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Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 Review (Speaker)

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 bookshelf speaker. It was kindly purchased by a member and drop shipped to me. It costs US $399 for a pair.

The look and feel of the 12.1 is definitely above the budget category:

Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 Review Bookshelf Speaker.jpg


The back is rather pedestrian but more beefy than other speakers in its class:

Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 Review back binding posts Bookshelf Speaker.jpg


Overall a good look for the speaker.

Measurements that you are about to see were performed using the Klippel Near-field Scanner (NFS). This is a robotic measurement system that analyzes the speaker all around and is able (using advanced mathematics and dual scan) to subtract room reflections (so where I measure it doesn't matter). It also measures the speaker at close distance ("near-field") which sharply reduces the impact of room noise. Using computational acoustics, far-field response is computed and that is what I present. Both of these factors enable testing in ordinary rooms yet results that can be more accurate than an anechoic chamber.

I performed over 1000 measurement which resulted in error rate of about 1%. Clean high frequency response is responsible for ease of measurement in this regard.

Reference axis is approximately the center of the tweeter. Grill was not used.

Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 Measurements
Acoustic measurements can be grouped in a way that can be perceptually analyzed to determine how good a speaker is and how it can be used in a room. This so called spinorama shows us just about everything we need to know about the speaker with respect to tonality and some flaws:

Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 Measurements Frequency Response Bookshelf Speaker.png


The all important on-axis response (black) is almost flat which is great. There is a bit of a valley around 2 to 3 kHz which unfortunately gets deeper off axis making directivity rather poor there. We can see it better in early window reflections:

Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 Measurements Early Window Frequency Response Bookshelf Speaker.png


It takes a rather severe penalty there. Lack of a waveguide causes the woofer beamwidth to be narrower than tweeter's around the crossover frequencies. Fortunately you can use a thick rug to absorb the floor reflections like I have. And high ceilings help too with the ceiling bounce.

Putting the two together we get the expected results which is good:

Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 Measurements Predicted In-room Frequency Response Bookshelf Speaker.png


Near-field measurements show that this is one of the rarer designs that keeps the internal port and cabinet resonances at bay:

Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 Measurements Driver Frequency Response Bookshelf Speaker.png


We routinely see these resonances being higher in frequency and competing with the tweeter/woofer response. Not here. The port does its thing to extend low frequencies and that is it. As it should be.

Back to directivity, we see its measure better here:

Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 Measurements Horizontal Beamwidth Bookshelf Speaker.png


We see the beam width narrowing (woofer) then widening (tweeter). One benefit here though is that beam width is 20 or so degrees wider in each direction than is typical of these speakers. There is on going discussion as to trade off here.

Here is our color 3-D map of the same:

Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 Measurements Horizontal directivity Bookshelf Speaker.png


There is that narrowing of the high frequencies (same beaming but now applied to tweeter) and I wonder if this makes the speaker less bright to my ears.

Here is vertical with a bit more allowance for height than normal:
Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 Measurements Vertical directivity Bookshelf Speaker.png


And our 3-D directivity at three frequencies:

Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 Measurements 3-D directivity Bookshelf Speaker.png


Someone talked me into expanding my distortion measurements down to 76 dBSPL which is making the presentation hard but here it is anyway:

Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 Measurements THD Distortion vs Frequency Response Bookshelf Speaker.png


During measurements I did not hear much distortion above deep bass which indicates good power handling. Here is the same as a percentage:


Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 Measurements Distortion vs Frequency Response Bookshelf Speaker.png


Edit: forgot to post the impedance:

Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 Measurements Impedance and phase Frequency Response Bookshelf Speaker.png


Wharfedale 12.1 Listening Tests
I powered the speakers in my usual far field setup and started to listen. One track, then two, then three. I am not hearing much to complain about! Yet we had that directivity error and some lower treble dip. Brought out the EQ to fill those in:

Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 Equalization Bookshelf Speaker.png


This made the vocals, especially that of females, to stand out more which I liked. And added a bit of resolution to them as is typical of this type of boost. On some tracks I thought there was a bit extra brightness but overall, I liked it better with EQ than without.

Power handling was excellent. Speaker simply doesn't do what it can't do, i.e. deep bass. As a result even with a single speaker, I could fill it with a ton of watts and it kept getting louder until I got scared before it did! There was some amount of tactile bass which was surprising and welcome

At this point I was puzzled that we had some flaws in measurements yet I am not able to put my finger on anything. So I pulled out my Revel M106 speaker and played it. The M106 was definitely a step up with much better resolution when it came to delicate details. It was clearly a better experience. That speaker is four times the price though so I changed it out for Revel M16. The M16 has a boosted upper bass and this was quite audible, creating a warmer, albeit slightly muddy sound without correction for my room mode which it activates. The M16 retails for double the price but you can get it for less discounted. Still, I didn't feel that it provided much of any advantage over Wharfedale 12.1 in this quick comparison.

