Wharfedale Linton Heritage loudspeaker Page 2

On previous recordings, the Lintons demonstrated a slight bass overhang, which added a halo of tubelike resonance that made some recordings sound more atmospheric than they are. I imagined this effect would blur room tone and smear their voices. I was wrong. On "Buddy and María Elena," voice intelligibility was exceptional. Room atmosphere was decidedly well-recovered.

With the Line Magnetic amplifier
Every review has a defining moment. With the Lintons, it came while listening to Igor Stravinsky conducting the Columbia Chamber Ensemble in a performance of his 1919 suite, L'Histoire du soldat (LP, Columbia MS 7903), an easy-to-find, budget-priced LP with demonstration-quality sonics and mind-blowing ferocity. It is a monumental combination of sophisticated music, spectacular performance, and stunning sonics.

The 25Wpc, 845 tube-powered, single-ended Line Magnetic LM-518IA amplifier worked surprisingly well with the Wharfedales. The amp provided more than enough power (and damping factor) to reproduce the bass, bassoon, and percussion on this recording in a clear and dynamic manner.

With most loudspeakers and most tube amplifiers, I prefer the sound when the latter drives the former via its 4 ohm output taps. In this case, at the designer's request, I auditioned the nominally 6 ohm Lintons using the Line Magnetic's 4 ohm and 8 ohm taps. According to Peter Comeau, "As the Linton is 6 ohm over the majority of the frequency spectrum above 300Hz, it may just play better with the 8 ohm tap than the 4 ohm. This isn't an exact science, though, so do keep an open ear as to which you prefer!"

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As you might expect, the bass, bassoon, and kettledrum had more impact when the Lintons were driven from the LM-518's 4 ohm taps. But when I switched to the 8 ohm taps, I realized that those instruments were too tight-sounding on the 4 ohm taps. Driven from the 8 ohm taps, the Lintons relaxed and flowed forward more easily. Their sound from the 8-ohm taps was sweeter, bigger, more expansive, more detailed, and more harmonically complete.

Those of you who venerate beryllium-dome tweeters may find the Lintons' high frequencies too discreet. But I thought the Lintons' tweeters delivered unobtrusive, well-described highs. They did extremely well at depicting the lifelike tone and tactility of Robert Marsteller's trombone. They made Roy D'Antonio's clarinet sound woody and physically tangible.

With this simple recording, this speaker, and this amplifier—plus the Etsuro Urushi Cobalt Blue moving-coil cartridge—the Lintons disclosed their complete palette of audio wonders. With the Line Magnetic LM-518IA amp, the Lintons sounded so completely open and relaxed that they made the KEF LS50s sound unnaturally uptight.

And, to my happy surprise, the Lintons' bass and midrange cones gave no audible clue they were made of woven Kevlar.

With the Pass Labs XA25
It is reasonable to assume that any audiophile interested in a speaker like the Lintons would also want to invest in a compatible amplifier that would showcase their full potential. Well . . . I didn't try every amplifier in the world, but I would bet my Bed Stuy bunker that the $4900, 25Wpc Pass Labs XA25 exposes the major portion of their full potential.

Alexander Melnikov and Olga Pashchenko's recording of Debussy's Preludes du 2e Livre and La Mer (96/24 FLAC, Harmonia Mundi/Qobuz) has been my favorite album during the last year. I have played it countless times on scores of systems. The combination of the Pass Lab XA25 and Wharfedale's Lintons showed me the most solid-feeling pianos of all of them. More important, it showed me the infinitely nuanced inventions behind the keyboard artistry of Alexander Melnikov, a piano collector who specializes in playing instruments similar to those used to compose whatever works he is performing. For these Debussy preludes, he plays an 1885 Érard piano that delivers brittle attacks, rich middle registers, and bursts of woody tone that explode in the air around the body of the instrument (footnote 2).

The XA25-Linton combo brought the Érard's keyboard and soundboard into my room. The short decays of long-string notes were rousing and vivid. Short-string notes offered long decays. Melnikov's left hand was all impact and tone. Steel-string soundboard textures were explicit.

The Pass Labs XA25 played the Lintons with more subtlety, finesse, and understated authority than any other amp in my collection.

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With the Rogue Stereo 100
There was nothing understated about the powerful, sure-grip authority the $3495 Rogue Audio Stereo 100 (via its 4–6 ohm tap) exerted on the Linton three-ways. In Ultralinear mode, which I used almost exclusively in this pairing, it had a muscular, persuasive way of biting through the Lintons' default bloom and delivering Thor's-hammer percussion, coupled to a strong sense of spatial presence and very tight bass. The Stereo 100 made L'Histoire du soldat more physically tangible and emotionally evocative (and artistically effective) than the Line Magnetic LM-518 did: It put major excitement into Stravinsky's fantastic suite.

