Wharfedale Diamond 11.2 loudspeaker

With reviews of Wilson's Alexia 2 loudspeaker ($57,900/pair) in the July issue, Constellation's Centaur 500 amplifier ($55,000) in the October issue, and Tidal's Akira loudspeaker ($215,000/pair) in the November issue, my system's been inhaling some rarefied air the past few months. Accordingly, I felt I should live with some components priced within the reach of real-world audiophiles. As it happened, I was finishing up my review of the Constellation amplifier when MoFi Distribution's Lionel Goodfield e-mailed me, asking if I'd like to review the new Diamond 11.2 loudspeaker from the venerable British brand Wharfedale.

Wharfedale? My first pair of "real" loudspeakers, 50 years ago, were Wharfedale Super Lintons, a two-way, stand-mounted design that used the infamous "purple jellyfish" plastic-dome tweeter. In the first blind listening test I took part in, in 1977, for Hi-Fi News magazine, the winner was Wharfedale's high-sensitivity E70. More recently, Herb Reichert reviewed Wharfedale's Diamond 225 loudspeaker in March 2017, with Follow-Ups from Ken Micallef and Art Dudley in June and October 2017. All three writers had been impressed by the Diamond 225, which costs $449/pair and was one of our Joint Budget Products of 2017. It was a no-brainer to ask Goodfield to ship me the new Diamonds, which cost $599/pair.

Double Diamonds
Although Wharfedale is still a British brand, with its R&D department in the UK, it's now owned by a Chinese holding company, the IAG Group, which also owns Audiolab, Castle Acoustics, Luxman, Mission, and Quad. The 11.2 is the largest of three bookshelf speakers in the new range of eight Diamond 11 models, which also includes three floorstanders and two center-channels. The head of the Diamond 11.2's design team, IAG acoustic director Peter Comeau, was also responsible for the great-sounding Quad S-2 ($999/pair), reviewed by Ken Micallef in January 2018.

Like the Diamond 225, the Diamond 11.2 combines a 1" fabric-dome tweeter and a 6.5" mid/woofer with a woven-Kevlar cone in a reflex-loaded, fiber-filled, multilayer MDF cabinet. The new speaker is the same height as the older one, 14", but is 1" wider and 2.5" deeper. More significant, the enclosure's sidewalls are gently curved to the rear, this said to reduce cabinet resonances and internal standing waves. The slot that acts as the reflex port still extends across the full width and depth of the enclosure at its base, but now has semi-parabolic entry and exit curves to linearize airflow.

The tweeter is still mounted at the center of a short, flared waveguide, to control its dispersion, but now has a damped rear chamber, which I assume is what the words "WFR Vented System" on the front plate refer to. Both tweeter and woofer now have a copper-cap pole plate, which is claimed both to reduce inductance and linearize the magnetic flux in the gap. The woofer uses a large-radius, half-roll surround made from a US-sourced "Water-Resistant Polyester Foam" with improved suspension linearity. The woofer's basket has a more rigid and open frame, to reduce the level of early reflections of the cone's rear wave.

Electrical connection is via a single pair of binding posts on the cabinet's rear rather than the Diamond 225's two pairs. Despite the Diamond 11.2's affordable price, with its gloss black front baffle it looks very attractive.

1218wharf.life.jpg

Setup
I mounted the Wharfedales on 24"-tall Celestion stands, isolating the speakers with small pads of Blu-Tack. The stands' central pillars were filled with a mix of dry sand and bird shot, and their bases were spiked to the wooden floor beneath the carpet; this placed the Diamond 11.2s' tweeters exactly 36" above the carpet. I didn't use the magnetically attached black-cloth grilles, as they made the sound a bit too sweet.

I began my auditioning with the Diamond 11.2s placed where I'd set up the Dynaudio Special Forty speakers, which I reviewed in the September issue. Both woofers were 98" from the wall behind the speakers; the right-channel Wharfedale was 52" from the books lining its sidewall, the left-channel speaker 26" from the LPs lining its sidewall. However, the upper bass sounded rather lean, so I moved the Wharfedales closer to the wall behind them: 67" instead of 98". The left speaker was still 26" from its sidewall, but I ended up with the right speaker's woofer 43" from its sidewall. This usefully fattened the low frequencies, but I suspect that both Diamond 11.2s needed to be still closer to the wall behind them than is possible in my room. (Equipment racks and a small raised area at the front right of the room prevent the speakers from being moved closer.)

Listening
I created several of the test signals that are included on Stereophile's three Test CDs and Editor's Choice not only to help optimize setting up a pair of speakers in a room, but also to diagnose how they sound. I began my critical listening to the Wharfedale Diamond 11.2s with the test signals on Editor's Choice (CD, Stereophile STPH016-2). The dual-mono pink-noise track sounded smooth and evenly balanced. However, if I rose from my chair until my ears were above the tweeter axis, the sound took on a slightly hollow coloration. The central image of the noise signal was stable, but not as ideally narrow as I have experienced with, for example, BBC LS3/5a's at one end of the price spectrum, and Tidal Akiras at the other.

The 1/3-octave bass-warble tones from Editor's Choice were reproduced with good weight down to the 80Hz band, with then the 63, 50, and 40Hz bands lower in level than the bands to either side of them. The 32Hz warble tone was exaggerated by the lowest mode in my room, but the 25 and 20Hz bands were inaudible. At my usual listening level of around 80dB (C-weighted, Slow ballistics), I thought I heard some chuffing from the slot with the lowest-frequency bands, but this was actually due to the woofer producing some harmonic content due to the extreme excursions of the unloaded woofer cone.