Conclusions
Technical we have some technical flaws in the midst of good performance otherwise in the 12.1. Objectively this stands out a lot but in listening tests in my room at least with floor absorption and high ceilings, I was not able to identify it. Indeed I was stomped in trying to find much of any fault with the speaker. Directivity errors though mean that speaker sound will more room dependent so your experience may vary somewhat from mine. Still, I think Wharfedale has done a very good job here.

Overall, I am going to recommend the Wharfedale Diamond 12.1. You could almost push me to give it the highest honors had it not been due to directivity errors. It provides a quandary with respect to audibility of such flaws versus some other trade offs.

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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

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laudio

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A nice surprise. Owned series 9 years ago, and returned a set of 10's. The 12's look good. Waiting on preference rating...
 

RickSanchez

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Wharfedale 12.1 Listening Tests
I powered the speakers in my usual far fiend setup and started to listen.

I'm surprised your objective listening tests turned out as well as they did considering who was in the room with you. :p
 

zeppzeppzepp

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Glad to see good port resonance performance in this budget range of speakers.
Some website mentioned this is designed by the same team for Q acoustic 3000i series that having the similar 2khz dip.
 

napilopez

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Wow, this is crazy fantastic, especially for this price. A steal. The most impressive thing to me is the lack of visible resonances, especially below 1kHz -- from the port or otherwise. That's often where budget speakers fail badly.

The directivity error really isn't that bad either; horizontally, hardly any worse than the Genelec 8030C, if at all; it's just accentuated futher by the verticals, so i might boost this region a little above flat.

Fun to be here before @MZKM so I'ma bet that preference score with sub comes in around 7.5. Maybe higher.

Edit: on second thought I think it's probably between a 7-7.5. Wide directivity will probably hurt it a bit in the formula.

Edit 2: looking back at some older measurements I'm going back with my gut of a 7.5-ish sub score. Based on the trends of other bookshelf speakers that probably means a sans-sub score of around 5ish. *Plays jeopardy music*
 
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laudio

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Wow, this is crazy fantastic, especially for this price. A steal. The most impressive thing to me is the lack of visible resonances, especially below 1kHz -- from the port or otherwise. That's often where budget speakers fail badly.

The directivity error really isn't that bad either; horizontally, hardly any worse than the Genelec 8030C, if at all; it's just accentuated futher by the verticals, so i might boost this region a little above flat.

Fun to be here before @MZKM so I'ma bet that preference score with sub comes in around 7.5. Maybe higher.

I'd be surprised if it's that high but am curious.
 

Newman

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The tweeter beaming above 8kHz is what I noticed.
 

laudio

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I think the wider than usual directivity may hurt it a little bit, but yeah we'll see. Fun to try to guess sometimes.

The preference rating IME is a great indicator and aligns with my subjective preferences from the limited sample of those rated I have heard. Anything above 5 without a sub I could see picking these up. Plus... I like Wharfedale for what they are/were as a company. Made some good ones back in the day.
 

Inner Space

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Really nice. I have a soft spot for Wharfedale as a brand. My great uncle had one of the big 1950s designs. He was the first hi-fi enthusiast I ever met. My grandma lived in the geographic area known as Wharfedale - the valley of the River Wharfe, which I swam in, now I think about it. Not far from the original factory.

Is the designer Peter Comeau? If so, he's an interesting story. Once a magazine reviewer, as flowery as any of them, but now a very serious and capable speaker designer. Always nice to see someone find their true calling.
 

Ata

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It seems Wharfedale speakers are a safe budget bet, the one to beat at their price level. Great to see so much improvement since my 8.2s which I still own and use.
 

ROOSKIE

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Is the designer Peter Comeau? If so, he's an interesting story. Once a magazine reviewer, as flowery as any of them, but now a very serious and capable speaker designer. Always nice to see someone find their true calling.
Karl-Heinz Fink
 

ROOSKIE

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If I didn't already have a speaker in the q, I'd really love to see the Polk R100/200 tested next. Seems like this Wharfedale line and the Polk R line are the affordale (in hifi world) breakthroughs of the last 12 months. Both have received nothing but glowing reviews from all types of reviewers.
 
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