood speakers were selected to have very slightly enhanced midbass. This wasn't so much deliberate as it was one B&W engineer's clever idea as to how to sort the batches of in-tolerance drivers among different colors, done more as an example of the indomitable English sense of humor than anything else.
While the fronts of the cabinets use expensive 45º bevels, the other edges are sharp 90º square edges. Be careful carrying and moving your Matrix 805s; the sharp edges are easy to damage if bopped against other things, and the sharp corners will damage other items if you poke them.
Team led by Dr. John Dibb, tasked to reproduce as close as possible the sound of the B&W 801 in a smaller package.
Two loudspeakers per carton.
Metal links to couple the HF and LF systems if you want to use normal wiring.
Eight peel-off, stick-on rubber feet for shelf mounting.
Individual frequency response charts, one for each speaker.
Bass Alignment Filter (not included in later years as a tacit price increase).
Be very careful to buy from a talented seller who can pack these so that nothing puts any pressure on the delicate exposed tweeter or the grille, otherwise, your fantastic speakers may arrive destroyed.
About $2,400 when new in the 1990s, corrected for inflation in 2011 ($1,600 in 1990s dollars).
As auditioned in 2011, the B&W Matrix 805 is dry, uncolored, precise and accurate. It's not a warm, sappy sound as most of us are used to with conventional speakers that leak and resonate all sorts of lower midrange from their box panels.
I've got these sitting on the front edge of my glass-topped desk, placed just 65 cm (26") from each ear, spread apart by about 135.º I don't want to listen to my office's acoustics, I want to hear the space in which the music was recorded, just as I do with headphones. Each of my elbows is just 7.5" (19 cm) from the base of each speaker! An advantage of this setup is that desktop reflections are minimized because the path from speaker to desk to my ear is broken by the presence of each arm.
Measured with swept sine waves on my desk, each channel is ±2 dB over most of the range, which is exceptional in-room response. I can get this because the room has almost nothing to do with it. The direct sound is so much stronger than any reflection that I'm pretty much hearing the anechoic (echo-free) response. Anechoic is an apt description for this arrangement, as echoes are deeply attenuated compared to the direct sound, heh heh. The worst effect my awful office (a cubical plasterboard affair with a wooden floor) has on the sound are some small, narrow peaks in the range of 100 - 200 Hz.
The Matrix 805 lack the environmental controls of the 801F, and I find them a bit bright with harsh recordings, as expected. Not to worry; I simply angle them away from my ears slightly. Connecting the speaker cable to the LF section and adding a resistor to the HF section ought to be a swell environmental control. These may rub your nose in poor recordings. The sound is very precise and detailed, with no mucking about.
B&W points out that the entire 800 series is acoustically voice-matched so all models have the same balance. Too bad that balance isn't the one I prefer; I prefer the midrange dropped by 1.5 dB on the 801F's environmental controls.
When we get into the stratosphere of great loudspeakers like these, personal preferences become greater than the differences among great speakers. Speakers are a very personal choice.
I drove these with a David Hafler SE120 amplifier through 2.5 meters of AWG 12 cable, monowired. THD + N measured at the speaker terminals through the entire chain was less than 0.015% at under 1 Watt. My SE-120 isn't a very good sample (I think the output impedance is high), so these B&W will probably sound even better when driven with a better amplifier.
I also powered these from an ADCOM GFA-545 II.
In a typical (for the Matrix 805 owner) domestic music room of about 8 x 12 meters (26 x 40 feet) with 3m (10 foot) ceilings, it sounds fantastic with an ADCOM GFA-535 II. In a large room one really ought to use large speakers, but these little guys really astound at everything, especially deep bass, when used with the bass alignment filter.
Our ears can hear a lot more than most people realize. Most speakers and headphones have some audible distortion somewhere in the spectrum if sine waves are your thing.
With sine waves, each speaker of this pair had about the same little bit of audible harmonic distortion around 1-2 kHz, where the harmonics are in the frequency range most audible. I measured the THD + N at the speaker terminals, and it was clean: 0.015% including my source, preamp, power amp, cables and connections.
I measured the speaker's own distortion, and it was well within specifications. Sadly, dynamic speakers like this all have audible distortion with sine waves; you can hear 1% distortion on sine waves today. You need electrostatics if you prefer sine waves to music.
I never heard any distortion on any real music — but it probably is why I consider the sound bright and dry.
B&W Matrix 805 Distortion (1 meter, 1 Watt, half-space anechoic, swept sine, R&S UPL).
