B&W Matrix® 801 and 802
See the new Junior Upgrades!
Dear fellow music lover,
Thank you for your interest in our upgrades for the B&W Matrix® 800 Loudspeaker Series. Whether you currently own or are considering purchasing a pair of B&W Matrix® 801's or 802's, this brochure should be of great interest. The products presented here represent an approach to aftermarket upgrades which you may find unique.
We feel that the B&W Matrix® 801 and 802 are two of the most intelligently engineered full range loudspeakers made, and that their faults are a result of design constraints dictated by their initial development specifically as a recording studio monitor. Rather than accept these faults and concentrate on improving other aspects of the system, we reconceived the loudspeakers as no-compromise audiophile products. We then directed our design effort to bring about the transformation.
The resulting products are our Complete Passive Crossover Replacements for the B&W Matrix® 801 and 802. The combination of B&W's Matrix cabinet, their superbly designed drivers, and our precision crafted crossover network yields loudspeaker systems that are more transparent, more dynamic, and more convincing than the originals. The overall systems equal or surpass any other loudspeaker system available regardless of technology or price. Most importantly, they become completely capable of capturing the essence of the musical event. You have never heard an 801 or 802 like this before.
The 800 Series' Dilemma
The B&W 801 was originally designed as a cost-no-object, no-compromise studio monitor(1). The design team set performance goals that were dictated by studio needs, and developed within those parameters the loudspeaker that has become the most successful studio monitor in history.
Even though many 801's made their way into the homes of audiophiles, incarnations of the loudspeaker up to and including the Matrix® II were manufactured with studio performance the foremost concern. It was not until the Anniversary - Limited Edition and Series III that the needs of the audiophile were considered, and then only partially addressed.
Requirements of the studio dictated that several performance compromises were made in producing the B&W Matrix® 801. The foremost requirement was dependability, and to address this the protection circuitry was developed. This circuitry is present in the signal path at all times, and its presence is clearly audible, yet for most audiophiles the circuitry rarely (if ever) comes into play.
The second compromise was mobility. The monitors had to be easily relocated, hence they were supplied on casters and the crossover network was constructed on a small circuit board located beneath the woofer cabinet. This also meant the crossover components had to be as small as possible, and be located on the board along with the protection circuitry. Hence, the B&W crossover is constructed of small ferrite cored inductors and electrolytic capacitors, instead of the better sounding but less space-effective components. The space limitation also lead to the inductor field interactions and current limitations well documented elsewhere(2).
Our approach to the B&W Matrix® 801 and 802 is from a loudspeaker designer's point of view. Rather than work to improve the performance of the existing systems, we eliminated the studio from the design process. This gave us the freedom to develop our crossover networks without any size, space, or weight constraints. The result is the North Creek Complete Crossovers, which are complete replacements of the original units.
The North Creek Complete Crossovers for the B&W Matrix® 801 and 802 yield improvements in every aspect of the original. Sound stage, focus, impact, detail, clarity; these are all enhanced. The low end becomes deeper, tighter, more textured, and more controlled. The midrange purity rivals any other loudspeaker regardless of technology. The top end is smooth, sweet and extended without a hint of grain.
The B&W 801 and 802, with the North Creek Complete Crossovers, become two of the most musical transducers ever made.
The Complete Crossovers
The North Creek Music Systems Complete Passive Crossovers are complete replacements of the factory units. Every detail of the original designs have been analyzed and re-evaluated from the audiophile's point of view, and the resulting replacement networks, manufactured in our own facilities, are no-compromise products that bring these loudspeakers into an entirely new performance envelope.
The North Creek Crossovers consists of three physically and electrically independent networks per channel, one for each driver. These networks are constructed from 1% hand matched components where the matching is done on a component level before the subassemblies are constructed. Matching is also verified during final testing. The maximum variation in left/right networks is less than ±1%, five times tighter than original production.
The North Creek Networks are completely hard wired. No circuit board and foil conduction paths are used; rather, solid copper bus bar or inductor leads make main connections. This construction method results in a minimum of connections both in and out of the signal path, maintaining signal integrity.
B&W 801 Series III Stock Crossover Networks
Global star grounding is also used throughout the networks. Each element tied to ground has a unique signal path directly to the negative binding post. As the networks must also be bi-wired, this approach results in separate low and mid/high ground paths all the way to the amplifier terminals. This topology completely eliminates ground crosstalk between low and mid/high portions of the network.
In the case of the B&W 801, the North Creek Crossover may also be ordered with the woofer impedance compensation circuitry provided in the Series 2 and Anniversary Edition, but eliminated in the Series 3. This circuitry allows for 2dB of adjustment in mid-bass level. Those who bi-amp or have mid-sized listening rooms may find this level of adjustment invaluable. The circuitry may be added at a later date and can also be added to existing Series III's (please note, the impedance compensation circuitry is compatible only with the external “Ultimate” networks).
