Wharfedale Diamond 225 loudspeaker Page 2

I wanted to find out if the 25W of First Watt's J2, designed by Pass Labs' Nelson Pass, would be enough power to make me, Metallica, and the Wharfedale 225s skip, mosh, and fist-pump through some densely vibrating air. I cranked "Battery" to old-man loud, and holy effing shit—these shiny little Brit boxes lit a hot flame that belied their size. They sawed fast and pounded hard. They got me up. I felt loose and free like I was 23. With easy clarity and ambitious drive, they powered my small room to average levels of 89dB and peaks of 96dB. No overcompressed muck. No congealed textures. No distortions of grainy hardness or stuttering vagary.

Listening with the Rogue Audio Sphinx
Every time I pull out Rogue's 100W hybrid (tubed/class-D) Sphinx integrated amp, I'm blown away by how ridiculously musical, authoritative, and transparent it sounds for $1300. The Sphinx, and Schiit Audio's Ragnarok ($1699), continue to be the two most satisfying integrated amplifiers I know for less than $2000.

You know me: I believe that, subtly or obviously, an audio product expresses the resonant character of whatever stuff it's made of. One day, with the Rogue Sphinx, I realized I could hear the slightly inorganic Kevlarness of the Diamond's mid/woofer cone. (To my ears, all speakers sound like their cone, magnet, and cabinet materials.) The Wharfedale's Kevlar quality was most noticeable with timpani and massed strings. It was least noticeable with jazz, zydeco, or blues. The effect I'm talking about was minuscule; I had to listen extremely closely to hear it.

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I don't need synthesizers, pipe organs, or fast-plucked four-string Fenders to suss out a speaker's bass performance. I just need 100W of class-D and Pepe Romero playing his bewitching performance of Joaquín Rodrigo's Bajando de la Meseta on his Miguel Rodriguez guitar (LP, Philips 9500 915). The degree to which a loudspeaker can reproduce the physicality of an acoustic guitar is usually a good indicator of its resolution and transient control. The beauty and verity of any speaker's sound is anchored in the four midrange octaves from 80 to 1280Hz, and the splendor of these four octaves depends entirely on the wizardry of the speaker's design. The meeting of Romero, Rodrigo, and the Diamond 225s was beyond revealing. It was splendorous. This beautiful Philips recording showed me the Wharfedale's true nature.

The body of Romero's guitar was the same size as my chest. I could sense the surface of the soundboard, and where the instrument's neck overlaps and is connected to the body. I listened for the sound hole but couldn't quite find it. Then it got spooky. Suddenly, I realized how good the 225s really were: Sitting on my couch, I could practically see the microphone, about 22" from the air pulsing off the soundboard's surface. The Rogue Sphinx and Diamond 225s were doing everything right. The bass was clear, despite a noticeable softness below 120Hz. Guitar tone was fantastically accurate. Romero's tempos were hyper-noticeable and pleasantly intoxicating. Right here is where my audio-critic DNA shifted and I fell crazy in love with the Diamond 225s. My experience of this excellent recording was profoundly good. My listening notes said, "What? How can this be?"

Raising Kane with the Schiit Ragnarok
I don't like high-end audio that sounds like high-end audio. What does high-end audio sound like? It sounds like recorded information being pinched out at me in fake, hard, bas-relief detail and exaggerated three-dimensionality. The "black" spaces are really gray, but in a strangely unnoticeable way. To me, hardness represents distortion, as does opacity. Bad high-end audio feels distinctly inorganic—as if everything vital and mammalian has been leached out.

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.

Driving the Wharfedale Diamond 225s, Schiit Audio's Ragnarok didn't sound at all like pointy witches' teeth. It sounded smooth, sharp (but not too sharp), and liquid. It played big orchestral compositions, such as Bernard Herrmann's Welles Raises Kane, with the composer conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra (LP, Unicorn UN1-72008), with the supplest, non–hi-fi, nonmechanical sounds imaginable. Herrmann called this five-movement, 15-minute suite "a musical frolic . . . a portrait of Orson Welles at the time of his creation of the films Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons." It features a fearsome orchestral mash-up that careens through a dozen musical genres.

The Schiit-Wharfedale combo reproduced this dynamic recording extremely well, except when the timpani and giant cymbals pounded hard in the climaxes. On the 98dB peaks I felt sharp cymbals cutting my forehead. The timpani sounded opaque, compressed, and distorted. The Ragnarok can put out 100Wpc into 8 ohms, so I doubt that it was clipping. It sounded to me as if the drivers themselves were stalling and skipping—exactly what I imagine cone/dome breakup sounds like. After failing during the Overture of Welles Raises Kane, the Diamond 225s carried on sweetly and engagingly until the Finale—Pursuit and Happiness, when things got a bit crunchy again. I can't believe I forgot that small speakers like the Diamond 225 sound best in small rooms when music is played at moderate levels. (I venture to say that anything over 90dB is likely to have some distortion. Overall, though, the Ragnarok and Diamonds sounded enjoyably lucid, so I turned down the volume and tried some other big orchestral works.

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A longtime fan of Martha Argerich, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, and Claudio Abbado, I've always collected and used their DG recordings as tests for system musicality. Any system that makes DG discs sound hard, opaque, or less than charming is not for me. So I was pleased when the "not-full tulip" recording of Bartók's Piano Concertos 1 and 2, with soloist Maurizio Pollini and Claudio Abbado conducting the Chicago Symphony (LP, Deutsche Grammophon 2530 901), was reproduced with excellent tone and surprising transparency. Piano and percussion were fairly strong and present for such small speakers, and the space occupied by the orchestra's sound was remarkably deep. Pollini's keyboard playing is usually a bit inexpressive for my taste, but he really revs it up emotionally to lean into these edgy works and nail them down. Bravo, Maurizio! Bravo, Claudio! Bravo, Wharfedale!

Conclusions
Every day I listened to the Wharfedale Diamond 225s, part of me wanted to write, "Hey, these new speakers are nice, musical, even-tempered, and easy to live with. But they're nothing special. They're not designed in a wizard's shack behind a British row house and manufactured in some quaint Station Road factory with a pub down the way." I almost wished I could say, "The 225s were created by some secret war-room consortium of Dr. Strangelove imperialists," or to declare something like, "They play music just pleasantly enough—in a general, average sort of way—to fool the scruffy underclasses."

But none of it was true.

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. I liked the way the Diamond 225 played music more than I did the Elac Debut B6 (now $229.99/pair—reduced from $279.99/pair), which I reviewed in the March 2016 issue. The Elac is extremely good, and it does many things, including soundstaging and resolution, better than the Diamonds. But the Diamond 225 played music with more blushes and warm-blooded charm than the Debut B6. The Wharfedale felt more soulful and relaxed.

The Diamond 225 had a pacey, easy-flowing transparency that made my KEF LS50s sound slightly thick, my Technics SB-C700s sound slightly dry, my Falcon Acoustics LS3/5as sound a mite bright. I was hoping I wouldn't have to say those things, but that's what I heard.

The Wharfedale's biggest faults seemed to be a modicum of puffy vagueness in the lowest and highest octaves, and a little recession in the presence region. Together, these traits robbed the Diamond 225 of some precision, sharp focus, and punch.

At the beginning of my listening, I was impressed by the easy-flowing naturalness of the Diamond 225's sound. Then I thought its Kevlar cone was too audible. Then, while playing Pepe Romero's album of Rodrigo compositions for solo guitar, it was as if the speakers had walked over and kissed me. And then, when I played the Bartók piano concertos, I leaned back, smiled, and let out my breath. I've been smiling like that, and dreaming, ever since. Highly recommended.

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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