Wharfedale Diamond 225 loudspeaker Ken Micallef June 2017

Ken Micallef auditioned the Wharfedale Diamond 225 in June 2017 (Vol.40 No.6):

In my review of Volti Audio's Rival loudspeaker, elsewhere in this issue, I recall how New York City turntable technician Michael Trei, who contributes to our sister magazine Sound & Vision, correctly recalibrated my Kuzma Stabi S turntable and Stogi S tonearm. That lit a fire in my vinyl-stuffed belly. I began a frenzy of LP cleaning. I bought one of those cute Pro-Ject Align It cartridge-alignment tools. For fun, I set up jazz drummer Dan Weiss's virgin Dynavector 10X5 cartridge. Lately, I've been enjoying a game of multiple choice with moving-coil cartridges.

First I tried the Goldring Elite ($995), a cartridge that imbues most recordings with a sense of stately grandeur, though with a wee bit recessed midrange and a touch of softness in the lower octaves. Regal, royal, even majestic in its buttoned-down tonality, the Elite created roomy soundstages and a firm sense of drive.

I moved on to the Transfiguration Phoenix cartridge ($4249), a revelatory, graphically resolute, refined audio pleasure from Japan. In his review at Analog Planet, Michael Fremer noted the Transfiguration's sometimes forward character and timbral neutrality. Like a forensic code breaker, the Transfiguration feasted on detail, yielding exquisite decay trails and spooky ambient cues. I was challenged by occasional ear fatigue, but the Phoenix Transfiguration's clear window on the music was a reasonable trade-off.

Finally, after a long hiatus, Denon's trustworthy DL-103 cartridge ($379, often found for less on eBay) returned to my rig. There it happily stays, revealing the souls of jazz, rock, classical, and electronic-music LPs with unfailing effortlessness and honesty. The Denon doesn't deliver the Phoenix's myriad musical minutiae or the Goldring's commodious soundstages, but by any measure it's enormously musical. From its inception in 1962 as the Japanese broadcast benchmark to the present day, the Denon DL-103 remains a standard.

High-end audio has few such standards—products that remain popular with listeners and reviewers for decades. In his March 2017 review of the Wharfedale Diamond 225 stand-mounted loudspeaker ($449/pair), Herb Reichert wrote, "Forget the Diamond's modest price. This humble wooden box is actually a connoisseur-level audio component. It could satisfy any sane music collector for decades."

Herb's review told me that the 225 is a modern classic that establishes a standard for years to come. A product that satisfies the buying public, trend-conscious reviewers, and bottom-line distributors deserves a permanent place in Stereophile's "Recommended Components." Herb "fell crazy in love with the Diamond 225s." They made him feel "loose and free like I was 23," and he particularly enjoyed the Diamond 225's machismo delivery of Metallica's Master of Puppets, whose "guitar sounds and hyper-drivin', amped-up rhythms never fail to cut me through to the gut."

Measuring 14" high by 7.7" wide by 10.3" deep, the Wharfedale Diamond 225 is an attractive wood-veneered cabinet containing a 1" soft-dome tweeter and a 6.5" woven-Kevlar mid/woofer. Wharfedale describes its unusual reflex-loaded design as an "Enhanced 'Slot-loaded distributed Port'—for lower turbulence and there for [sic] low frequency distortion"—that fires downward through a pencil-thin space between the cabinet's bottom and its rubber-footed base.

You'd think that the 225, specified as having a sensitivity of 87dB —JA measured 85dB/2.83V/m—and an impedance of "8 ohm compatible" would present a moderately easy load for my Shindo Haut-Brion amplifier (25Wpc). Such was not the case. The Shindo is truly friendly only to speakers with sensitivities of 90dB and above, such as my DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/93s or the Volti Audio Rivals. Pairing the Wharfedales with the Shindos produced a measure of believable tone, but the music seemed stuck somewhere deep inside the 225s' cabinets, sounding pale and congealed and lacking in dynamics.

I brought in that other future high-end standard that currently graces my po-boy penthouse: Heed Audio's Elixir integrated amplifier ($1195). Its 50Wpc made the speakers dance and sing from the get-go. The Heed's warmth, coupled to the Denon DL-103's innate musicality, empowered the Wharfedales like the Harley-riding gang in The Wild One (1953) egging on chief marauder Johnny Strabler (Marlon Brando) to greater depths of hoodlumish behavior.

