Wharfedale Diamond system £550
30th Apr 2006 | 23:00
The latest version of a famous name
The original Wharfedale Diamond, a compact bookshelf/stand mount stereo speaker, was launched back in the early '80s, almost as an afterthought at the end of a long stream of new models at a memorable press event. But it quickly became the main story when it started being snapped up for use in student digs and the like.
Now in its 9th iteration, Diamond has long since evolved from being a loudspeaker model to a complete range of compatible models, from which a number of home cinema confi gurations can be drawn. When the original Diamond was launched, home cinema was little more than a dot on the mainstream horizon. Since then, manufacture has moved from the UK to China; but significantly, virtually every part of every loudspeaker is produced in house, and the company is able to produce custom drivers and other parts on demand.
The plain vanilla Diamond lives on in version 9.0 trim as the surround effects channel speaker here, though it remains a popular stereo speaker, and at a price that allowing for inflation is probably less than it cost at launch. It is also a better speaker, with wider dispersion, a smoother, more extended bass and treble, and a midband that 'breathes' more realistically. But in essence it remains what it always was: a simple 2-way box speaker.
The remaining speakers in this system are somewhat more sophisticated - or at least their enclosure are. The front main speaker in this case is the 9.4, a floor stander, using similar technology to the Diamond, but scaled up, but the enclosures have curved side panels, which makes them more resistant to resonances, and which helps disperse internal reflections - an unusual refi nement at this price level. The Diamond 9CS, the nominated centre speaker, is essentially a specialised version of the 9.4, much smaller of course, but with the same curved wall construction.
Readers may have noticed that there is no subwoofer in this kit. In fact there are various other iterations of the Diamond 9 series which do include a subwoofer, some costing little more than this one. If you opt for a system sans sub, remember to correctly set up the Dolby decoder in your electronics, routeing LFE into the main stereo pair.
One trade-off of not having a dedicated self-powered sub is that the system needs a little more power from the amplifier, say around 100 W/channel (ignore the maker's fi gures here), but this is a ballpark fi gure for even relatively inexpensive multichannel amplifi ers these days. Otherwise you'll fi nd the system easy to confi gure. I noted that the speakers have somewhat broader dispersion that usual, and this means a much larger sweet spot where several listeners will hear good sound, not just in a single listening sweet spot.
This Wharfedale set can be considered a clean and agile system, if a little wooden by the standards of the best of its peers. It certainly lacks the expressive qualities and dynamics of the Mission system reviewed elsewhere (Mission is now part of the IAG empire), and the latter is capable of a larger, more solid image scale. Still, and despite a hard and sometimes grainy treble which can make dialogue sound a little hard-edged, it's a good system, and one whose bass will not be subject to the vagaries that are often involved with systems with subwoofers.