Wharfedale Linton Heritage loudspeaker

A dale is a broad valley. The Yorkshire Dales are broad, picturesque valleys in Northern England, mostly named for the rivers or streams that run through them. One of these is Wharfedale, which is the upper valley of the River Wharfe—and which was the original home of British firm Wharfedale Wireless Works, founded in 1932 by Gilbert Briggs.

I grew up in backwoods America. I never heard of Wharfedale speakers (or the River Wharfe) until 1982, when the company introduced a squat, cubic loudspeaker called the Diamond. At less than $100/pair, the Diamond delivered a satisfying portion of the natural tone and pinpoint imaging of the popular Rogers LS3/5a, at a fraction of the cost. (In 1982, the Rogers LS3/5a cost around $500/pair.) Since the advent of the very popular Diamond, Wharfedale has continued to expand its reputation as a maker of affordable, audiophile-quality—and distinctly British—loudspeakers.

To celebrate their corporate longevity and place of pride among traditional British loudspeaker manufacturers, Wharfedale has introduced a third "Heritage Series" model: the 85th anniversary Linton Heritage. (Its ancestral namesake debuted in 1965.) The new Linton joins its smaller brothers, the 85th anniversary Denton 85 and the 80th anniversary Denton 80, in mixing traditional Wharfedale style and old-school speaker technology with 21st century crossover and driver design.

Description
The Linton Heritage is a three-way bass-reflex design with an 8" woven-Kevlar woofer, a 5" woven-Kevlar midrange, and a 1" soft-dome tweeter. Its rear-ported cabinet is made from veneered chipboard/MDF—the front baffle is painted black—and measures 22.25" tall by 11.8" wide by 13" deep, with a weight of 40.5 lb. Lintons cost $1198/ pair, or $1498/pair with their companion 17"-tall steel and wood stands. They look and feel luxurious, like a vintage Jaguar saloon.

Wharfedale engineer Peter Comeau, who designed the new Linton, explained in an email that "this larger ported box, with its subsequent increased baffle size, helps solve a major problem in modern speakers, namely, the baffle step (footnote 1).

"I grew up with large speakers with wide baffles, but, as speakers reduced in size over the years I noticed that something was missing from the sound and, when I stuck my head firmly into speaker design, I began to understand the acoustic problems caused by the baffle step.

"Put simply, as the baffle size decreases, the point at which the acoustic radiation changes from hemispherical to spherical goes up in frequency. It also becomes sharper and narrower in bandwidth as the sides of the cabinet, and the walls and floor of the room, are further removed from the equation. So, this 6dB step in the power response becomes acoustically more obvious.

"I believe that a thin speaker always sounds thinner throughout the midrange when directly compared to a speaker with more generous baffle width. Of course, as designers of modern, slim speakers, we compromise by adjusting for the baffle step in the crossover, but in doing so, we also compromise sensitivity. What starts out as a 90dB at 1W drive-unit often ends up as an 85dB system once we have adjusted for the power loss due to the baffle step." Wharfedale specifies the new Linton's sensitivity at 90dB/2V/1m and recommends using amplifiers rated 25–200Wpc.

Comeau has a clear preference in cabinet materials. "Personally, I'm a fan of high-density chipboard for cabinets and pioneered, for Wharfedale, the sandwich of chipboard with MDF skins that we now use. I have a raft of technical research which shows the superiority of chipboard over MDF."

Wharfedale manufactures every piece of the Linton Heritage, including bolts and capacitors, in its 1.5 million-square-foot factory in Jiangxi Province, China. (Wharfedale's parent company, International Audio Group, is based in Shenzhen, China.) All design work takes place in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, UK, where Wharfedale maintains a 50-person research and development team.

819wharf.bac

Setup
When the Lintons arrived, I had just entered a period of obsession with live Grateful Dead albums on Tidal. Posthaste, I christened the speakers with the version of "Ripple" from the album Reckoning (44.1/16 FLAC Decca/Tidal), recorded live at a 1980 show at the Warfield Theatre in San Francisco. The Dead opened this concert with an acoustic set; the only amplified instrument was Phil Lesh's electric bass. The Lintons loved the acoustic mandolins and banjo, which sounded realistic, but they boomed on Phil Lesh's electric bass.

One of my British friends said, "Old Wharfedales suffered with wobbly bottoms—and no edge." Hoping he wasn't right, I told him, "I doubt Wharfedale resurrected those qualities."

