Wharfedale has lost none of their enthusiasm after more than 75 in the business of designing and manufacturing loudspeakers, at least that's the impression I get from reading their literature. This company has changed owners since its founding in the 1930s, but they are still located in the UK, and is seems as if there are no signs that they plan to slow down any time soon, as can be confirmed by their recently constructed a 1.5 million square foot factory to perform research, development, and construction of their loudspeakers. They design and build of all the component parts themselves for use in the many lines offered.
Wharfedale's literature also has no shortage of technical information on their entry-level Diamond line, and since one can easily pore over the details on the Wharfedale site I'll just share the highlights. The Wharfedale Diamond has been in production for almost thirty years, and the latest iteration includes many advances over their predecessors. They have stronger, curved cabinet walls manufactured using improved construction methods, and the newest Diamond's stronger, more rigid cabinet walls reduce the amount of resonance induced by cabinet vibration. The front baffle is also now made with a piano-black composite, further reducing these resonances. More importantly, the mid/bass drive units have been improved with a larger flange, and by small improvements such as simply adding more screws to secure the drivers to the cabinet they have improved the speaker's sound. Wharfedale incorporates a diamond pattern into the surround of the Kevlar cone, which in addition to looking pretty cool, damps standing waves in the surround, and Wharfedale says that this leads to a "cleaner high-frequency roll-off and enhances the mid/bass unit and tweeter to work as a cohesive whole".
The soft-domed 1" tweeter used in the 10.7 has diffusion grid made of metal that evens out the high-frequency response of the speaker, which Wharfedale claims extends to 30kHz. This tweeter delivers "a smoother response and crystal-clear treble detailing" according to Wharfedale. The 10.7 has a 2" domed midrange driver, and two different types of 6 ½" Kevlar woofers, both of which take advantage of their newer "Blended SRBP Cone Surrounds" that feature a textured surround with a compliant driver gasket which they is designed to improve dynamic response. Each driver is also has their diamond profiled surround with "rim-edge stiffeners" to damp resonances.
The Diamond 10.7 is a relatively small floorstander at a modest 38 inches tall, and are less than 9 inches wide and one foot deep. If one uses the supplied spikes (and as a nice touch, discs to place under the spikes are provided to protect wood floors), they increase their height about two inches. And even though it is pretty obvious when looking at these speakers from the side, when looking down at the cabinet from above one can clearly see their curved sidewalls and the unique shape of the cabinets. The 10.7 is available in seven different finishes, the review pair finished in what Wharfedale calls "blackwood", which is a matte black. They have two pairs of gold-plated speaker binding posts with an offset arrangement which Wharfedale says allows heavier cables with a variety of different types of connectors to be used. There is also a gold-plated bridge included for use with a single run of speaker cables, as I did. The review system's garden-hose diameter Cardas speaker cables with their rather narrow spade connectors weren't the easiest to connect to the 10.7, but I can hardly blame the their binding posts for any problems I had wrestling them into position.
Wharfedale recommends driving the 10.7s with an amplifier with a rated power of between 30 and 200 watts, their nominal impedance is a rather benign 6 Ohms and their sensitivity is quite high at 90dB/W/m. The Diamond 10.7s were connected to a pair of 70 wpc PrimaLuna Dialog Six tubed monoblock power amplifiers, and the preamplifier was also a tubed unit, the Balanced Audio Technologies (BAT) VK-3iX. There was a choice between an Arcam CD player or an Oppo universal player as the digital source, and during the first half of the review period an Opera Consonant Linear 8 wireless DAC that decoded FLAC files on networked hard-drives connected to the computer in my main listening room. I used a classic AR FM Tuner as the sole analog source, used almost exclusively for off-axis enjoyment. Interconnects and speaker cables were by Cardas while the stock AC cables were connected to a Panamax power conditioner. The upper two-thirds of the listening room's walls are painted red, and their lower third is painted white.
After only a short break-in period I started my listening sessions. Very simply, the Wharfedale Diamond 10.7 speakers are not only a fantastic value, but a darn good speaker, period. I had to constantly remind myself I was reviewing a pair of speakers that cost only $1300 a pair. No, I wasn't surprised that I was hearing good sound, there is a certain level of performance one would expect from any speaker with high-end aspirations, but the 10.7's level of performance exceeded even my own expectations of what one should expect for a speaker of their price, and the fact that Wharfedale considers these an entry-level product. First of all, was their excellent soundstage, despite the fact that the listening room in which the 10.7s were reviewed made it almost impossible to bring them too far into the room. I am able to locate the listening position pretty much anywhere I want, so that wasn't the problem. But I'm sure the manufacture/distributor of these speakers would be much happier if the 10.7s weren't so close to the back wall. But it wasn't as if they were pressed up against the rear wall, there was still about 20 to 24 inches between the speaker and the wall, but with a rear-firing port I'd still be more comfortable with more space than I allowed them. But once I got everything set up and dialed in it hardly mattered.