North Creek Crossovers are built on two separate boards, physically separating the woofers and midrange-tweeter sections. The Junior Crossovers were designed to be mounted inside the existing loudspeaker cabinets, replacing the original networks. Installation consists only of directly replacing the originals and splicing our color-matched wiring to the existing wiring. The Ultimate Crossovers come in their own cabinets are are externally mounted.
B&W 801 North Creek Junion Mid/Hi Network
The majority of raw materials used throughout the networks are from our regular inventory or that we had custom made specifically for these crossovers. For the Junior networks, this includes custom wound, geometrically optimized 12 AWG and 15 AWG Music Coiltm air core inductors (made in-house), all high frequency metallized polypropylene film capacitors and US Mil-Spec Ohmite and Vishay power resistors. OFHC wiring is used throughout and every electrical connection us made with our crimp-then-solder cold weld technique. These are beautifully made networks and the attention to detail comes through with greatly improved dynamics, clarity and detail, a much larger sound stage and far better imaging.
The Ultimate networks are far larger and heavier and are housed in the own externally mounted dedicated cabinets. Each cabinet measures 6" x 11” x 21", one per channel. Eliminating the size constraint allowed us to use components that would normally be found only in high-five-figure loudspeakers. They are constructed with 12 and 10 AWG Music Coiltm air core inductors, high frequency metallized polypropylene film capacitors liberally bypassed with custom made ultra-high voltage film-and-foil capacitors manufactured for us by Sprague-Dearborn, and mil-spec Ohmite and Vishay power resistors. All components are hand matched to ±1% tolerance. OFHC wiring is and our crimp-then-solder technique is employed throughout. The cabinets are handsomely finished in brushed matte black (the optional solid 3/4" hardwood edge panels shown in the photo are no longer available). Each network requires over 2500 feet of copper and weighs an average of 40 pounds per cabinet.
B&W 801 North Creek Junior Woofer Network
Each Ultimate enclosure is provided with a dedicated cable to link the crossover to the driver cabinet. The cable is terminated with high quality, gold-plated spades. These are connected to a replacement back cup fitted with the mating mil-spec, gold-plated binding posts. Color-coded wiring is also provided to connect to the 801 internal wiring inside of the cabinet base.
All North Creek components have been selected purely by subjective evaluation for their enduring quality and sonic excellence. In many cases these components were developed for U.S. Military applications and are Mil-Spec rated. Lastly, the crossovers are 100% made in the USA and all components are sourced from Europe and North America.
The North Creek Music Systems Complete Passive Crossover Replacements for the B&W 801 and 802 are not redesigns of the original crossovers. The circuit topology and component values are identical to the original Series III specifications, and the essential character of the loudspeakers remain unchanged.
The North Creek Crossovers are completely new crossovers, manufactured with the finest passive components and representing a no-compromise approach to passive crossover design and manufacture. These are the ultimate upgrades for the B&W 801 and 802.
B&W 801SIII Junior and Ultimate Networks
B&W incorporated the protection circuitry into the Series II crossover to prevent premature failure of the driver units, reducing studio down-time and the recurring need for driver replacements. This circuitry was not developed for the audiophile, however, and the relays in the signal path severely compromise the signal integrity. Most performance upgrades, including those provided by B&W, begin with removal of this circuitry. Our Complete Passive Crossover replacement eliminates all of the protection circuitry. This is absolutely necessary to achieve the ultimate performance from the loudspeaker. However, elimination of this circuitry also makes the drive units more susceptible to failure. Therefore, those considering the Complete Passive Crossover Replacement should seriously evaluate their listening habits. The single rule with protection circuitry is: if you use it, you need it.
Detail: North Creek Crossover Components are as free of parasitics as modern technology allows. Consequently, the amount of information passed through the North Creek crossovers and to the drivers is far greater than through the original crossovers. This does not change the tonality of the loudspeaker, nor does it alter its overall character. There is simply more "there" there.
Texture: Because of the increased level of information, every nuance of each instrument is clearly revealed. The amount of rosin on the bow, the endless shimmer of a cymbal, the snap of a drum head; subtleties that when absent limit the illusion. Our networks are far more revealing, and far more convincing.
Sound stage: The subtle ambiance and dimensional cues that recreate a believable sense of space tend to be absorbed by parasitics within the stock crossover components, resulting in a sound stage that is locked in the plane of the loudspeakers and bordered by the driver positions. Elimination of these parasitics moves the sound stage behind the loudspeakers and recreates a tremendous sense of volume from those recordings where the information is present. Sound stage width, height, and depth are greatly improved.