I wanted to reach for some socks and stuff the ports. Instead, I moved the Linton boxes farther from the wall, to the exact spot—marked on my floor with tape—where the Magnepan LRS quasi-ribbon loudspeakers sounded flattest and cleanest. (The LRS is a dipole design, its 180 degree-out-of-phase back wave interacting strongly with the wall behind it.) On the same record, with the front of the speaker now approximately 37" from the wall behind, boom was reduced by 90%. The soundstage expanded. Midrange clarity was radically enhanced.

After some experimentation, I ended up with the Lintons' cabinet fronts about 43" from the wall behind them. I liked having the Lintons toed in so that the tweeters' lines of sight crossed just in front of my nose. In this position, the Dead's "Ripple" still had a touch more bass swell than I prefer, but the sound was sweet, deep, elegantly detailed, and harmonically extended overall.

While I fine-tuned toe-in with dual-mono pink noise, I had it in mind that the Lintons would never achieve the same sharp focus I get with the similarly priced, narrow-baffled KEF LS50 loudspeakers—but the sound clung surprisingly tight to center for a broad-baffle design.

Seeking greater resolution, I removed the Lintons' fabric grilles and listened to a variety of recordings. Sans grilles, the sound seemed lighter in weight, a little blurry, and less properly sorted; I did all subsequent critical listening with the grilles on. Finally, on Peter's recommendation, I removed the stick-on rubber pads from the tops of the steel stands and replaced them with pea-sized balls of Blu Tack.

Listening
The properly positioned Wharfedales, driven by the 100Wpc Rogue Stereo 100 amplifier, loved Alice Coltrane. Her A Monastic Trio album (44.1/16 FLAC Impulse/Tidal), which features Pharaoh Sanders on bass clarinet and Alice on piano, has rarely been so easy to disappear into. The opening track on this reissue, "Lord Help Me To Be," is dizzying and hallucinogenic, but on a number of systems I've heard, it sounds strident and/or dynamically flat. Here, it sounded tuneful, supple, and dynamically alive. The bass was nicely detailed and robust—not "wobbly" at all.

Already, I realized something important about the Lintons: When they were in the system, I found it quite difficult to have critical thoughts about sound quality. Every time I tried to analyze what I was hearing, my mind went back to the music. I wondered, Is this their defining trait?

Eventually, I forced myself to examine the Lintons' ability to resolve fine acoustic detail. To that end, I put on a track that always shows how much information a component can retrieve: "Buddy and María Elena Talking in Apartment" from Buddy Holly's Down The Line: Rarities (3 CDs, Decca B0011675-02). This track was recorded by Holly in his New York apartment, on a portable Ampex recorder. It features Buddy and his wife, María Elena, talking and laughing, with lots of ambient sounds, including a telephone and outside traffic noises, filtering in through a window. In my systems, every component change affects the recovery of low-level room noise, María Elena's voice intelligibility, and the distance between her voice and the microphone.


Footnote 1: Virtually all nondipole loudspeakers disperse low frequencies in every direction, both toward and away from the listener, but higher frequencies are associated with progressively smaller wavelengths—and as wavelength size decreases relative to the width of a loudspeaker baffle, sound is dispersed only toward the listener. The result, called the baffle step, is a perceived increase in high-frequency energy of about 6dB.
COMPANY INFO
Wharfedale, IAG UK
US distributor: MoFi Distribution
1811 W. Bryn Mawr Avenue
Chicago, IL 60660
(312) 738-5025
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
Bogolu Haranath's picture

Another loudspeaker in this price range is Monitor Audio Gold 100 (around $1,700/pair), EISA award winner :-) ........

Ortofan's picture

… will never spend anywhere near the equivalent price of a new car for an audio system, really need? For $1,200 one can buy a pair of speakers that not only “merge a refined, elegantly detailed, full-range sound with a magnetic personality that [makes you] want to play records” but also offer “excellent measured performance”.

Regarding measurements, IMO JA1 should have (also) measured the speakers using the particular amps – especially the tube amps - that HR used for his listening evaluation. As seen in the Klipschorn review, the use of an amp with a non-negligible output impedance can have a significant effect upon the overall frequency response of the connected speakers.