The soundstage filled the space between, beyond the sides, and extended far beyond the rear wall with most material I played through them, regardless of the source. I've had many multi-driver floorstanders in this room before, yet I can hardly remember any that came as close to this disappearing act in the mid to upper frequencies. In this regard they mimicked the performance of a small two-way speaker, which included a very, very nice center-fill image. Solo voices were placed smack-dap in in the middle of the two speakers approximately at the height of the top edge of the two cabinets, floating in space. The outlines of images within the soundstage weren't drawn with nearly as much precision as some other more expensive speakers I've heard in this system, but this was more than compensated for by the sheer number of sounds that were portrayed outside the boundary of the speakers and the realistic scale of this soundstage.
The 10.7 have a number of fine attributes, but their reproduction of the vocals were by far their strongest suit. Not only were both male and female vocals reproduced with striking realism, but they were separated from other sounds within the huge soundstage that, like I mentioned above, filled the space between the two speakers. Of course one would expect the sound of the vocals to be determined by the quality of the recording, but when playing recordings that weren't what one would consider audiophile quality the 10.7s still managed to render these vocals with a sound that was far beyond "acceptable". And if the recording was up to it the 10.7s performed the sonic magic act of transporting the singer to my listening room. Ok, sometimes it was more akin to if I was eavesdropping on a recording session or a live concert, as the occasion presented itself. There was also an absence of any anomalies that many (including yours truly) have come to accept when reproducing vocals – there was a lack of any "cupped hands" sound, no excess sibilance, the speakers favored neither the chest, throat, or mouth sounds of either male or female vocals, and there were no electronic artifacts other than those imparted upon them from the recoding process itself. Did the 10.7s reproduce vocals that were indistinguishable from the real thing? I wish (and I'm sure we all wish we could do this by spending $1300 on a pair of speakers). But there were certainly enough "suspension of disbelief" moments during my listening sessions than I would expect from an entry-level speaker. And admittedly, I'm sure that using the fine tubed PrimaLuna amps to power them, and the overachieving Balanced Audio Technologies preamplifier between the amp and the sources helped not only with the excellent sound that of the vocals that flowed forth from these speakers, but the soundstage and separation of sounds that I mentioned earlier.
Of course one might suspect that if vocals played through the 10.7s were so good, than the rest of the sounds that occupied the midrange of these speakers would also be good. And this is a correct assumption. The all-important midrange of the 10.7 was outstanding, and again, this is worth repeating, especially for one that is considered to be an entry-level offering. But during my listening sessions it was often difficult to concentrate on whether the tonality of the instruments that had a significant amount of midrange presence (in other words, most instruments) because of the 10.7 soundstage prowess. I don't want to give the impression that things got too confused on stereo recordings that had an excellent soundstage, it was just that combined with their soundstage prowess the midrange frequencies took on an even more lifelike representation of the original event. While I'm writing this the it is around the anniversary of Joy Division's singer Ian Curtis' death, so I've been playing selections from their catalog a bit more than usual (which is normally quite frequent regardless of the time of year). Even though on the majority of their studio recordings Ian's voice is electronically manipulated, thanks to visionary producer Martin Hannett's ample use of late 1970s/early 1980s signal processing devices of the day, time has been kind to this post-punk band (at least in my mind). The poignancy of not only Mr. Curtis' lyrics, but the sound of his tortured voice is clearly discernible through the analog haze. I could picture in my mind's ear Ian Curtis vocalizing in front of the microphone with his trademark spastic full-body sign language. Mr. Hannett also uses generous amounts of mutated reverb and other echo-y studio FX on the instruments, and the trails of these embellishments and the layers of electronic shadows that result in cascading tails can be heard as separate events, yet are kept in focus well enough to create the sonic picture that he most likely intended.
The quality of both the upper treble and the lowest bass of the Wharfedale Diamond 10.7 aren't in the same league as the midrange. That is not to say they are not admirable. They are. I think that Wharfedale made some excellent choices regarding the sound of the 10.7 by not over-extend themselves frequency-wise. I've heard a number of fine speakers that otherwise have excellent sound that were compromised by the designers insistence that the treble extend to the heavens and the bass reach subsonic depths with drivers, cabinets, and associated parts that were not up to the task. So, even though the 10.7's highs do not have either the extension or the resolution of some much high-priced loudspeakers, the 10.7 still sound like music by committing only sins of omission. After spending some very long listening sessions during a nice long review period with the 10.7s, their faults were never glaring, and I mean that both in a literal and figurative sense. The highs never drew untoward attention to themselves, yet when the music deemed so, they appropriately drew attention to the instrument that had this treble energy. Cymbals and the like were never spitty and were free of so many other faults that make lesser speakers treble sound just plain annoying. Even though the tweeters of the 10.7s could not accomplish the kind of exacting differentiation between sounds as more refined products are capable of, they still were able to support my conclusion that the 10.7s sound, and this includes their treble, places them far above what one would expect at this price.
