Flying back from Toronto, Canada several weeks ago, I was thumbing through Land Rover Owner International in search of parts for my D90 and Series IIa. The magazine had that swollen look that well-read pages get. To preserve the copy I pulled the latest issue of DVD ETC. from my briefcase, searching for ideas and inspiration as I sometimes do.
On page 19 an ad caught my eye with a stunning and classy speaker--behold the Wharfedale Pacific Evolution. I had no experience with Wharfedale loudspeakers during my career as an editor, so I decided to exercise what I feel to be one of the coolest aspects of my job. And somewhere between the terminal and my Defender 90 the details were exchanged to receive a Pacific Evolution ensemble.
If the Wharfedale name strikes a tone in your file cabinet, it's because it was founded in 1932 as the Wharfedale Wireless Works. And just to even think that a company was titled as "Wireless" back in 1932 is also pretty damn cool.
Now for those of you who are not aware, 2-channel audio in the United Kingdom is serious business, and any company that can last more than a year with such discerning listeners as the British is alright by me. Although that does not guarantee success here in the States where home theater is the game and distribution avenues are difficult to break into. I mention this to note that successful market penetration isn't as easy as building a speaker and buying an ad--it's an ongoing uphill battle--especially when you're crossing an ocean to get here...
Unique Features - KEVLAR cones are not unique, but they are rare in a $2,100 ensemble. They are actually woven KEVLAR cones and not cheap yellow fabric made to look like KEVLAR. Wharfedale can afford to include these pricey drivers in their Pacific Evolution ensemble because they are actually building the drivers in-house, just as they build every component of their loudspeakers. With the exception of the actual components in the "audiophile-grade" crossovers (more on that later) and the Monster Cable speaker wire used internally on the Pacific Evolution series--now that is unique!
The Wharfedale EVO-30 Towers employ a pair of 6.5-inch woven KEVLAR cone drivers (one acting as the bass and the other a mid-bass) with an inverted butyl rubber surround and a single 1-inch fabric neodymium tweeter encased in an aluminum alloy pod that serves as a wave-guide and helps to isolate the tweeter from lateral cabinet vibrations. There is also a large port in the mid section of the front baffle. There is an extended footprint-style base-plate that must be attached to the towers. They include spikes that are some serious hardware. Although they are just spikes or "feet" the last ensemble I recall with something even remotely as close in quality was well over twenty grand for the pair--that's U.S. dollars mates.Read more about the Pacific Evolution on Page 2.
The EVO-10 is a true two-way front-vented "bookshelf' speaker that employs the aforementioned tweeter configuration atop a single 6.5-inch woven KEVLAR cone mid-bass. And the EVO-CENTRE employs a pair of 5-inch woven KEVLAR mid-woofs flanking the same tweeter application offset above a small port in the front baffle.
All of the EVO-series speakers are equipped with bi-wireable 5-way binding posts that add a true high-end appeal to the speakers, along with a subtle touch of class. Here again, an unlikely find at this price point.
Wharfedale passed along the PC DX12 12-inch powered subwoofer for this review. It is a straightforward downward firing polypropylene cone, dual ports to the rear with a 150-watt amplifier. Around back are all the features you'd expect to find on today's home theater-oriented subs, with yet another catch--high-quality gold-plated 5 way binding posts. Even the knobs for the gain, crossover and phase controls have a unique and quality feel to them. And a small LED indicator on the front lets users know when to hang on to the couch.
Installation/Setup/Ease of Use - Installing the footprint takes a moment to figure out. The owners manual is a general manual for the EVO line and, to put it bluntly, is rather vague. I found myself looking at the picture on the box to figure it out--it's a good thing I graduated high school. I canted the front and rears in 15 degrees and placed the EVO-CENTRE on top of my Zenith HDTV. I was between installing a new reference amp and pre/pro during this review and as a result I reluctantly connected the ensemble to my Marantz SR8200 A/V receiver via Monster speaker wires (bi-wired). My Rotel DVD player is connected with a Revelation digital coaxial cable, and everything is running though a Monster Power HTPS 7000 (at this point).
Final Take - Let's get right down to it because I'm running out of space. The Wharfedale Pacific Evolution is a surprising ensemble from many aspects. The fit and finish were far more appealing than I expected them to be. The sound is laid back, with a refined approach on the bottom-end, flat and smooth the way I like it. The top-end has a more forward approach with subtle intricacies in music remaining brilliant and concise. Unfortunately, this relates to a somewhat bright speaker at times at higher volume levels (such as with movies). Fortunately, the majority of listeners respond favorably to this. I, however, am not one of them. I do believe that more power and better processing would have rolled off the highs to be more suited to my liking. And again, with music at low to moderate levels I really enjoyed these speakers--without the subwoofer.
Getting back to the in-theater performance, the subwoofer provided a true cinematic thrill with tight, thunderous bass notes and a remarkable soundstage. These speakers are very open and have the signature of an audiophile experience. Getting back to those crossovers they claim are "audiophile-grade" however is arguable--I opened up the speakers for a first-hand look myself. What I won't argue with is the end result that the quality crossover components achieve when matched with Wharfedales' superb drivers.
Like my '69 Series IIa Rover, the Wharfedale Pacific Evolution speakers slowly won me over with small, high quality and well-thought details and a rare finesse with music. And, like my ol' Rover, I'm sure I can work out the little kinks with a bit of tender loving care.Price as Tested: