Bowers & Wilkins DB3D subwoofer review

hccbestbuybadgev3Don't let this subwoofer's dimensions deceive you, says Richard Stevenson. B&W has crammed performance prowess and considerable power into a 12in cube

The DB3D is the smallest in B&W's premium DB series of subwoofers. It's neat, compact and – with its near-£2,000 price tag – not in any way entry-level. And despite its dimensions, of a roughly 12in cube sitting atop a 2in aluminium-trimmed plinth, it weighs a monstrous 25kg, courtesy of the enormous magnets for its two 8in drivers and a super-heavyweight MDF cabinet. In mass density alone, the DB3D ought to have its own gravitational field.

The drivers are B&W's Aerofoil cones with their appealing weave design, set up opposing each other in a sealed cabinet with internal pressure-aiding damping. The sub's 1,000W amplifier is a bespoke B&W design using Class D Hypex modules fitted neatly into the base plinth. Cooling fins run along the bottom, so spikes will be essential on carpeted floors.

B&W caters for quite a few installations though, supplying spikes, silicon domes and tall rubber feet. They screw into a large nut on the metal base panel, which feels a lot more substantial than traditional threaded MDF inserts. That level of exceptional build quality runs throughout the DB3D. From the polished piano-lacquer to the trim, feet and solidly constructed connection panel, fit and finish is probably without equal at the price.

Getting Hooked
Connections span stereo phono and XLR inputs, any one of which will handle an LFE signal. For a smart install, there's a pair of 12V trigger sockets and an RS232 serial connector.

On the connection panel's missing list are speaker-level inputs and any controls. The latter are found on B&W's DB Subwoofers app, which connects your smart device to the DB3D via Bluetooth.

In this app you will find setup, placement and settings guides and independent controls for phono and XLR input. These cover stereo/LFE operation, input gain, crossover frequency, four-position phase and a 12dB/24dB filter slope option. You can set up with any of B&W's own speakers from a drop-down menu or use the built-in EQ settings for Music, Movie and Flat, plus a Custom mode with adjustable parametric EQ across five bands from 20Hz to 80Hz. In terms of physical placement, make sure the DB3D doesn't have one of its drivers pushed close to a wall (so facing sideways if positioned within the LCR stage), and you're good to go. And good it is too.


Taking The Strain
Beginning with stereo music, the DB3D presents luscious depth and tautness. It seamlessly adds a good deal of the bottom octave to the sound without showing any sign of strain.

With movies, the LFE that underpins Dunkirk's DTS-HD MA soundtrack is delivered with virtuoso quality, the DB3D thumping out effects with sublime precision. It's super-fast, super-tight and goes to depths that no 12in bass box has any right to – apparently, you can change the laws of physics. This is a woofer that smoothly becomes an integrated part of the soundmix, getting you enveloped in the movie rather than turning LFE into obvious sound effects. It is astonishingly adept at delivering the goods without being in your face. No sledgehammer – more a sculptor's ballpeen hammer and chisel, razor-sharp and incredibly detailed.

You might hanker for a little more absolute volume, but not often and not if you have neighbours. You might also want it to show more of a gung-ho attitude, but I'm certain that would take away from the DB3D's real appeal, which is that it's breathtakingly refined and articulate.

In fact, I rate it an absolute stunner. Rarely have I come across a subwoofer so small and so perfectly formed, yet so able to dig deep into a soundtrack. Easy to recommend.

HCC Verdict

Bowers & Wilkins DB3D

Price: £1,950

We say: Refined, powerful and amazingly articulate, B&W's baby DB series model sets the standard for compact subwoofers.

Performance: 5/5
Features: 4.5/5
Design: 5/5
Overall: 5/5


Drive units: 2 x 8in Aerofoil carbon bass drivers
Enclosure: Sealed Frequency response (CLAIMED): 10Hz-350Hz (-3dB)
Onboard power (CLAIMED): 1,000W Hypex Class D
Remote control: No, use app instead
Dimensions: 320(w) x 360(h) x 300(d)mm
Weight: 25kg

Features: Stereo phono input; stereo XLR input; 2 x 12V triggers, RS232-C, BT-LE wireless to smart device running DB Subwoofers app; 3 x EQ presets plus custom five-band EQ; phase; crossover; signal detecting on/off

Bowers & Wilkins