B&W Matrix 801 Series 2 Bookshelf Speakers

Matrix 801 Series 2

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

User Reviews (23)

Showing 1-10 of 23  
mark   Audio Enthusiast [Dec 27, 2015]

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!!)



OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
bodhiboy   AudioPhile [Dec 14, 2015]

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! :)

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
George S. Roland   AudioPhile [May 21, 2014]

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!

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
keith middlehurst   Audio Enthusiast [May 11, 2010]

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

OVERALL
RATING
3
VALUE
RATING
1
spydey550   AudioPhile [Oct 22, 2009]

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.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
bruce jerome   Audio Enthusiast [Feb 25, 2008]
Strength:

Did I mention Bass, Quality of sound and cabinets. Easy to roll around living room once they are unpacked and casters are installed. Can be bought on Ebay used for $1500 - $3000. (5 out of 5 Value rating used)

Weakness:

Extremely expensive new. Rumor has it $20k. (2 out of 5 value rating new)

B&W 801 Model 80 - These speakers are Excellent and finally answer a question I've been asking while experiencing NHT VT-2, Vandersteen 2Ce and PSB T8s. That question being - Where is the BASS ? Answer - It's in the B&W 801's. Excellent, powerful, dynamic bass. Midrange and tweeter also very good. As a tough, demanding reviewer. I rate these (9 out of 10) overall sound.

Similar Products Used: AR9LS Towers - self-rated (8 out of 10)
RT Bozak Towers with 12" woofer 6" mid and 2 tweeters (7 out of 10)
NHT 2.5I (6 out of 10)
PSB T8 (5 out of 10) Most disappointing for the $$$.
NHT VT-2 (4 out of 10) Didn't know NHT made poor sounding speakers.

Amps
Sansui AUD11-2 (130 w/ch) Integrated
Bryston 4B ST (250 w/ch)
McIntosh MC7200 (200 w/ch)
Phase Linear 700B (345 w/ch)

Preamps
Crown PSL2 (solid state)
Audible Illusions L2 line stage (Tube)
Soundcraftsmen 422

CD player
Adcom GCD600 & GCD700
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Dan Sledge   AudioPhile [Nov 19, 2007]
Strength:

As good today as ever - ignore reviewers who do not list there other equipment. Because these speakers can be picked up cheap they are very often underestimated and paired with junk. They deserve top notch peripherals to really show their stuff.

Weakness:

Too cheap for what they are - simply amazing.

I have found that many speakers will have strengths in one area or another but the Matrix 801 Series 2 is still the best all around speaker that I have heard to date.

Simply awesome from high through midrange to the lowest of lows! There is a reason these speakers are still world famous however they do best on high quality peripherals and especially amps with high power - I strongly suspect that the reviewers who knock these are really hearing limitations in their other epuipment that are simply being laid bare by the 801's.

The low price of the 801's is what leads people to underestimate them and is probably their greatest weakness as they often get paired up with junk amplifiers and cheap transports.

When placed properly and in an acoustically good room and a good amp the bass is the most accurate I've ever heard. In many audiophile speakers it is simply missing.

The mids and highs are also up there with the best and the detail is second to none. The Matrix 801 sounds awesome and effortless to me - totally engaging.

As usual B&W combines the finest detail while keeping all the subtlety and musical emotion. B&W build quality is excellent and these speakers are now one of the best used deals out there.

Customer Service

Excellent

Similar Products Used: B&W Matrix 801 Series 3's and B&W DM2/II's
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
ckazanci   AudioPhile [Jun 30, 2007]
Strength:

As of 2006, these are mid-range speakers. I'd compare them to Paradigm's, rather then Dynaudio's, Thiels or Meridian's.

Weakness:

Detail and imaging is not there.

Maybe they were great once upon a time; but there is better stuff now. If you are looking for a deal on high-end audio; look for used Dynaudio's. These do NOT have the detail of Dynaudio Audience 80's or Contour 2.5T's. These speakers are huge and cost plenty; so shouldn't they sound as good as a pair of used Dyn's? Well, they don't. You don't even have to test it side by side, it is way apparent.

Similar Products Used: A lot.
OVERALL
RATING
3
VALUE
RATING
3
Hai   AudioPhile [Feb 21, 2007]
Strength:

I liked this speakers but I couldn't choose the amplifier.I hope anybody can help more information to me

Weakness:

I liked this speakers but I couldn't choose the amplifier.I hope anybody can help more information to me

I liked this speakers but I couldn't choose the amplifier.I hope anybody can help more information to me,

Similar Products Used: B&W matrix 801 series 2
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
mactastic   Audio Enthusiast [May 11, 2006]
Strength:

Tight reaveling and massive soundstage with loverly defined deep bass.
Look awesome.
Timing
Value for money these days

Weakness:

Revealing - only occasionally an issue
Power - need monoblocking
Lack of Bi - Wire / Amping without upgrade

This review is for the 801 Series 80's not 801 S2.

Awesome! as a child my cousin had a pare of the large beasts and i loved them, possibly what got me into HiFi.

So when i had a chance to get some, well we all want room filling, floor shattering dynamics. Theses speakers can provide a massive, deep and very exspansive soundstage given room, adequate power and good quality source. They are very revealing, and poor mp3's or naff recordings can become unbearable but then these are essentially studio monitors.

That said it's only a problem if your looking, when im throwing a party and they getting some D&B abuse its not really something thats noticed, it's the deep resonance and super sharp timing that are.

If your bag is delicate and technical midrage stuff, female vocals, guitar these bad boys are so close to a personal show. They really put the music in front and around you.

On the power front they do need plenty on tap. im running them monoblocked with a pair of Quad 306's and Quad 34 pre but before this it was a single 306 and occasanly you could feel them struggle and fall short.
For air shifting super fast bass i would recomend somthing more in the audiolad direction.

One the whole loverly.

Similar Products Used: B&W DM601 S2 / Audiolab 8000A / Quad 34 / Quad 306 / Revox PR99 Mk2 / Rega Planar 3 /
OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
5
Showing 1-10 of 23  

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