Yes, there is much more distortion between 1kHz and 2kHz as I heard. It's barely 1% and so it's in spec, but I can hear it on sine waves. It doesn't vary with level; the distortion curve at 100 mW looked the same (except it looked worse below 100 Hz due to ambient noise).
Ignore below 100 Hz; ambient noise swamped the output of the 805.
B&W Matrix 805 response to 5 cycle burst at 62.5 Hz (0.3 meter, 1 Watt, half-space anechoic, R&S UPL).
B&W Matrix 805 response to 10 cycle burst at 250 Hz (0.3 meter, 1 Watt, half-space anechoic, R&S UPL).
B&W Matrix 805 response to 10 cycle burst at 1kHz (0.3 meter, 1 Watt, half-space anechoic, R&S UPL).
B&W Matrix 805 response to 10 cycle burst at 4kHz (0.1 meter, 1 Watt, half-space anechoic, R&S UPL).
Stereophonic Imaging top
To test a speaker's imaging, listen to a monaural signal. You should hear what sounds like a point-source of sound exactly in the middle. Few pairs of speakers can do this, instead smearing the mono image into something somewhat wider.
You have to align speakers very precisely with tape measures and keep your head in the very center to get the mono image to focus well into a point. Once you get this aligned, move your head a fraction of an inch and the image moves a mile.
Good speakers make this more obvious, while sloppy ones never really get any mono images well focused.
To do this well, the two speakers must be very well matched in phase as well as amplitude.
A pair of these Matrix 805 easily collapses a mono image into a point. Bravo!
When set-up carefully on a desk, imaging is so precise that you really don't want to move your head either off-center, or even from left to right. This is good; poorer speakers never get a precise image in the first place.
With stereophonic sources, you can hear everything located as intended.
As expected, the Matrix 805 offers, tight, controlled bass on a desktop, and they get even better with the bass alignment filter. They give coherent, tight, solid bass on a desktop, however there is a broad bump at around 100-200 Hz due to the crummy size of my office.
In a normal sized home music room, say 25 x 25 x 10 feet (8 x 8 x 3 meters), the bass is just great with the bass alignment filter. The deepest E of the bass violin or guitar sounds just as if the bass player was in your room, however the bottom octave from 16 - 32 Hz is of course missing.
These are not at all boomy, possibly among the tightest little speakers ever made. If you want thumpy bass, buy a Bose Sound Dock.
The box volume was optimized by using a small port tube. Therefore, if loud 32 Hz sine waves are your thing, yes, you'll hear turbulence from the air whooshing in and out of the port.
With real music, none of this air motion is audible.
If you want loud, deep bass, why are you researching little baby speakers? Yes, they go to 42 Hz, the lowest string on a standard 4-string bass, but music goes much deeper than that.
I usually run them with a pair of subwoofers for stereo, so their bass ability isn't a concern. In fact, their natural rolloff is perfect for somewhere around a 50-80 Hz crossover without needing a high-pass crossover. The 4th-order Bessel alignment gives time-aligned bass and a free high-pass crossover response without the group-delay variations of most speakers designed to a higher "Q" to give better-selling bass.
I need solid response to at least 27 Hz, preferable 16 Hz, not 42 Hz, otherwise I'm missing half the music. You don't want anything important happening at the low-end cutoff, since it's usually fraught with all sorts of phase and group-delay shifts even if the static frequency response looks benign. Remember, music is dynamic.
The woofer and tweeter are very close together, and I prefer to listen with these as close to my head as possible to reduce the effects of room acoustics.
I had them in front of me towards the rear of my desk at about 70 cm (28"), and they sounded much worse than when I brought them up to the front edge of my desk at 65 cm from each ear. They are better closer because the direct sound is even stronger compared to echoes, and the echoes from the top of my desk are mostly eliminated.
If these are too harsh for some recordings, try making your own environmental controls with resistors between the LF and HF terminals, or point the speakers towards or away from your ears. Simple.
B&W tells us that these are intended for use where space is at a premium, like a bookshelf or on top of a mixing console. B&W shares that therefore these are designed expecting to be mounted close to a wall and to work into half-space. B&W says to use them close to a wall, but to avoid corners. If you must use a corner, do it with only one speaker. If you're in a corner, you may wish to bypass the bass alignment filter. B&W suggests to try placing them against the longer wall, and to look for symmetrical alignment and placement.
