B&W Nautilus 805 loudspeaker Page 3

Sound
Sitting in the nearfield of the Nautilus 805s in my large blue velvet chair, I listened to classical, country-western, jazz, vocal, pipe-organ, and soundtrack CDs. The Nautilus 805s quickly swept me into the music, and I found myself listening with my eyes closed. It was as if a special light had been switched on in my mind: "This is a terrific loudspeaker, and an example of what I really love about high-end audio."

Right off the bat, I was impressed with the Nautilus 805's taut, punchy midbass response. That, coupled with the rest of the speaker's sonic profile—transparent highs, dynamic midrange, and powerful, solid upper- and midbass response—made for a first-rate listening experience. Both the Bryston 4B-ST (see "Follow-Up" in October 1999) and the Mark Levinson No.334 power amplifiers supplied enough power and bass control for playing the Nautilus 805s in my large listening room. Used in stereo mode, the No.334 made the best match with the Nautilus 805: a transparent, solid, dynamic sound, without being edgy or analytic, with a bass response that was both controlled and eminently detailed. On Massive Attack's Unfinished Symphony (Circa WBRX2), the bass line was driving, taut, solid, and had just the right punch. The soundtrack from My Cousin Vinny (Varese Sarabande VSD 5364) had so much slam, punch, and drive that a subwoofer wasn't needed. In level-matched comparisons, the Nautilus 805's bass slam more closely resembled that of the floorstanding Dynaudio Contour 3.0, and bettered that of the smaller (7.2 cubic feet) Totem Signature One, a minimonitor with considerable low-frequency punch.

Powered subwoofers were necessary, however, to get the best overall sonic presentation when I played sustained, very-deep-bass pipe-organ and synthesizer music in my large listening room. The Nautilus 805 smoothly rolled off extremely deep synthesizer notes such as the entrance of the ghosts on the Casper soundtrack (MCA MCAD-11240).

Because of its compact size and tonal accuracy in reproducing sustained, solid bass, the $1500 Paradigm Servo-15 powered subwoofer that I reviewed in August was an ideal match for the Nautilus 805. The distant and ethereal bass synthesizer in "Silk Road," on I Ching's Of the Marsh and the Moon (Chesky WO144), had just the right weight from the Servo-15 to balance the Nautilus 805's depiction of the song's soft, rainy acoustic landscape. For those CDs with very deep bass transients, however, I preferred using the new $2799 Velodyne HGS-18 (see "Follow-Up" in October) with the Nautilus 805. Set up well, the Nautilus 805/HGS-18 combo was a knockout—it startled me, shaking the room with the massive synthesizer rumblings of "Assault on Ryan's House," from the Patriot Games soundtrack (RCA 66051-2).

But if very deep pipe-organ or synthesizer transients revealed the Nautilus 805's lack of low bass, vocal and jazz recordings brought out its best qualities. The 805's midrange, especially when used with the superb Mark Levinson No.334, sounded very, very sweet. Voices were rendered with their individual differences intact. Harry Connick, Jr.'s voice on "I Don't Get Around Much Anymore" (from the When Harry Met Sally... soundtrack, Columbia CK 45319) was smooth and pure, without sounding tubby or nasal. Whether it was the whiskey-and-honey-voiced Diana Krall singing "Garden in the Rain" (Love Scenes, Impulse! IMPD-233), Suzanne Vega singing "Tom's Diner" (Solitude Standing, A&M CD 5136), Natalie Merchant creating a holographic central vocal image (One Fine Day, Columbia CK 69716), the male choral group singing "Lord Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace" (John Rutter, Requiem, Reference Recordings RR-57CD), or Willie Nelson singing "Darkness on the Face of the Earth" (Teatro, Island 314-524 548-2), the distinct timbre of each solo voice, the separation of voices in a massed choir, or the solid, cut-from-stone, three-dimensional sonic image of the vocalist, allowed the music to communicate with the listener with maximum impact.

The Nautilus 805's upper register was extended and stunningly transparent. This allowed the speaker to capture both the sheen of cymbals and what J. Gordon Holt calls the "blattiness" of brass instruments, like Wynton Marsalis' trumpet on The Resolution of Romance: Standard Time Vol.3 (Columbia CK 46143). When I played Stokowski's Living Stereo LP of Shostakovich's Symphony 6 (RCA LSC-3133), the Nautilus 805 clearly revealed the solo soprano saxophone, standing out in space apart from the massive orchestral fabric.

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