B&W Matrix 805 loudspeaker Reference System
My main listening room has served as my standard listening space for the past 15 years. It's 26' long, 13' wide, and, with its 12' semi-cathedral ceiling, constitutes a voluminous, sparsely upholstered space. An 8' by 4' doorway at the back of the room opens into our kitchen, which adds another 25' by 15' space. I set up the speakers at the narrow end of the room, and listened from two positions: 8' away for nearfield, and then my favorite spot, another 10' back. The speakers were also auditioned in a 15' by 10' study. Upholstered with a wall-to-wall carpet, an area rug, and a couch, it is less "live" than the bigger listening room, and requires less acoustic power to generate high spls.
Target R4 stands were used throughout these reviews. These 45-lb, all-metal stands are 24" tall and extremely solid, with the feel of cast iron; filled with sand, they're even heavier. No spikes were used, as my "bleached" wooden floor would not take kindly to the weight of such stands on sharp points. Navcom tiles, 3/16" thick, were used to isolate the speakers from the stands.
CDs were played on a Krell MD-1 CD turntable driving a Krell SBP-32X digital audio converter. Day Sequerra FM Reference, Naim NAT 01, and Quad FM-66 FM tuners provided music from WQXR and WNCN, my local New York fine music stations. Preamps included a Woodside all-tube model and a Mark Levinson ML-7A run in single-ended configuration, a Krell KBL, and a Classé Audio DR-6 Mk.II (with an internal moving-coil phono module) run in balanced configuration. LPs were played on a Linn Sondek LP-12 turntable with Lingo power supply, Ittok arm, and Spectral moving-coil cartridge, all precisely set up by Gary Warzin of Audiophile Systems (US importer of Linn Sondek) and Casey McKee.
Loudspeakers can be very amplifier-sensitive. For this reason, three different solid-state amplifiers were used: a Krell KSA-250, a pair of Woodside M-50 tube monoblocks, and the recently developed Mark Levinson No.27.5, while the Sonus Fabers were auditioned with the Bryston 4B NRB and Levinson No.27 in addition to the KSA-250. Each amp had its own strengths: vividness and speed (Mark Levinson), bass slam and robust orchestral timbres (Krell), and bass snap (Bryston). Reference speakers included my full-range Quad ESL-63s on Arcici stands, run in bi-amplified mode with a single Muse Model 18 subwoofer.
Parallel output interconnect cables were plugged into the KBL's dual main output jacks to allow both balanced and single-ended outputs. I preferred balanced interconnects in the system when listening to the 805. When the Muse subwoofer was employed, single-ended interconnects were necessary. One set of single-ended AudioQuest Topaz interconnects drove the Muse system. Bi-wired OCOS speaker cables, supplied for this review by Sumiko, were used to drive the B&W 805s.
To evaluate the sonic performance of the speakers, I used a suite of CDs and LPs employed in earlier reviews, as well as those I've nominated for Stereophile's annual "Records to Die For" feature. These discs test a variety of sonic attributes, and are particularly good for revealing differences between components in my listening room.—Larry Greenhill