Wharfedale Diamond 8 Series Speakers Reviewed

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Wharfedale-Diamond8-review.gifI 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!

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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."

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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

HTR Product Rating for Wharfedale Diamond 8 Series Speakers

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Final Take - Thinking it appropriate that I first audition these products of England with material of similar heritage, I broke out Queen's exceptional DVD-Audio disc, A Night at the Opera. I went right for "Bohemian Rhapsody," a song I've heard enough times to know what to expect. In a word, wow! Though the lower end could have used a tad more punch, the tight midrange and sweet highs made for riveting sound. This was the best rendition that I'd heard in quite some time.

So the Diamonds can handle music, but what about movies? In keeping with the British motif, there was clearly only one choice. After only a few minutes of watching Austin Powers in Goldmember, it was clear to me that these speakers have earned their overseas reputation. The front soundstage created by these speakers is wonderfully wide and airy. The DFS surrounds add just the right amount of ambience, without ever drawing undue attention. The hilarious pre-credit and credit sequence of Goldmember runs the gamut of sound, and the Diamonds tackled it admirably without ever breaking a sweat. That is no small feat, considering the fact that these are power-hungry 6-ohm speakers.

There is a lot to like about these speakers. I have to give Wharfedale bonus points for the 8.4's well-constructed stand and carpet spikes. As a matter of fact, the build quality on each of these speakers, including the subwoofer, is well above average. Also noteworthy are those slick, KEVLAR drivers. The fact that these Diamonds created such a transparent and enveloping sound field was icing on the cake.

Keeping the Diamonds from a perfect score however, were those flimsy speaker grilles and a somewhat timid lower end. The Powercube subwoofer did well handling most low frequency information, but it just didn't grab me as much as some other subs do. I'm not going to hold the relative inefficiency of these speakers against them, because that can be a total non-issue if paired with the proper amplifier. Simply remember that these are 6-ohm speakers with a fairly low sensitivity rating of 86dB. To get the most sparkle out of these Diamonds, use a good amp with clean power and lots of it.

Considering their extremely affordable price, the performance and feature set of these Diamonds is hard to believe. For roughly $1,500, Wharfedale has put together a suite of sharp-looking and great-sounding speakers for anyone wanting high-end speaker performance on a bargain budget. On a personal note, they have certainly given me pause as I continue to wrestle with what to buy my lovely wife. Honey, you said you wanted diamonds, and these we can both enjoy. Happy Anniversary!

Additional Resources
• Read more bookshelf speaker reviews from Wharfedale, B&W, Paradigm, Linn, Jamo and many others.

Wharfedale Diamond 8 Series
Diamond 8.4
6.5" mid/bass Kevlar driver
6.5" bass Kevlar driver
1" silk dome tweeter
Bi-wireable, Bi-ampable
5-way binding posts
Carpet spikes included
Power Handling:150W
Nominal Impedance: 6 ohms
Sensitivity: 86dB
Frequency Range: 30Hz-20kHz
36"H x 9"W x 11.5"D
MSRP: $599/pair

Diamond 8 Centre
(2) 5" mid/bass Kevlar drivers
1" silk dome tweeter
Bi-wireable, Bi-ampable
5-way binding posts
Power Handling:100W
Nominal Impedance: 6 ohms
Sensitivity: 88dB
Frequency Range: 30Hz-20kHz
7"H x 17.75"W x 7.25"D
MSRP: $169

Diamond 8 DFS
(2) 5" mid/bass Kevlar drivers
1" silk dome tweeter
Bi-wireable, Bi-ampable
5-way binding posts
Power Handling:120W
Nominal Impedance: 6 ohms
Sensitivity: 90dB
Frequency Range: 70Hz-20kHz
14.5"H x 16.5"W x 6.75"D
MSRP: $299/pair

Powercube DX12 Subwoofer
12" downward-firing woofer
Auto on/off
Line-level and speaker-level inputs
Frequency Range: 32Hz-170Hz
Adjustable Crossover: 70-170Hz
17"H x 14.75"W x 14.75"D
MSRP: $499

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