Wharfedale Linton Heritage HiFi Speakers REVIEW
Over the past few months, I have had several Wharfedale speaker systems in my listening room. I was extremely impressed with what Diamond 12.1 could do for their size and price and so impressed with the EVO 4.2 that I bought a pair for review comparison purposes. These two speakers are part of Wharfedale’s mainstream ranges Diamond being entry level and EVO being middle tiered and there is the high end Elysian which I have not had the pleasure of reviewing yet, emphasis on the yet. Wharfedale also make two individual speakers from their ‘Heritage’ series, the Denton, and the Linton, which is the subject of this review. The Heritage speakers can trace their DNA right back to the 1960’s when their namesakes were first designed and manufactured.
Visually, with grilles on, they are designed to look like the original 1960’s Linton however, under the skin, they are quite different with new drivers in a different configuration, and other modern design practices. The original Linton can still be purchased on eBay today.
In this review I want to take an in-depth look into the Wharfedale Linton Heritage speakers which, to my mind, represent real world value for money, for real people that live in real world in normal homes. They truly deliver at their price point of £999. Matching stands, are available separately, priced at £279. Purchased as part of a bundle with the speakers, the total cost is £1,099, a saving of £179, making the combination an absolute bargain and insane value for money. The stands put the speakers at precisely the right height and provide substantial and aesthetically pleasing support.
Measurements to die for
The above in room average’ d frequency response measurement for the Linton in my room is quite incredible, its the most even, smooth and linear measuring speaker I have had in my listening room to date and it only costs £1000
The Linton Heritage speakers appear as a simple speaker design and if that is the case its a very well executed design. Everything about them exudes quality, the weight, veneer, binding posts and speaker grilles, with their built-in wave guides for the tweeter, all provide a high level of confidence in the product right out of the box.
The soft-dome tweeters, metal tweeter covering, and the grilles, are specifically designed to work together. The substantial spikes on the stands make the levelling process easy, which removes some of the frustration of a typical set-up. This is a classic three-way design with a single set of binding posts and twin rear bass ports. The Linton have a cool retro look, which is not surprising in view of their ‘heritage’ and reflect the best of Wharfedale’s eighty-five years in the speaker manufacturing business, manufacturing good value desirable products.
When you take the grilles off, you can immediately see that they are hugely different from the originals and internally they are very up to date with their driver and cross-over technologies.
The drivers employed are an 8” bass and 5” mid-range, manufactured from a black woven Kevlar material plus a 1” fabric soft-dome tweeter, which is vertically off-set and designed to be used with the tweeters on the inside, resulting in them being more on-axis to the listener. As I said above, the speakers are designed to be used with grilles on, this is very important. On this occasion, Wharfedale have forsaken magnetic fastenings for more traditional studs. Wharfedale’s use of larger drivers and a wide baffle is part of their drive for greater efficiency, resulting in a 90db/1 metre sensitivity, there is also something is a wider, larger driver speaker.
The cabinet is a clever sandwich design of high-density chipboard with wood veneered MDF skins designed to have a positive effect on scattering internal resonances. The crossovers take advantage of modern computer-aided design to achieve an accurate and consistent performance.
For set-up, I placed the speakers at two corners of an equilateral triangle with me, the listener, at the third. It did not take long to determine that the speakers firing directly at me worked very well. After initial listening, I worked mainly on the left speaker tweaking its position forward back slightly to achieve a strong, solid central image and good time alignment with the right speaker to get the sound to best snap into focus. For electronics I started by using the highly competent Chord Electronics combination of Hugo TT2 DAC and matching TTOBY amplifier. I also used the Arcam SA30 which is their highest performing stereo integrated amplifier.
As this was a ‘Heritage’ design, I approached the review thinking that the Linton’s would sound stereotypically warm and perhaps old-fashioned in their presentation. However, this was soon proven to be a misconception. With the Chord Electronics combo they sounded fast, precise, clean and very accurate. Far better and more modern sounding than I was expecting. The bass and mid-range were initially a little lean, and I considered if a sub-woofer, or pair of sub-woofers would add more balance to the bottom end. At this point I swapped out the Chord TToby for an Arcam SA30 integrated amplifier, a new model which, on paper has quite a bit more power than the TToby.
