Wharfedale Diamond 10 Series 5.1 Speaker System Reviewed

Wharfedale Diamond 10 Series 5.1 Speaker System Reviewed

According to HTR reviewer Sean Killebrew, you would be hard pressed to find a better speaker system for the money than the Wharfedale Diamond 10 series. Check out how the Wharfedale performed during Sean Killebrew's tests

Wharfedale_Diamond_10_Series_review.gif

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.

Additional Resources
• Read more floorstanding loudspeaker reviews by Home Theater Review’s staff.
• Find more reviews in our Bookshelf Speaker Review section.
• Explore amplifier options in our Amplifier Review section.
• Look for a subwoofer in the Subwoofer Review section.

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.

Wharfedale_Diamond_10_Series_review_10_5_floorstanding_speakers.gif

The Hookup

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.

Performance
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.

Wharfedale_Diamond_10_Series_review_10_SR_bookshelf_speakers.gif

Continuing with two-channel material, I played Hans Theessink’s “The Planet” from his album Call Me (Deluge Records). Hans is a master of blues guitar and also happens to be European; how many notable blues guitarists hail from Europe? Anyway, between Hans’ rich voice and vibrant guitar play, this track has much to offer and the 10.5s did not disappoint. The resolution in the guitar play was exemplary and Hans voice filled the room. It sounded as though the mic was sitting on the guitar as it was recorded in the studio and the Wharfedales did a masterful job of re-creating that effect. I’ve heard people complain that British speakers have a tendency to be a bit dark in character, but that’s certainly not the case here. These speakers have tremendous air, yet aren’t the least bit fatiguing to the ear. So enjoyable was the sound, I literally forgot I was writing a review and had to play it back a few more times in order to finish writing my listening notes. This is the moment where you double-check the retail price, then wonder how Wharfedale is able to research and develop a speaker of this caliber and sell them for less than a grand.

Moving on to some multi-channel music, I cued up the DVD-Audio disc of Donald Fagen’s Morph the Cat (Reprise/WEA). One thing you can almost always count on with Steely Dan or Donald Fagen’s material is that it’s going to be well recorded. I kept the volume low for the first few tracks and found the Wharfedales low-level articulation to be just right. The system displayed solid coherence and there was no unwanted coloration in the sound. All of the tracks on this disc were a joy to listen to through the Wharfedales, with the brilliant surround mix of “Brite Nitegown” being the standout. The detail in the vocals was quite stunning and the bass toward the end of the track was palpable and taut. The 10.SR surrounds proved more than capable, as this particular mix sends a ton of material to the rears. Given the performance of the 10.SRs, it’s difficult to believe that Wharfedale priced the pair at only $229, though I’m not complaining. The 10.GX sub can roll with the big boys; it showed no bloat and had solid transient speed. I literally hammered the sub with low frequency material, trying to get it to stumble and it simply didn’t happen. Given its price and the fact that it has a ten inch driver and a 250 Watt amp, I didn’t expect this level of performance. It’s also worth noting that my listening room is on the larger side at a little over 300 square feet, yet I found the bass from the 10.GX to be adequate. That’s the thing about Wharfedale speakers, and I’ve found this to be true of other speakers in their line, their performance is pleasantly surprising on multiple levels.

Wharfedale_Diamond_10_Series_review_10_CM_center_channel.gif

Moving on to movies, I popped in the Blu-ray of Unstoppable (20th Century Fox), which was nominated for an Oscar for sound editing. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is a chugging, grinding, all out assault on a speaker system. The opening chapter features plenty of low frequency material as the trains begin their march. The 10.GX proved more than capable, filling my listening room and brilliantly conveying the sounds of the monster train engines. Transitions between the front and rear speakers were seamless and the system showed solid coherence. The dialogue was crystal clear and highly intelligible, despite the cacophony of sound hitting all 5.1 channels. I was pleasantly surprised with the resolution of the 10.CR center channel and relieved that I didn’t have to tweak the center channel level in order to hear the dialogue. I was again impressed with the soundstage and the fact that it was difficult to “place” each speaker while watching the movie, which is exactly what you want.

