While the Wharfedale name might not be quite as well known in the States as it is across the pond, they're a venerable speaker manufacturer and have been in the specialty audio-video business for over 70 years. Wharfedale takes great pride in engineering all of their speakers entirely in the United Kingdom. Wharfedale launched its well known Diamond line of speakers in 1981 and the Diamonds are still going strong today. The Diamond 10 speakers featured in this review include the Diamond 10.5 towers ($949/pair), Diamond 10.CM center channel ($449), Diamond 10.SR surrounds ($229/pair) and Diamond 10.GX subwoofer ($799). For those of you without a calculator handy, that's a very reasonable $2,426 for the 5.1 system.
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The review samples came in Wharfedale's "Blackwood" finish, which despite being a vinyl wrap as opposed to real wood, was quite appealing. It's also worth noting that you can dramatically change the look of these speakers by simply removing the grilles, as the flange for each driver and tweeter looks like polished chrome, though it's actually machined aluminum. It's nice to have the flexibility - grilles off for the poker party, grilles on to watch On Golden Pond with your parents.
The 10.5 front left/right towers weigh a stout 38 pounds each and measure a little over 33 inches tall, nine inches wide and nearly 12 inches in deep. The 10.CM center channel is also of ample size, weighing in at 28 pounds and measuring almost 9 inches high, 20 inches wide and a hair over 10 inches deep. The 10.SR surrounds weigh 12 pounds each and measure close to 10 inches high, seven and a quarter inches wide and just under five inches in deep. Lastly, the 10.GX subwoofer weighs in at 58 pounds and measures 16 and a half inches high by 16 and a half inches wide and nearly 15 inches deep.
The speaker cabinets on the Diamond 10s are curved, just like their Diamond 9 predecessors. This is said to enhance rigidity and curb unwanted vibration; it also happens to be aesthetically pleasing as these are great looking speakers. Adding to their allure is a piano black finish on the baffle, which meshes well with the chrome look of each flange, and like the cabinet, is engineered to reduce vibration.
All of the speakers in this review feature a 25mm soft dome tweeter, which is covered with a metal diffuser. The diffuser serves two functions - protecting the tweeter when the grilles are off and providing greater detail in the treble. The 10.CM center channel features two 165 millimeter bass drivers and each of the 10.5 towers feature one 165 millimeter bass driver. The bass and mid/bass drivers in the Diamond 10s are made of Kevlar and have a distinct diamond pattern molded into them; according to Wharfedale this enhances high-frequency roll-off. It's also worth noting that the 10.5 towers and 10.CM center channel feature a 50 millimeter midrange dome that improves stereo imaging. I can say from extensive listening that this isn't hype, as the 10.5s image well and have an impressively large soundstage.
The packaging for the Wharfedales is of your basic egg-crate variety, nothing to write home about, but the speakers showed up intact and that's really what matters. Also, if less expensive packaging means we consumers pay less, I'm all for it-so long as the product(s) arrive safely. I began by connecting the Wharfedales to my Arcam AVR500 receiver, a standout product I recently reviewed. For source components I used a Sony PS3, an Apple TV, Oppo DV-980HD a Squeezebox Touch and Cambridge Audio's DacMagic digital to analog converter. I used Oasis 6 speaker cable from Wireworld, which is a rather large and heavy speaker cable that can put a bit of strain on lesser binding posts. Thankfully, I had no issue with the Wharfedales as they feature high quality, heavy-duty binding posts. Bi-wiring is an option with the 10.5 towers and 10.CM center channel, though I didn't go that route for this review. The 10.CM center channel went below my projection screen and the 10.5 towers went on either side with a decent amount of toe-in. I wall mounted each of the 10.SR surrounds just above and behind my listening position, which was as simple as driving in a screw and sliding the keyhole slot on the back of the speaker down over the screw. I placed the 10.GX subwoofer between the center channel and the left tower and began the process of breaking in the Wharfedales.
These days, the most difficult part of breaking in a set of speakers, beyond pissing off your neighbors, is finding a source component that won't shut itself off or ask you if you're "still listening." Anyway, after roughly 20 hours of break-in, it was time to see if I could re-create some of the magic I heard during Wharfedale's brilliant demo at the 2011 CES show.
I like to start 5.1 speaker reviews with two-channel music, especially if the front left and right speakers happen to be full range. So I cued up Nat King Cole's "Stay as Sweet as You Are" from the 2010 CD release of Love is the Thing (APO) and was immediately smitten. Nat's vocals sounded as deep and rich as I have ever heard them, his vibrato was beautifully and accurately rendered through the 10.5 towers, taking me back to that very engaging CES demo. The Wharfedales produced an impressive soundstage, which was deep and wide. Closing my eyes, it was impossible to place the speakers. It doesn't hurt that this is a well recorded album, one that I've listened to on some incredibly expensive speakers, but as noted above, the Wharfedales more than held their own. I knew from CES that they were impressive vocally, but you're not always going to get the same results at home.
Read more about the performance of the Diamond 10 series on Page 2.