Bowers & Wilkins' flagship 800 Diamond speakers get the Signature treatment

Bowers & Wilkins 800 Signature
(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Bowers & Wilkins has given its two most popular 800 D4 series models the Signature treatment. The brand doesn't use the Signature tag lightly, reserving it only for unusual or heavily upgraded versions of its speakers. Only seven models have carried the name since the brand was founded in 1966.

This time it is the 801 D4 and 805 D4 from the flagship Diamond Series that have been tapped by the Signature wand. The most obvious changes are the two special finishes: Midnight Blue Metallic and California Burl Gloss. The blue option features a total of 11 coats of paint and lacquer that is both machine and hand-polished to achieve the desired finish. Bespoke blue Connolly leather on the revised top-plate completes the look. 

The California Burl Gloss finish is achieved in an equally painstaking way. The wood veneer is sustainably sourced from Italian specialist ALPI and is covered with no fewer than 14 coats of lacquer that go through multiple sanding processes. The finishing time for a single 801 D4 Signature cabinet in this finish is more than 24 hours. In comparison, the blue finish can be made slightly quicker at around 18 hours.

While these exotic finishes are the most obvious difference from the standard models, it would be a mistake to dismiss these Signatures as mere cosmetic tweaks. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that the Bower & Wilkins engineers have been busy.

Bowers & Wilkins 801 D4 Signature

(Image credit: Bowers & Wilkins)

It starts with the enclosure, where both 800 Signature speakers enjoy a redesigned, more skeletal aluminium top panel design that's carefully damped to reduce unwanted resonances from the curved, already heavily braced plywood cabinets. This top panel sits below the Turbine Head on the larger 801 speakers, and under the tweeter pod on the 805 standmounter. 

But the changes go well beyond just the cabinets. While the 801 D4 Signature retains the basic 25mm Diamond dome tweeter, 15cm Continuum FST midrange and twin 25cm Aerofoil bass drivers of the standard model, much work has gone on under the skin. The high-frequency unit has a new mesh grille that is claimed to improve clarity, while the twin bass drivers feature upgraded motor systems. 

The speakers' reflex port has also changed and is now cast from aluminium to create a structure that is said to be quieter than before. The claim is of a cleaner and more accurate bass. The 801's crossover is also redesigned and upgraded to make the most of the revised drivers.

Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4 Signature

(Image credit: Bowers & Wilkins)

The new 805 D4 Signature two-way standmounter enjoys many of the same upgrades as its bigger sibling. Alongside the improved aluminium top plate, you will find the more transparent tweeter grille, upgraded 16.5cm mid/bass driver motor system and similarly improved crossover network.

We gave the standard 805 D4 model a five-star review, calling it "the finest standmounters that B&W currently makes". We tested it at £7000 / $8500 / AU$11,900, while the standard 801 D4 costs £32,500 / $38,000 / AU$57,900.

Both 800 Series Signature speakers are available from selected dealers from today, 28th June, at an expected premium. The B&W 801 D4 Signature weighs in at £45,000 / $50,000 / AU$79,900 per pair while its smaller sibling 805 D4 will cost £10,000 / $12,000 / AU$19,900.


Read our review of the five-star Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4

Here's our guide to the best Bowers & Wilkins speakers on sale now

How are B&W's flagship Diamond series made? We visited the factory to find out

Ketan Bharadia
Technical Editor

Ketan Bharadia is the Technical Editor of What Hi-Fi? He's been been reviewing hi-fi, TV and home cinema equipment for over two decades, and over that time has covered thousands of products. Ketan works across the What Hi-Fi? brand including the website and magazine. His background is based in electronic and mechanical engineering.