Having listened to the B&W Nautilus many times over the years and always marvelled at their all-round magnificence (and not having loose piles of cash lying about) I lusted after these speakers from the moment they launched and finally bought a second-hand pair on eBay in pristine condition in their original packaging. Every time I listen (and I do so very often), I congratulate myself on my outrageous good fortune. The staging, the detail, the transparency, the realism are beyond superlatives. Add in the design, aesthetics, craftsmanship and build quality and one has the finest of the fine. I love them without their covers. Just muscular enough without being over-the-top. Those Danes know about quality. Of course the 703s are only as good as what is fed into them. Once again, second hand, I acquired a much-loved but little-used Pre30/A33.2 pre/power combo with the C31 remote plus the brilliant Marantz SA11S1 CD/SACD player, the heart of my set-up. I use balanced cables which I had made up for me - I don't believe one needs to spend up big on cabling; that's a 'black art' for sure - and there's more than enough power and current delivered by the Primares to drive the 703s to extract the best from them. The lightest tap on a cymbal is pure and clean. The faintest bell can be heard hanging in the air. Voices are beautifully delineated by the 703s superb mid-range; the same goes for guitar, violin, exploding cannon, anything you care to listen to at any volume. They never sound stressed or mushy. The vibration of a double-bass' string is heard as if it is in the room in front of you. Piano notes never overlap; the left hand comes alive. Try a bit of Ahmed Jamal's Blue Moon at full tilt and you'll know exactly what I am on about. And the bass is accurate, deep and sonorous without being sickly. All in all, I can say I am truly privileged to own a pair of B&W 703s and cannot recommend them more highly, that is if you can find a pair. If you already have a pair, congratulations and good listening!!
For a long time I was a die hard Definitive technology and Paradigm fan. Both companies make great speakers but have differing strengths. I found that Def Tech is great for movies with their bi-polar arrays. Inversely, Paradigm shines for two channel music. Def tech has a more laid back presentation particularly in the high end. I used to call this a "sweeter" sound but I was mistaking less detail as warmth. Paradigm has a more forward sound but for me lacked any three dimensionality. Could I find a speaker that satisfied both of my preferences? In come the B&W 703's! I had a set of Phase Tech BP20's hooked up when I received my 703's. I've had the Def Techs since they were new in 1998 so I am very familiar with their sonic signature. I did a direct A/B comparison using the same front end and all I can say is..."WOW" what a difference, night and day, when I switched to the 703's! Clarity, soundstage, imaging, dynamics everything just opened up like a sonic veil had been lifted. The midrange/nautilus tweeter combination is beyond description, the base effect is so tight, present and visceral. Some people call the tweeters harsh. I have found them to be anything but. Yes, on poorly recorded source material and on inferior components they will reveal the flaws. If you are listening to MP3's through a music server...well...get ready for your ears to hurt. But play high quality lossless music, super audio cd's or cd's on a high quality transport and you will be, yourself, transported. Now when I say "high quality" components let me put it in perspective. There are many people out there who go crazy and many times break the bank and buy ridiculously expensive amplifiers and preamps to drive B&W speakers like Classe and Krell. While it is great if you can afford it, down here in the real world amidst us mortals it's not always feasible. The good news is you just don't have to spend that much money to drive the 703's to perfection. My system consists of a Pioneer Elite VSX52 being used as a preamplifier, two (2) Marantz MM9000 5 channel, 150 watt THX certified amps which I am using to bi-amp my front stage (Two 703's and a B&W HTM2 for center duty), two Marantz MA6100's bi-amped at 360 watts powering my now passive B&W ASW750 subwoofer. My sources are a Denon DVD2910 SACD player and a Rotel RCC 945 cd player. Used I paid $200 for the Pioneer Elite, $400 each for the MM9000's, $220 for the 6100's, $40 for the Denon and $125 for the Rotel. That's $1385 paid used for equipment that retailed for $6000! How does it all sound??Well I've compared it to my buddies system consists of the B&W 802's, HTM1 center being driven by a Krell 2250 and a B&K multi-channel, a $20k system and I'll tell you what...his is "better"...but not by much!
Bottom line...if you can find a pair of 703's on the used market at a reasonable price you really can't go wrong. They are, in my opinion, B&W's best price to performance speaker offering "ever"...period.
To begin with, I have owned these speakers for over 9 years. I can honestly say that I will never part with these beasts. Unless I hand them down to my eldest son after college but that's unlikely, call me selfish...
For reference, I originally powered these with a 200w x 2 Rotel amp (RB - 1080) and run through a McIntosh C41 pre. They sounded terrific in this set-up.
A couple of years ago I began to read about Emotiva prod and figured I would give them a run in my system. Wow! What a difference the Emo power made in the overall dynamics of the sound. The bass began to come alive and and the soundstage opened up like never before. The Rotel touted a damping factor of 1000, which was astounding, however the Emo just trounced the Rotel beyond belief.
You may be wondering why I am gushing over the Emo in a speaker opinion. My point is, these speakers need the right power and cables to really reveal its potential. BTW, I swapped my Monster Z3's for a set of Morrow Audio SP-4's. Once again, the soundstage and control of this new set-up was just incredible. I thought I knew how good these speakers were with the Rotel, Monster and Mac, I was shocked to hear how accurate these speakers were with the changes I had made.
I began the Emo change with the XPA-5 200x5, albeit in a two channel set-up, which was extremely powerful. Afterwards I bought two XPA-100's, 250w monoblocks. Even better than the 5 channel amp (obviously).
Back to the speakers. When given the right supporting hardware, these speakers can't be beat for their clarity, soundstage, accuracy and low-end without the need for a sub. I don't even own a sub anymore, now that I have the right power to drive these girls. Sure, there are better speakers out there, but at this price point (which is hard to find in the market today) they are king.
Another point I will make is the diversity of which these speakers sing, as in Jazz, Alternative, Classical, Rock, Acoustic, and any other style of music you may listen to. I have over 10,000 songs in my collection, covering all genres of music and all ripped at lossless. These speakers won't back down to anything! I have read over the years many reviews stating a bright high-end. Once again, the hardware and placement is critical to allow these speakers to fulfill there potential.
Lastly, I've auditioned many speakers at my local stereo shop including, Martin Logan, B&W CM series, PSB's and even own the Imagine B6 bookshelf speakers (great little speaker) but I always come back to my 703's and wonder to myself why I even look the other way. As I said, I will NEVER part with these. They are apart of the family now and forever.
I am surprised to find bad reviews for these speakers. After many reviews of many brands and models at many audio stores, I feel these had the best sound especially for the money.
Rich bass, clear treble, and crisp highs. Some recordings have a "tinny" sound, but it is from the source, not the speakers. These do tend to be brighter than some speakers, but not annoyingly so. I find the imaging and transparency to be the best I have come across. I have nothing but praise for these speakers.
Quite impressive listening pleasure from classical, rock, pop, and sound tracks.
Equally impressive as a 7.1 HT set up.
HTM I is a nice fit for a center channel, no clashes.
Rotel RSP-1069 pre/pro
Rotel RCC-1055 CD
2 Rotel RMB-1077 - bi-amped
Sunfire Tru Subwoofer
B&W HTM I center
6 B&W 703 front, surround, rear
Do not operate these with cheapie electronics or in HT or will hear the shrill high end and you won't get any bass! The need a good pre amp, monster power amp pr two and good cables. I run mine on a pair of Vincent sp 991plus, sony tae-90es preamp, tara labs rsc gen 2 cables, sony xa5es cd player! -Fantastic sound! These speaker are not mean't for HT!