It appears as if Wharfedale made similar design decisions regarding the Diamond 10.7's bass. The published specifications maintain that the 10.7 low end goes down to 30 Hz. The word on the street is that the 10.7's bass is quite admirable, so I was surprised that in my listening room it sounded as if I could only get useable bass down to the low 40s, upper 30s at best. I did not use any measurement devices other than my ears, and there is more than a good chance that this lack of low bass was due to either the positioning of the cabinets or more likely my listening room. I'm not complaining, though. The 10.7's bass is tight, tuneful, and free of any very noticeable sonic troughs or peaks. That the designers chose quality over quantity makes sense in a number of ways, most importantly being the most obvious – that if forced to decide, 99.99% of audiophiles will opt for (or at least should opt for) better over simply more. But a possible reason Wharfedale probably made this choice is that they offer a number of subwoofers as part of their Diamond 10 home-theater packages, of which the 10.7 is included. A number of different subwoofers are offered as options. It makes much more sense to allocate the very lowest bass to be sub-woofed than to burden an small-ish entry-level floorstander with such a task. This is true not only in cinema applications but in many stereo systems as well.
While enjoying Miles Davis' Cellar Door Sessions 1970 four-CD box set for an unusually long period of time (even for me), I was relishing these club sets from a band that made most of its live appearances at larger halls. At least it would appear so from all the previous live recordings from this period that have been released. The recording engineer's set-up was probably more akin to a rock band's than a jazz combo, which makes sense given that the electric nature of the band, and their volume on stage as a consequence (it's been said that the reason Miles got so many bad reviews from this period was because reviews were constantly being written by jazz critics, which was inappropriate given that they were not playing jazz). The ambiance of this rather intimate Washington, DC nightspot could be clearly heard through the 10.7s which arose from bleeding from mic to mic through the multi-mic'd, multi-tracked recording. Space does not allow for me to add to the lively debate that often occurs when discussing Mr. Davis' 1970s period, nor the details of the lifelike rendering of all the instruments involved in making this music happen. But this unedited four-CD set is an amazing journey for all fans of this music regardless of the equipment that it is reproducing it, and the system that included the 10.7s allowed for the natural blat of Miles' horn to come through, that is, when it is not being altered by his wah-wah and tape-echo. The fact that the band was running through a mixing board with the volume bumped up to rock levels, not to mention the hiss generated by the analog effects of the day only added to my enjoyment of the recorded event because of its honesty.
Throughout the review period the Wharfedale Diamond 10.7 performed admirably regardless of the genre of music. Those who are aware of my disparate musical diet will more than appreciate how advantageous this is for a piece of gear in my system. So as much as I praised the 10.7 for their mini-monitor-like behavior in the mids and treble, they were also able to take advantage of the fact that they are multi-driver floorstanding speakers, and because of this they were easily able to handle the larger scale offerings including electronic, rock, and power orchestral music. When I played Berlioz' Requeim which features a large orchestra, chorus and tenorsoloist from the Living Stereo SACD release of this piece played by the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Charles Munch, I was able to enjoy this classic 52 year old recording from beginning to end. Berlioz relies heavily on the brass in this work, and during climaxes such as the second movement, Dies irae, where Berlioz portrays Judgment Day, he uses a section of eighteen (yes, eighteen) horns where they announce themselves to the world. The 10.7s had no trouble at all handling this outburst. The 10.7s are not totally unlimited in their macrodynamic capabilities, the drivers have a volume ceiling that is high, but not super-high – but at for this price of admission I feel a bit guilty complaining about this. But things quite down considerably by the second to last movement Sanctus, where the tenor solo sung by Leopold Simoneu where he demonstrates that his recorded performance has hardly been bettered when the RCA team of Layton and Mohr set up their microphones in Symphony Hall that day in 1959. The 10.7's take advantage of their midrange prowess not by only rendering his voice in a scarey-real manner, but by placing his voice in an appropriate section of the soundstage between the speakers. As the movement progresses there is a tuba solo that took my breath away not only because of the truth in timbre that the Diamond 10.7 was able to convey, but because the 10.7 was able to bring the musical talent of the unnamed musician expertly playing the score into my listening room.
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