Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 Stand Mount Speaker Review
Very few people will need any introduction to Wharfedale as a brand. They have been in existence producing quality speakers back to the beginnings of Hi-Fi reproduction in the home. Indeed, the Diamond range was first launched in 1982, not that long after I was born. Wharfedale have such a broad range of offerings I did wonder if customers could be confused at having different products at similar price points.
You have the flagship Elysian range, priced at the top end and offering the best sound Wharfedale can, the Linton Heritage and Denton off to one side, special products as it were. The EVO speaker range and the Diamonds have overlapping price structures which is where some tough purchase choices might need to be by customers but to clarify the Diamond are Wharfedale entry level speakers, but what does entry level mean in 2020.
Let me say, straight off the bat, that the Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 stand-mount speakers are ridiculously good value for their £249 price tag. They reminded me of a cross between the Wharfedale Linton Heritage speakers and the Wharfedale EVO 4.2, both of which I have recently reviewed. Interestingly, the designer, Karl-Heinz Fink is not the designer of the Linton or the EVO 4.2, but is the designer of other speakers you will be familiar with.
The Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 is very much a Wharfedale speaker and that pedigree is evident throughout.
I was immediately impressed by the easy going and detailed nature of Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 speakers. They have an impressive amount of bass, more than I expected for the size of cabinet and price point. In room measurements showed a linear and smooth frequency response which, again, was excellent at the price. You can see a slight roll-off in the treble, which allowed the speakers to go loud without a hint of harshness or edginess in vocals.
What I like most about the Diamond 12.1 speakers is not their smoothness, musicality, or how engaging they are to listen to, but the standout nature of their clarity. Whatever was going on around vocals, the vocals themselves, never lost their integrity and were never squashed or blurred. Vocals sit at or above speaker height in the soundstage. The Diamond 12.1 successfully created the illusion of a musical performance rather than listening to speakers.
Mid-range and treble integration is excellent, although there is, perhaps, a slight softening of the upper mid frequencies which is seldom noticeable in use. Overall, the treble is smooth and sweet.
As mentioned before, there is no hardness, harshness or edginess. This may well be due to the slight treble roll-off but is more likely the choice of crossover components used. There may be a trade-off to achieve this with a little being taken off the dimensionality of the soundstage. However, this is a trade-off I am happy to accept to achieve what is a quite compelling and engaging musicality, with no ‘oddities’ being introduced. The treble sits comfortable on top of a mid-range which has just the right amount of ‘zing’ and good balance.
As I said previously, bass is substantial with the correct room placement and far more than I expected. It is not at all bloated, it is tuneful, tight and can be quite punchy. However, I heard one slight negative, which I must mention, and that is, on occasion, with certain types of music, such as dance, or something with a punchy bass, on the odd note I perceived some port noise or slight ‘chuffing’. I would emphasise that was only ever so slightly audible and it did not detract from my overall listening experience with the Diamond 12.1. My brain is tuned to these things, which makes me particularly sensitive to the slightest of anomalies which are also more audibly pronounced in my extremely acoustically treated room and I was applying DSP correction with Dirac Live so pushing the speaker a little harder than usual, for most buyers this would not be an issue at all.
Diamond 12 Exploded Mid Bass Driver
Diamond 12 Exploded Tweeter
Because of its price point, I compared the Wharfedale Diamond 2.1 with the Q Acoustics 3030i a more expensive speaker at £329, and because of the Diamond 12.1 I want to compare it to a much more expensive speaker, the Wharfedale EVO 4.2 made sense.
Although more expensive than the Diamond 12.1, the Q Acoustics 3030i is another great speaker for the money. The 3030i has a larger main driver and has a bigger overall sound presentation than the Diamond 12.1. In fact, over extended listening I felt that the 3030i may be designed and voiced to sound bigger but, at the expense of what the Diamond 12.1 do so well clarity, organisation and overall balance. I am personally impressed with both but for different reasons. The Wharfedale EVO 4.2 gives the best of both worlds – a much larger sound with more clarity top to bottom, but, do bear in mind that the EVO 4.2 are more than twice the price of the Diamond 12.1. What this illustrated to me is you definitely get more when you spend more money, on the right speakers.
In terms of looks and build quality, the Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 speakers follow a growing trend in having a wooden veneered rear section and a solid colour baffle. The dark wood finish with the gloss black baffle of the review pair looked particularly effective. Wharfedale also make a white wood with white baffle finish, which looks very nice. I cannot fault these speakers at all on design, looks and build quality. They are also reassuringly solid and definitely have a quality feel beyond their £249 price tag. The tap test showed them to be inert, without the hollowness of the Q Acoustics 3030i for a comparison. It is this solidity which may be evidenced in the tighter and better organised soundstage compared to the 3030i bigger sound.
Wharfedale have designed a new tweeter and mid-bass driver for the Diamond range, which is really impressive for this price range. For a speaker series with such a long pedigree, they are surprisingly modern in terms of design and looks.
No speakers are without their faults and, at £249 a pair, it is not surprising that the Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 are not perfect. However, what Karl-Heinz Fink has accomplished is more than good enough to give you a taste for what higher-end speakers can achieve in terms of transparency, clarity and musicality.
Despite my earlier concerns, the Diamond series does succeed in providing something different to Wharfedale’s broader offerings. I think the Diamond 12.1 are pretty cool, they should be on anyone’s shortlist, particularly for people new to Hi-Fi, and fully deserved to receive my Serious Bang for Buck award.
Type - Bass Reflex
Drivers: - 5” advanced PP Cone mid-bass and 1” textile dome tweeter
Sensitivity - 88db/1m
Normal Impedance - 8Ω
Dimensions - 312 x 180 x (250+28)mm
Weight - 6.8kg each
A Serious Bang for Buck Award is granted in recognition of a products stand out high performance being significantly greater than its perceived price point