The Diamond 225s required mucho reinforcement to bring out agreeable bass frequencies. I positioned the speakers near my listening room's corners: 10" from the front wall to the middle of the speakers' rear panels. From then on, the Wharfedales reproduced reasonably satisfying bass.

Vinyl reissues of Nina Simone albums are a hot commodity these days, but one I've yet to see get the 180gm virgin-vinyl treatment is her Sings Ellington! (LP, Colpix SCP 425). Accompanied by the Malcolm Dodds Singers (and instruments panned hard right and left), Simone rises above the hackneyed, commercial production style of 1962, bringing her troubled spirit to Ellington's great songs. "Do Nothin' Till You Hear from Me," with words by Bob Russell, is a jubilant lark of swing and soul, and Simone takes obvious glee in adapting a humorous country twang to her field-holler delivery. The Wharfedales begged to be played louder, so I granted their wish and Simone took over my listening space. The Diamond 225s revealed the deep, tubby bass of the Denon DL-103, as well as the pert texture of the brass, Simone's sometimes nasal singing, and the piano and driving double bass. The sound was visceral and alive.

To gauge dynamics and attack, I often use Makoto Aruga and Percussion Ensemble's Digital Percussion (LP, Seven Seas K28C-165). The Diamond 225s excelled in both regards, relaying the fine microdynamic shadings that accompany this recording's stomach-churning timpani passages, drill-like snare-drum rolls, and pure bell tones. There was a touch of Kevlar zing to the percussion, but mostly I was awed by the 225s' quick delivery and faithfulness to the recording.

Playing "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party," from Beatles for Sale (LP, Odeon SMO 73790), I was gobsmacked by the 225s' clarity, and their full-bodied resolution of the sound of George Harrison's twangy, glistening guitar. I'd never heard his sweet, stinging tone and palpable textures reproduced so realistically and wholesomely—his Gretsch hollow-body electric sounded especially live and shimmering through the Wharfedales.

Newvelle Records has won much-deserved attention for their state-of-the-art production and gorgeous vinyl releases. Their latest is Irmãos De Fé, by jazz bassist John Patitucci (LP, Newvelle NV007LP), an exercise in dark-sounding instruments and equally dark lower-frequency production. The 225s revealed all the touch, timing, and grip of Patitucci's double bass as expressed via the Denon DL-103's warm tonality. Again, the 225s were wonderfully clear-headed, re-creating Patitucci's extremely low notes with ease, yet with a touch of thickness paired to superb weight.

Switching to CDs, I felt the 225s sometimes favored midrange and treble clarity and precision over reproduction of the nether frequencies. They could certainly go deep when needed, but they revealed little of the warmth of my PS Audio NuWave DAC. This was consistent, from Pat Metheny's Day Trip (CD, Nonesuch 376829) to the eponymously titled Manu Katché (CD, ECM 2284). However, the 225s created large soundstages and relayed dynamics with self-confidence and poise.

Compared to the Elac Debut B6 ($279/pair), the Wharfedale Diamond 225 played more clearly, more dynamically, with better attention to frequency extremes, and none of the Elac's processed sheen. The Diamond 225s sounded natural and resolving; the Debut B6es sounded like country cousins to the Wharfedale's urban sophisticate. The Elacs played like stock hot-rods shod with smoking rings and bald tires; the 225s never broke a sweat as they zoomed past the Elacs in every regard. The 225 was cool, a bit cerebral, but definitely up for any and every challenge. It sounded far more accomplished than its list price of $449/pair might lead you to expect, easily challenging some stand-mounted speakers costing $1000/pair.

At first, I'd thought the 225s had no "house sound," opening a sunny window on the three cartridges I experimented with. And, unlike the Wharfedale Diamond 10.1s (now discontinued) I once owned, the Diamond 225s sounded less colored and generally more neutral and resolving, though they lacked the simple soul and organic feel of the 10.1. I agree with Herb's comment that the 225's Kevlar mid/woofer cone imparted to some recordings a "touch of rigidity or tightness," but that's audio-reviewer nitpicking.

