I recently picked up a pair of 802 Matrix Series 3 after the subs in my 605 S2 finally gave out. I've had those speakers for 17 years and they still sound great to this day. The 605 S2 and the 602 S2s bookshelf speakers are both excellent models in their own right. If those speakers are more in your price range just get them. You will not be disappointed. However, if you have a little extra cash you would be better served holding out for a pair of these 802 s3s. Holy Crap is all I can say. They are as relevant today as the day they were made and they are in a complete class of their own. I'm a full time jazz and classical musician so I've been sitting on stages listening to drums, upright bass, horns, woodwinds, strings, voices etc....for the past 20 years. As many others have said, these speakers are able to very accurately reproduce the qualities of these acoustic instruments. However I'm currently listening to a Justin Timberlake CD(yes JT, a buddy of mine is touring with him right now so I bought the CD) and these speakers are just eating up all of the modern electronics that are used in pop/rock/rap recordings today. The bass is rich, full. punchy, tight and clean and vocals are unbelievably accurate. How often do you get that out of a speaker? I will say they are sitting on top of Sound Anchor stands designed specifically for this speaker. Another product worth every penny you pay for it. They are not an expensive gimmick. They are for real and change the characteristics of a speaker all for the better.
These speakers are VERY revealing. However they are not clinical or sterile. They add a lot of life to the music but only if the life was in it at the time the music was being recorded. I've listened to some of my best recordings and they sound better then I have ever heard. And I've listened to some of my worst recordings and they become even more unlistenable. They hold true to the original recording and give back exactly what is being fed to them.
After hearing jazz, rock, pop, chamber music, orchestral music and whatever else I have listened to on these speakers I now understand what people say when they describe a speaker as disappearing in the room. You stop listening to the speaker. You stop trying to find flaws and find yourself just closing your eyes and listening. Also as the previous reviewer stated the superb mid range and non fatiguing tweeters allow you to sit and listen at a decent volume without your ears getting "tired." Another thing you hear people say is "I'm hearing things I've never heard before" or "I'm now going through my entire collection and it's like hearing the recording for the first time again." Yea, that's this speaker.
A few side notes:
-if you want to know what acoustic upright bass is supposed to sound like buy this speaker and a jazz trio recording called Fingerpainting. It's the music of Herbie Hancock played by Nicholas Payton(trumpet), Christian McBride(bass) and Mark Whitfield(guitar). It's the most accurate representation I have ever heard. I'm sure there are speakers that will do it better but I have yet to hear one.
-I've played these speakers using a Marantz AV Receiver model 7005(great receiver for what it is. Most "musical" AV I've heard to date), a modern Musical Fidelity integrated amp and a mid 90s Conrad Johnson amp and tube preamp. I have found that no matter what the source is, as long as it's not a $299.00 receiver from Best Buy these speakers will sound at the very least amazing. The better amplification you use the cleaner they will get and the imaging will astound you. On certain recordings you absolutely get the feeling that the musician is in the room with you.
This website is such a great tool and all the reviews prior to mine are what led me to take the plunge and buy these speakers. Thanks to everyone who took the time to share their views, knowledge and expertise. I literally never write reviews so me doing so today speaks volumes as to what I think of this particular model speaker.
Equipment: BAT VK 75 Amplifier, Musical Fidelity A308cr Preamplifier, Esoteric c.d player, Red Dawn (Nordost speaker cables), Wire-World Eclipse interconnects and Blue Circle power cords. I have been an audiophile for 25 plus years and for one reason or another have never been able to purchase a pair of 802 series 3 speakers until a few years ago. I can compare the speakers to many others I have gone through in my audio journeys. I have owned Maggies Tymphani IV, 3.6's, JM Labs/Focal Electra 936, 836 V, Ariel 10T's, Martin Logan Ascents, Spiers, Quad American Monitors, Signets, Theil 3.6's, Hales Concept 5's, Energy Ref 22's, Dyna-audio Contour II, Vandersteen 3C, Von Schweikert 4jr, Monitor Audio GS 20's, 60's NHT 3.3, Tannoy Turnberry SE and many more that slip my mind as of writing this review. Compared to the rest of these speakers the B & W 802 series 3 exude an air of dynamics not present in the aforementioned speaker brands. The Dyna-audio Contour II and Tannoy Ternberry's are the only two speakers from the aforementioned long list that compare in terms of dynamics and point source imaging, however were the Tannoys and Dynaaudios fall short is in their bass response. The bass response of the B & W's is more pronounced and convincing in terms of bass note presentation, couple this with the B & W's superb mid-range frequency and non fatiguing tweeters you have a real winning combination. Ever though the speakers are pre 1998 they are still a bargin from $2500 downwards on the used market. If you are seriously considering a well rounded non fatiguing speaker that does many things consistently right in my opinion the B & W 802 series 3 should be on your short list.
