Spotted during a tour of the Bowers & Wilkins factory the other day, a rather unique pair of the company’s new 800 Series Diamond speakers
Had a fascinating tour of the Bowers & Wilkins factory this week, as part of the launch event for the new 800 Series Diamond speakers: in preparation for the range, the factory has undergone considerable investment in both equipment and people – and is now dedicated purely to the manufacture of the 800 models.
Oh, and the odd pair of the company’s classic Nautilus speakers, a few of which are still handmade each month.
The Worthing factory has actually been making the new ‘D3′ models since March, building up stocks for the company’s distribution centres worldwide: the speakers go on sale in October, with the flagship 800 D3 following next Spring, and apparently orders have already been taken accounting for the next 18 months’ production.
Touring the plant, you become aware that this really is manufacturing from the ground up, from the assembly of drive units, including the new Continuum midrange driver (above) to the massive presses used to shape the cabinets of the new speakers from multiple leaves of wood, as seen below.
Hand-selected, they’re placed in the huge machines, one of which is seen below, then shaped in one action to form a complete cabinet shell. All the cabinets for the new range are made in Worthing, the company having brought woodworking back in house a while back.
The attention to detail is amazing: once colour has been applied to the cabinets – in either deep gloss black or what’s unofficially being called ‘frost white’ – or the lacquer to the rosenut wood-veneered models, they’re then sanded back by hand, using remarkably fine grits, before being hand-polished.
Above is one of the massive Turbine heads (made from aluminium and used to house the new midrange driver) being painted, and below is the start of the cabinet polishing process.
Final checking of both the operation of the speaker and its cosmetic finish is also done by hand before packing, as you can see above – and it was at this last stage of the process that I spotted these rather unique 800 Series Diamond speakers, in what can only be described as air force blue.
Another colour option on the way? Not quite: this is the reference pair of the speakers, against which production samples are checked, and they’re finished in a unique shade for just that reason – so they don’t get packed up and shipped off to a customer by accident!
The 800 Series Diamond is a highly impressive new line-up, from the fundamental engineering to the industrial design and the meticulous build – not to mention the way they sound (at least on first impressions).
Below you can see the 803 D3s on the end of Rotel’s new RC-1580 preamp and a pair of RB-1590 power amps, being demonstrated in the company’s newly-completed main listening room by Senior Product Manager, all-round good guy and Bloke I Used To Work With Andy Kerr, who has seen the project through from start to where they are now.
Read more about the launch range in my news blog for hificritic – and here’s a piece from Bowers & Wilkins offering the background history of the 800 Series from the start, along with a Behind the Scenes as Europe’s press got to meet the new 800 Series Diamond.
Written by Andrew Everard