Bowers & Wilkins 803 D4 Review

Published On: April 15, 2024
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Bowers & Wilkins 803 D4 Review

Put simply, Bowers & Wilkins 803 D4 are some of the most revealing and detailed speakers that money can buy with the looks to match.

Bowers & Wilkins 803 D4 Review

  • Daniel has been an audio enthusiast for 3 years now, always looking for new ways to improve his experience of both two-channel music and full surround home theater listening. He enjoys seeing what various brands bring to the table as new products come out, and firmly believes that audio reproduction is a great mesh of both art and science. He's seen firsthand the emotional connection high-fidelity audio can bring to people and wants to share that with as many as possible, whether that be their very first budget audio system or a system of such quality they will keep for decades to come.

The ultimate goal for most of us in the audio community is to find a pair of speakers that we could feel completely happy with keeping forever, and one day, passing on to our children for them to enjoy. Very few speakers in the world can reach such a status, and the Bowers and Wilkins 803D4 is one of those very few. 

At $25,000 a pair, these speakers most definitely have some high expectations to live up to, but once I got my hands on them and tested them for myself, I knew they were worth every penny and so much more. Bowers and Wilkins is one of the most revered audio brands in the world and sets the benchmark many other speaker manufacturers aspire to. 

Their 800 series has always been revered as legendary speakers handmade in England and I still remember when I first heard them, in a room full of speakers that cost much more, they stole the show with their resolving detail and such finesse and air that you felt more that you were listening to the artist live in the room than a pair of speakers playing through a streamer.


Bowers & Wilkins 803 D4 speakers frontal view

These speakers are no lightweights, at 136lbs a piece and standing 46 inches tall by 14 inches wide, these are most definitely speakers that will make a statement. Despite being one of the more compact models of the 800 series line, their frequency response is quite impressive, digging deep down to 16hz with the help of the two 7-inch aerofoil woofers and going all the way up to 35Khz with the help of their signature diamond dome tweeter.

While Bowers and Wilkins state that the sensitivity is 90db at an 8ohm nominal impedance, it should be noted that these speakers do dip down to 3ohms, so a quality amplifier with plenty of power on tap is going to be required to get the most out of these speakers. 

The 803s are very much in a Goldilocks zone of the 800 series, while not being as large or expensive as the 802s and 801s, they retain all of the same major technology that those speakers attribute their clarity and detail to.

High Points

  • The 803s have exceptional clarity in the highs and a slightly bright and airy demeanor
  • They are quite forgiving in terms of amplifier pairings, working well with tube and solid state from a variety of brands
  • Incredibly tight and accurate bass, with no detectable boom or bloat
  • Exceptionally inert cabinet, the tweeter, and midrange are as inert as stone, with the bass cabinet having barely any audible resonance.

Low Points

  • Due to their revealing nature, they don't play particularly well with poorer recordings such as metal and older rock
  • The tweeter can get fairly harsh when the volume is turned to the extreme, pushing 90+ db for louder music
  • Their bass, while tight and accurate, did leave something to be desired in the low-end dynamics with most modern recordings or orchestral tracks that relied upon large, impactful bass.

Unboxing, Setup, and Connections to other devices

Bowers & Wilkins 803 D4 speakers diagonal view

When I finally got the 803s into my home, unboxing the speakers was quite easy. You could immediately tell Bowers and Wilkins put thought into making the rather large and heavy speakers easy to unbox and set up. I was however a bit disappointed in the quality of packaging from Bowers and Wilkins. 

I felt that the packaging on speakers costing $12,500 each could most definitely be stronger and sturdier, with what felt like regular cardboard and molded packing foam, with a thin cloth liner around the speaker.

Setup, on the other hand, was a breeze. One of the easiest times I have ever had setting up a tower speaker was due in no small part to the plinths with wheels that come attached to the speakers. The plinths made movement and set up a non-issue even for one person, the plinth also includes extendable spikes that come with rubber feet for any type of flooring. 

The four binding posts were also quite easy to connect to my banana plug speaker cables, though their design also accepts spades and bare speaker wire without difficulty.

Design and Features

The 803’s are without question some of the best-looking speakers money can buy at any price point. I feel you would be exceptionally hard-pressed to find a speaker design more timeless yet contemporary than the Bowers 800 series speakers. 

The decoupled midrange and tweeter, each with their own tube-loaded cabinets give the speaker quite a striking design while being fully functional. No matter what volume, the bass from the woofers did not interfere in any way with the effortless clarity of the midrange and tweeter. The bottom port on the speakers also gives much more flexibility to placement in the room.


Out of all of my time listening to various brands of speakers at prices ranging from $100 each to over $100,000 each, the 803D4 is in very good company, being among the best speakers I have ever heard. When I was listening to these speakers, I was streaming Tidal through my Arcam AVR 30 as a preamplifier and DAC, while using my Mcintosh MC462 as an amplifier. I played a variety of genres from EDM to metal, classic rock to modern, and of course, jazz and classical.

