Wharfedale Diamond D300 環繞聲系統 – 平衡了看電影與聽音樂的樂趣

1932 年成立的 Wharfedale 經歷過多番變遷,而 Diamond 系列的全盛期,在上世紀 80年代。可惜,我最初接觸到的 Wharfedale Diamond,已是十年前的 IAG 年代。十年人事幾番新,Diamond 的真正精彩,是 IAG 聘請了 Peter Comeau 為揚聲器研發總監之後的事。

當然,Peter Comeau 也沒有可能單人匹馬負責所有品牌的揚聲器設計,他主理的是品牌各系列的聲學設計,至於造型設計,則交由據悉曾多次獲取工業設計獎項的 Kieran Dunk 負責,對比起我十年前接觸過定位有點模糊的 Diamond,D300 系列是一套 They can do a good job 的系統!

Budget Speakers,設計睇餸食飯,售價為設計定調,不容易,限米煮限飯還要好味,更加不容易, 黃蓉在荒山野嶺也煮得一手好餸因為是小說情節,現實是要 Gordon Ramsay 即席煮好一頓茶記美食,也不是一時三刻的事。對於 Peter Comeau 在設計不同揚聲器所累積的經驗,越見火喉,Mission ZX 是更適合聽音樂為主的兩聲道或多聲道用家,至於 Wharfedale,重播電影與音樂的平衡度其實更高,D300 系列定位是 Diamond 11 系列對下,我不敢肯定 D300 同級表現一定沒有對手,但我本身多聽入門產品,暫時 D300 系列確實有其過人魅力,也肯定它們不是收費貴一截、水準低一截的搶錢選擇,一套五聲道 (一共 五隻喇叭) 才索價約萬二港元,十年前同價位下根本找不到同類產品而表現出同等質素的聲音,要找到 音質與 D300 同級的,最少多付兩至三倍價錢。當然,理想音質而相宜的售價,設計多少受惠於今天更成熟的電腦韌體,再加上設計師的經驗,水準確實越來越有驚喜!

D300 系列的外形設計簡潔分明,圓角流線形設計,雖然未見突出,順眼已經非常足夠。D300 系列的前障板厚 28mm,選用 1吋口徑絲膜高音單元,這款專利高音名為 WFR (Wide Frequency Response),是開發自更高級的 Diamond 11,它除了擁有獨立箱室,箱室內亦佈置了吸音物料吸收單元背波能量外,還配備了大型陶磁及以雙音圈結構。

低音單元選用 Kevlar 防彈專利物料,此物料曾被B&W選用了幾十年,而 Wharfedale 選用 Kevlar 的歷史也不淺,寬闊的懸邊物料竟然改用海綿,當然不是清潔用那款,學名稱為聚醚,觸感柔軟舒服。音盆後採用了大型陶磁 (陶瓷磁鐵/鐵氧磁),原來 Wharfedale 早於 1960 年代已率先使用陶磁製作單元。低頻反射管道佈置於箱底,名為 P-EQ (Pressure Equalisation) port,驟眼看一如傳統,一支圓形大口徑管道,再往內看, 就在管道最深處佈置了一個網狀金屬片,低頻經過疏導後作全方位擴散。

少不得改善分音器這一環,廠方建立了Advanced Software and Listening Iteration 系統,分音器除了選用對電流低耗損的聚丙烯電容和薄膜電感,再透過多種類型的音樂進行測試及修正。

資料歸資料,聆聽又是另一回事,對於 Wharfedale 在重播上實牙實齒的改進、對於其聲音遊走於富分析力與傳統聲音魅力、對於其售價與實力令我驚喜!

系列四款產品

不諱言,D300 是取代 D200 的新系列,而 D300 系列只有三款產品,一款座地揚聲器 D330、兩款書架揚聲器 D320 與 D310,還有中置揚聲器 D300C。今次測試的組合是 D330 與 D300C 負責前、中置聲道,一對 D310 toe-in 擺位作環繞聲道。超低音喇叭,我選擇長駐本社的 Procella Audio P12。

擴散度比想像中闊

說明書強調一對前置揚聲器與皇帝位必須最少距離 200cm,toe-in 角度由15  – 40 ,但針對多聲道時,其實一對左右聲道平放也不失禮 (若然家人較多),原因是D300 的可聽角度比我想像的還要闊,當然用 CD 中的人聲結像校聲會更好。Tilt-up 好 D300C 後,它的人聲擴散不算完全凝聚於幕低,配合兩聲道,人聲位置其實可以比較貼幕。《2018 Dolby Atmos試碟》,D300 的音場立體感鮮明,人聲可以深後與升高,即使我沒有佈置 Dolby Atmos 聲道,屬於前方較高處的聲音,一樣輕鬆升起。飛鳥拍翼 360 度圍著皇帝位 飛行,雖然只作窄角度放置於後方書架,包圍感已經見水準,若然再多加一對玩 7.1 聲道,或可以把一對 D310 再分開 一點 toe-in 作兩聲道佈置,這個 360 度更加接近圓滿完整!

高分析力與情懷兼備

相比我聆聽過的 Wharfedale Diamond 系列,D300 由多年前的少少矇到今天的清爽敏捷,與低音流暢銜接的效果相比,已有士別三日之喜。不錯,絲膜高音不是新物料, Wharfedale 卻專注於改善傳統物料的能力,人聲咬字清楚從不含糊,不只是聽《犬之島》BD的錄音室製作點滴清晰,還有《毒裁者2》BD、《職業特工隊:叛逆之謎》(第 6集) 4K UHD、日版《花樣年華》BD,人聲咬字的分明 仔細,未見半點含糊。更吸引的是人聲質地又厚又爽,有 濃度、有份量、輕甜,既有傳統追求濃厚甜聲音味道的優點,與此同時,聲音不黏糯甩尾,沒有慢條斯理,分析力具備今天的要求,人聲味道則有豐富的情懷。 不要小覷 D300 讓子彈飛的動感實力,速度高、撞擊力 鏗鏘猛烈,子彈穿梭橫飛的效果不留力。由於 D330 的體積 較小,我將前、中置聲道的分頻點全定於 80Hz,爆破工作 主要交給超低音喇叭。

剛柔並重

聽音樂,它重播《Legends of Jazz》Marcus Miller 一手活潑生猛彈力十足的電bass 躍動起來,萬餘元的系統, 樂手勾撥點打粗鋼弦的聲音不聞明顯失真,描繪能力、舞台深度、空氣感表現是超值中的超值! “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”,不只女聲輕甜厚潤變調爽敏全無累贅感,男聲也同樣爽敏溫厚甜美,還有今天一味追求高速瞬變的揚聲器所沒有的韌力,人聲調子並無荒腔走板或不穩定。

《A Music Tribute To Carol King》一曲”Beautiful”,眾歌手樂手的演出位置立體,前後左右,距離遠近的描繪定位精準。暫且不論其兩聲道表現,即使更高級數針對家庭 影院的環繞聲系統,也較少能呈現如此 3D 的舞台立體感!

文:丑奴兒。全文輯錄自香港「Hi Fi音響」 218 Hi Fi Review • 2019年3月

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What Hi-Fi? Awards 2018 winner – Wharfedale DX-2 5.1

Build and compatibility

How petite are the Wharfedale DX-2 speakers? Standing just 19cm tall – they’re roughly the same dimensions as the Sonos One – the four satellite speakers are small enough to fit almost anywhere.