My favourite B&W suggestion is so important they put it right on the back of every speaker: DO NOT CONNECT TO MAINS SUPPLY. This seems silly, but a professional classical recording engineer friend of mine told me that he always had B&W 801s, and one of the reasons he liked them is because they and their protection circuitry was so robust that you actually could plug them straight into a wall socket!
The Matrix 805 have a shallow, funny shape: they are wider than they are deep.
Only a dingbat would use little speakers on stands on the floor; if you have floor space, use a slim floor-standing speaker like the marvelous B&W 802. The extra box volume adds far, far more and better bass, as well as more sensitivity.
Using a little speaker on a stand makes about as much sense as building a 100-story office building, but leaving the bottom 80 floors only as a shell and only really building the top 20 floors. You've only got 20 useful floors on top, but used the same real estate as using all 100 floors!
Back in the day, some people couldn't afford the bigger and better B&W 802, and had to settle for these tiny Matrix 805 based on money, not musical or space-saving concerns. Today, the 802 sells for not much more used on eBay, so before you waste your time with Matrix 805 (or 805 Diamond) on stands and subwoofers, you can get some real speakers instead and ditch the subwoofers.
B&W strongly encourages bi-wiring, but never shares why, except for "greater resolution." I think it's really to help their dealers sell more cable, which are high-markup items. I use these mono-wired, with a single 8-foot-long piece of 12 AWG outdoor lighting cable for each speaker.
B&W suggests building your room with different dimensions; when your office is like mine in the shape of a cube, you get weird standing waves (resonances).
B&W suggests building with solid walls, not plasterboard. If your floors aren't solid, they suggest working on your ground floor instead.
If using subwoofers, skip the bass alignment filter.
I used a David Hafler DH-120 amplifier, rated 60 W per channel, for this review. I have the speakers so close to my ears on my desk that I can touch them. Studio people seem to like to use these speakers with a tougher amplifier, especially the Bryston 4B, rated at 250 WPC. This is because in a studio, as opposed to listening to completed recordings, occasional peaks (or mistakes) might have very high peak levels, and it's always better to pass the clean signal to the speaker than to clip it, which blows out tweeters because the distortion of a clipped signal goes straight to frying the tweeter.
See also B&W's Matrix 805 instructions.
The Matrix 805, like most small, high-quality speakers, are designed to favor low-end extension over efficiency. They are inefficient, rated only 87 dB at 1 meter at 2.83 V, so they will require a more powerful amplifier than you would expect. Smaller amps are more likely to clip and damage the very expensive tweeters, so more powerful amplifiers are always a good idea.
If you use the Matrix 805 full-range, you need the dedicated B&W Bass Alignment Filter to get the sixth-order bass alignment and all the bass performance this speaker was designed to produce. Otherwise, you're only getting a fourth-order alignment. Without the filter, you're only getting 2/3 of what this system was designed to do.
I'm a bass and tuba player, so I run these with subwoofers.
I find them bright when used near-field, needing a few dB taken off the top end in a tone control. I still need to design a passive network, which could be as simple as a resistor, to place in series with the HF terminals to do the same thing.
Used in a music room 10 feet (3m) away, their brightness is less annoying and adds to the detail and transient bite on the top end. In a good-sized room they sound great, but of course full-sized speakers like the B&W 802 will sound even better.
Like all speakers, try to keep them at least 10 feet (3m) away from any side walls in every direction. Of course if you've got that much room, then use full-sized speakers! If your room is too small, I prefer to run them near-field to try to make the room sound go away.
These little wonders are better than most places they'll be deployed. When you put speakers on bookshelves, on desks or on top of recording consoles, the acoustics are usually lacking. Even in the studio or on a desk, sound bounces off the surface and short-time reflections muddy the sound, unless you throw a moving blanket over the desk or console.
These were expensive speakers that originally found themselves in recording studios, executive washrooms, ivy-league dorm rooms, rich people's carriage houses and the offices of CEOs.
Today, they are a bargain used, and better, they will already be burnt-in, also as recommended by B&W for optimum sound.
The world of little speakers is a large one, and these are very good.
If you find all this information helpful, this free website is supported mostly by you using use these links, especially this link directly to the Matrix 805 at eBay, or this link to all B&W speakers (see How to Win at eBay) when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live.
More Information top
B&W's listing of repair parts (type "matrix 805" in the search box)
Stereophile's Nautilus 805 review with measurements, October 1997 (for comparison).
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September - December 2011