Bowers & Wilkins 803 D4 speakers from the top

The level of detail and air in the mids and highs is the highlight of this speaker. While the higher models in the 800 series improve upon it in dynamics, for those of you with a competent subwoofer, or if you do not feel the need for chest-punching bass, you are losing absolutely nothing for choosing the 803 over its larger siblings.

While listening to Old Bones by Dave Grusin off of his Migration album, it's immediately apparent just how airy and detailed these speakers are. When the drums come in, the snap and decay are incredibly quick, showing how articulate the bass is. When the song crescendos and all of the instruments come in, the micro and macrodynamic capabilities of the speaker are shown on full display. 

The top end is articulate and airy, while the midrange is incredibly rich and full-bodied, with exact imaging. While not incredibly tall, the width and depth of the soundstage are quite impressive for a speaker of this size. The instruments extended well past the speakers, giving a feeling of them disappearing even in an untreated room. 

No matter whether it was the quiet interludes or the dynamic swings in the songs, the 803s exhibited one quality above all else, effortlessness. The bass was incredibly fast and every instrument felt natural, nothing feeling artificial or overly colored.

Taking a step into some more modern tracks, Caroline by Arlo Parks off of her Collapsed in Sunbeams album, is a testament to how deceptively large these speakers can sound. The 803D4s are no slouch when dynamic music is put in front of them, when Arlo starts very soft, her vocals are never lost in the rest of the soundstage, despite a resounding amount of air and live-like presentation.

Arlo Parks - Caroline (Official Video)

What sets these speakers apart from so many other high performers in their class is their ability to be incredibly clear and nuanced at both very low and higher volumes, sacrificing no detail, precision, or soundstage no matter what volume they are played at.

While very competent in terms of clarity and soundstage, these are most definitely revealing speakers that do not hide any harshness or sibilance in poorer recordings ranging from modern pop/rock to older metal tracks. 

They most definitely have a house sound to them, but I find said house sound to be quite pleasing. I would classify them as being just slightly bright and open in the highs, and while not chest-kicking impactful, they are quick and articulate in the bass, no matter where they are placed.

Competition and Comparison

As I mentioned previously, at $25,000 a pair, there are some very high expectations out of these speakers, with giants like KEF, Martin Logan, and Wilson Audio being the most likely candidates these will be cross-shopped against. 

With that being said, however, I do find them very much holding their weight in this punchout of Titans. The closest comparisons in terms of both price and size to the 803D4s will be the KEF Reference Fives and the Wilson Audio Yvette.

Bowers & Wilkins 803 D4 speakers closeup view

While the Wilson audios will be slightly more rolled off in the highs than the Bowers and Wilkins, I would say that they are every bit the 803’s equal in sound quality. The Yvettes will be slightly more neutral, and certainly less bright, but equally detailed, with similar bass performance to the 803’s, focusing on tight and articulate bass rather than kick and impact. 

The Reference fives on the other hand is more a case of preference in sound signature. The References are much more neutral, bordering on warm sounding than either the Wilson or the Bowers, while having quite a bit more bass. I don't find the KEFs to be as precise in imaging as either, but in terms of both bass output and soundstage, the KEFs shine. 

All three have exceptionally inert cabinets and impressive build quality that is without reproach. Subjectively, I do feel that the Bowers has both the Wilson and the KEF soundly beat in an aesthetic capacity, with the KEF still having a very much traditional speaker styling, and the Wilson being very polarizing in its design, the Bowers is sure to please even the most critical owner in terms of visuals and style.

The biggest competition to the 803 though, comes from Bowers and Wilkins themselves, with the 805D4 giving it quite a run for its money at about half of the price. The major caveat with the 805D4 is that, while the clarity and air are just as present as the 803, it lacks the midrange prowess that the 803 has, and will most definitely need a subwoofer for even mild extension into bass. 

With that being said, if the 803D4 is out of your price range, I would opt for the 805 and a quality subwoofer and you will have 90% of the performance for a much lower price point.


The 803D4 is ideal for those who like acoustic and instrumental tracks, ranging from jazz, classical, older pop, and modern alternative. It excels in precise imaging and delivers exceptional clarity in excellent and average recordings. It is undoubtedly one of the best-performing speakers in this size range as well, being considerably smaller than the likes of the Martin Logan masterpiece line and KEF’s blade series, while being every bit their equal in sound quality and detail. 

It has a very liveable size and styling to it while having a performance that leaves nothing out of the recording whatsoever. The only criticism I would have for this speaker is its price point and the need for a very competent amplifier to extract the most out of its performance. The Bowers and Wilkins 803D4 is without a doubt a true HiFi masterpiece from every angle.

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