I consider myself a very lucky man. My wife, Mandy, isn't a "girlie girl" who insists on owning thousands of shoes or wearing a ton of war paint. She's intelligent, funny and damned good looking. When I met her she was driving a pickup truck with a manual transmission--now, that's my kind of woman! Despite all of these things, she loves diamonds. For a while now, she's been hinting to me that a pair of diamond earrings would be a wonderful match for her ring, and our five-year anniversary was coming up. . .so, when Editor Clint Walker asked me to review Wharfedale's
Diamond 8 Series speakers, I thought...hmm, free diamonds? Bring 'em on!
• Read more bookshelf speaker reviews from Wharfedale, B&W, Paradigm, Linn, Jamo and many others.
For those of you unfamiliar with Wharfedale, they're a UK-based company that has been manufacturing loudspeakers since 1932. Recently, Wharfedale has taken strides to become a household name in the states. Print ads abound for Wharfedale's remarkable new Pacific Evolution speakers (reviewed in our March '03 issue) and you can now purchase select Wharfedale models, including the Diamonds, at mega-retailer Best Buy. Contrary to what you may think, the Diamond is not Wharfedale's flagship speaker. The Diamond series is less expensive and less elaborate than the Pacific Evolutions. The Diamonds represent a tremendous value in the Wharfedale stable, which is probably why the Diamonds have been "the UK's best selling speaker range since 1982."
Unique Features - Upon seeing these Diamonds in their birthday suits, your eyes are immediately drawn to their funky yellow drivers. That yellow is a woven ICEVLAR cone, something not often found on speakers in this price tier. As a matter of fact, those same ICEVLAR drivers can also be found on the more expensive Pacific Evolutions. Wharfedale can afford to use these because they manufacture the drivers themselves.
And now for something completely different...one thing Wharfedale doesn't manufacture, and they admit it proudly, is the Diamond series' internal wiring. In a break from convention, these Wharfedales are wired internally with Monster Cable XP speaker wire. This is another feature that the Diamonds are proud to share with their more expensive sibling, the Pacific Evolutions.
One final common thread between these two speaker lines is the use of a sturdy pedestal with carpet spikes on the main towers. Though not quite as fancy as that of the EVOs, the Diamond 8.4 towers sport a well-constructed base plinth featuring metal (albeit short) carpet spikes. It's always encouraging when some of the refining touches of a flagship speaker are allowed to trickle down to a value-driven model like the Diamond.
Every model in this ensemble offers sturdy, five-way binding posts, which are both bi-wireable and bi-ampable. If you're like me, and find yourself banana plug in hand, staring at the posts scratching your head, allow me to offer some assistance. Due to "European safety regulations," the binding posts are shipped to the states with plastic blocking plugs. You need to pry these out with something small and pointy before you can use your banana plugs. The owner's manual suggests using a penknife for this task, but I'm not sure I'd recognize a penknife if I saw one.
Installation/Setup/Ease of Use - After scouring my house for said penknife, I installed the aforementioned base pedestals on the 8.4 towers. This was a quick and painless procedure. The Diamond DFS surrounds, however, proved to be a bit of a chore, but that's because they are bipolar speakers. Hanging them on the wall took a bit of time, but the mounting brackets are a snap to use once you get your screws in the right spot. All things considered, the Diamonds were simple to set up and the end result is a fine looking array of speakers, with one exception. For some reason, Wharfedale chose a rather flimsy fabric grille for the Diamonds. These grilles are exceptionally fragile, so be careful when removing them.
I wired the DX12 subwoofer using my receiver's line output, but speaker-level connection is also an option. As an aside, on the subwoofer's back panel you'll find a button entitled "Auto Power." This puts the subwoofer into a standby mode if no bass signal is detected for a while. While this approach sounds good in theory, I found it to be a tad irritating. Every time the sub powered on or off, an audible clicking and popping sound could be heard. There were also a few instances, especially during movie watching, when the sudden appearance of bass in a soundtrack seemed to catch the sub off-guard and the bass didn't hit immediately. Not a huge issue, but the answer is simple--disengage the Auto Power function.
Continue to Page 2 for the Final Take