B&W Matrix 805 loudspeaker Reference System

Sidebar 2: 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

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