England's oldest speaker manufacturer, Wharfedale, may not be as well-known stateside as they are overseas, but I have a feeling that's about to change. Wharfedale's highly touted Diamond Series of loudspeakers blew through the specialty AV press with much fanfare. Home Theater Review's own Sean Killebrew raved, giving them his highest recommendation. While the Diamond Series practically defines what is meant by value for money, their Opus line of speakers took things a step further, which reviewer Dr. Ken Taraszka discovered firsthand, pitting them against cost no object competition and coming away more than just impressed. So for our third go-round with Wharfedale, it was my turn to see if the British manufacturer could complete the trifecta and deliver yet another winner. Wharfedale's latest contender, the Jade 1 bookshelf loudspeaker, represents the entry point to their new flagship lineup of products - the Jade Series.
At $1,199 per pair, the Jade 1 bookshelf loudspeaker is the most affordable offering in the Jade Series of speakers, though don't think that somehow means the rest of the product line is priced into the stratosphere; the top of the line floor-standing model, the Jade 7, maxes out at $4,999 per pair. While the Jade 1 may start at $1,199 per pair, it can reach as high as $1,399 in its high-gloss piano-black trim level, though for just under $1,200, you can get your choice of Black Oak, Vintage Cherry or Rosewood finishes. Wharfedale offers a pair of matching stands for the Jade 1 that compliment not only its physical appearance, but also its value proposition at $599 per pair.
The Jade 1 is a three-way bookshelf loudspeaker that measures 14 inches tall by seven-and-a-half inches wide and 13 inches deep. It tips the scales at a solid 18-and-a-half pounds. The Jade 1 features Wharfedale's new Crystalam cabinet design, which employs the use of a new laminate technology that is said to improve dampening and effectively kill resonance that often plagues traditional MDF cabinets. From the outside, the Jade 1's cabinet is a sexy piece of design, featuring gentle sloping sides that nearly come to a point in the rear. The back of the Jade 1 plays host to four five-way binding posts, which are arranged vertically. The binding posts can accept everything from bare wire to spade-terminated speaker cables.
The Jade 1 features three unique drivers, a one-inch aluminum dome tweeter, a three-inch Acufibre midrange driver and a five-inch Acufibre bass driver. Acufibre is a new driver material that mixes a bit of carbon fiber technology with that of more traditional woven designs. Wharfedale takes it a step further by adding a molded pattern to the drivers, which is said to break up standing waves, thus reducing coloration and distortion. The Jade 1's three drivers, along with its aperiodic bass loaded cabinet, are good for a reported frequency response of 65Hz to 24kHz. The Jade 1 has a listed efficiency of 86dB with a nominal impedance of six ohms, making it an ideal candidate for everything from entry-level integrated amplifiers to modest AV receivers and beyond. The crossover frequencies are listed at 710Hz and 3.2kHz. The Jade 1 employs a phase linear crossover that is said to achieve true coherence between multiple drivers, making the three-way design sound more like a single driver or point source design.
I tested the Jade 1s with a wide variety of components from tube integrated amps to my usual reference solid state gear, each with varying results. For the purpose of this review, I'll focus my attention on my time spent with the Jade 1s in my reference system, which consisted of the Parasound 5250v2 multi-channel amplifier, Integra DHC 80.2 AV preamp and Dune HD Max Blu-ray/media player with cabling by Binary Cables from SnapAV. I placed the Jade 1s atop a pair of Sanus Steel Series 26-inch speaker stands. To augment the Jade 1s' low-end performance, I employed my two JL Audio Fathom f110 subwoofers, though I should mention that any and all remarks made about the Jade 1s' bass performance were done with the speakers running full-range without assistance from the JL subs.
Setup was quick and painless. After a little experimentation, I found the ideal placement for the Jade 1s to be just inside where my reference Bowers & Wilkins 800 Series Diamonds usually sit, which put them approximately eight-and-a-half feet apart (tweeter to tweeter) and three feet off the front wall, with about four feet on either side. Toe-in was minimal in this position, but enough so that the tweeters were aimed at my primary listening chair. I let the speakers play for a few hours off and on over the course of three or four days before sitting down for any critical listening.
I began my evaluation of the Jade 1 bookshelf speakers with Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds' Live At Luther College (RCA) disc 1 and the track "Cry Freedom." Immediately I was struck by the Jade 1's high-frequency performance: it was delicate, well-defined and carried excellent extension, hanging onto virtually every note and nuance just that moment more, which was impressive from a speaker at its asking price.
Read more about the performance of the Wharfedale Jade 1 on Page 2.