B&W 802 Stock Network and North Creek Ultimate Network
Focus: Although there is no mathematical basis to define image focus, correct sizing and stability of specific images is at least partially a product of driver matching and intercomponent variation in the crossover network. B&W matches the raw drivers at their factory to within 1 dB, which is excellent. Component variations within the factory networks are ±5%, which also can amount to ±1 dB of variation. The result is possible variation of up to 4 dB within left/right pairs. Believe it or not, this is considered quite good for a production loudspeaker.
The North Creek Networks are constructed of raw components hand matched to ±1%, 500% better than the stock network. The resulting maximum left/right pair variation is dominated by driver variation and limited to 2.2 dB.
Our level of pair matching, the clarity of our crossover components, and the excellence of the original design gives the updated loudspeaker extraordinary focus. On properly recorded performances, the precision, correct sizing and placement of individual performers is unprecedented.
Dynamics: Loosely defined as the difference between the loudest and quietest sound of a passage, the dynamics of the stock loudspeaker are constrained by the dynamic instability of the components in the original network. This is called dynamic compression, and can be detected as a lack of impact in the low end, hardness and a lack of clarity in the midrange, and in the upper frequency range as a masking of detail. Dynamic compression occurs both with transient information that is much louder than the average playback level, and with continuous mid-level playback.
One source of dynamic compression in the stock networks is sand cast resistors, which have a temperature coefficient (Tc) of about 400ppm/°C; that is, their resistance increases substantially when they operate at higher temperatures. Because they heat up instantaneously as current passes through them, they have a higher resistance to loud sounds than they do to quiet sounds - so they let proportionally less of the loud sounds through. North Creek Resistors have a Tc of less than 50ppm/°C, 800% better than sand cast resistors, and are not a source of dynamic compression.
The stock 801 and 802 crossover networks also use ferrite cored inductors throughout. Ferrite cored inductors suffer from dynamic compression through a phenomenon known as hysteresis, where energy is wasted through switching the magnetic direction of the ferrite. So much energy is lost in this manner that if one were to put their ear against the inductor during a musical passage, one would hear the core "humm along," acting precisely like a solenoid.
The North Creek Crossovers use strictly air-cored inductors, and absolutely do not suffer from hysteresis distortion. So when a bass drum goes "boom" through the stock crossover, it goes "WHAM!" through the North Creek version.
Harmonic Integrity: The most endearing quality of the stock 801 and 802 is their natural overall presentation of the musical event. This can at least be partially attributed to their ruler-flat frequency response, excellent dispersion, and extremely broad bandwidth.
Because the North Creek Crossovers are not redesigns of the original units, they do not change any of these characteristics. However, because they let so much more information through, the harmonic integrity of the loudspeakers is improved.
Musicality: This is the one true measure of a loudspeaker, and in this aspect, beyond all others, the North Creek Crossovers excel. The modified 801 and 802 become much more involving, much more convincing, and much more enjoyable. In short, they are much more musical loudspeakers. Everything that the originals do so well, they will now do better.
North Creek Music Systems guarantees that you will be 100% satisfied with your crossover. If you are not completely satisfied, for any reason whatsoever, please return them within 45 days from date of installation. We will fully refund your original charges.
The North Creek Crossovers for the B&W 801 and 802 are warrantied for three years from date of purchase. For that period we will, at our option, repair or replace factory defective components. North Creek Music Systems' liability is limited only to replacement of defective parts. No other liabilities or obligations are written or implied.
(hardwood side panels no longer available)
801 Junior Crossover Upgrade Internally mounted, a slightly scaled down version of the Ultimate network, the 801 Junior Crossovers are built to our same exacting standards and tolerances entirely from 15AWG inductors, all metallized polypropylene film capacitors and Ohmite resistors. Junior offers 85% of the performance of the Ultimate version and is installed inside the existing loudspeaker cabinet.
801 Junior Crossover Upgrade Series II, Anniversary, and Series III ..... $Retired 2016
802 Junior Crossover Upgrade Like the 801 Junior above, the 802-Junior is internally mounted, built from 12 AWG and 15AWG inductors, all metallized polypropylene film capacitors and Ohmite resistors. 85% of the way with no change to the 802's footprint.
802 Junior Crossover Upgrade Series II and Series III ..... $Retired 2016
Questions or to order, please email NorthCreekMusic@gmail.com
When we originally commissioned to build the B&W Matrix® 801 and 802 Series II crossover upgrades back in New York many years ago, the size constraint became in immediate issue. There was simply no way a crossover network of this level of complexity built with our quality level of components would fit inside the speakers. The original 801 Upgrade was built with the midrange/tweeter sections on two boards that fit inside the factory cabinet, and a separate cabinet that housed the external woofer network. With performance improvements, larger inductor gauges and especially the advent of high voltage polypropylene film-and-foil bypass capacitors (which are huge) in the late 1990's , the entire network eventually outgrew the loudspeaker cabinets, and this is how the 801 and 802 Ultimate Crossover Upgrades became fully external.