While we’d recommend placing them on dedicated supports where possible, the compact speakers are designed to feel at home on top of shelves, on bookcases, on the TV rack – anywhere you can find a spare spot in your room, really.

Don’t have the space or budget for stands? You can wall-mount them instead, thanks to the brackets at the back of each speaker.

The entire package has been redesigned. The glossy front remains, but the cabinets now have curved edges and the smooth leather-like finish wrapped around the speakers removes the need for spikes or rubber feet – so you can place them directly on surfaces without fear of scratches.

It’s a sleeker, smarter and more luxurious look.

Further cosmetic flourishes, such as the chrome rings surrounding the fixed speaker grilles for each driver – a neat design that protects the drivers without completely covering up the front – and lack of any grille holes make the whole package look even tidier. The DX-2 comes in two colours: the black of our review sample or a white finish.

Build quality is good for the money, although we do have trouble getting our reference cables (with standard 4mm banana plugs) to fit into the speaker terminals. It’s too tight a fit, with the terminals feeling a tad undersized.

Just like its previous iterations, each satellite has a 19mm silk dome tweeter and a 7.5cm mid/bass driver, with the centre channel using two of the mid/bass drivers to flank the same tweeter.

The satellites are all closed-box designs – there’s no port – making it easier to place them closer to walls without affecting sound quality.

The centre channel has an aperiodic bass loading system (a small hole at the back filled with special foam) helping reduce low-frequency distortion and control bass performance from a small cabinet.

The WH-D8 active subwoofer completes the set. Comprising a forward-firing 20cm long-throw driver powered by a 70W amplifier, it’s compact enough to be tucked away in a corner.

If you regularly watch movies, we’d keep the ‘auto sense’ switch toggled on: the sub automatically goes into standby when not in use, switching itself on when a signal is detected.

Sound

Speakers this size often struggle to handle Hans Zimmer’s epic score for Inception, but the Wharfedale DX-2 package delivers a respectable scale of sound – larger and heftier than its diminutive stature would suggest. It sounds punchy, detailed and surprisingly expansive.

The DX-2 may be designed for smaller rooms, but it copes admirably even in our large AV test room. There’s abundant detail, it handles dynamic shifts with ease and not once does it fail to fill the room.

That’s an impressive feat for any small, sub-£500 surround package.

Of course larger speakers will fill a room more easily, but as the dream collapses in the final act of Inception the Wharfedale speakers deliver deep, resonant notes and thunderous crashes with utter composure.

The DX-2 speakers are well-integrated too. Surround effects ping around the room, engulfing you in an articulate cocoon of sound. The haunting whispers on the island in Star Wars: The Last Jedi are clear, precise and evoke a chilling atmosphere as they echo across the surround speakers.

The package does a grand job of going quiet, too: echoes in a cave die abruptly, plunging you into silence. The edges of notes are precise and clean, allowing the Wharfedale to keep a snappy, agile sense of timing. It’s a hugely listenable speaker package.

Dialogue cuts through the busy special effects clutter, although we would prefer more texture and depth to voices. Rey’s hopeful entreaties contrast nicely against an elderly Luke’s grumbles, but more solidity and low-frequency detail would flesh out the emotion in their voices.

More subtlety in the lower frequencies would help overall, but that shouldn’t take away from the rumble to punches, explosions and soundtrack crescendos. It’s a satisfying amount of grunt and weight – especially at this price – to keep us hooked to the action.

Push the volume too high and the Wharfedale package starts to struggle. But the DX-2 holds our attention at lower volumes – a sure sign of subtle and expressive dynamics.

Verdict

Go up the price scale and you’ll find speaker packages (such as the Q Acoustics 3010i 5.1 Cinema Pack) that are more articulate, more precise and bigger-sounding. But they cost double what the Wharfedale does.

The entertaining performance, the compact-yet-stylish build and appealing price tag – it’s impressive how much Wharfedale has bundled into the petite DX-2 package. It’s a great solution for AV fans tight on budget and space.

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家庭影院音箱:你選哪一套?

本文是What Hi-Fi? 推薦的不同價位的家庭影院套裝音箱產品,價格區間涵蓋了500英鎊到1萬英鎊,稱為“Best speaker packages”。如果你不願意這套,又想體驗到令人震撼的沉浸式音效,根據預算照單買來即可。

一、國外售價500英鎊以下最佳音箱系統:樂富豪Wharfedale DX-2 5.1聲道音箱系統

Wharfedale DX-2 5.1聲道音箱系統

產品亮點:

“Wharfedale DX-2是一款卓越的揚聲器套裝,適合那些渴望獲得真正家庭影院體驗而又想要價格不高的人。其緊湊的尺寸和精致的設計易於在任何房間內放置……”

二、國外售價1000英鎊以下最佳音箱系統:Q牌Q Acoustics 3010i 5.1家庭影院套裝

Q Acoustics 3010i 5.1家庭影院套裝

產品亮點:

“3010i 5.1家庭影院套裝由兩對3010i書架箱,一個3090i中置音箱和一個3060S低音炮組成。具有豐富的表現力和清晰的音樂表現……”

三、國外售價1000英鎊以下音箱系統:達尼Dali Zensor 1 5.1多聲道音箱系統

Dali Zensor 1 5.1多聲道音箱系統

產品亮點:

“這套系統由兩對Zensor 1書架箱、一個Zensor Vokal中置音箱、及一個E-9F低音炮組成,他們的配合帶來極具表現力,細節豐富,反應靈敏,令人印象深刻的聲音……”

四、國外售價2000英鎊以下最佳音箱系統:猛牌Monitor Audio Bronze B5 AV音響系統

Monitor Audio Bronze B5 AV音響系統

產品亮點:

“Bronze B5 AV造型優美時尚,做工精湛。欣賞延伸佳的聲音具有輕盈的感受,聆聽室內樂、古典樂以及人聲都頗適合……”

五、國外售價2000英鎊以下音箱系統:猛牌Monitor Audio Radius R90HT1組合音箱

Monitor Audio Radius R90HT1組合音箱

口碑評說:

“R90HT1 5.1喇叭效果極佳,相比猛牌的以往產品,在低音方面改進不少。並且外表靚麗,擺放在家中顯得高端大氣……”

六、國外售價3000英鎊以下最佳音箱系統:猛牌Monitor Audio Silver 200 AV12家庭影院音響系統

Monitor Audio Silver 200 AV12家庭影院音響系統

產品亮點:

“這套家庭影院音響系統由Silver 200落地式音箱、Silver C150中置音箱、Silver FX環繞音箱和Silver W-12低音炮組成,聲音清晰、富有表現力……”

七、國外售價3000英鎊以下音箱系統:KEF Q350 AV 5.1音箱系統

KEF Q350 AV 5.1音箱系統

產品亮點:

“Q350採用了Uni-Q同軸單元,用它搭配低音炮及衛星音箱組成5.1.4音箱系統,為觀影者聆聽者帶來低音豐滿的影音體驗……”

八、杜比全景聲(Dolby Atmos)最佳音箱系統:尊寶Jamo S 807 HCS音箱套裝

Jamo S 807 HCS音箱套裝

產品亮點:

“總結就價格來看,S 807 HCS不是一個偉大的音箱套裝,但是其大尺寸和出色的實用性告訴我們這絕不是一個簡單的套裝。這是一套真正出色的家庭影院系統!當然S 807 HCS還有很多的改進空間,音質可以再平滑一些,但是我們都很願意在任何時候使用Jamo來觀看電影……”

九、適合不差錢用戶的最佳音箱系統:PMC Twenty5 23 5.1音箱系統

PMC Twenty5 23 5.1音箱系統

產品亮點:

“Twenty 5採用了ATL線性傳輸箱體內部設計,在傳輸線開口部位增加了Laminair技術,讓低頻氣流吞吐更加順暢,氣流噪訊能大幅下降,目的令Twenty 5系列在低頻表現上有著更強動態,更快的速度以及解析力……”

原創: 楊歡 HIFI說 9月

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極富有感染力的細膩之聲,Wharfedale Denton 2 書架式揚聲器

久經歲月滄桑的揚聲器廠商,它沉澱下來的不僅僅是對聲音的理解與成熟的調聲技藝,它還承擔著一個傳承者的角色。就例如今年2017年踏入85周年的Wharfedale,它是“英國聲”重要傳承代表品牌之一,至今依然初心不改,保持最為自然、純正的“英國聲”,為喜愛這種聲音風格的音響愛好者提供最為合適的揚聲器產品。

Wharfedale Denton 2 書架箱作為樂富豪85周年的紀念的產品,它延續方正的傳統箱體設計,選用優質材料,由精湛工藝打造。在復古典雅的外觀與箱體色調下是精致現代化的工藝。古典樂現代的完美融合,誕生了這款真正情懷之作!

開創先驅,成就卓越

來自英國的 Wharfedale 揚聲器品牌的創始人Gilbert Briggs 先生,他也是音響協會的主持人;在 1932年他把自家的地窖改裝成一個精簡的音響開發操作間。而在這裡,他成功地開發了世界上第一隻揚聲器是由電磁圈推動的單元,也就是現在動圈單元。同時,而在位於 Wharfe 河邊的小鎮也成了 Wharfedale 音響制造業的發源地。

到了 1933年 Gilbert Briggs 先生在 Bradford 附近開辦工廠進行推動揚聲器單元的手工生產,起初他們隻是家庭式生產作業,Gilbert Briggs 先生的太太也在主管生產部門工作,一切生產都要親力親為,日以繼夜的努力開工,才得以勉強應付當時市場對揚聲器單元的激烈需求。

同年,他帶著首個商業設計的揚聲器參加了 “Bradford Radio” 這個首度的第一次的全英電聲學揚聲器大賽,成功贏得第一、二名兩項大獎,同時還獲得開業以來第一張最大訂單。至此 Wharfedale Wireless Works 公司就順利進入了英國音響第一企業。

自此之后,Gilbert Briggs先生在1948年開始著書出版,由他著作的《LOUDSPEAKS》是世界上第一本講解揚聲器的設計和制作的業界天書,同期他還開始全球廣泛推動技術理念和傳授電聲及揚聲器制作技術等等。他畢生為英國音響行業培育出許多音響設計技術專才,在英國有不少 Hi-Fi 音響廠家的設計師曾經在他的門下得到揚聲器制作技術真傳,在當年英國有許多揚聲器設計大師的年輕志願希望都在Wharfedale工廠任職學習。

Wharfedale被尊稱為音響行業的“西點軍校”,也是設計制造揚聲器的教父。而Wharfedale音響自 1932年創立伊始就堅持以自己的設計標准和工藝流程進行選料制作,所有Wharfedale 揚聲器從草稿設計開始到每一個精美零件:如單元、分音器、箱體等全部由自己工廠制作,從不外購組件裝配;以滿足設計的技術標准和音質特性的穩定,確保每一款型號都是高性能和線性平衡的優質產品。這一恆守不變的准則至今仍是業界唯一堅守的廠家,亦將一如既往,絲毫不會改變。

在完美的基礎融入現代化元素

而這次介紹的這款 Wharfedale Denton 2 書架式揚聲器承載著 Wharfedale 85 周年的歷史,從一款經典的產品的基礎上進行改造而誕生出來的產品,那就是Denton XP。它是由 Wharfedale 首席設計師 Peter Comeau 將自身品牌的文化精髓與自己三十多年關於揚聲器的經驗,融匯在這款全新的 Denton 2 書架式揚聲器中。

他所渴望的重新並超越的 Denton XP 揚聲器,是在1970年由 Wharfedale 高級研發工程師 Graham Bank、Peter Jackson 與產品經理 Brian Pearson 等五位組建的設計師團隊,耗費 5年的時間設計出來的產品,在上市的三年間就創下了全球3萬多的驕人業績,深得全球音響愛好者的喜愛。如今,設計師 Peter Comeau 也耗費了5年的時間,將這項無比重大的挑戰給成功克服了,所以大家可以在這對極具紀念價值的書架式揚聲器中探尋到很多值得敬佩的地方。

首先從箱體方面,整個木質的箱體採用了 Wharfedale 獨有的“三明治結構”,它能夠利用符合板材的特質改善箱體震動,同時這也降低了箱體內部的諧振,並利用此內部強化支撐減少音染。而整個方方正正的箱體,在前面板上採用嵌入式設計,秉承Wharfedale傳統揚聲器的結構特點,在有效降低箱體震動的同時,也能固定揚聲器單元。而對於在外形有要求的音響愛好者,該揚聲器亦有不同的外形版本供選擇。

而在單元方面,Wharfedale Denton 2書架式揚聲器的高音單元採用絲質類的復合材料,以天然蠶絲加神秘海洋植物纖維為基礎,在添加各種材料涂層;而且在單元採用磁液冷卻散熱,讓高速振動的音圈擁有足夠的散熱能力。避免高音單體的音圈振動受熱后的性能下降。

同時該高音單元亦有獨到的設計亮點,那就是8度的偏角,高音單元在保持水平軸上和人耳平齊的同時向垂直軸上偏8度,即保証了高音指向性和擴散角的需求,在重放音樂時,結像與定位以及聲場會有更優秀的表現,聽感也更為舒適、貼近自然。而低音單元方面則是針對大磁鐵進行設計,確保在大功率的狀態下也能確保低頻較低的線性運動。

結語
Wharfedale一直以來都推出相當經典的揚聲器產品,而這次作為紀念85周年的Denton 2書架式揚聲器,傳真及經典的造型,除了懷舊復刻的意義之外,亦是傳承“英國聲”一種有力的証據,相信隻要聽過這對揚聲器,都會都對它的聲音表現被打動。

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Wharfedale Diamond 225 – Review at The Absolute Sound

 

This is the world I grew up in: iPods, ear buds, tinny laptop speakers. Most people my age don’t think twice about their equipment, so long as it makes sound. Your average iTunes aficionado isn’t going to shell out big sums of cash on stereo equipment, especially when everything seems to have speakers built in these days. Why bother?