Happily, the Diamond 225s loved to boogie. They sounded good at moderate levels, but came into their own when cranked up. The Wharfedales partied hard with Muddy Waters, Super Furry Animals, and Howlin' Wolf, swung righteously with Red Garland and Miles Davis, and scaled dynamic orchestral heights with Max Roach's M'Boom collective and Béla Bartók, becoming confused and strident only at very loud and taxing climaxes. While the 225s' low end was occasionally too buttoned-down for my taste, its overall reproduction of the audioband was entirely free of grain, pure, and well defined. And the 225s imaged beautifully, consistently pulling off a magical "disappearing" act.

Cool-headed, ready to rumble, and ready to dance, the Wharfedale Diamond 225 stand-mounted loudspeaker strikes a good balance between studio-monitor precision and living-room bookshelf ease. It's the epitome of transparent response to both source components and recordings, extracting every last iota of information from CDs and LPs in a nonclinical yet highly revealing fashion. The Wharfedale Diamond 225 is an acute reproducer of music: tonally accurate, dynamic, and explicit. I second HR's recommendation.—Ken Micallef

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

COMMENTS
mrhyfy's picture

I recently bought a pair of Diamond 225's hoping to enjoy some trickle down performance from the Wharfedale Jade 3's....
http://www.stereophile.com/content/wharfedale-jade-3-loudspeaker#iFijTRLaTGgGLhb4.97

I was thoroughly impressed with every aspect of their performance and the perceived bass extension was unbelievable!
The knuckle wrap test seemed to indicate a very solid cabinet.
They seem like a great deal to me!

tonykaz's picture

Well said Mr.JA

Tony in Michigan

bierfeldt's picture

Wonderful review and tells me exactly what to expect from this speaker. Off topic from the speaker, I really liked this paragraph

"A mechanic can sharpen a file by soaking it in dilute acid. This procedure works well—up to a point. Eventually, the file's teeth get too sharp, and become all weak and pointy and bent over, like witches' teeth. That's what bad high-end audio (and a lot of re-mastered high-resolution digital) sounds like to me."

Having listened to some very expensive speakers that I despised and some hi res recordings that sound worse that redbook, this was reassuring that I am sane.

DaleC's picture

"To my ears, all speakers sound like their cone, magnet, and cabinet materials."

So, all kevlar cones sound like they are made of kevlar? If so, you should be able to easily identify them by ear. I will bet a lot of money that is not true.

I give you Exhibit A in the case of "Confirmation Bias".

Thomoz 1's picture

I will not deny that speaker designs using Kevlar drivers can achieve flat frequency response (the measurements prove it), and at least off axis or from another room sound quite wonderful. But sitting in front of the speakers and I myself have a problem with them, similar to the one Art Dudley experiences. It sounds to me as though a sawtooth or fuzzy texture is applied to all the instruments, midrange on down. This applies to B&W, Wharfedale, and Audioquest speakers among others and several of these I heard with their skins on and noticed the "hash" before the driver material was revealed.
After being made fun of by multiple parties over the years, both sales people and other listeners, I finally got to discuss the matter with somebody but completely got it, and his credentials simply cannot be argued with. It is Richard Vandersteen. He has studied speakers that flex partially out of phase as the driver moves backward and forward in a not quite pistonic manner. It was his opinion that Kevlar is entirely too flexible a material to use in this application.

You are however not the first person to ridicule others who observed something that you couldn't. Until new and unique ideas or observations are widely accepted, the few people who can find these characteristics are going to be ridiculed. We just have to roll with the punches.

Herb Reichert's picture

DaleC will you pay me more if I can do it from the next room?

How come audiophiles who can't hear obvious differences want to always bet other people can't hear them either?

(I am certain we can all hear these differences if we sit quietly and pay attention.) Why not try?

bdaddy60's picture

Although I very much enjoyed your review Herb, you are a remarkable wordsmith, so much so, one can palpably imagine hearing the Diamonds as you did, however, like Dale, I too smirked at the thought you know Kevlar when you hear it......I'll take that bet and double it from " the next room ". With the Velveeta Raccoon damning the media for fake news whilst wearing a fake head with hair, I just can't let your assertion go unchallenged.

