B&W 800 Series system review

The whole system integrates brilliantly Tested at £16800.00

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

One of the very best multichannel speaker systems around. If you’ve the space and cash, it has to be heard


  • +

    Revealing, gorgeous and a whole lot of fun, from subtle ambient nuances to thundering bass


  • -

    Needs space to work at its best, and really merits high-quality partnering kit, too. Not cheap, either

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What does a temptation become once you've given in to it? An achievement? A weakness? Whatever the answer, it's exactly how we feel about the package of B&W speakers here: this big B&W 800-series system is a marvellous thing, whether we're locked in debate over the relative merits of the latest multichannel receivers or DVD players, or just kicking back and enjoying some movies.

Thanks to diamond dome tweeters fitted to the front three speakers, the astonishing transparency of this system is unbeatable. Reasonable sensitivity and stable impedance means the package can be driven by fairly modest amplification, too, although the huge 803D front speakers soon expose undernourished amps.

Makes movies come alive
Hi-fi niceties apart, this B&W package is also a lot of fun. It's just as capable crashing out the explosive rhythm section of The Who's celebrated Live at the Royal Albert Hall DVD – complete with The Ox's bass grumbling away against the tight, clean drumming of Ringo's lad – as it is conveying the heat of battle in Saving Private Ryan or tragic Japanese war movie Otokotachi no Yamato, where you live every minute of the sinking of the world's largest battleship.

Two massive ASW855 active subwoofers (with 38cm drivers and 1000w each) deliver lashings of grin-inducing bass, too. Just as impressive is the way the whole sound integrates brilliantly, from the highest treble from those diamond-coated tweeters right down to the floor-shaking stuff.

This is simply a magical system. Even if you'll never own it, try to get a listen.

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

Read more about how we test