But there is good sound at approachable prices, fantastic sound really, the sort of sound that people obsess about. It’s not a mystical thing; it’s a visceral one; and younger people are finally starting to figure it out. Vinyl’s comeback is proof of that. The iPod generation is ready for quality; it’s just a matter of figuring out how to get it. And for me, it always starts with speakers.

There’s nothing better than opening something new, which is probably why people watch videos of strangers unboxing hardware on YouTube. The Wharfedale Diamond 225s sat wrapped in plastic covers sandwiched between tight foam inserts at the top and bottom, keeping them secure in transit. When I finally got them up and out, I stared at the gorgeous rosewood-veneer boxes, with their black-lacquer MDF baffles and the small Wharfedale logo just beneath the woofer. I leaned back in my desk chair and thought: “Wow, those are pretty.” They’re clean, unpretentious, and clearly put together very, very well.

Wharfedale Diamond 225

OK, the speaker grilles were a little weird. They’re two round foam pieces with little plastic rods that snap in over the tweeter and the woofer, leaving the rest of the baffle exposed, as opposed to something that covers the whole front. It’s not my favorite aesthetic choice, though it’s not necessarily a bad one, either. Just a matter of taste, I guess. At least they’re easy to remove, so I popped them off and forgot about them.

The 225s are fairly compact, though deep and solid. Sound is always the most important aspect of any audio component, but you still have to live with these things, and it’s easier to live with beautiful stuff. Fortunately, they’re exactly what they need to be: simple and attractive. Clearly the people at Wharfedale know what they’re doing, which makes sense, considering how long they’ve been around. Wharfedale is a relatively large British outfit founded back in the 1930s, and they’ve been a big name in British hi-fi ever since. The Diamond series debuted in 1981, and Wharfedale has been slowly improving the Diamond designs and sound without inflating cost, and that’s exactly what I’m looking for.

The 225s list at $450, which is a price an actual human with a real job could potentially afford. If you’re like me, and you’re sick of “affordable” equipment pushing easily into the $1000 range, this review is for you. Fact is, the majority of people can’t shell out the cash for the absurdly hyper-expensive audio equipment that clogs up most blogs. If we want to get the next generation to fall in love with great sound, I think it’s about time to accept that there’s some seriously good, affordable stuff worth writing about.

So with all that in mind, I put the 225s on top of my cheap stands, hooked them up to my (also British) Cambridge Audio CXA80 integrated, and turned it all on. Truth is, my listening space isn’t ideal. It’s small, oddly shaped with a sloping roof, and my speaker placement is limited. They have to be up close to a wall, though fortunately for me, these Wharfedales were designed with that in mind. The slot-loaded bass port fires downwards, instead of back, minimizing room interaction. So don’t worry about sticking them on either side of an entertainment system in the living room, for example, or squeezing them into a small office. Like I said, we have to live with these things, and space is sometimes at a premium.

Diving into the sound, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Bookshelf speakers typically aren’t known for deep, earth-shaking bass, and the 225s are no different in that regard. They aren’t going to rattle anyone’s bones and dig deep into that 40Hz bass region, which is fine—that’s what a sub’s for. Still, when I started with “Sparkle,” the first track on Tatsuro Yamashita’s City Pop masterpiece, For You, I got such a satisfyingly deep drop that I didn’t find myself missing the lowest of the low registers. Frankly, I didn’t find myself missing much of anything at all, especially when that clean, twanging guitar played its insanely catchy riff. The opening of “Sparkle” features a heavy, show-stopping reveal, and the 225s were more than up to the task of reproducing that big moment. I was surprised by how much weight I was getting from these things, more than enough for my small listening space. I can’t say how well they’d do in a much larger room, although I suspect they’d be up to the task.

The other good thing about “Sparkle” is the way Yamashita’s voice is recorded. There’s tons of reverb and space, his notes just drifting off into the background, and the 225s highlighted that nicely. For such small speakers, these things could create an impressive soundstage. Not the greatest, most spectacular presentation, but plenty to keep me engaged. Sound hung, drifting, projected nicely in both directions. At some points at higher volume, I noticed a bit of gristle in the upper registers, and sometimes the lower end felt a bit soft. I have to admit though, I was having fun just running through my favorite sides, one after the other, looking for any sonic detail that might be worth delving into. That’s the best sign that a piece of equipment is working. These little boxes just seemed to get me.

But I had to push the 225s, give them something challenging. That’s the whole point of a review, after all, to see how these things really perform. I turned to one of the strangest and most complicated albums of the year, King Krule’s The Ooz. This double-LP is as idiosyncratic as it is fascinating. On the most basic, surface level, it’s an experimental trip-hop masterpiece, but I think it’s so much more than that. It’s a sonically difficult album, with deep, rolling bass lines, up-tempo shifting beats, and Krule’s own morphing, grinding voice switching registers at will. The 225s did not disappoint me. They had a solid grip on the bass, keeping up with the hairpin-turn bumps and rumbles. The horns blaring in the background of “Dum Surfer” were rendered butter-smooth, along with that catchy guitar floating over the tight snares. I was drawn to the way the 225s made The Ooz somehow more accessible. It’s such an intricately layered album, and little details such as Krule’s English slang could easily be missed if anything muddy got in the way. I could feel the details of his voice despite the heavy synths and shimmering guitar effects. The 225s did a great job of creating a solid soundstage with minutely differentiated pieces. These songs felt so simple at first listen, but it took a piece of equipment like the 225s to do this level of complexity justice.

Finally, I wanted to hear how the Diamond 225s would deal with rich, complex upper-range vocals. These speakers could handle bass and midrange, but I was curious as to how they’d do when it came to subtlety. For that, I turned to Moses Sumney’s odd, pared-down, R&B-influenced album, Romanticism. Sumney’s music focuses so much on his intense, wonderful, lilting falsetto, which nicely showcased the 225’s ability to highlight delicate high-end and midrange detail as he moved through registers. I had a feeling the 225s would be plenty engaging with a softer sound, and I wasn’t disappointed. The bass guitar on “Man on the Moon (reprise)” barely kept pace while Sumney’s vocals played above it, yet through the 225s the layers of Sumney’s voice came through clean, uncolored, and almost liquid. I didn’t really understand this album on first listen, but as I went through it again and again on the 225s, I came to really love its low-key cleanliness. In the end, I think that’s the real strength of the 225s. They weren’t throwing the deepest bass or resolving the upper registers absolutely perfectly, but they had weight right where I needed it, along with the detail and the clarity necessary to resolve complex tracks into enjoyable musicality.

These speakers remind me that the “entry-level” isn’t a bad place to be. Inexpensive components are getting better and better as high-end design trickles down into supposedly budget hardware. The Diamond 225s take everything good about high-end audio, the power of beautifully reproduced music, and they make it accessible to a wider audience. I believe the 225s would satisfy just about anybody looking for fantastic-sounding speakers designed by a respected manufacturer at a reasonable price. They’re not perfect, but man, they’re still more than good. I highly recommend them.