PapaMax's picture

IMHO Herb is bang on with his assertion you can hear the audible fingerprint of the material a speaker cone Is made from. I've enjoyed having paper cones (AR3a), bextrene (Spendor BC1 and Chartwell Ls3/5a), metal (KEF LS50), polypropelene (various Spendors, ProAc), Kevlar (B&W, Wharfedale) with mixes of metal and silk dome tweeters in many combos of speakers. While I couldn't say I could detect the differences in another room, they cannot avoid resonating according to the physical properties of the material. It is no different to a luthier being able to identify with absolute certainty the resonant characteristic of different woods used in musical instruments. It would defy the laws of physics for any material to be wholly free from any native resonance. Why does this matter? Some materials resonate more musically and with less colouration. The snag is once you detect the recurring resonances, that's what you hear and it is hard to tune out. Personally, I found bextrene slows and thickens the sound with extra harmonics and lost detail, particularly when heavily doped. Metal dome tweeters, try as I might, tire my ears, while I quite happily put up with coarsened sibilances with silk domed tweeters because they sound more musically pleasing to my ears. Maybe Stereophile could conduct a definitive analysis, qualitative and technical?

bdaddy60's picture

Whoa daddy ...another remarkable wordsmith,easily on Herb's level in sensory suggestion by word organization. So Papa Max I'm guessing you're in on the wager and a double or nothing " next room "identifying of woofer material.

JL Main's picture

Listening is an art, and many people do not have the capacity for it. It is a deep practice. The same is true for speaking and communicating through the written word. Thank you Herb for this review and the post WWII audio manufacturing history lesson. I appreciate anyone that can help me navigate the world of tubes, transistors, and boxes. But I really am appreciative of the person that can entertain me and save me money at the same time.

JustSteve's picture

I bought the 220's a year ago and I love them! I use a NAD 316BEE Amp with a NAD Phono Pre Amp a Debut Carbon Turntable. It's a modest set up, but it sounds sweet in my small apartment. After reading every review on them, and seeing how What HI FI rated them Bookshelf speaker of the year in 2014, I was sold. Beautiful sound.

corrective_unconscious's picture

The individual response curve for that bizarre looking tweeter, the horizontal and vertical dispersion plots, and to a certain extent the waterfall in the treble (11k to 14k) do not look very good, imo.

audioguy85's picture

Well despite the measurement you speak of, these speakers sound great to my ears, and I've owned lots. The truth is in the actual listening. They are just so natural sounding with a hint of warmth. They lend their talents to a wide range of music, be it classical, jazz, or rock. The build quality at least on mine is super and they look lovely. I like them so much I bought a second pair in Rosewwood quilted. The first pair is the Walnut pearl. They come highly recommended and Stereophile's reviews are spot on! The best speakers at this price point I Have ever owned. I also own the 220's which are just as good, albeit with less in the base department, but still respectable amounts of base reproduction. I believe Wharfedale has knocked it out of the park on the new Diamonds! If they improve upon them in future revisions, Ill be there!

gasolin's picture

Just got a pair in white, they cost in denmark just a few pennies more than 100 eruros for one speaker, with free shipping both ways and 30 days to return them. They sound really good not classleding deep bass, but for they money they are above avarage in performance to price ratio.

Soundings's picture

Hello gasolin,

Can you tell me where you bought these speakers in Denmark?
I would like to order a pair .

Kind regards.

gasolin's picture

Hififreaks.dk

Soundings's picture

Thank you, i just found them. Price is a little bit higher now but still good.120

gasolin's picture

254 euro https://hifi-freaks.dk/webshop//produkter-hoejttalere-kompakte-hoejttalere-wharfedale-diamond-225-p-1881.html

Soundings's picture

Hi,

It's actually €241 plus 25 shipping to the Netherlands.

Soundings's picture

Hi,

The B stock is still 100 euro's, you have bought those right?
I think that is good as they can only be used for about 3 weeks.
From which country are for the free shipping as i may ask?

Kind regards.

gasolin's picture

no i wrote just a litte more than 100 euros each 100 euros is 745 of my currency.

I just use goodgle to translate it into euros and it was 745

I forgot about the B stock, those are only i walnut

gasolin's picture

Denmark

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