COMPANY INFO
Wharfedale, IAG UK
US distributor: MoFi Distribution
1811 W. Bryn Mawr Avenue
Chicago, IL 60660
(312) 738-5025
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
hollowman's picture

Thx, JA, for a fair and comprehensive review.
Since you mentioned the Rogers LS3-5A, any plans to review the new Falcon model?
Speaker: Jerry Bloomfield, Falcon Acoustics – Oxford, England (below) presented at RMAF this October:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9CzHERDEDc

supamark's picture

this one?

https://www.stereophile.com/content/falcon-acoustics-ls35a-loudspeaker

because Herb reviewed it about 3.5 years ago.

DougM's picture

Thanks JA for reviewing a truly affordable product, which is something I've often picked on you for not doing often enough. You're so expert, and so objective, and have so much experience listening to state of the art gear, that I sometimes feel that in pointing out the colorations that budget products exhibit, you sometimes inadvertently give a more negative impression of the piece being reviewed than you actually intend to. I think most listeners who are going to buy such budget gear won't notice these imperfections to the degree that you do. That being said, over the last decade or two, I've tried quite a few budget speakers, looking to find one that would satisfy me. And that search ended with the Diamond 9.1, which RJR (RIP) reviewed in Stereophile when it was a current model. Since I got them I've felt no need to look for any new speakers, as I feel that none would please me more than they do.

Ortofan's picture

... the $500/pr. ELAC Uni-Fi UB5 and/or the $600/pr. ELAC Debut 2.0 F5.2 foorstanding speakers?

bsher's picture

I, for one, would LOVE to see a fairly comprehensive comparison article of sub-$1000 bookshelf speakers like these Wharfedales, Elac UniFi B5, Dali Oberon 3, Totem Rainmakers, KEF Q350 (a more appropriate competitor), here or in S & V, including how they perform near the rear wall, on an actual bookshelf (where many of them will, out of necessity, end up). Anyone else?

Bogolu Haranath's picture

If the limit is $1,000, the new KEF LSX possibly will outperform them all .......... They are self powered and wi-fi enabled .......... Check KEF website for details :-) .............

Mauro's picture

Hey John and stereophile guys, you made me start this hobby with wharfedale diamond’s and I was pleased, you made me move on to KEF LS50’s and I am still really thankful..but it seems to me that we still have to wait for the next affordable standmount to beat KEF’s..or am I wrong?

Indydan's picture

But, I can say that the Ryan R610 will walk all over the Kef LS50. I have heard both, and there is no comparison. The Ryan is more expensive at US $2K, but still affordable.

Mauro's picture

There are not so many Ryan dealers in Europe but good to know that other companies are addressing the 2k market with good value for money products.

Other suggestions for the 1-2k$ range to challenge the LS50?

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Yes, the Elac Adante AS-61 bookshelf speakers are priced now at $2,000 ........ I saw some places where they are selling below $2,000 .......... See the review at Sound & Vision magazine, available on line ....... The LS-50s are now on sale for $1,000 :-) ...........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

You can also check Elac Navis self-powered bookshelf speakers, $2,000/pair ......... They don't need a power-amp :-) ............

Mauro's picture

In Europe Adante is over 3k, but Navis instead is around 2k!
I would really like to listen a pair of Navis and read a review with a nice comparison with the similar configuration of the passive Unifi UB5. The same applies to the KEF LS50 and LS50 wireless.
That’s not clear to me which are the advantages of going active. I think that editors should dig into this topic..

Who knows if stereophile is going to cover these active speakers. There seems to be a growing trend going on...

Bogolu Haranath's picture

You can drive active speakers with your phone ........ What do you think? :-) ........

Your phone can access to million and millions of songs available from streaming services :-) .........

Mauro's picture

I was more focused on time alignment of drivers, lower output impendance for lows and top quality amplifier for highs. But I guess you are making a point with music streaming for two channel guys..that sounds convenient indeed! :)

Bogolu Haranath's picture

You can evaluate the sound, as a total package, amp + speakers, with active speakers ........... You can use a pre-amp if you have other sources such as a turntable, DAC etc .......... If you like tube sound, you can use tube pre-amp :-) ..........

Mauro's picture

Interesting... Actually in these days after reading some stuff on ps audio bhk amp, I was also considering a hybrid amp (not from ps audio..out of my budget, but from Lector here in Europe). But what you suggest is interesting and in someway simpler: a tube preamp and an active speaker. Never thought of it!

Bogolu Haranath's picture

You can consider using Rogue Audio RH-5 tube pre-amp/headphone amp, $2,500 ......... It is rated Class-A by Stereophile and was reviewed by HR ......... It is also a great headphone amp, which can drive almost any headphone .......... RH-5 + Navis bookshelf, $4,500 .......... RH-5 + Navis floor-stander, $6,500 :-) ...........

Indydan's picture

Did not know you were in Europe. You might not get many speakers in the 1-2K range that will beat the LS50 in every manner. You could audition the Harbeth P3esr or the Neat Motive SX2. They excel at different things, and might be a better match for your amplification.

Mauro's picture

Really appreciated!

X