Next up was the Blu-ray of Inception (Warner Brothers) in DTS-HD Master Audio. It’s worth mentioning that Inception won the Oscar for both sound mixing and sound editing. As such, I had no reservations about using it to test the Wharfedales. The opening scene with the waves crashing was thunderous; the 10.GX subwoofer filled my room with plenty of low end thump. Again, I found the dialogue to be well rendered and highly detailed through the 10.CM. I’m picky about center channels as so much crucial information passes through them; and the 10.CM is a standout. The initial dream sequence was quite a sonic treat, with the Wharfedales placing me right in the middle of the action. This is a movie that begs for solid source components matched with capable speakers and the Wharfedales shined.

Competition and Comparison
If you’re looking to spend less than $3,000 on a 5.1 speaker system, you’ll find plenty of options. Another British loudspeaker company, Bowers & Wilkins, has their 600 Series of speakers, which are comparable in cost to the Wharfedales and also feature Kevlar drivers. You could fairly say that Bowers & Wilkins were the speaker company that made Kevlar drivers and their yellow look famous years ago.

Another player in highly competitive market niche is Aperion Audio, an online only retailer that offers the Intimus 5T Hybrid HD system for $2,589 via their web site. I reviewed this system a little over a year ago and can tell you that performance-wise, it’s a pretty close call with a slight edge to the Wharfedales in detail and neutrality.

Wharfedale_Diamond_10_Series_review_10_GX_subwoofer.gif

The Downside
This is probably the most difficult section of the review for me to write as reviewing these speakers was such a pleasant experience. But if you force my hand, I can tell you that while the bass output from the 10.5 towers is pretty darn solid, many are going to want to use a subwoofer to get the bone-crushing bass that many home theater fans and bass-heads demand.

It’s also worth noting that the manual is too general as it covers the entire Diamond 10 series in a single 19 page book. I’d rather see a separate manual for each speaker, especially the subwoofer. Although back to my earlier point, if separate manuals means I have to pay more money for the speakers, forget it. Sonic performance trumps literature and packaging every time. Perhaps Wharfedale could offer model specific manuals online in a PDF format to save money.

Conclusion
I listened to quite a bit of two-channel music – everything from guitar laden rock to string heavy classical and came away impressed with the resolution, the coherence and the dynamic range of the Diamond 10s. I quite enjoy pushing speakers to their limits, but in this case the Wharfedales were the clear winners as they were able to play incredibly loud without strain, louder than my ears were able to take (truth be told). I even went so far as to throw some stupidly bass heavy rap music at the 10.GX sub and it was a more than capable performer with no sign of quitting. The bottom-line is that these speakers are versatile, you don’t need $10K worth of separates to drive them, you can put them in a huge room and they will fill it with sound and then some. They’re equally adept with movies and music and they’re forgiving of source material. What more can you ask for in a 5.1 speaker system?

While Wharfedale has plenty of fierce competition in the sub-$3,000 speaker system realm, you’re going to be hard pressed to find one with this level of refinement. It’s somewhat easy to tell if a manufacturer has limped into a given speaker category, especially at the lower price points. You end up with a fairly palpable lack of resolution, coherence, imaging prowess, etc. That’s not the case here as the Diamond 10s are a shining example of solid bang for the buck.

The Diamond 10 Series are versatile speakers, and let’s face it, that’s what most people want these days as the majority of folks out there can’t afford to have separate music and movie setups, let alone having the space to do it. Wharfedale continues to prove that you can have a truly transformative listening experience without spending a fortune. I give the Diamond 10 Series my highest recommendation in this price class.

Additional Resources
• Read more floorstanding loudspeaker reviews by Home Theater Review’s staff.
• Find more reviews in our Bookshelf Speaker Review section.
• Explore amplifier options in our Amplifier Review section.
• Look for a subwoofer in the Subwoofer Review section.

Subscribe To Home Theater Review

You'll automatically be entered in the HTR Sweepstakes, and get the hottest audio deals directly in your inbox.
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
HomeTheaterReview Product Rating
Value: 
Performance: 
Overall Rating: 
When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Your support is greatly appreciated!
© JRW Publishing Company, 2020
magnifiercross
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram