Wharfedale Diamond 11.2 loudspeaker Page 2

The 200Hz warble tone sounded more colored than the other bands, and when I played the half-step–spaced tonebursts on Editor's Choice there was audible coloration between 196 and 246Hz. When I listened to the cabinet walls with a stethoscope, this behavior was worse with the right-channel speaker than the left. This behavior, I suspect, was the cause of the Diamond 11.2 having a rather warm tonal balance, which was particularly noticeable with male speaking voices, as in the channel-identification and phasing tracks on Editor's Choice. But with well-recorded classic music, such as Stravinsky's Apollon Musagète, from the Trondheim Soloists' Reflections (24-bit/44.1kHz MQA file unfolded to 24/176.4, 2L 2L-125), the Wharfedales mostly stepped out of the way of the music making. And with purely electronic music—eg, Olof Dreijer's remix of "Me, I'm Not," from Y34RZ3R0R3MIX3D (Nothing/Interscope)—the remix version of Nine Inch Nails' Year Zero, the warm lower midrange was not an issue at all.

I mention this track because the four-in-the-bar sampled/synthesized kick drum was reproduced with an excellent balance of attack and weight, especially when, after three minutes or so, it's doubled by a second drum an octave lower in pitch, then joined by low-frequency synth sweeps. Eugene Wright's double bass in "Take Five," from the Dave Brubeck Quartet's Time Out (DSD64 file, Columbia), had reasonably good definition. Its tone did lack a little body, though Joe Morello's kick drum punched through very effectively in his solo.

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Brubeck's piano sounded sweeter than I remembered, as did Robert Silverman's instrument on our February 2018 "Recording of the Month," Chopin's Last Waltz (DSD128 file, IsoMike 5606). The midbass region seemed a little lean with this album, even after I'd optimized the speaker positions. When Silverman's left hand thundered down the keyboard at 3:56 in the Fantasie in f, the lowest-pitched notes didn't quite thunder as much as I'd expected. But while there was a touch of midrange congestion in the very loudest passages, overall the piano sounded convincing. I cued up one of my own solo-piano recordings of Robert Silverman, his performance of Liszt's Vallée d'Obermann, from Sonata (16/44.1 ALAC file, Stereophile STPH008-2), which was recorded on a Nagra-D with a Schoeps Sphere as the primary microphone. This recording had more left-hand weight than the Chopin, but again, these inexpensive speakers did a good job of conveying the musical essence.

I ended my auditioning with a recording I hadn't played for quite a while: Mendelssohn's incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream, performed by the Montreal Symphony Orchestra conducted by Charles Dutoit (16/44.1 ALAC file, London 430 722-2). I continue to marvel at the fact that the composer was just 17 when he wrote the overture to this work, with its wealth of melody. With the Wharfedales driven by the Audio Research Reference 160M monoblocks ($30,000/pair) that Jason Serinus reviewed in October—a very unlikely pairing, I admit—this 1979 recording sounded rich and warm, with a big sweep of orchestral sound. The violins didn't sound harsh, the lower strings had enough body to be satisfying, and the soundstage was wide, with relatively good depth.

Comparisons
The two minimonitors that have taken up long-term residence in my system are my 1978 Rogers LS5/5a's, and the KEF LS50s I bought after reviewing their Anniversary Edition in December 2012.6 For these comparisons I matched levels with pink noise to within 0.5dB, and found the Diamond 11.2 noticeably more sensitive than either speaker. The LS3/5a's, however, offered stereo soundstaging precision to rival that of the big Tidals—the acoustic of the Albuquerque church on the Stereophile Liszt piano recording was less apparent with the Wharfedales—as well as a more transparent if slightly nasal-sounding midrange. Used farther out in the room than the Wharfedales, the Rogers' admittedly exaggerated upper-bass region was in better balance with the midrange. The LS3/5a also had more energy in-room in the top three octaves than either the Diamond 11.2 or the LS50.

The KEFs were placed in the same positions as the Wharfedales. The Diamond 11.2s sounded a little more laid-back than the LS50s, but with a tad more top-octave energy. They also excited the lowest-frequency resonance in my room to a greater extent, adding useful weight to Nine Inch Nails' "Me, I'm Not." The LS50s offered more precise stereo imaging, with greater depth and a more neutral-sounding midrange. The individual orchestral lines in the Mendelssohn overture were more readily apparent through the KEFs, as was the acoustic of the recording venue.

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But to put these comparisons in perspective, the KEF costs $1300/pair, and while the British speaker maker Rogers (not to be confused with the US company Rogers High Fidelity) is no more, Falcon Acoustics' current version of the LS3/5a starts at $2195/pair. The Diamond 11.2 costs only $599/pair.

Conclusions
After two months of living with the Tidal Akiras, I was pleasantly surprised by what the Wharfedale Diamond 11.2s gave me at 1/359 the price. The small Wharfedales couldn't go anywhere near as loud as the massive Tidals, nor did they have anything like their authority in the low frequencies. The Akiras were soundstaging champs; the Diamond 11.2s' stereo imaging was good rather than great. The Wharfedale's soft-dome tweeter was not as superbly transparent or as sophisticated-sounding as the Tidal's diamond-diaphragm tweeter. And the Diamond 11.2's warm lower midrange won't always be optimal, depending on what kind of music its owner prefers. But when I wasn't in critical listening mode and was simply playing music for pleasure, none of that mattered much—the Diamond 11.2s gave me enough of what I needed. Couple these Wharfedales with something like PS Audio's Sprout100 integrated amplifier, which Herb Reichert reviewed in November and which also costs $599, and you have the basis of a good-sounding system for $2 short of $1200.

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!

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