Numerous revisions were made to the crossovers through the years, the most significant being the update of all previous topologies to the standard Series III topology. The Series III networks are far simpler than the generations which preceeded them, and like most things, something simple when executed well tends to work better than something complicated executed well. So since year 2004 we have made only Series III type networks, and those with Series II's or Anniversary's now reap the benefit of the Series III design.
After fire destroyed the North Creek facility in January of 2012 and we relocated to northern Arizona and began rebuilding and retooling, I took a commitment to make every thing about North Creek two steps better than that which we lost. Our first machine was the coil winder, and where as the old coil winder was specific to only a few gauges of wire, a limited number of core sizes, and some very tight size constraints, our new coil winder is capable of far more versatility. Therefore we were able to tool up several geometrically optimized inductor cores specific to the 801 and 802 Junior crossovers and going to a slightly finer gauge of wire, making them small enough to fit while still achieving 90% of the inductor performance of the Ultimate versions.
The next step was capacitors, and here of course technology has marched on. Polypropylene film and metallization techniques have advanced, and our latest generation of metallized capacitors are now half the size of the previous generation, have a higher voltage rating and sound every bit as good. We were able to have some specialty caps made specifically for the Juniors.
What this means, of course, is that now we can make the same crossovers smaller. It's tight, but they fit.
In terms of sound quality, the 801's and 802's upgraded with the Juniors do some wonderful things. The low end has that North Creek snap, crispness and texture without sacrificing depth, and the dynamics are much improved. The midrange opens up, the top end seems to go on forever and focus within the sound stage is rock solid. The original factory stock network sounds diffused and muffled in comparison.
Are the Ultimate networks better still? Yes. Crossover networks in general benefit from mechanical and magnetic field isolation and the additional space allows for full film-foil capacitor bypassing everywhere in the signal path. Of this the Ultimates, in their dedicated cabinets, mechanically grounded, and ten times the size, take full advantage, bringing a darker background, slightly more texture in the deep bass and a small improvement in overall clarity. Small gains, big steps in cost and complexity. For those with the extra space with the finest dedicated two-channel systems they are certainly worth while. But for most applications, and anywhere space is at a premium, the Junior's will hold their own.
Some of our customers' comments:
(March 13, 2015)
Did not want to clutter your mail box, but thanks a ton.
By the way the 801s with your crossover sound far superior than my stock 802s. In all aspects not just the last few hertz. A very solid endorsement for your product and services.
(February 2015 802 Jr)
Hello George crossovers are in and breaking in I feel as if I just got a new pair of speakers what a difference
the sweet highs the clean black back ground mid range and the tight bass that will get better with hours speakers are more open now also imaging is better I will keep my 802's for the rest of my days I love there sound. thanks allot George for your great crossovers and service.
(January 2015, 801 Jr Upgrade)
The cross overs sat in their box for 2 months waiting for me to have time to put them in. They were very heavy and big and the project seemed intimidating.
Yesterday I finally made the push to get the project started. The hardest part was getting the 801 s2 up on a table to work on it. Once there it was pretty easy. First speaker took about 1.5 hours to wire up and solder the new crossovers. After removing the B&W crossover I started to get concerned. The factory crossover also was quite heavy and had far more components than the North Creek. I wondered if perhaps this was some phantom upgrade. Although large and heavy the North Creek seemed quite rudimentary.
Today I did the other speaker. This went faster. About 1 hour. After everything was back together it was time to test them out and see if I got the wiring right. Also obviously curious to see if I could hear a difference. I played a few different things, gradually turning up the volume. I listened for about 15 minutes before I fully allowed myself to accept that those crossovers could actually make such an enormous difference. I would have never believed it and especially not after seeing how well built the factory ones are. The more I listen the more engaged I am. The difference is staggering. Depth, soundstage, clarity, detail and an enjoyment factor that I can't describe. I am more than happy. Keep working your magic and for those skeptics out there, I was one too but my ears don't lie. This and my new turntable/cartridge were what my system needed to come alive. I do not think I will be doing any more tweaking. Yeah!
(from AudioGon March 2014)
The amazing North Creek crossover modification makes these 802 Matrix speakers sound nearly as good as B&W's
1) New developments in loudspeaker system design- the B&W 801 monitor, John Bowers, presented by G. J. Adams at the Consumer Electronics Show Chicago.
2) Audio Magazine, November, 1990 review of the B&W 801 Series 2.
B&W, 801®, 802® and Matrix® are trademarks of B&W Loudspeakers.
Music Coil, "Design Without Compromise," and "Simply Better Technology" are trademarks of North Creek Music Systems.
This publication is copyright © February 2014 by North Creek Music Systems, Inc.