Following the introduction of the Arcam SA30 I carried out a DIRAC Live custom calibration. The Linton’s became slightly warmer and more relaxed, although not quite as clear and smooth in the treble sounding as with the TToby, but the Arcam sounded fuller in the mid-range and bass. It was interesting and indeed, telling, to hear how the character of the Linton changed with different amplifiers
The Linton’s proved to be quite transparent to different sources and electronics again changing their character and overall sound. This was confirmed when using them to evaluate two other products, the circa £2,500 432 Evo ‘Standard Edition’ Reference Music Server and the £129 iFi Audio Zen Blue Wireless High Resolution Streaming DAC. Wharfedale’s Linton’s never overwhelmed me with their own character, although I am not saying that they were not characterful, just that they allowed the source components to shine through. We are not talking about ‘transparency’ in terms of soundstage here, I found the soundstage from the Linton’s, whilst well placed was more homogenous than holographic.
Overall they tell the truth about a system in a very communicative way. The only slight draw-back I perceived was that the treble can sound overly "crispy". I’d loved to have tried the Linton’s with the, previously reviewed, Luxman L-509X or another amplifier at this quality which I know has a rich, big, bold and sumptuous organic sound that could have really pushed the Linton their limits, this would have been fun and interesting to hear.
For me, the mid-range and vocals are the standout characteristic of these speakers. Vocals sound clean, smooth, detailed and with fantastic resolution. They really handled the vibrato in Melody Gardot’s voice better than speakers costing considerably more, as I demonstrated in the sound demo video (above). The presentation is impressive and toe tapping engaging, slightly forward with a soundstage width just outside the speakers. Any flaws are subsumed by listening enjoyment, its a speaker that disengages the critical audiophile.
As I have already hinted, these are not the best imaging of speakers, or not in my smaller room anyway. A good example is that of choral music, where they deliver the overall energy of the choir where other speakers will try and break the choir down into individual singers with different variants of success.
Treble is nicely integrated with the midrange and both play to the strengths of the speaker without challenging its limitations. Treble is engaging and delicate, forming part of an overall pleasing balance of sound.
Bass is interesting. It is tight and controlled but left me sitting a little on the fence. The bass driver sounds like a larger driver taking it easy, and within its limitations, rather than a smaller driver working really hard which is great about them.
For most people it will provide just the right amount of bass and provides enough bass to support to the midrange and treble. Personally, I like bass set with equal loudness in mind which is a lot of bass and with the Linton’s I could get just about enough bass to satisfy me, but I did feel that they may benefit from an amplifier with more power and drive than I had at the time.
Please do not misinterpret what I am saying, the Wharfedale Linton’s are certainly not bass shy. From the in-room frequency response you can see that there is no cause for concern in this respect, far from it.
In terms of general sound quality, the Wharfedale Linton Heritage Speakers settled well into my system and into my heart. Not once did I feel the urge to replace them with something else. and that tells me a lot about the quality of sound they reproduce. I really liked them, far more than I thought I would for a classic design of speaker.
I like the look, the ease of set-up and definitely like the price, you get a lot of speaker for your money. They produce a sound that is not far away from some other much more expensive speakers I have had in my system in the last couple of years and in some aspects the Linton’s did some things better, which is an outstanding result.
They really do perform above what I have a right to expect at this price-point, setting a high bar for other manufacturers to beat.
Frequency Response - 40Hz – 20KHz ±3db
Bass Extension - 34Hz at -6db
Style - Two way vented box
Sensitivity - 90db/1m
Peak SPL - 110db
Normal Impedance - 6Ω
Minimum Impedance - 3.5Ω
Recommended Power - 25w – 200w
Crossover Frequencies - 630Hz and 2.4kHz
Weight - 18.4 Kg each
Dimensions - 565mm (on plinth) x 300mm x 330 mm (+30mm terminals)
A Special Performer Award is Pursuit Perfect Systems highest accolade and is in recognition of exceptional product performance regardless of price