Purchased used on eBay. Could have never afforded them, except I had an advantage- they were being sold locally and the seller was asking $400.00 for packing and shipping! So, I picked them up and saved the $400.00. They ARE heavy! I had never heard these speakers before, and I was hot and cold on the B&W's I'd heard in the past, so I took a risk; I couldn't find a bad or even neutral review on these speakers on the internet. Before reviewing also note that this model is now at least 20 years old if not older, and to keep in top condition you are probably looking at some crossover work a few years down the road It is the nature of great vintage audio equipment....> OK- so First, they are the most demanding and brutally honest speakers I've ever owned or heard. They won't color or warm over so-so program material. But if the source is excellent and the recording very good to excellent, they shine! Also, don't even THINK about these if you don't give them a LOT of good power. Although I don't own esoteric amplification, I do have Rotel at around 200 w/ ch. at 4 ohms, 125/ch. at 8 ohms (these are 4 ohm speakers, at least nominally.) They sounded a bit cold and harsh in the midrange driven with a single channel. So, I added the rear channels of this 5-channel amp to effectively "bi-amp" and double the power. Suddenly, they blossomed! The dynamics were there, tight, excellent bass, a warmth and character in the midrange to die for, and spot- on high end- no sign of brightness or harshness with great transparency! But the midrange is classic B&W- excellent soundstage that expands well outside the speakers, vocals to die for, and great imaging throughout the range. Also be warned that these speakers will take quite a while to get "right" in most cases. I have a fairly large room with not so good acoustics- very "live", lots of tile and stucco walls. Room treatment became essential. Until then, there was little of the famous "intimacy" these are known for with so-so dynamics and a boomy, flabby bass. So, if you read a review mentioning either of these characteristics, I guarantee the listener has issues with either his room acoustics or power. They WILL reward you if set up and driven properly, and become in my opinion one of the best sounding speakers B&W has ever produced!
Bought the B&W Matrix 802 series 3, black ashe finish, from an Audiogoner. Stands included. Always loved this speaker, but could never afford them when in production. Upgraded from Polk monitor10. was using a B&K EX-442 , upgraded to a Classe' DR25 Using an ARC LS-7 Tube preamp. The Transparency and imaging are incredible. Tremendous bass, not bass shy at all.( Play track 7 of Micky Harts, planet Drum) Amazing midrange, I bought them 4 years ago or so and not looking to upgrede any time soon. If you have a pair and are not completely satisfied, look to upgrade your upstream components and cables. Im using Tara labs Prime 1000 Bi-wire. Very Happy!!. Stands are a must. Sound anchor dedicated stands needed to elevate and free the bass, giving more clarity. What can I say. Excellent speaker. Tubes help to give bloom and soundstage. I have the matrix htm for center and 602's for rear in the 5.1 configuration
If you like acoustic, classical, or dance music, this is the speaker. Advantages different for each type of music. On acoustice material you get a very accurate feel for the instrument with a very deep level of detail where you can tell if they use metal or nylon strings or what kind of drums are used. This is probably due to the amazing midrange capability as well as the neutral nature of the speakers due to the lack of enclosure feedback. For classical you get a very fast response and very detailed highs, making flutes sound like they are being played tight before your eyes. For dance or trance, the speakers show some serious bass response and again high accuracy, as though they were used in the studio to mix the track, everything the artist/dj intended to be heard, is heard, no effect is lost. This is also great for movie special effects. A disadvantage is that as people said before, they are very revealing so you need very clean recordings, cables, and playback. The speakers can suck you to spend a lot to clean up your system but with every upgrade they reward you with cleaner and fuller sound. I'm also using a bi-amp configuration which helps bring out a very tight and detailed bass response, seemingly lower than the 20Hz or so in the spec. Speaker stands also help by raising the tweeter a little. As discussed before the top tweeter/mid box should be aimed so it intersects about 1m(3ft) in front of the listener.