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HolidayBuyer's Guide

A warning

Factory floor

Driver?

800 waiting

Testing

Strong drivers

The sound of silence, uh, I mean science

Weather and more

The sandwich

Compression

After

Other pieces

Before and After

Composites

Drops

Paint booth

Black is tough

Back to matte

Polishing

Nautilus

Finish

Painters

Painter

Drivers

Spider and coil

Diamonds are forever

Tweeter assembly

Kevlar

More hand crafting

Precision

Assembly

Warehouse

The sounds

Oh, the risks I take for a good story.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
The main factory floor. In the foreground are the final finishing stages for the $24,000/pair 800-series speakers.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
Care for a few drivers?
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
Here are some partially finished 800-series speakers, awaiting many of the components we'd see later in the tour.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
This machine breaks things on purpose, so the engineers can see which and how parts break. Check out this video of the machine in action (destroying a woofer driver).
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
To demonstrate the strength of the drivers, B&W's Peter Paice stands on one.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
Since B&W makes outdoor speakers, it's not surprising it has equipment to stress test gear with increased heat, humidity, and other factors. Despite being on the ocean, it even has a machine to test for saltier conditions.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
This multilayered sandwich is many layers of wood with glue in between. This is actually the makings of a speaker cabinet, thanks to the machine in the next slide...
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
The sandwich is compressed with this machine, molding it to the shape you see on the left (it's curved in multiple dimensions). Check out this video to see the machine in action.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
After the machine squishes the sandwich for 20-30 minutes, a robot rotors away the excess, leaving the incredibly rigid and curvy panels you see here. These are tops of some small tower speakers.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
This same process is used to form larger speaker cabinet parts, like the back and side piece you see here. This requires a larger machine, which you can see in action here.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
The finished part on the left, the raw sandwich on the right.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
Though the majority of the speakers are made from wood, the distinctive teardrop midrange enclosure on the 800 Series Diamond is a dense composite material that is incredibly heavy. The unfinished enclosures arrive at B&W, where they're sanded extensively to get a smooth surface.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
Once sanded, they're painted. That's not the end of their journey, though.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
One of the paint booths. It's rather Kubrickian, right?
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
One entire floor of B&W's facility is devoted to just black finishes. This is because to get a smooth, high-end, piano-black finish, the environment has to be clean, and many, many additional steps must be taken. Otherwise, the end result has a lumpy "orange peel" like finish. This is fine for many speakers, but for expensive speakers, not so much. Here, many different speakers await further fiddling.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
Once painted with many layers of black paint, the speakers are actually sanded down to the finish you see here. Then...
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
... they're polished and polished and polished until the speakers are smooth and shiny.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
Some speakers, like the big Nautilus here, are polished by hand for two days. Each.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
As you can see in this closeup, the end result is smooth.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
Here, 800 Series cabinets get rotated in for the robot paint sprayer you'll see in the next slide.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
The robot paint sprayer. I assume it never gets bored.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
Some of the high-end speakers get hand-wound voice coils, made in-house. Shelves around this area were stacked with what I assume was tens of thousands of dollars of copper wire, of many different thicknesses.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
Here the voice coils (the copper wires) are mated with a spider (the yellow part).
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
This is a close-up of one of B&W's diamond dome tweeters. They're incredibly rigid, but also incredibly thin.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
Here the diamond domes are mated with the many pieces needed to become actual tweeters. The end result is the long tweeter top you see sitting on the top of some B&W speakers. These are put together almost entirely by hand.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
Discs of Kevlar are stamped to form a cone shape. A different station applies a gluelike material that fills in the holes and brings the drivers up to an exact weight.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
I'm not sure a machine could do a better job than this. She's assembling the cover that goes between the top of the 800 speaker cabinet and the teardrop enclosure you saw 20 slides ago. While no consumer will ever see the underside of these, as you'll see in the next side, they're immaculately put together.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
That's some fantastic craftsmanship for an area probably not seen by most people.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
Here the massive crossover network is mounted in the base of an 800. After some final assembly here, and some testing, the speakers are pretty much ready to ship out.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
Lots of boxes.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
In the first of two listening rooms (the other was a larger theater), I got to take a listen to a few cuts with the 800 Diamonds and some Classe electronics. Beautifully clean treble, accurate and tight bass, a big soundstage that you could still localize instruments in. Simply fantastic. These are the same speakers used at Abbey Road Studios.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
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