Wharfedale Jade 3 loudspeaker Page 2

Remarkable #2—Dynamics: I've heard many speakers than can produce the entire dynamic range from ppp to fff in a linear manner, but occasionally I've found a speaker that is scarily realistic at the lower end of the dynamic spectrum or is capable of earthshaking blasts at the opposite extreme. The Jade 3 did both. Susie Ibarra's solos on a broad range of percussion instruments, on her Radiance (CD, Hopscotch HOP 2), explore the softer end of the dynamic spectrum. With many of these tracks, the Jade produced the pppp-to-p range with delicacy, air, and speed, and Ibarra's barely audible whispers were crystal clear and captivating. Then I cranked up the volume with Lady Gaga's The Fame Monster (CD, Streamline B0013535-72). The bass-synth blasts and transients literally shook my large listening room, but with no sense of strain or compression.

Most of the tracks on John Zorn's Music for Children (CD, Tzadik 7821) are for a small acoustic jazz ensemble, but Zorn arranged "This Way Out" for his rock band, with added jazz instrumentation. Influenced by Carl Stallings, who composed many of the soundtracks for classic Warner Bros. cartoons, this piece is a series of completely unrelated short musical excerpts, with Zorn ricocheting from one to the next without transition. The Wharfedales were able to instantly leap from the fff rock blasts of one section to the mellow, laid-back passage that followed, with no transient smear or overhang or sense of strain, and with all articulation intact.

Remarkable #3—High-Frequency Reproduction: This is my favorite strength of the Wharfedale. It achieved a level of high-frequency realism that I hadn't heard from any speaker costing less than $10,000/pair. The Jade 3's highs were extended, detailed, clean, uncolored, and very revealing of every nuance. Somewhat paradoxically, although it reproduced all transients with lightning-fast clarity, there was no trace of sharpness or an etched quality, and all high frequencies sounded rather relaxed. Sounding relaxed without slightly sluggish, behind-the-beat transients is very rare. The result: When I put on a well-recorded jazz album—just about anything from ECM—the Jade 3s' reproduction of the cymbals and snare almost fooled me into thinking the drummer was playing in my room.

I felt that way when listening Art Blakey's drum solos on his The Big Beat (CD, Blue Note CDP 7 46400). There was a sense of ease in all of his solos, but despite the relaxed quality of the Wharfedales' sound, they revealed every detail. In "Fils des Étoiles," from the John Zorn recording, there's a duet between Anthony Coleman on celeste and Cyro Baptista on percussion. The delicate, crystal-clear, crisp, airy highs had startling realism. In Building, another movement of Einstein on the Beach, massed strings comprise the prominent instrumental texture. Through the Jade 3s, the strings' sound was silky and extended into the topmost octaves, but was always fast and clean.

One caveat about the Jade 3: High frequencies were ruthlessly revealed, and easily delineated differences among recordings of varying sound quality. I played one of my favorite Miles Davis recordings, Vol.2 (CD, Blue Note CDP 8 1502 2), but I couldn't enjoy this early CD reissue through the Wharfedales. There was a grayish scrim over the highs that I hadn't heard with other speakers—highs that sounded far less natural through the Jade 3s than the highs on the Tord Gustavsen Trio's Changing Places (CD, ECM 1834). With that recording, the piano's lower-middle register really showed off the Jade 3's warm, natural, transparent lower midrange—Gustavsen's playing sounded liquid, linear, and silky.

That got my piano jones working. I cued up Robert Silverman's recording of Beethoven's 32 Piano Sonatas (CD, OrpheumMasters KSP830). In high school, I spent several years woodshedding the early Beethoven sonatas, so for this session I moved in the opposite direction, to Sonata 30, Op.109. Through the Jade 3s, Silverman's arpeggios rushed over me like delicate waves of rolling romantic liquidity. Cellos also leapt through the Wharfedales' magically transparent lower-midrange window. With the first volume of János Starker's traversal of J.S. Bach's Suites for Solo Cello (CD, Mercury Living Presence 432 757-2), I could hear the rosin on his bow, and it seemed that separate, airy, holographic waveforms emanated from the cello's strings and body. Even George Harrison's lower-register guitar solo in "Something," from the Beatles' Abbey Road (CD, Apple 946 382468 2), was mellow, rich, and perfectly linear, with easily discernible dynamics within the range of ppp to p.

Abbey Road also showcased how well the Wharfedale reproduced the rhythmic pacing of rock recordings. My head bobbed to Ringo's chugging, coherent drumming throughout "Come Together." And with "Octopus's Garden," I couldn't sit still—I found myself two-stepping and pacing around the room.

