T+A and Wharfedale Find New US Distribution

Two highly respected product lines, one founded 32 years ago, and another whose pedigree dates from 1932, have returned to the North American market. Theory & Application Elektroakustic (T+A) products, from Germany, has returned to the US and Canada thanks to Dynaudio North America, and the venerable line of Wharfedale loudspeakers will once again reach the US from the UK, thanks to the dedication of Sound Import, LLC, of Hopedale, Massachusetts.

T+A, founded in 1978, designs and manufactures all its products in Germany. In the six years (2002–2008) T+A was imported into US by the former Quartet Marketing Group, it earned no fewer than three glowing reviews from Stereophile.

Just a year ago, Stereophile's webmaster, Jon Iverson, called the T+A Music Player Media Streamer a "timely and carefully thought out bridge product with serious audiophile pretensions." He praised its "top-notch" DAC, "which easily held its ground and made beautiful music"; its CD player was "excellent sounding"; and its Web-enabled control center and streamer could "anchor a modern digital system."

In the same issue, Jon called T+A's 140Wpc Power Plant integrated amplifier "a dynamic-sounding amplifier section that exhibited ample and well-controlled bass along with a smooth, detailed top end." And back in 2004, Michael Fremer called the T+A V10, an 80Wpc integrated amplifier, "unbeatable eye candy, compact, quiet, and sonically well-balanced . . . the kind of tube-based product that the non–tube-oriented audiophile or 'lifestyle' customer should not hesitate to consider."

Michael Manousselis of Dynaudio North America believes that Dynaudio will import T+A's entire line of electronics and loudspeakers. "The first time I was in Germany, in the mid-'90s," he explained by phone, "I was amazed at the breadth of their well-rounded product range. Their engineering capabilities are very impressive, and everything is designed in-house. There are logical explanations for their circuits. They don't leave things to luck or to chance."

Most recently, Manousselis heard T+A's E-series Power Plant, which he described as wonderfully built, great sounding, and a great companion to the company's Mk.II streaming music player. "I wouldn't be able to work with a product that I wouldn't be happy to own, and this is something I wouldn't hesitate to own," he declared.

Both Manousselis and Dynaudio International CEO Wilfried Ehrenholz praise the synergy of T+A electronics and Dynaudio speakers. In addition, some of T+A's lifestyle loudspeakers (eg, the Talis) differ significantly from those in Dynaudio's line.

In summation, Manousselis declared, "T+A produces a very big, powerful, and gripping sound—one typically associated with much larger electronic components—from a very elegant, slimline, European design aesthetic. That's what separates them from a lot of the other electronic offerings out there."

Wharfedale, founded in 1932 by Gilbert Briggs in Wharf, England, has been owned since 1996 by IAG. A much larger company than T+A, Wharfedale employs 2500 workers, who manufacture all its products in the company's 1.8-million-square-foot facility in China—everything from molten aluminum to the PCBs for its crossovers. Overseeing design is Peter Comeau, a veteran of 30 years of first audio journalism, then loudspeaker design, who previously directed acoustic design at Mission, and helped introduce NXT's flat-speaker technology. Between 1983 and 2004, five of Comeau's speaker designs won eight Product of the Year awards from various audio publications.

Walter Schofield, founder and VP of sales and marketing of Sound Import, LLC, has an equally distinctive history. He was a national sales manager for Rotel, B&W, and Linn; VP of sales and marketing worldwide for Mark Levinson; and President of Meridian America. More recently, the declining health of Schofield's parents forced him to move closer to home in Massachussetts, where he has partnered with Bob Springston to import Wharfedale.

"Because they don't deal with other vendors or suppliers," says Schofield, "Wharfedale can manufacture a lot less expensively, control the process, and lower cost while raising performance level. They are totally R&D-driven, and focus on accuracy, dimensionality, and tight bass response. For the size of the speakers, they get a phenomenal response, with a very clean, open, lush midrange and extremely dynamic presentation. This is why their motto rightfully remains, 'A great product at a great price.'"

Among the five Wharfedale speaker lines Schofield has begun to import is the Diamond 10 series, which has won awards from What Hi-Fi, and been declared Speaker of the Year and Product of the Year by multiple publications. The other lines are Vardus (home theater), Achromatic (wall mountable or freestanding), Evo Signature, and Opus.

Schofield remains optimistic about the future of the High End. "My experience is that all luxury brands are down right now, not just high-performance audio. Regardless, now we have the iPod, which has enabled an entirely new generation to love music. Better equipment provides the means to give music lovers a better emotional experience. When we reach college students who, like my daughter, have Dylan, Led Zeppelin, Mozart, and Haydn on their iPods, and are daily discovering music they've never heard before, we have the opportunity for a renaissance."