B&W Matrix 801 Series 2 Bookshelf Speakers

4.65/5 (23 Reviews) MSRP : $2950.00


Product Description

6th-Order Butterworth Vented Speakers (1987-1991)


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Reviews 1 - 5 (23 Reviews Total) | Next 15

User Reviews

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by mark a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: December 27, 2015

Bottom Line:   
Bought new in 1991, 2 years later a tweeter blew and so it was repaired under warranty. The dealer kindly replaced both tweeters with the series III version tweeter that had just come out around that time. Driven by a Spectral system (DMA 200 and SDR-1000 for 20 years) ) I used MIT Music hose bi wired and auditioned various top interconnects and the differences were astounding. Settled on the 5m MIT MI-330 CVTShotgun Terminator RCA's. So for the next 20 they performed flawlessly with everything from Mozart piano concertos to Ministry at level 2 on the dial. Filled the whole 1800 sq. ft. house with sound as they blasted from the open sound room loft. Being a wooden structure, the speakers floated on 16" deep suspended sand filled boxes (with 6 x-heavy duty rubber bungee cords) and spiked to a 40lb. concrete patio stone which resulted in them sitting 20" higher than the floor and so the sitting area is raised 10".
Nothing lasts forever as the SDR slowly started misreading discs in 08' and then one day when one speaker was cutting out I touched the speaker terminal (loose) and fried a channel in the amp. Shuda, wuda kuda.
So began the search for replacement components, with the speakers being the last thing to eventually replace as I wish for a Wilson Alex II or Mag Q7 or Rockport Altair or SF Aida, Tannoy KR yada yada yada.
I replaced the SDR 1000 with a BOW ZZ8 modified by the venerable and affable Lars and
got a sweet deal from a sweet man on a 2011 ASR Emitter II Blue Exclusive.
The sound was fuller, meat on the bone, silky with equal (maybe more) detail, improved bottom end heft and detail and a soundstage that transports you to the event (more or less).
The system went up a level with each upgrade, the speaker revealing this so obviously.
Wondering what else would contribute, the purchase of Tara Labs Zero gold RCA interconnects and Omega Onyx - 1 huge up - check.
Synergistic Research Powercell 10 SE II along with their wall sockets - 1 huge up- check.
Gee, what else is left? 20 amp spiritual incantations? Outboard crossovers!!
Okay let's go.
(Note: I never used the bass alignment filter as it was never returned by a Guido Rogall that ripped me off for 9K cash (in 1991 dollars) for Classe equipment.)
So after my DD I decided to try the Audio by Van Alstine (Thank you!!) approach to the DIY crossover upgrade that cost me under 100 bucks (including the solder gun and a whole roll of Cardas silver solder. Easy peasy.
With this mod there is no need for a bass alignment filter, it bypasses yet still engages the circuit protection for the upper section and removes the sonic degradation of it (not sure how, but it works) and allows the speaker to work MUCH better AND with a SINGLE set of speaker cables. The speaker + - connectors are simply stacked and I have them secured to each other (dispensing with the POS original binding posts) with teflon bolts, screws and washers. It ain't pretty hanging slightly out of the back but they are hard to see and all I can say it works superbly.
A top classical/baroque/jazz pianist in Canada said 'it's so CLEAR, I know that's a Yamaha'.
Blasting PINK FLOYD DSM, as I never heard it before. So many additional layers, each in it's own space, surrounded by a energized halo of presence, never heard before, all floating in a huge endless backdrop that If you were not careful, would suck you into a black hole. I know this sounds over the top and I have not heard 100K amps driving 200k speakers but the sound of this system can astound you with scale, brings you to tears with really beautiful intimate recordings and whatever you listen to, it sounds like the universe itself is creating the sound that fills the room as every acoustic device is removed from the room completely, utterly totally, nada zero, zilch naught.
Therefore, all I can say is that these speakers sound better than ever before, 25 abusive years later I still lust after a super speaker, then sit down and listen and say WTF for?
Can't say enough about the crossover tweak, ASR, the powercell and the cables. Bow ZZ8 - vinyl anyone?
This is not the same speaker. It is 4 times what it was as each of the four changes were implemented. It goes beyond sound to convey the soul of the music (ASR!!)