Compared to KEF LS50
At $1299.98/pair (plus stands), KEF's popular and universally acclaimed LS50 is in direct competition with the Wharfedale Lintons. I find this fascinating because two British-designed loudspeakers could hardly sound more different. Understanding the differences is the key to choosing the right one.

The LS50s play tight, super-coherent, and subjectively fast with a wide range of amplifier types. The LS50's bass is always taut and tuneful. But the overall sound leans to the left brain. In comparison, the Lintons sound less focused but much bigger and fuller and right-brain rich, with soul and good timbre. The KEFs play the sounds well, while the Wharfedales play the songs well.

Compared to Magnepan .7
The Linton's second chief competitor is the $1395/pair Magnepan .7 quasi-ribbon panel speaker. The Lintons and the .7s generate similarly spacious, relaxed, elegantly detailed sound. Both require careful room placement and precise toe-in to achieve the best detail and imaging.

If you have heard the Magnepan .7s and they sounded soft or less than exquisitely detailed—if you have heard them display insufficient leading-edge bite—then they were too close to room boundaries, improperly amplified, or not toed in correctly. The same is true for the Lintons.

Both speakers offered the crispest, cleanest details with the Rogue Audio Stereo 100 amplifier set for Ultralinear operation. Both speakers sounded blurred with the Rogue in triode mode.

With the right amp and careful setup, both speakers deliver truly exceptional flow, but the Lintons used this excellent flow to direct my attention toward melodies, beats, and subtle shifts in rhythm. The Wharfedales injected musical awareness directly into my consciousness, while the Magnepans encouraged me to sit back, relax, and let them impress me with their beauty, scale, and depth of soundfield. As I said earlier, the Lintons' chief goodness was in how they took my mind off the sound and put it on the performance. The Maggies do this also, just not as much.

While playing early-music wizard Jordi Savall's 2013 concert recording Granada (96/24 FLAC AliVox/Tidal), both speakers displayed natural instrumental tone and recovered most of the vast resonant atmosphere of Spain's Moorish treasure, Granada's Alhambra Palace.

Granada brings art, song, religion, architecture, and the clash of Christian and Muslim cultures together in an extremely poignant way. From the opening invocation "qamti be-Ishon Layla" (Song of Songs) to the closing Andalusian lament "Maqam hijaz" (Ibn Zaydún) sung by Lior Elmaleh, the Lintons, more than the Magnepans, generated a tight, focused energy in the upper bass and lower midrange that placed instruments and voices more solidly in the cavernous Alhambra. The Magnepan .7s reproduced a greater volume of palace air; the Wharfedales helped me feel the Alhambra's stone walls and marble floors.

Summary The Wharfedale Lintons merge a refined, elegantly detailed, full-range sound with a magnetic personality that made me want to play records—made me want to listen longer, and to understand more of what I was listening to. These conspicuous talents, plus the fact that the Lintons look Jaguar-like expensive and cost less than they should, make the newest Wharfedales highly recommendable.


Footnote 2: See classicstoday.com/review/melnikov-plays-debussy.
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 :-) ..........

Bru-Fi's picture

Stacked Advents bring back a lot of memories. I actually got to experience this setup back in 1978 driven by a Kenwood integrated. I felt like I was at stadium rock concert.

doug s.'s picture

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERYJg3PBJys&feature=youtu.be

doug s.

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?

ancient one's picture

I actually own the Wharfedale Denton 85 and as far as my small listening room is concerned it is as good as IT gets. I hope Stereophile will run a comparison between the Linton and the Denton 85 to explore the myth that a " good big one always beats a good small one "
This is an ideal opportunity to do this as the 2 models are designed by the same and highly competent engineer and use the same tweeter.
Unlike the Linton you can place the the Denton right against the rear wall and still get tight well controlled bass ....

bh69's picture

Hello,

thank you for all great reviews.

I like this speakers, but are they neutral, transparent enough for acoustic and classic music ? I'm afraid they can add some their "personality" to sound ? Or are they clean and without own character ?

Would be new amp and streamer Marantz PM7000N good partner for Lintons ?

I prefer listening on low volume levels, I never listen loudly, so I need some speakers that are able to play quiet more than loud. How good are Lintons in this area ? Are there some better speakers (up to $1500-2000) for low level listening of acoustic, vocal and opera, baroque and classical music, for jazz and rock, world music ?

I heard some common speakers but I was not sold on them at all - it was mostly not able to play at lower levels, sound lack color and timbre, was too shouty, I was tired very quickly and missed emotions of music .. I'm looking for more full, natural, easy flowing and clean sound, with texture and timbre of instruments and voice.

Are Lintons suitable for small rooms (15-20m2) and less than 2m stereo base ?

Can somebody answer my questions please ? :)

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