It’s a bit unfortunate that HR did not also listen to the Lintons using amps more in keeping with their price. While choosing amps that are thought not to present a limiting factor is a valid premise, how many users are likely to match a $1,200 pair of speakers with a $5,000 amp (or even $3,500) - let alone a $5,000 phono cartridge? Plus, for the music lovers - as opposed to the audiophiles or equipment enthusiasts - of my acquaintance, a tube amp is a non-starter just as would be a tube-type TV. It would have been informative to determine by what increment the performance of the Linton might have been reduced by driving them with a sub $1,000 integrated amp, such as the Yamaha A-S801 or the Marantz PM-7005. Both amps are capable of over 100W into a 4 ohm load, have both phono and digital inputs and have tone controls that could be useful in adjusting the bass response of the Linton.

Coincidentally, perhaps, the Linton Heritage is approximately the same size as the original Advent speaker that was part of my first audio system and $1,200 is about what the price of a pair of those Advents would equate to today when adjusted for inflation.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Another integrated amp which could also be considered is the new Parasound NewClassic 200 with Class-D output ...... About $1,200 :-) ........

Ortofan's picture

... for an extra $300 (or more) that the Yamaha or Marantz amps might lack?

Bogolu Haranath's picture

John Curl design ...... May be worth it :-) .......

Ortofan's picture

... class D power amp modules from Pascal Audio.
Did JC design them?

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Most likely he was involved in designing the other parts of the component, such as the pre-amp section ....... Most likely he also listened to the final product and compared it's sound quality with his conventional design integrated, HINT6 :-) .........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be also, less heat :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Also, the SVS Prime Wireless Soundbase ($500) could be considered ....... Class-D output and Wi-Fi/BT connectivity ....... See AudioStream :-) .......

Anton's picture

"Coincidentally, perhaps, the Linton Heritage is approximately the same size as the original Advent speaker that was part of my first audio system and $1,200 is about what the price of a pair of those Advents would equate to today when adjusted for inflation."

So, you are implying we should try 'stacked Lintons!'

;-D

I would love that!

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Glad, you didn't say stacked Clintons :-) ........

Ortofan's picture

... side-by-side, which is how the local Advent dealer had them on display, driven by a McIntosh MC2105 amplifier.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Both examples of C-Lintons may look better side by side, rather than stacked :-) ..........

Bobber05's picture

Size wise more like my old beloved Boston Acoustics A70's, 2 way suspension design that wouldn't get very loud but sure were sweet.
Comeau is on the right track here, I never did warm to the narrow towers sound. Still using old modded Advent Legacy II's as my every days, yet to hear a more modern design that was worth the coin for the upgrade. (< 1500 a pair with strict placement options).
Would be good to see more modern designs emerge with wider baffles/acoustic suspension designs.

RH's picture

Sorry, off-topic of this review but...

In a Stereophile show report not long ago John Atkinson wrote that there was to be a follow-up review of the Joseph Audio Pulsars, now the "Graphene 2" version. Will you be doing that follow-up? Or will it perhaps be Michael Fremer?

Herb Reichert's picture

did a Pulsar followup a couple issues back

herb

Bogolu Haranath's picture

JA1 did a follow-up review of Perspective2 Graphene, couple of issues back ......... not, Pulsar2 Graphene :-) .........

Herb Reichert's picture

I DID do a Pulsar followup
but it seems like a long time ago
(you know with me you always need a fact-checker)
sorry

herb

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Yes, you did a Pulsar follow-up ....... But, that was previous generation ....... The current model is Pulsar2 Graphene ....... RH was referring to the current model ........ May be you could do another follow-up of the current generation Pulsar2 Graphene? :-) ..........

RH's picture

JA did the new Perspective 2s, not the Pulsars.
Cheers.

michelesurdi's picture

it seems that comeau has tried to rebuild the splendor sp1 on the cheap.considering the cost of the harbeth and spendor versions, to name but two current uk built iterations it would be useful to know if he has succeeded.

doak's picture

Now I am a LOT MORE interested.

avanti1960's picture

and did not care for the sound. They look great and I'm sure will sell quite well- a great move by Wharfdale to fill a void in the speaker market and appear like a more affordable "Harbeth" type of monitor.
As for the sound- my ears prefer the KEF LS50 or used Harbeth P3ESR by a British country mile.....

amudhen's picture

Herb, the Stravinsky disc you used in the review is truly of demonstration quality as I got a copy today and was amazed at how great it sounded. Any other records you can recommend for demos that are easy to find and cheap?

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