Specs & Pricing

Driver complement: 6.5″ woven Kevlar cone; 1″ soft-dome tweeter
Frequency response: 45Hz–20kHz (+/-3dB)
Impedance: 8 ohms
Crossover: 2.3kHz
Loading: Bass-reflex
Finish: Black, white, walnut, rosewood
Dimensions: 14″ x 7.7″ x 10.3″
Weight: 14.33 lbs.
Price: $449

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英國 Wharfedale 樂富豪 Airedale Classic Heritage 旗艦音箱

英國一直以來被譽為是音樂的故鄉,且被眾多國際發燒評論家和音響資深用家一致高度好評認為是設計和出產高品質揚聲器的地方。無論在技術研發還是質量管控水平都引領著世界音響發展的潮流,這是經歷很多英國著名電聲學界工程師精英加上廠商們經過歷史見証所建立起來的聲譽。

Wharfedale(樂富豪)於1932年在英國約克郡誕生,是英國歷史上十大全球最具影響力品牌之一。Airedale Classic Heritage (大愛登)古典旗艦音箱,不僅是Wharfedale近八十年技術精華和藝術工藝的集中體現,也是維系 Wharfedale 品牌在音響界地位的拳頭產品,無論是設計起點或者是聲音表現,無不是 Wharfedale 目前最高的代表。

Airedale Classic Heritage(大愛登)‍的箱體外觀採用1960年代經典造型,箱體主體以‍胡‍桃‍木實木制作而成,‍整個箱體‍重量到達了108公斤‍。從外觀上看,箱體前方左右削斜角,高音,中音,中低音,低音等四個蛋替從上到下垂直排列,正面低部有一個矩型低音反射孔。而在箱體上方,Airedale Classic Heritage(大愛登)還有一個超高音單體朝上發聲。

15寸錐盤低音但體採用 ALNICO(釹鐵硼)磁鐵,振膜由玻璃纖維/碳纖維/玻璃纖維的三明治結構組成,中心防塵蓋材料與振膜相同。為了減少尺寸振膜往復運動是所引起的空氣雜音,從錐盤,雙彈波,線圈,磁鐵總成等地方都有讓氣壓泄氣的空洞設計,而且連單體框架也做成細框的開放型框架,以免阻擋背波。

再來是中低音單體,採用8寸 KEVLAR 振膜,音圈繞在鋁質音圈上,磁鐵也是採用Alnico(釹鐵硼),是一款錄音室等級的中音喇叭。比較特別的是這個中音單體與高音單體一起裝在一個特設計的鋁鑄框座上,這個框座的邊緣與喇叭單體開口處都特別做成微微的號角開口,降低聲波的繞射負面影響。

再來是高音喇叭,它是一寸軟凸盆高音單體,磁鐵用的也是 Alnico(釹鐵硼)。這個高音單音體的寬頻可以到達45KHZ(保守數字為800HZ-40KHZ)。最后則是安置在箱體上方的超高音喇叭,這個超高音喇叭看起來與高音喇叭一模一樣,不過內部磁鐵採用磁鐵,寬頻也是800HZ-40KHZ。假若聆聽是把超高音喇叭關掉,那麼高音單體所負責的頻域就會延伸20KHZ;如果打開,則高音單體隻負責到9KHZ,其余讓超高音喇叭負責。

Airedale Heritage(大愛登)‍的高中低頻段十分平衡,高頻段絲毫不搶耳,久聽不膩不噪。中頻段並沒有過分龐大的音像,而是與高頻段,中頻段焊接的很好的中頻段。至於低頻段在量感方面則是很足夠的。整體而言,Airedale Heritage(大愛登)的高中低頻段表現出金字塔型的穩重平衡結構,這種結構聽古典音樂非常適合。

▼技術參數:

在音質與音色方面具有高級喇叭的那種音質音色。不過它並不是超甜超華麗的那種,而是越嚼越醇,越品越香的那種。真正聽過后會發現Airedale Classic Heritage(大愛登)能夠把各種樂器的音質音色差異都表現出來,而且錄音中樂器的美質都能散發出來。感興趣的朋友都可以到店試聽感受一番!

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Wharfedale Diamond 220 – WhatHiFi?

Video review

Design and build

The quality of finish on the 220s is much better than on the old 121s
The 220s are the replacement for the hugely talented 121s, but while they look quite similar there are some important changes. They’re neatly finished for starters. This might sound like a small point, but it was the older speaker’s big weakness.

At its heart, this shortcoming had as much to do with Wharfedale’s ambition to make the 121s sonic class-leaders as it did with the factory’s quality control. In a bid to improve performance, Wharfedale’s engineers used cabinet walls made of a layered construction that mixed chipboard and MDF.

It was felt that using MDF alone – as on most speakers – led to an undesirable level of cabinet coloration. The chipboard side was on the outside in contact with the (rather thin) vinyl covering.

The result? An uneven surface that made the speakers look poorly finished. It didn’t help that the factory seemed to have a rather lax attitude to the neat application of the vinyl wrap, particularly at the cabinet corners.

We also had issues with the front baffle which, once again, looked uneven in appearance.

Improved quality

The bass port fires downwards into a small air gap between base of the cabinet and the plinth below
We’re glad to report the Diamond 220s are much better in all respects. While still not the classiest speakers we’ve seen around this price (Q Acoustics and Monitor Audio set the standard), they’re good enough to avoid criticism.

 

Wharfedale has kept the layered cabinet construction, though – in this case two thin layers of MDF sandwich the chipboard section – and glue the vinyl onto the smoother MDF surfaces.The blackwood vinyl on our sample is tidy and ripple-free and we can only expect this to be the case with the walnut pearl, rosewood quilted and white finishes.

Goodbye ripples, hello better finish. Now that the finish issues are sorted, the advantages of these composite panels come to the fore. The combination of chipboard and MDF helps to damp resonances, preventing the cabinet from contributing too much to the overall sound.

Quite simply, you hear more of the drive units and less of the cabinet. But there’s more than just better finish involved in the move to the new model.

There’s a bigger magnet on the 13cm woven Kevlar mid/bass driver. This makes the speakers easier to drive and improves its responsiveness.

There’s a bigger magnet on the 13cm woven Kevlar mid/bass driver
The unusual slot-loaded port arrangement first seen on the 100 series reappears here too, and it has been tweaked to reduce distortion. Such a design is claimed to be more efficient than a conventional port.

The proof, as ever, is in the listening. The tweeter remains unchanged. It still sits in a deeply dished waveguide, which helps efficiency (particularly through the crossover region).

A ferrite magnet, rather than the more usual neodymium, is used in the unit’s motor system: not only is ferrite cheaper – always a consideration with products at this price level – but the engineers also feel it produces a smoother sound.

Wharfedale has tweaked the crossover to improve integration too.

The tweeter remains unchanged and it still sits in a deeply dished waveguide
Wharfedale’s engineers haven’t taken the easy route with the Diamond 220s’ bass tuning. Instead of going down the usual route of a rear- or front-firing reflex port, they’ve decided to fire the port downwards into a small air gap between base of the cabinet and the plinth below.

This arrangement has been further refined from that seen on the earlier 121s. Not only does this technique help with port efficiency and the reduction of chuffing noise, it makes the speaker less fussy about placement.

Performance

Make sure you place the Wharfedales as close to a rear wall as possible for best solidity and balance
The arrangement pays off: surprisingly for their size, the Wharfedales have the low-end ability to eat up even the thickest basslines (Led Zeppelin’s Dazed and Confused, for example). Bass is deep and agile, too.

