Wharfedale Diamond 10.7 loudspeaker
In a recent email, a reader, having read my review of the Monitor Audio Silver RX6 loudspeaker in the June 2012 issue, said that he'd like to see it compared with the similarly priced Wharfedale Diamond 10.7 ($1299/pair) and Epos Elan 10 ($1000/pair). That sounded interesting. The floorstanding 10.7 is the flagship model of Wharfedale's Diamond series, six models up from the Diamond 10.1 bookshelf (which I reviewed in July 2011) and featuring the same dome tweeter. And the Epos Elan 10 essentially replaces the Epos M5i, which I reviewed in February 2011, and which has served as my reference bookshelf speaker ever since. I requested samples of both. (My review of the Epos Elan 10 is scheduled to appear in the February 2014 issue.)
The three-way Diamond 10.7 has a 1" (25mm) soft-dome tweeter with a neodymium magnet, mounted in a cast-alloy surround and covered by a metal diffusion grid designed to iron out high-frequency perturbations for a smoother treble response. In addition to its 2" (50mm) midrange dome, the Diamond 10.7 has two 6.5" (165mm) woofers with woven Kevlar cones, the weave's diamond pattern continuing into the surrounds to damp standing waves. The upper woofer has a polished phase plug in the center of the cone; the lower woofer, which is rolled off above 150Hz, has an inverted dustcap. The cabinet has curved sidewalls, and a front baffle made from a composite material finished in piano black, on which are mounted the drivers. The biwirable 10.7 has a rear-firing reflex port. In the US, the speaker is available in Blackwood, Cinnamon Cherry, or Quilted Rosewood. The Quilted Rosewood of my review samples was quite attractive.
I listened to the 10.7s with and without their grilles and found the tonal balance unchanged. Without the grilles, however, I heard a slight increase in transparency and resolution of detail, so I left them off for most of my listening.
Well-recorded voices on original pressings of vintage LPs enabled the Wharfedale Diamond 10.7 to show off an uncolored midrange. In "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," from Joan Baez's Hits/Greatest & Others (LP, Vanguard VSD 79332), her voice was reverberant and dimensional. Similarly, Tony Bennett's rendition of "Autumn in Rome," from his This Is All I Ask (LP, Columbia CS 8856), was reproduced with the master's voice in all its silky, voluptuous glory. Higher in the audioband, the Wharfedale reproduced well-recorded pianos with clarity and extension and no trace of coloration. The upper register of Anat Fort's piano, in her A Long Story (CD, ECM 1994), was reproduced with a great deal of sparkle and air. However, I've heard other speakers reproduce Steve Nelson's vibraphone solo in Jerome Harris's arrangement of Duke Ellington's "The Mooche," from Editor's Choice (CD, Stereophile STPH016-2), with more sparkle.
The Diamond 10.7's bass performance was natural and extended, particularly with jazz. In Anat Fort's A Long Story, Ed Schuller's double bass was warm, deep, and rich on all tracks, with no coloration. I also listened to rough mixes made by John Atkinson of a recent recording of a classical piece I wrote for my quartet Attention Screen, "Recessional," which I performed on the Greenlaw Memorial Pipe Organ of The Community Church of Douglaston, Queens. The recording has considerable energy below 50Hz, and the Wharfedales reproduced the most difficult passages forcefully, with no sense of strain, distortion, or rolloff. The fortissimo passages moved a lot of air, and the sound of the organ was reproduced with the realism of a live performance. I look forward to reading JA's technical analysis of the Wharfedale's bass extension.
Piano recordings revealed the speaker's excellent ability to articulate transients. Ahmad Jamal's solo passages in the title track of his At the Pershing: But Not for Me (LP, Argo 628) were clean, lightning-fast, and with no hint of smearing. On the other end of the Gershwin spectrum, Earl Wild's reading of Rhapsody in Blue, with Arthur Fiedler conducting the Boston Pops (LP, RCA Living Stereo LSC-2367), was light and airy in his rapid-fire upper-register passages.
Percussion recordings showcased the Diamond 10.7's super rendering of low-level dynamic phrasing. I was able to follow every detail of drummer Joe Morello's famous solo in "Take Five," from Dave Brubeck's Greatest Hits (LP, Columbia CS 9284)his technique breathed in a linear organic fashion, as in a live performance. Similarly, Jack DeJohnette's busy but delicate drumming during the ensemble passages of "Third World Anthem," from his Selected Recordings (CD, rarumECM 8012), covers a broad range of percussive textures in the range of ppp to mf, and the Wharfedale captured them all. However, I've heard other speakers render the high-level dynamic passages in this track with a bit more slam and drama. With rock recordings played loudly, however, the Diamond 10.7s were capable of an impressive level of high-level dynamic realism. When I cranked up Roger McGuinn's Cardiff Rose (LP, Columbia 34154) fairly high, every track had rock-'em, sock-'em dynamic slamthe drums and bass guitar were punchy and forceful.
The Wharfedale's ability to render detail made it very easy to hear differences in recording quality. I recently acquired original pressings of early recordings by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, and was floored by the high quality of their sound through the Diamond 10.7s. As I listened to every track of Whipped Cream & Other Delights (LP, A&M SP4110), I was smitten by the perfectly crisp detail and transients, the warm midrange timbres, the clean, clear bass. I'd always thought this music was cheesy, but the Wharfedale let me analyze the high quality of the compositions, arrangements, and musicianship on these recordings. The music was so involving that I began to reflect on how the then-unknown Herb Alpert had started A&M Records with his friend Jerry Moss, with no roster other than his own group and the Baja Marimba Band, and was able to build it into a recording powerhouse that, 10 years later, they sold to PolyGram for $500 million. Though Alpert still performs, he now dedicates much of his energy to musical philanthropy.
The album that brought together all of the Wharfedale's strengths was my original British pressing of King Crimson's Larks' Tongues in Aspic (LP, Island ILPS 9230). Every timbre in "Easy Money" was pristine and natural, with layers of detail and dynamic subtleties revealed. Each transient was crisp and clean, with no artificial sharpness or harshness. My listening notes read: "Drama! Detail! Clarity!"
The Epos M5i had more detailed high frequencies than the Wharfedale and even better low-level dynamics, but the Diamond 10.7's lower midrange was richer. The Epos's midbass sounded cleaner, but the Wharfedale's bass extended a bit deeper. Higher-level dynamics were slightly better through the Diamond 10.7.
The Dynaudio Excite X12's midbass was warmer than the Epos M5i's but not as warm as the Diamond 10.7's. However, the Dynaudio's highs were more involving and more delicate than the Wharfedale's, and its midrange and high-frequency detail were superior. The Excite X12's and Diamond 10.7's high-level dynamics were about equal.
The Monitor RX6 Silver's highs were more detailed and extended than the Wharfedale's, but the Monitor also had the deepest, cleanest bass, and the best high-level dynamics, of all four speakers.
I've always found that Wharfedale's Diamond bookshelf speakers excel at providing excellent sound per dollar, and can now say that that extends to their more expensive floorstanding models. The Diamond 10.7 is an impressive speaker that provides many of the attributes of pricier floorstanders in an attractive, small-footprint cabinet at an accessible price. It should be on the short list of anyone shopping for something at or near the competitive price point of $1299/pair.