One of my favorite places on Earth is the North County region of San Diego. Sound United (right before they got bought by medical technology company Masimo for a cool $1,000,000,000) moved to a sleepy little cul-de-sac in Carlsbad, with two other neighbors that are near and dear to this avid golfer’s heart: Taylor Made and Adidas. The Kingdom, Taylor Made’s super-fancy driving range, is literally right across the street, but the coolest toys in early June were on display in the Masimo reference listening room thanks to legendary speaker company Bowers & Wilkins.
Over the years, Bowers & Wilkins have released limited-edition Signature Series versions of some of their top-level speakers. We’ve got a pair of the Bowers & Wilkins 702 Signature speakers being reviewed now, but this event was for two Signature speakers from the 800 Series, including the bookshelf (stand mount) format Bowers & Wilkins 805s and the reference Bowers & Wilkins 801 towers.
What Does One Get When Investing More Cash Into a Signature Series Bowers & Wilkins Loudspeaker?
- Andy Kerr and his team of over 100 engineers in the United Kingdom have improved the metal hardware that attaches the massively and wonderfully over-engineered tweeter assembly to the main speaker cabinet. This may seem small, but you could actually hear the difference in the openness of the midrange between the Bowers & Wilkins 805s and their new Signature brethren.
- The port on the two Bowers & Wilkins 800 Signature Series speakers has been redesigned to deliver less-congested bass. Again, in a volume matched A/B test, you could hear the difference in this audiophile Pepsi Challenge. It was subtle but it was there.
- Bowers & Wilkins found a way to use a lot less metal in their protective tweeter covers. I am not sure if our photos show this effectively or not, but the new protective covers for the very expensive Bowers & Wilkins tweeters have about 25 to 30 percent less metal, allowing the tweeters to perform more like they didn’t have covers on them while still protecting the tweeters.
- There is a gorgeous deep blue paint option as well as California Burled Walnut. Bowers & Wilkins uses robot sanders to get much of the amazing luster on their speakers, which are then finished by hand with some of the most subtle sand paper (3000 grit) to provide a showroom-level shine that you’d expect on a McLaren, Rolls, or Bugatti. The wood veneer is a very eco-friendly option made from a laminate that is quite luxurious and exotic looking.
- Custom paint colors are available at a possible additional expense and time delay. The one that you might not know about is a Pearl Abalone finish that was created for the 30thAnniversary of the Nautilus speaker but can be had on the 800 Series. It is stunning and arguably worth the extra money if you are going Signature Series. Hell, it would be worth the money and wait time on standard Bowers & Wilkins 800 Series D4 speakers like the 802 D4s that I have in my living room right now.
- The historical resale value of Bowers & Wilkins Signature Series speakers is often higher than standard offerings. The enhanced performance and design touches help preserve value, but the somewhat limited edition nature of the Signature speakers are where the extra value is found.
Exact pricing isn’t available today for the two Bowers & Wilkins 800 Series Signature speakers but the 801 Signatures are expected to be $45,000 (up from $35,000 in the current D4 offering). Not all speakers in the Bowers & Wilkins 800 line will get Signature Series treatment, but all will remain available in the form of less-expensive but still pretty fantastic D4 series offerings.