 

And it’s not only bass weight that belies their dinky proportions; there’s a sense of power and scale we’d normally expect from a much larger box than the 32cm-tall Diamonds. Give them a good, solid pair of stands such as Atacama Moseco 6s (£120) and they will sparkle.

Their solidity and authority throughout the frequency range relies on placement near or against a rear wall: pull them out too far in the open and that sure-footedness is diluted slightly; bass notes are looser and vocals lose a bit of substance.

Talking of vocals, the 220s clear and candid delivery is very expressive. Run through Eminem’s Relapse album and his choppy raps are communicated effortlessly. The 220s erupt with the attack and rhythmic drive to really devour the hard, edgy nature of the songs too.

You can biwire each speaker using the twin sets of binding posts
There’s scale here with a degree of authority and substance that no rival we’ve heard can better. Stereo imaging is good too, nicely projected and layered. The good news continues where integration is concerned, with everything tying together into a seamless whole.

We like the stereo imaging too, but it’s the Diamond’s level of insight and dynamic aptitude that really lifts them above their peers. In a version of Grieg’s Piano Concerto, instruments are packed with variation and subtlety; piano sequences are fluid and telling, violins textured.

There’s an exceptional finesse to the delivery that rivals fail to match. Dynamic presence in even the quietest sections conveys the gradual swell of the piece. The 220s seem happy delivering the dramatic moments too – as orchestration gathers momentum, the speakers enjoy the ride.

While these speakers aren’t unduly fussy about partnering kit you’ll get out only what you put in. The Wharfedales will be a huge upgrade for any microsystem – the Denon D-M39DAB, say – partnering them with a punchy, dynamic amp like Rega’s Brio-R (£480) will get you two thirds of the way to a really exceptional system. For a source, we’d look at the Marantz CD6005 CD player as a good start.

How do they compare with the older 121s? The character is similar but the newer speakers are a little better in most respects.

Verdict

In any case, the talented Diamond 220s will likely be the jewel in the crown of any budget – or even mid-range – set-up. Would we go as far as saying they’re one of the best hi-fi products you can buy sub-£200?

Without a doubt.

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Wharfedale Diamond 11 技術揭秘:絲絲入扣的分頻核心,帶來栩栩如生的“英倫之聲”

Wharfedale(樂富豪)工程師認為:雖然喇叭單元在揚聲器系統內處於核心地位,但如果沒有一個精確的分頻電路,整個揚聲系統的表現也將會大失水准。

因此, Diamond 11 系列在設計時,使用了 Wharfedale(樂富豪)獨家專利設計的分頻設計軟件系統做仿真實驗,力求使低音/中音和高音單元的無縫連接形成自然完美的銜接。

▋多曲反復調試,找到表現最佳的聲音

一旦確認了最終的電路方案,在實際的調試過程中,Wharfedale(樂富豪)的工程師們通過精密的微調和嚴格的聽力測試對分頻器進行了縝密的評估。

一切以聽音測試的結果作為對品質的最終判斷,並以此為基准對分頻器分量值、組件類型和電路板布局進行最精確的調整,從而調試出最佳的音樂表現力。

調音選用的音樂涉及廣泛,包括但不僅限於:古典音樂、爵士樂,電子搖滾和民謠等廣泛的音樂測試范圍,並特別關注聲樂與器樂的品質表現,讓 Diamond 11系列每款產品都能帶來自然細膩、栩栩如生的的“英倫之聲” 。

▋ 精選高質量元器件

Diamond 11 的分頻器採用高質量元器件,每一個元器件都經過精心挑選,並進行專業的分析儀器進行檢測,務求令每個元器件均符合產品性能要求:

MKP 電容擁有滑順,流暢和音樂味,同時擁有良好的精確度、透明感和細節,使你隨時融入天鵝絨般黑暗背景下的全息聲場;精確配對的電容帶來充沛的低頻量感和綿密的中頻密度感,擁有流暢中頻和自然的音色。

採用高純度無氧銅繞制而成的電感,以優秀的卷繞工藝精致而成。具有高承載力,低功率損耗的特點,從而帶來優異的解析力密度感及動態,賦予耳朵不俗的聽感。

Wharfedale(樂富豪)工程師確信,分頻器的調試重點在於與揚聲器技術設計相結合。最大限度發揮喇叭系統和箱體設計的優點,讓音樂得以完美展現,才是愛樂人士對揚聲器關注的重點。

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Step away from the soundbar – Wharfedale DX-2 Home Cinema Speaker Package Review

What is the Wharfedale DX-2?

The Wharfedale DX-2 is a 5.1 speaker package and thus something of a rare breed in 2018. Coming in at £450, it is very clearly intended to contest parts of the market that many rivals have conceded to soundbars (and more often than not, proceeded to build one themselves). Paired with an affordable AV receiver, the Wharfedale could be part of a system for £700 which is pretty impressive judged by the pricing of a lot of the competition.

On the face of it, there’s a lot to be said for this approach. Your upgrades can be staggered rather than chopping the whole thing in and the DX-2 offers the promise of real surround rather than an approximation of it. The speakers themselves (as we shall cover) are compact and this shouldn’t be too challenging in most spaces. It’s easy to see the appeal of real AV over a simpler boost to your TV speakers.

Of course, the important question is just how much surround package can £450 get you? What has Wharfedale had to cut out, omit or sacrifice to get the DX-2 out the door for the money? Is the reason why this part of the market is now dominated by one box solutions because it simply can’t be done? Time to find out.

Specifications

The Wharfedale is a sub sat based design with four upright satellites, a dedicated centre and a small active subwoofer. The satellites are very compact indeed with a height of only 19cm. What is notable therefore is that each speaker is a true two way design with a 19mm silk dome tweeter and a 75mm woven polypropylene cone. This configuration has been key to how Wharfedale has designed and built speakers for at least the last decade and the DX-2 is part of this system rather than something tacked onto the end.

The centre speaker is clearly closely related to the satellites. It is effectively a ‘cabinet and a half’ type design with a second 75mm driver added to the cabinet. The arguments over the use of dedicated centre speakers will run and run but with a speaker cabinet of this size, I think it will help matters. The amount of information normally contained in the centre channel of the soundtrack sufficient that having an ‘anchor’ that manages this information is going to be useful in a speaker package of this size.

The subwoofer that partners these speakers is a compact design with a forward firing eight inch driver powered by a 70 watt amplifier. In a world of 1 kilowatt monsters, it might not sound terribly exciting but the reality of its execution is rather more positive than you might expect. You get an adjustable crossover (never a given at this price point), phase switch, stereo input and an auto on/off switch that can be bypassed (and that seems to work pretty well too). Given that this is going to be doing plenty of work in a system of this nature, this is very much a good thing.

These speakers aren’t huge and Wharfedale quotes a fairly honest sounding lower response of 110Hz being available at +/-3dB with 100Hz being available at -6dB. This means you will need to put a little thought into how you set the DX-2 up to get the best out of it. That sub will be at least partly directional so it will do its best work on axis with the front speakers – particularly for music. Helpfully, this is made easier by the cabinets being sealed and something you can wall mount without too much issue and the sub is also fairly easy to place. The subwoofer that partners these speakers is a compact design with a forward firing eight inch driver powered by a 70 watt amplifier. In a world of 1 kilowatt monsters, it might not sound terribly exciting but the reality of its execution is rather more positive than you might expect. You get an adjustable crossover (never a given at this price point), phase switch, stereo input and an auto on/off switch that can be bypassed (and that seems to work pretty well too). Given that this is going to be doing plenty of work in a system of this nature, this is very much a good thing.