The one orchestral recording that captured all of the Jade 3's strengths was Antal Doráti and the London Symphony Orchestra's of Stravinsky's The Firebird (CD, Mercury Living Presence 234 012-2). The Wharfedales captured the signature Living Presence tonal balance better than any speaker I've heard. Despite their slightly forward and whitish upper midrange and lower highs, the Jade 3s' stunning replication of the sound of the recording venue nevertheless made this recording sound breathtakingly close to a live performance. The upper-register piccolo passages were extended and airy, and the xylophone passages were spotlit, the instrument suspended on its own bed of air and within its own dynamic envelope. And the highly modulated ff passages had an effortless sense of drama without any trace of compression or hardness.

I compared the Wharfedale Jade 3 ($1499/pair) with Dynaudio's Excite X14 ($1500/pair) and the Epos Elan 10 ($1000/pair when last offered).

The Dynaudio Excite X14's resolution of inner midrange detail was the equal of the Wharfedale's, as was its articulation of low-level dynamics. High frequencies, however, were much more open and extended through the Wharfedale. Although the X14's mid- and upper bass were as clean and clear as the Jade 3's, the Wharfedale's bass extension seemed deeper, and its high-level dynamics were superior.

The Epos Elan 10's excellent transient articulation was the equal of the Wharfedale's. Highs were as extended through the Elan 10 as through the Jade 3, but were not as delicate or as clean. The clarity of the Epos's mid- and upper bass was as good as the Wharfedale's, although the Jade 3's bass seemed to extend much deeper. The Elan 10's articulation at both the soft and loud ends of the dynamic spectrum, however, was not as good as the Wharfedale's.

Wharfedale's flawless—and remarkable—Jade 3 punches way beyond its price. In fact, I'd recommend that anyone with a speaker budget of up to $5000/pair consider the Jade 3—you can use your savings to buy a better turntable or electronics, or, better still, spend it on some of the super reissue vinyl that's flooding the market.

Wharfedale, IAG Group Ltd.
US distributor: Sound Solutions, LLC
1811 W. Bryn Mawr Avenue
Chicago, IL 60660
(312) 738-5025

Lofty's picture

I'm looking for stand mounted speakers at this price point. I intend to audition the Dynaudio Excite X14 and the Polk LSiM703. Now, due to Bob Reina's most positive review I will certainly add the Jade 3 to my audition list. One aspect of JA's measurements concern me and that is the upper bass peak in figure 3. Just wondering if Bob or John heard any male vocal chestiness which would be a deal breaker for me.

malou's picture

Keeping in mind the Opus line was Wharfedales top line before they discontinued it here in Canada
I believe it is available in the U.S.
I would audition the Opus2 M1 and M2 first.
From my experience with the Opus line they need a huge break in time especially the tweeter 500 hours Plus !

I was at Audio Oasis in Toronto earlier today and George had the Jades hooked up to a Xindak PA M amp and it was Magic

Hi-Reality's picture

Dear Robert,

I think one of the essential values of your reviews is for your readers (at least for me) to be able to experience what you experienced by replicating your setting (as much as possible) and to be able to verify (again, to any degree possible) your subjective observations that you so beautifully formulate in words.

"The bass-synth blasts and transients literally shook my large listening room, but with no sense of strain or compression."

How large room? what shape? how did you place the speakers; how far from side/front walls? what is the vendor's own recommendation, if any?

I asked the same question from Stereophile's Mr. Herb Reichert in his just published review of (the clue) speakers; no response yet.

We all know how significantly room/acoustic and listening position affect the perceived sound. With lack of these info I think your reviews are incomplete. May I suggest that the highly talented Stereophile's reviewers include for each review a very simple drawing of the room size, its shape, speakers and listener positions?

I think this info would be a great addition to Mr. John Atkinson's detailed measurements. And hopefully very useful for many of us.

Other than my critique above; I definitely have to hear the performance of a pair of Wharfedale Jade 3 loudspeaker in the Hi-Reality project after reading your exciting review.

Babak (M.Sc. EE Signal Processing)
Founder and project manager,
The Hi-Reality Project, www.hi-reality.org

corrective_unconscious's picture

Sorry I have not found the moment to visit your website. It must be an event.

How big is your project's listening room? Where do you place the speakers in it relative to the front/side walls? Did you buy them? Why does the founder also have to be the lowly "project manager"? How many other employees does The Hi-Reality Project have...since you're making such a big deal out of job titles?

Did anyone ever actually send you a review sample or give you an industry price or take you seriously in any way, shape or form?

I think this info would be a great addition and hopefully very useful for many of us. As would learning that low end response is called, "bass," like the fish, not "base," like part of a lamp.


rssarma's picture

I noticed the comment about shorter stands being better for these speakers due to the limited retinal dispersion. Given the height of the speaker, would regular 24" stands prove to be too tall?

TiFramelock's picture

The Wharfedale stand for the Jade 3 is 25" tall...so you should be fine with the 24" as long as the top plate fits well enough for this somewhat deep stand mount.

texanalog's picture

I'm having a problem understanding how that statement squares with the measured 5db frequency response plateau between 3 - 11 kHz. A designed 5db plateau like this is excellent performance? Help me understand!