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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   Pre 1995



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by bodhiboy a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: December 14, 2015

Bottom Line:   
I've owned my Matrix 801 Series 2 speakers for the last 14 years. These were already my "Lifetime speakers", but with the recent addition of North Creek Music Systems crossovers...I got the Juniors with midrange film-foil bypass and the North Creek version of the B&W woofer Zobel circuit (impedance trap in NC nomenclature) that was included in the Series 2 and Anniversary models, but eliminated (for non audio-fidelity reasons, I have to conclude) in the Series 3. With the NC crossovers, these speakers transform from very neutral, transparent and revealing speakers to audio hologram machines!!!

Suffice it to say, all of the audiophile superlatives apply to NC crossover-ed Matrix 801 Series 2s. Among those, though, the most impressive attributes that the NC crossovers brought to these speakers are: increased frequency extension at both ends, incredible dynamic capabilities, resolution of inner detail, palpability and the textured nuances and detail of the soundstage and the overall convincingness of the reproduced live experience. Simply stated, what was already the best loudspeaker that I'd ever heard has now become the even better sounding best speaker that I've ever heard - AMAZING!!!

I certainly encourage any Matrix 801 Series 2, Anniversary Edition or Series 3 owner to give consideration to purchase of NC crossovers. In my experience, the quality of sound reproduction that results is remarkable even when compared to the already highly lauded stock Matrix 801. I sure can't imagine how I could have generated the same magnitude of improvement in my sound system for 5 times the price of the NC crossovers.

Just to be clear: I'm just a very satisfied customer of North Creek Music Systems...as would you be if you had their crossovers directing electrons to your Matrix 801's drivers! :)

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   Pre 1995



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by George S. Roland a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: May 21, 2014

Bottom Line:   
I do not know how these massive speakers received the "bookshelf" designation here because at ca. 40 inches tall and 115 pounds each, they are hardly bookshelf speakers!
I have owned a lot of speakers in my time including horn-loaded units (Klipsch Cornwalls, Klipschorns and Altec Lansing Model 19s) panel units (Magnepan MG 1.6 QRs, Quad ESL-63s) and direct radiators (PSB Stratus Golds, Thiel CS 3.6s) to name but a few.
I just purchased a pair of B&W Matrix 801 Series 2 about a month ago, and they are, by a fairly large margin, the best loudspeakers I have ever heard.
The clarity and detail they extract from recordings is remarkable. Imaging is excellent and they can reproduce large orchestral climaxes with the full weight and authority required. Such passages do not get smeared, flattened or muddled as they do with most speakers but pour forth with goose-bump-inducing purity.
I was a little hesitant to buy them because of their "ruthlessly revealing" reputation which often signals hard, fatiguing highs to which I am very sensitive. I have not found this to be a problem. I am using Audio Research tube electronics and am very satisfied with the sound I am getting.
Winderful speakers!

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Used product for:   Less than 1 month

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   Pre 1995



Overall Rating:3
Value Rating:1
Submitted by keith middlehurst a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: May 11, 2010

Bottom Line:   
i have not got. i listened at norman audio, they are good, but very expensive. not realistic at the price.

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Used product for:   Less than 1 month

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   Pre 1995



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by spydey550 a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: October 22, 2009

Bottom Line:   
In reading a few of the reviews it dawned on me that reactions to these speakers are very different in opinion. If one understands the perspective that the Bowers & Wilkins engineers were trying to convey one would know the precise characteristics they were attempting to achieve. B&W has always set as their goal to produce a sound that is very flat across the spectrum. What this means is the sound they attempted to produce is brutally honest to the very recording being played through them. I personally like playing around with the sound recording and engineering side of music. That being said, a flat precise monitor is what I would need to be sure of the recording being produced. This can be good and at times disappointing. If the recorded material is produced successfully then WOW,the sound is simply astounding! Other times the recorded info is less than perfect and it makes it self manifest in such a way as one wanting to run and hide in embarrassment! This is the perspective I have when I sit for a listening session. There are other speakers that can do a thing better here and there but overall there is not a speaker out there still, in the right environment, with the right "recipe" of amps, pre stage and transport system that can produce the utopia of sound that I experience with the 801's. I have tried countless combinations through out the years... thats what an audiophile does, I still come back to the 801's. The value is unmistakable. The key in doing them justice is in all the other equipment involved. The sound quality is only as good as its weakest link, right down to a dedicated power source and separate grounding. Let the experiments continue but for now the 801's are still the reference standard. There is a reason they are so popular all over the world and still on the class A reference lists of many audiophile organizations. They are what they are, nothing more , nothing less.

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   Pre 1995




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