These speakers aren’t huge and Wharfedale quotes a fairly honest sounding lower response of 110Hz being available at +/-3dB with 100Hz being available at -6dB. This means you will need to put a little thought into how you set the DX-2 up to get the best out of it. That sub will be at least partly directional so it will do its best work on axis with the front speakers – particularly for music. Helpfully, this is made easier by the cabinets being sealed and something you can wall mount without too much issue and the sub is also fairly easy to place.

Design

At £450, Wharfedale would be well within their rights to wrap the DX-2s various drivers in a container robust enough to stop them falling onto the floor and be done with it. That it feels (a lot) better than that is testament to the engineering and manufacturing clout that parent company IAG has.

The satellites are finished in a manner that balances two slightly disparate requirements very well. They manage to feel like they have elements of design and styling to them while remaining usefully unobtrusive. The use of a gloss front panel is smart and the chrome rings avoid everything feeling a little overly black (a white finish is due too). This is then partnered with a faux leather surround for the cabinet. I can’t pretend to love this – I don’t really like actual leather on speakers – but it helps to make the DX-2 feel like something more than a ‘rubber mat’ product. You could be slightly critical of the grills being non removable but, honestly, I’m not sure how many people are going to want to remove them.

No less importantly, it all feels well assembled too. The cabinets are roughly a kilo each (with the centre being a little more) and this is sufficient to make them feel like a meaningful assembly and points of contact like the speaker terminals are of good quality and should work with the majority of cables that the DX-2 is likely to encounter. The subwoofer manages to deal with the standard issues of small affordable subwoofers well. The cabinet avoids any unpleasant resonances and the feet are sufficiently pliant that it stays put when you crank it up.

The long and the short of it is that this is a pack that feels more than worth the asking price. Crucially, it has he measure of most rival soundbars and shouldn’t – cabling not withstanding – present a significant challenge to get in and running. It also shouldn’t be too much of a challenge to most AV receivers to drive. The satellites are quoted as having sensitivity in the mid eighties which isn’t bad for a speaker of this size assuming a largely eight ohm impedance.

“The long and the short of it is that this is a pack that feels more than worth the asking price”

How was the DX-2 tested?

The Wharfedale was placed on a combination of Soundstyle Z2 speaker stands, a Quadraspire QAVX rack and the floor (sub). It was connected to a Yamaha RX-A3040 AV receiver with a Cambridge Audio 752BD Blu Ray player and Sky HD acting as source and a Panasonic GT60 Plasma acting as the screen and supplying Netflix and Amazon as further sources. Test material has included Blu Ray, broadcast and on demand material as well as some FLAC files and Spotify via the Spotify connect function in the Yamaha.
Sound Quality

As the review sample appeared to have done plenty of running before it arrived here, I haven’t put a huge amount of running in into the DX-2 and as the behaviour of the speakers hasn’t changed in the time it has been in use suggests that it is behaving as it should. I’m pleased to report too that the behaviour in question is very, very positive.

First up, the Wharfedale does the one thing absolutely crucial thing that a sub/sat system has to do in order to work and that is that it integrates the sub and the speakers correctly. With the crossover of the sub bypassed and a 100Hz one running in the Yamaha (I did briefly try a 120Hz one but feel that a 100Hz one works better even allowing for a roll off in the output from the satellites), the performance is extremely cohesive. I re-watched Sleepy Hollow with the DX-2 in place and the way that the DX-2 renders the woods from where the horseman emerges is really rather impressive. There’s plenty of low key detail in the mix and those little satellites do a fine job of rendering it.

They also show excellent tonal balance. The driver materials in use in the DX-2 are hardly the stuff of science fiction but they serve as a welcome reminder that the classics work well. Early on in the film, there’s a short (but effective) cameo from Sir Christopher Lee. With the DX-2, even with your eyes closed, the output of the centre speaker is very much Christopher Lee. The presentation is refined, detailed and continuously engaging.

There are limits of course. Even on the end of the capable and unflappable Yamaha 3040, the Wharfedale has a very clear comfort zone in volume terms and pushing too hard will result in it starting to harden up and become somewhat brittle. Watching the catacombs sequence in John Wick 2 at a loud level comes across as a bit breathless and constrained. This being said, in a normal lounge, listening at more day to day levels, the results are still very entertaining.

Interestingly, the sub has more poke in it than the satellites do. For a fairly small and sanely powered box, it has no trouble giving you some decent bass extension and staying cohesive and together even with fairly complex material. The good folks of SVS are unlikely to stop making their instruments of destruction when confronted with it but after a week in situ, it is very clear that plenty of effort has been expanded on it.

Where this effort really shows for me is when you switch over to general TV viewing – conducted at rather lower levels and with less sophisticated soundtracks than on movie night. The Wharfedale is a truly excellent partner for this day-to-day material. It sounds spacious, refined and convincing across pretty much anything you might choose from the visual insanity of Britannia to the eyegasm of The Grand Tour. The latter gave the DX-2 the chance to show off the tonal realism it has by doing a fine job of capturing the effort that had gone into recording the Jaguar XKSS and Aston Martin DB4 Lightweight. The sheer array of mechanical noise from the Aston in particular is superbly rendered and very immersive. The single biggest accolade I can give the DX-2 is that I don’t feel compelled to re-watch anything once it had been re-boxed.

Used in 2.1, the DX-2 is capable if not as capable as using a straight pair of stereo speakers. Listening to The Thread That Keeps Us by Calexico, which is well produced and tonally accurate, that slight dip in output where the sub finishes and the sats really come into their own is noticeable (but again, for me at least, preferable to the 120Hz crossover setting). There is a very good stereo image though and the sub is light enough on its feet to deal with complex basslines without getting slow or wallowy. I suspect that the critical aspect of judging the DX-2 is that no AV solution (soundbar, HTIB etc.) that I’ve listened to recently sounds better.

“The single biggest accolade I can give the DX-2 is that I don’t feel compelled to re-watch anything once it has been re-boxed”

Conclusion

Wharfedale DX-2 Home Cinema Speaker Package Review

My time with the DX-2 has been illuminating. In so many ways, this is not a radical system – it is very similar in concept and execution to the old Mordaunt Short Premiere systems which I used to provide technical support for over fifteen years ago. There’s nothing here that is in any way revolutionary… but… it doesn’t stop the DX-2 being seriously good.

Partnered with a decent affordable AV receiver, this is a package that doesn’t do a convincing facsimile of surround, it instead offers honest to goodness home cinema thrills at a more than sensible price. It does this while taking up very little space and being perfectly up to the job of working in most decors. If you can handle a moderately more complex cabling arrangement than would be required of a soundbar, then the Whafedale DX-2 shows that there is a whole world of fun you can get in on and for that reason this bargain box of brilliant is an indisputable Best Buy.

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Undiscovered Gem – Wharfedale Diamond 225

This is the world I grew up in: iPods, ear buds, tinny laptop speakers. Most people my age don’t think twice about their equipment, so long as it makes sound. Your average iTunes a cionado isn’t going to shell out big sums of cash on stereo equipment, especial- ly when everything seems to have speakers built in these days. Why bother?

But there is good sound at approachable prices, fantastic sound really, the sort of sound that people obsess about. It’s not a mystical thing; it’s a visceral one; and younger people are nally starting to gure it out. Vinyl’s comeback is proof of that. The iPod generation is ready for quality; it’s just a matter of guring out how to get it. And for me, it always starts with speakers.

There’s nothing better than opening something new, which is probably why people watch videos of strangers unboxing hard- ware on YouTube. The Wharfedale Diamond 225s sat wrapped in plastic covers sandwiched between tight foam inserts at the top and bottom, keeping them secure in transit. When I nally got them up and out, I stared at the gorgeous rosewood-ve- neer boxes, with their black-lacquer MDF baf es and the small Wharfedale logo just beneath the woofer. I leaned back in my desk chair and thought: “Wow, those are pretty.” They’re clean, unpretentious, and clearly put together very, very well.

OK, the speaker grilles were a little weird. They’re two round foam pieces with little plastic rods that snap in over the tweet- er and the woofer, leaving the rest of the baf e exposed, as opposed to something that covers the whole front. It’s not my favorite aesthetic choice, though it’s not necessarily a bad one, either. Just a matter of taste, I guess. At least they’re easy to remove, so I popped them off and forgot about them.

The 225s are fairly compact, though deep and solid. Sound is always the most important aspect of any audio component, but you still have to live with these things, and it’s easier to live with beautiful stuff. Fortunately, they’re exactly what they need to be: simple and attractive. Clearly the people at Wharfedale know what they’re doing, which makes sense, considering how long they’ve been around. Wharfedale is a relatively large British out t founded back in the 1930s, and they’ve been a big name in British hi-fi ever since.  The Diamond series debuted in 1981, and Wharfedale has been slowly improving the Diamond designs and sound without inflating cost, and that’s exactly what I’m looking for.

The 225s list at $450, which is a price an actual human with a real job could potentially afford. If you’re like me, and you’re sick of “affordable” equipment pushing easily into the $1000 range, this review is for you. Fact is, the majority of people can’t shell out the cash for the absurdly hyper-expensive audio equipment that clogs up most blogs. If we want to get the next generation to fall in love with great sound, I think it’s about time to accept that there’s some seriously good, affordable stuff worth writing about.

So with all that in mind, I put the 225s on top of my cheap stands, hooked them up to my (also British) Cambridge Audio CXA80 integrated, and turned it all on. Truth is, my listening space isn’t ideal. It’s small, oddly shaped with a sloping roof, and my speaker placement is limited. They have to be up close to a wall, though fortunately for me, these Wharfedales were designed with that in mind.  The slot-loaded bass port res downwards, instead of back, minimizing room inter- action. So don’t worry about sticking them on either side of an entertainment system in the living room, for example, or squeezing them into a small of ce. Like I said, we have to live with these things, and space is sometimes at a premium.

Diving into the sound, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Bookshelf speakers typically aren’t known for deep, earth-shaking bass, and the 225s are no different in that regard. They aren’t going to rattle anyone’s bones and dig deep into that 40Hz bass region, which is fine—that’s what a sub’s for. Still, when I started with “Sparkle,” the rst track on Tatsuro Yamashita’s City Pop masterpiece, For You, I got such a satisfyingly deep drop that I didn’t find myself missing the lowest of the low registers. Frankly, I didn’t find myself missing much of anything at all, especially when that clean, twanging guitar played its insanely catchy riff.  The opening of “Sparkle” features a heavy, show-stopping reveal, and the 225s were more than up to the task of reproducing that big moment. I was surprised by how but I think it’s so much more than enough for my small listening space. I can’t say how well they’d do in a much larger room, although I suspect they’d be up to the task.

The other good thing about “Sparkle” is the way Yamashita’s voice is recorded. There’s tons of reverb and space, his notes just drifting off into the background, and the 225s highlighted that nicely. For such small speakers, these things could create an impressive soundstage. Not the greatest, most spectacular presentation, but plenty to keep me engaged. Sound hung, drifting, projected nicely in both directions. At some points at higher volume, I noticed a bit of gristle in the upper registers, and sometimes the lower end felt a bit soft. I have to admit though, I was having fun just running through my favorite sides, one after the other, looking for any sonic detail that might be worth delving into. That’s the best sign that a piece of equipment is working. These little boxes just seemed to get me.

But I had to push the 225s, give them something challenging.  That’s the whole point of a review, after all, to see how these things really perform. I turned to one of the strangest and most complicated albums of the year, King Krule’s The Ooz. This double-LP is as idiosyncratic as it is fascinating. On the most basic, surface level, it’s an experimental trip-hop masterpiece, but I think it’s so much more than that.  It’s a sonically dif – cult album, with deep, rolling bass lines, up-tempo shifting beats, and Krule’s own morphing, grinding voice switching registers at will. The 225s did not disappoint me. They had a solid grip on the bass, keeping up with the hairpin-turn bumps and rumbles. The horns blaring in the background of “Dum Surfer” were rendered but- ter-smooth, along with that catchy guitar floating over the tight snares. I was drawn to the way the 225s made THE Ooz, somehow more accessible.  It’s such an intricately layered album  and little details such as Krule’s English slang could easily be missed if anything muddy got in the way. I could feel the de- tails of his voice despite the heavy synths and shimmer- ing guitar effects. The 225s did a great job of creating a solid soundstage with minutely differentiated pieces. These songs felt so simple at first listen, but it took a piece of equipment like the 225s to do this level of complexity justice.

Finally, I wanted to hear how the Diamond 225s would deal with rich, complex upper-range vocals. These speakers could handle bass and midrange, but I was curious as to how they’d do when it came to subtlety. For that, I turned to Moses Sumney’s odd, pared-down, R&B-influenced album, Romanticism. Sumney’s music focuses so much on his intense, wonderful, lilting falsetto, which nicely showcased the 225’s ability to highlight delicate high-end and midrange detail as he moved through registers. I had a feeling the 225s would be plenty engaging with a softer sound, and I wasn’t disappointed.  The bass guitar on “Man on the Moon (reprise)” barely kept pace while Sumney’s vocals played above it, yet through the 225s the layers ofSumney’s voice came through clean, uncolored, and almost liquid. I didn’t really understand this album on first listen, but as I went through it again and again on the 225s, I came to really love its low-key cleanliness.  In the end, I think that’s the real strength of the 225s.  They weren’t throwing the deepest bass or resolving the upper registers absolutely perfectly, but they had weight right where I needed it, a;ong with the details and the clarity necessary to resolve complex tracks into enjoyable musicality.

These speakers remind me that the “entry-level” isn’t a bad place to be.  Inexpensive components are getting better and better as high-end design trickles down into supposedly budget hardware.  The diamond 225s take everything good about high-end audio, the power of beautifully reproduced music, and they make it accessible to a wider audience.  I believe the 225s would satisfy just about anybody for fantastic-sounding speakers design by a respected manufacturer at a reasonable price.  They’re not perfect, but man, they’re still more than good.  I highly recommended them.

 From “The Absolute Sound” no. 282

 

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